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Vivianne Khounlavong-Vallance: Are you ready for a challenge?

In the fall of 2016, my daughter was getting ready to turn 1, and I was faced with a life decision of either being content with an office job or pursuing my true passion. Then I remembered someone once told me that “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

I took a major leap of faith and traded the swivel desk chair and pantsuits for squat racks and yoga pants. I’m so thankful that I did. Now as a full-time personal trainer, health coach, and yoga instructor I’m happily seeing the return of following my heart.

Every morning, I wake up to meet clients and regulars at my local gym. I’m greeted with encouraging “good mornings” and a fresh cup of black coffee. These faces have become my gym family. No, they are not fitness models or college football players. They are nurses, choir directors, retired steel workers, widows, great-grandparents, college students, mothers, and fathers.

In the past two years alone, I’ve watched a paraplegic defy the odds by learning to stand on his own. He’s also now able to pull himself up on a bar and do bodyweight squats. A woman in her 60s, who couldn’t even touch her toes in yoga, can now do a full front split. One day, a quiet girl in her mid-20s came to her first fitness class and couldn’t do a push-up. Guess who is now doing over 30 push-ups and competing in her first fitness competition this spring?

How about this one? A 72-year-old grandmother with a shoulder injury is now recovered and easily deadlifting 185 pounds. These are people in our own community doing extraordinary things with the bodies that were given to them.

My once quiet-days in an office are now surrounded by a community of people who inspire me to be the best version of myself possible. These individuals are finding their own idea of what fitness is for them.

Nike co-founder said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” My client experiences have proven just that. We all take too much time focusing on what fitness looks like in health magazines full of chiseled abs, wrinkle-free smiling faces and flavorless diets.

So truly, what is fitness? Fitness is finding inspiration in the people you see everyday. Look with an open mind and you’ll see so many people who have taken that leap of faith to trust their bodies and minds enough to stand taller, reach farther, and lift heavier loads.

We all have different goals but the journey is the same, to live a healthier and happier life. I’m honored and blessed to be able to share with you stories of triumph and ways to start your own fitness regiment, yoga practice, healthier diets, and much more.

Vivianne Khounlavong-Vallance is a personal trainer, health coach and yoga instructor working in Lawrence County.