I’m Síle Kym Lambert and I am your socially awkward personal trainer. Seriously, I am probably the opposite of what many think of fitness professionals, I am not particularly outgoing and certainly not bouncy. But I also know I am not alone in preferring to train a bit more privately than other wish to, to liking a bit more low-key social energy. I am passionate about fitness as a path to having fun and feeling better. I am possibly the trainer you are looking for if you:
- Would rather exercise in the privacy of your home either alone or with a couple of friends rather than at a gym or club.
- Are looking for a body positive exercise experience that is nurturing.
- Want to find ways to move that are fun for you, even if they do not look like what is often offered.
My background is simply that I was a scrawny kid with bad lungs and chronic health issues, who never did well in school PE let alone go into sports. I was outdoorsy, loved hiking and running around the woods, riding my horse, but hated gym where I just felt like a useless klutz. I dreamed of being stronger, but never could climb that rope or swing around on those bars and felt shamed and weak for it. In my teens it dawned on me that I was weak because gym never trained me to be stronger. That I might not be as strong as others naturally, but I could improve on what I had.
My early years in fitness were trial and error, with a lot of error. At first, mostly learning from women’s magazines, my first weights were those 3.3 lb Princess Smart Belles by DP, back in the ’70s when real female muscle was even less acceptable than now (the first women’s contest was in Ohio in 1977). In my later teens, I did meet my first really muscular woman, but she was a farrier and farmer who claimed she never worked out, but I was in awe.
But the running craze had started as had aerobics, I tried both, but it was running that really caught my heart. It was, after all something I could do on my own, or with my dog, Gabe. Aerobic tapes were boring, the thought of going to an actual class with other people outrageous. Running was something I had done for play, something that seemed simple. Running was something I sprained my ankles several time doing, because I did try to do it “right” which all the magazines I found told me was “heal-to-toe.” This was not my natural stride, I eventually did learn to run mid-stride instead decades before it finally became an officially acceptable way to run as it is now. Running might never have “fixed” my lungs, nothing ever will, but it has improved my oxygen usage so that I do function better.
Getting past light weights and “toning” into actually gaining some real strength, came in my early 20s, when an ex-marine taught me a bit about actual weight training with heavier weights (and I gave the Princess Smart Belles to his young kids to play with, which I regret as I think they deserve to be memorialized or something). Through the ’80s and early ’90s I learned mostly from bodybuilding magazines, which wasn’t always the healthiest sources as my goal was not competition. And, indeed, in 1991 I got a new role model for strength, Sarah Connor in as played by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. At first, like so many, it was wanting to look like her, but that is never going to happen, we can’t look like anyone else, so instead it became about being like Sarah Connor or at least someone who she’d respect. First step doing chin-ups.
In 1992 I decided to really get serious about learning to train and I became a certified personal fitness trainer through AFAA. I worked with at-home clients in the Seacoast NH area for a few years. But I became discouraged by an industry that seemed so focused on appearance and decreasing body size rather than function and increasing muscle mass. I was disheartened by the size-shaming messages that I often saw, the judging on appearance rather than ability. I certainly never got a job at a gym where one of their mandates was “you need to sell our weight loss products” (probably not an issue, socially awkward doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m like at an interview). I never believed that the ultimate goal of fitness was to be as thin as possible, which even then I knew could lead to eating disorders, over-exercising and other unhealthy habits. Which also zaps strength as you lose muscle mass as well. I believed fitness should be about power and vitality, at least as much as any one of us can gain. The messages that women could not/should not ever, ever have “big muscles” and should train into weakness (“toning”) rather than full strength, was problematic for me.
I also felt I had to fake being more extroverted than I was, which made maneuvering around an industry which I was in conflict with even more stressful. I moved away from the fitness industry in 1996, but never from my own fitness interests. I continued to learn more not only about the physiological aspects of fitness, but also the social ones, the messages given women (and femme appearing non-binary folk) to take up less space, to be less powerful, to be less.
A few years ago I came across Health At Every Size® proponents and began to see this applied to the fitness field. It encouraged me update my certification and begin again.