I took the greatest pleasure in interviewing a dear and admirable friend of mine last week. Sarah Miller (@sjstrengthjourney, @malkuthdogtraining) is a trainer extraordinaire. Personal trainer, dog trainer, she had a lot to say about the mental and physical strength needed for any type of training. Appropriately her "place" is the gym. The place she goes to relieve stress, gain health, and launch her career.
"I started as a dog trainer several years ago and I have taken a lot of what I learned in dog training and applied it to my fitness life. All the patience I acquire being a dog trainer I apply in the fitness world. Most people who train expect immediate results, but honestly without patience you won’t reach your goals. Any kind of training you do in life - dog, military, or personal - is built on discipline, consistency, and structure. So, a career in fitness was an obvious choice for me.
I grew up in an active family, my father played college football and my mom was a weight lifter, and that really shaped my love of fitness. If they hadn’t introduced the gym and the outdoors as outlets I would’ve been much more sedentary as a kid and teenager. It’s important to help kids fall in love with moving their body and being active. Social media plays a big part of why child obesity is becoming such an epidemic, not to mention the impact on body image seeing unrealistic pictures of people on social media all day can have on any of us. Fitness and sports make a significant impact on youth society. Especially if they don’t have a great home life, it’s important for kids to have a place they can go to, clear their mind and gain confidence and strength. They will take that with them as they grow up. An object in motion stays in motion.
Education is important and I really love teaching. That’s another reason I love dog training. Ninety percent of dog training is teaching the owner. I love teaching people how to be confident in their relationship with their dog and enhance the bond between them. I love teaching people how important fitness it, how it can really make you feel good not just achieve a certain physical look. Getting those good endorphins flowing is life changing. Taking people through a workout, watching them change from groggy and slow to being active and feeling amazing. That’s really rewarding for me. Honestly, results aren’t always the kind you can see physically, sometimes they are mental results, which for me are the best results. Everything is in our heads anyway.
Personally, the gym is my place to clear my mind and really push myself. Test my mental strength. I love the feeling of focusing on one thing at a time and achieving it, it’s like you’re always achieving little goals in an hour, hour and half’s time. It feels really good and makes you feel confident in yourself when you leave. For sure I don’t go to the gym to meet people, I don’t like talking to people when I’m there working out, I go there to focus on each muscle I use in each work out. As a personal trainer that mindset changes. The gym really serves a dual purpose in my life in that respect.
I’m a balanced trainer. You should be comfortable with how you look and be able to look in the mirror and say, “I love that person and I accept how I look”. Your character is the most important to me. I have a client I’m training who I’m really working on character development with, and she has come a long way. She’s seen herself become capable of achieving more and it’s really building her confidence. When I designed her program, she came back to me and said, “I can’t do these things, I’m not physically strong like you” she really had an issue with comparing herself to me and others. But the more she pushes herself she can see she’s capable of more than she imagines. She’s really beginning to accept herself and that’s so important. Self-acceptance is a huge part of why I help people.
I used to walk around for years indulging in self-hate, I put myself through hours of grueling cardio workouts which I hated instead of lifting weights which I love to do. All of that just so I could achieve the mental image I had of my better self. If you push yourself through something you hate then you’re never going to be satisfied with the results because you’ll never feel fulfilled. If your mindset is stuck in that ideal weight then you are never going to be happy. It is also a spiritual thing for me, I can really see how God designs our body to do such amazing things. Pushing yourself in fitness makes you physically stronger, but I think it can strengthen you spiritually as well. Maintaining your body is like maintaining your spiritual purpose. I think exercise and taking care of your mental health is the key to your purpose in life, whatever you believe that you’re here for, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are going to help you.
I have a whole picture of fitness, one of general wellness not just tone and tighten. Self-love. Work on your character. Be ok with not being ok."
-as told to PHD
Photographed at a local gym by PHD