The story of the month for August 2010 comes from Alyson Boyd of AlysonBoyd.com

I was introduced to Alyson and her story thanks to her feedback here on EvolvingWellness.com and discovered that she ran her own health, nutrition and fitness blog — Nourished Fitness

Alyson’s story is fantastic because it combines the world of extreme fitness with the world of health. Participating in various fitness competitions, which are notorious for quick fixes and unhealthy regimes just to get a desired look, Alyson took a different approach. She wanted to focus on health first, above all things. Alyson and her story are packed with smart advice and inspirational pieces of how we can have the best of it all, we simply have to choose so.

Enjoy Alyson’s story which is sure to inspire, motivate and empower you to take your health and fitness to the next level:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

My health and wellness background is all over the place. I grew up doing gymnastics, which had an incredibly influential role on the rest of my life. It taught me work ethic, discipline, and that hard work towards a goal really can pay off. However, once I retired from gymnastics, I lost track of who I was for a while, and with that, my focus on health and wellness. I was one of those people who thought they ate healthy, but really was just eating incredibly unbalanced and consuming a lot of processed junk… ok, fine, and alcohol, I was in college after all.

It wasn’t until I moved into the working world that I really realized how unhappy I had become with myself physically. Up until that point, I wasn’t a gym person. I hated the treadmill and hadn’t lifted weights outside of gym class in high school. Little did I know that taking a kickboxing class at a boutique gym down the street from my house, would, at the risk of sounding too dramatic, completely change my future. It was there that I started to learn that fitness could be fun! I know, crazy right?! But just when you get on a roll with something, life likes to get in the way… so off I moved across the country for graduate school.

Fast forward, eight months. I’m half-way through my first year of grad school, all the weight has been gained back, lots of negative self-talk going on, plummeting self-confidence… the works. I missed how I’d felt the previous spring, when I was in the gym every day, happy, confident and loving life. But I knew what had changed wasn’t just physical, it was my attitude and my perspective as well. Both needed a little TLC.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

Spring 2009 was when things really shifted for me with regards to making lifelong changes for the sake of my health. In previous years, I had gained, lost and gained back weight, and at different points in my life had battled eating disorders. I looked at myself and wasn’t happy… literally… I wasn’t emotionally happy and that’s before looking at myself physically.

Everything changed when I got involved in weight training and fitness. I’ve always been a goal oriented person, so I set a goal of competing in a fitness competition (in the bodybuilding family, but one that emphasizes keeping a feminine look). I knew I wanted to get in better physical shape, but my mind needed to change too.

With the goal of competing in a physique competition, I quickly got into the habit of lifting weights and doing cardio, each about five times a week. Before long, it just became a lifestyle. But it wasn’t a forced lifestyle change. Instead I began to crave it. I love the feeling of putting everything you have into a workout, whether it be getting that last rep in during a lift or finishing up a good HIIT (high intensity interval training) session. I leave the gym, endorphins running high, feeling strong, confident and happy.

I soon discovered what a pivotal role being physically active has on keeping everything else in my life in balance. When I’m working out on a regular basis, I am more energetic, motivated, focused and happy. Additionally, for me, fitness and clean eating go hand in hand. Why go and have an amazing workout in the gym, then ruin it with crummy, healthy, processed food?!

The more I worked out, the more I wanted to treat my body right in every way I could. I eliminated processed food, and did my best to move to natural, whole foods whenever possible. I really started to experiment with new foods, especially seasonal fresh vegetables and vegetarian options. A key for me in sticking to my goals is having variety in both my diet and exercise. Being healthy doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be boring! I’m always trying new foods and recipes, and new fitness classes. After all, you don’t know until you try!

I competed in my first Fitness & Figure competitions in the Fall of 2009. My experience, both training and competing, was fantastic. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing and inspiring people. I think physique competition can get a bad rap, because, yes you are being judged by your appearance, but it’s really so much more than that. A lot of these women have overcome unbelievable odds, and getting up on stage is a way of show that they beat the obstacles. They inspire me.

In the winter of 2009, I decided I needed to add a little variety to my fitness routine, and wanted to give yoga a shot. Fortunately I had a couple friends who knew me well enough to know what I would and wouldn’t like… and I fell in love.. again! Yoga has added a whole other component to my health journey. It has really helped me to stay more calm and focused in all aspects of my life, and to enhance the mind-body connection. It has also proven to be a fantastic compliment to my weight-training workouts, by getting at muscle groups that standard lifting doesn’t and helping me keep my flexibility while adding muscle.

How My Changes Benefitted Me

What can I say; I’m a bit of a cheese-ball when it comes to gushing over the changes in my life since incorporating fitness and clean eating into my lifestyle. I am simply happier and more energetic all the time!

I feel like I went from just going through the motions, to really loving life! That’s not to say I don’t have my bad days, of course I do, but every time I talk to a client who is seeing changes in their life or when I finish a good workout, I know it’s all worth it!

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

Helping others to improve their health and find the same enjoyment through healthy eating and fitness that I do! In order to do this, I recently started a Health & Fitness coaching company and coaching, and I love it!

On a personal level, I am currently preparing to compete in Fitness & Figure competitions this fall. I am so thankful to have found an amazing group of people to train with, and am continually delighted by the inspiring people I meet in this industry. I also look forward to continue to improve and evolve my yoga practice.

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

It’s not all going to change in a day… that might be inspiring or depressing depending on the type of day you’re having. But really, health & wellness is about the big picture. If you have one cookie today, run an extra 5 minutes tomorrow. Life is too short to stress about burning off that last fat cell.

Listen to your body! Your body generally knows what to do; it’s our heads that get in the way.

Find something you love to do. The options for staying active and eating healthy are endless. Working out should not be something you dread. If you’re new to exercise, yes, the first few weeks may be rough, but very shortly you’ll start feeling different, and not long after you’ll start to see the physical changes. Patience is the hardest part of all of this. So take it one day at a time!