An Open Letter

Hi everyone,

I hope you have been doing well, and are enjoying the new year so far. I wanted to reach out and talk with you about my position and time at Urban Athlete, and perhaps leave you with some words of advice from my years in the industry.

I have worked with a lot of you for many years, while some of you I have been with for a few months. Regardless, I cherish the experiences I had with each of you, and I looked at them as an opportunity to make your life better in some way, whether in mindset or in the modalities of exercise. I may as well come out with it and say I will not be returning to Urban Athlete to train. I still feel guilty and responsible for leaving as abruptly as I did, but I am thankful for your understanding at that time. However, now I understand more about my role and responsibility as a coach, and I see that I must take responsibility for my actions.

I know some of you have requested my services during this time, and would like nothing more for me to return to the gym and work with you again, but I have to change my life, and the habits and lifestyle I carried while training all these years. Admittedly, there were days where I felt I was trapped in a fog, and I was unsure of my direction. I questioned myself constantly, and I failed in many respects as a trainer. I don’t think being a trainer is exclusive to the teaching of exercise, I think it goes beyond. Exercise is about trust in yourself, finding peace with who you are, and moving forward to excel in whatever you want from life. I see no purpose, except in the intrinsic one we give ourselves. 

Will losing that 10 pounds make you happy? Will being down 5-10% give you fulfillment? Will having that aesthetic disposition bring that satisfaction you have always longed for? I have had conversations with many of you over the years, and I find myself looking at this industry in a different way, and I want to say…it truly comes down to the relationship we have with ourselves. I love telling you all how great you are doing, reminding you of your successes, while also challenging and seeing you excel in athletic feats, or PR’s. And seeing how you adopt and find it within to prove you can do it is rewarding to see. But you see, the proof doesn’t lie with me, nor the expectations of the many schools of thought that surround the world of exercise and bio-mechanics; it is proving it to yourselves. Seeing is believing and seeing yourself is really what we need.

Tools like a scale, body composition tests, measuring tape, even a pedometer are only that, tools. Forget the social norms and forget the fitness magazines and social media. All they do is feed off our insecurities about our bodies, and all those challenges to work out to burn those calories or whatnot are just methods to buy into this system of selling you fears and insecurities. Take all that away, and what are we left with? People. People big and small, tall and short, black and white; just people. Once you find it within, what does it mean to look a certain way? Who are you really doing it for? Yourself, or for the societal norm that the industry has permeated into our hearts.

Our health is more then exercise and how much of it we do. How much sleep do you get? Or what kind of foods are you eating? How about the work/life balance? And stress, both mental and physical, how does that affect you? Sometimes the solution is as simple as getting a good night’s sleep, so consider the little things like that, because those little things aren’t so little. We are social creatures, and at times the thing we are looking for is community, so build with those around you. We are all on this boat of self-discovery, so row away.

Is organic food necessary? Or is the specificity of your caloric intake important? Doesn’t matter if you aren’t sleeping and are stressed out all the time, so find time to read a book, or go for a walk in the park, out with nature and the trees, by the lake or in the mountains. Is your job taking away from all that? Well, nothing is more important then your own life, so change it up if you need to. Take it from me, I lost myself along the way and never put myself first. It is all about balance, but I am sure I didn’t need to tell you that. 

What else…Oh yes, you don’t need to workout for an hour at a time, sometimes a 20-minute walk, jog, run, or circuit is enough to keep you afloat, to improve your mood. Never feel guilty for prioritizing a social life over exercise, our social well being is so important. You could be as vascular and toned as possible, but if you have no one to talk to or interact with, it kind of makes it feel empty, you know? I am 3-5% body fat percentage (probably more now,) my abs are clearly visible, and my veins pop out an immense amount, and let me tell you that won’t make you happy. It looks nice, sure, but it won’t fill the void you may have. You must create that plug yourself, because we created that void, or perhaps it was fed to us from our environment. Function and pain management are also things to keep in mind, so consider the need to move and play. Be present if those are the case, your body will tell you if you are risking pain if you stop and listen while you train. Maybe put the headphones aside one time and try to really listen to your body, because sometimes reducing tension is about listening, like any relationship.

We have strayed away from childhood in many ways, from our bosses asking us to dress a certain way, to the way we talk about the world. Have fun when you exercise, because if you aren’t enjoying it, why are you doing it? You can be creative in so many ways, and you can still be purposeful with how you train, so try that new exercise, or try that new class. And spark the creative that we all have that has probably been suppressed with time. Go to a gallery and speculate on the many paintings, listen to the orchestra and create imagery in your mind’s eye, and read literature and wonder about the world you are visiting. Or even better! Paint away, play that instrument you always wanted, and write that short story or narrative.

I have to be honest, but I have been saddened the whole time I have been typing. I am truly sorry for leaving when I did, and for not coming back. I really have enjoyed the connections I have built with each one of you. I know a trainer is just someone that administers exercise, but I have come to believe that a trainer is just a therapist that is using exercise to help enrich other peoples lives. I do believe this, and so I ask you to remember to look within and be happy with what you see; because if you can’t now, you may never. I wish you all the best, and may you find joy and happiness while on your continued pursuits. Find it within, not chasing them.

Much Love,

Alejandro Melgar

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