Finding Inspiration Together With Bekah Long, Assistant Fitness Manager, at Gold’s Gym Live Oak
Bouncing back from an injury is tough for anyone, but when you are a fitness instructor or athlete it can be even harder. Almost two years ago I broke my collarbone in a cycling accident and was sidelined for several months, so I understand the challenges first hand. So does Bekah Long, a woman I first met at San Antonio Magazine’s SWEAT SA event. I was immediately drawn to her high energy, and the fact that she shared my passion for hard work and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I began following Bekah on social media @thatgirlbekahlong, and watched as the resilient 34-year year old mom and former collegiate athlete fought her way back from a painful back surgery, and I became even more impressed with her physical and mental strength. She is proof that whether you are recovering from a physical setback, or simply feeling discouraged about your progress, attitude is everything. Personally, I find that incredibly inspiring, and I think you will too!
When did you first get into fitness?
Fitness became part of my life after I existed collegiate sports. I suddenly found myself without a team, training schedule or any idea of how to take care of my body that wasn’t cross-country specific. It’s been a journey of 15 years to find my “fit” in the fitness world.
Like most women, you juggle many roles. How to you make that time for fitness?Fitness is important to me because fitness equals empowerment. For me, it isn’t simply prioritizing my health or the way my body looks. It’s about cultivating a focused mind and tenacious spirit. Between my three small girls, a more than full time job, and trying to spend time with my friends, I have to work diligently to prioritize my workouts. I set my alarm for 5:45am. I pack my bags full of clothes for the next day, set out my outfit of the day, and get my meal prep packed so I can grab it all and get to the gym by 7:00am. I’m blessed to be able to workout where I work because I can slip straight from my workout into a class that I coach, or into a polo so I can be in the next meeting.
You recently had a setback due to injury. Describe how that affected your normally active lifestyle.
I have had many, many injuries. I’m stubborn, and with that attitude comes a desire to push myself relentlessly! However, my most recent was a herniated L5S1 disc, which resulted in back surgery. When I first injured my back I couldn’t even open my eyes because the pain was so intense. My family took me to the ER where I received pain management and was sent back home to get in contact with a surgeon. While I waited for my scheduled surgery, I was completely unable to sit or bend at the hip, experienced excruciating sciatica pain down my right leg, and my right hamstring and calf cramped all day and night. The day before surgery I was diagnosed with shingles, which postponed my surgery for another month causing more and more damage to my range of motion. I was sick with pain and couldn’t eat or sleep. Over the course of 2 months I lost 20 pounds of muscle that I had worked to build! After surgery I struggled to regain my ability to walk up and down stairs, put my shoes on, carry anything in my hand that was heavier than a water bottle, sit down fully, and recover my appetite.
How did your attitude help in your recovery?
I think your mental game is make or break when it comes to enduring and recovering from and injury. Throughout the whole process of being injured, my focus was set on being grateful. I was grateful to have the opportunity to see what it was like to be inured so severely. I was grateful to be able to understand what my more mature gym goers might experience with chronic nerve pain. I was grateful for the ability to learn about how frustrating pain management can be. Every lesson was an opportunity for me to grow as a trainer and a human. However, I was surprised by how difficult staying positive turned out to be after surgery. I was caught off guard by how easy it was to turn negative as soon as I had the opportunity to make progress! So in recovery and rebuilding I reminded myself that that was exactly the task I had at hand---to build myself. It was my responsibility to build a better base than I had before. It was squarely on my shoulders to change the habits that led to the injury, and to face my stubbornness head on. It was such a daunting task that I couldn’t tackle it one week, one day, or even one workout at a time. I had to break it down even smaller-- tackling my mentality and my habits one rep at a time. I had to practice balancing strength and grace with myself, which I found out was a lot more challenging that I thought it would be. But moment by moment I was able to rebuild not only my body, but my mindset. Today, several months later, I still struggle with limited mobility in my right leg and hip. I struggle to stick to my improved movement patterns and habits. I struggle with patience with the process. But I’ve been able to regain 9 of the 20 pounds I lost and am feeling stronger every day!
What is your favorite form of exercise?
Whatever I’m doing at that moment! I can find value in all forms and formats, times and tempos, and I love it all. Currently, the activities that I participate most in are hypertrophy resistance training, boutique style cycle classes (both as a coach and as an athlete), and functional training. I serve as a programmer for the nationwide cycling program called Gold’s Cycle exclusive to Gold’s Gym. Through this I offer continuing education for coaches, education for riders, workouts of the day, in person certifications, and video feedback for coach skill development.
What motivates you on the days when you are struggling?
My greatest motivation to stay active is my desire to do so! I enjoy being active, capable, strong, and empowering to others. I can do that best when I’m working on my mental and physical fitness game!