I’ve never quite fit in. For the majority of my life, I have associated more greatly as a “misfit,” than with any particular identity.

Part of the reason I became so passionate about fitness, was because I could fit into a community of people and a system of beliefs and a set of common interests, without having to fit any particular standard.

As I began to explore the world of fitness, I soon realized it was not about fitting into a particular dress size or fitting into a specific sport or set of athletic skills. Fitness, for me, was not about “fitting in” at all, but rather, “finding out.” As I began to lead a more intentionally active and physically fit life, I found out a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be.

In the world of health and fitness, people tend to stress the importance of psychological and emotional growth through the process of living an active life. For a long time, I did not understand why athletes and fitness fanatics placed such an emphasis on these things. I thought being “fit” meant working out, toning up and running that extra mile at the end of the day. I never imagined that my fitness journey would bring something so much greater into my life.

The first thing I learned about myself through my fitness journey, was that I could actually feel confident. Most of my life, I was disregarded. I was very quiet and did not greatly excel at any particular thing. I never had that one sport, or hobby, or talent that set me apart from anyone else. Therefore, I grew up thinking I was just “average,” and that as an average girl, no one would ever notice me. As I began to incorporate fitness into my daily life in high school, I noticed a shift in my attitude and a change in the way I saw myself. Every extra mile I ran became an accomplishment in my eyes. Every time I finished a set of sprints or a circuit, I realized I could push myself to do things that, though, in the middle of them, felt impossible, were not actually beyond my abilities. As I became stronger and made progress, both in my physical appearance and endurance, I also grew in my confidence.

The second lesson I learned as I became passionate about fitness was that I was strong.  As my endurance increased and I became more dedicated to my fitness routines, I witnessed, directly, how hard work pays off. I saw the physical transformation, as I gained muscle in my arms, legs and abdomen, along with the psychological transformation that took place. I began to apply the lessons I learned about pushing through the last mile of my run, or finishing the last rep while lifting, to getting through the emotionally challenging situations I experienced in my personal life. Fitness helped me cope with my parents’ divorce, my challenging years of college, and illnesses I have faced.

The third, and perhaps most important thing I learned through my fitness journey, has been that I can push my body and my mind much further than I believed. I remember the first time I ran ten miles consecutively. The idea of a double-digit run was incredibly daunting at first and caused me to question my abilities. I remember being very anxious and discouraged during the first few miles. But as I made my way into the sixth mile, I realized I had the determination and the ability to accomplish what I had set out to do. In December of 2015, I broke my femur while bouldering. I was terrified that I would no longer be able to lead the active life I had become devoted and accustomed to. After surgery and a few weeks of rest, I laid out my yoga mat and picked up a set of weights. I remember the pain and the difficulty of that first workout following my injury. But, I also remember how amazing it felt. I realized that day, that though it would be difficult and probably very painful, I would recover, and I could return to my fitness-focused lifestyle.

So, I may never “fit” into some specific category, but fitness will never be about “fitting in.” And that is perfect for a misfit like me.