Written By: Tiffany Wallace
Tiffany is a rock-star with loads of confidence on the bike, but she hasn’t always been that way. She’s struggled with anxiety for as long as she can remember. Tiffany dishes on her truths and how overcoming some of her biggest fears have led her to be such an inspirational instructor.
It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was young, my mom would say I was just shy, and that I would grow out of it. In high school I started hiding from activities that made me uncomfortable; that was my way of dealing with it (or not dealing with it). I would do anything to avoid the feelings of debilitation and sheer overwhelm.
My anxiety presents itself in different ways; it starts out by taking over my thoughts, and forcing me to focus on nothing else but the stressor. It becomes seemingly impossible for me to concentrate on what I am doing, and if I don’t control those thoughts my anxiety begins to affect me physically. I become dizzy, short of breath and basically go into a full on panic attack, and truly feel like I am going to die. It sucks.
Wouldn’t you want to do anything to avoid that? So, that’s what I did for a very long time. I eliminated every situation that could possibly create anxiety. But that didn’t leave me with much of a life. I wasn’t accomplishing anything – I wasn’t contributing to this world. I just existed…until I finally found something that I loved so much, that I refused to let my anxiety take it away from me.
I think I knew immediately after my first class that I wanted to teach spin. From my first pedal stroke and feeling the beat of the music, I instantly felt connected and unstoppable. For the first time I was able to concentrate on an activity in the presence of other people without my stupid anxiety interfering. That was something that had never happened before. I finally felt capable and able.
You see, my anxiety had always made me feel like I wasn’t smart enough because I had such a difficult time paying attention when people were around. But on the bike, I felt like I was more than smart enough, and I became addicted to that feeling.
In my first spin class, the instructor seemed so strong and self-assured, and it was during that class that I decided I not only wanted that for myself, but I need that for myself. I fell in love when the instructor told me what was coming up next. You know, that moment where you nod you head, ready to meet the challenge, when a rider is able to do something they felt was impossible in their first class…I wanted to be a part of that.
It didn’t happen overnight though. It took me a solid year to get up the courage to start my own journey with spin. Finally, I decided that I was either going to die of a panic attack or become a spin instructor. I found myself deciding on the latter, which forced me to deal with my anxiety, and that single decision made me come face to face with my fears.
Please believe that during the warm-up I felt like I could stop breathing at any moment, yet I knew I needed to keep going, and every time I did, it became a little easier, and as it became a little easier I began to feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt strong, I felt confident, I was able to shut out the outside noise and focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t.
It may be spinning (for me it was), or for you it may be something completely different, but either way, you have to try it. Whatever you find fearful, you must try, because you can’t let whatever “it” is take control over you.
This month I’m taking the certification test to become a personal trainer. Am I anxious about this new endeavor? For sure. Is that going to stop me? Absolutely not. I will always suffer with anxiety; now I deal it with differently. Instead of avoiding situations that might cause it, I volunteer for them, because every time I make it through, I get stronger. When I feel like my anxiety is getting out of control, I find a quiet space, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I will get through it. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it before.
Sharing my truths scares me, but that’s why I do it. Each time I push myself, the box that my anxiety caused me to live in gets a little bigger, and that’s my goal. I know I am not going to be successful at everything. Yet, I would rather try and fail, because I refuse to live in that box another day. And yes, that means I spend a lot of time feeling uncomfortable. But now I have a life, friends, and a world of possibilities in front of me. And most importantly, I am happier than I have ever been.