The first time I walked into the 24-Hour Fitness in Downtown Seattle I was all of a dither looking around and thinking about my sweaty future there. I looked at the treadmills and imagined myself wheezing my way to running a mile… and then five.

I saw the weight machines and had visions of hrumphing under larger and larger resistance. I walked past the empty studio and had a flashback to days of contortionist like flexibility. I saw the posters of Olympians who call 24-Hour Fitness their workout home and waxed poetically (in my head) about my place in Greek Mythology. The moment was made particularly poignant because we were mid Winter Olympics.

The last room I walked past on my way into the office, lead by a sales associate named Ryan, was a bulletin board of their personal training success stories. For a moment, I wanted to be on that board too. I wanted my picture up as motivation for all the sweaty people in the circuit training room to see. It only lasted a second, though.

The poster was inspirational, perhaps, but 24-Hour Fitness was claiming the success stories of these people for their own. “I’ll never be someone else’s success story,” I thought.

I felt that these people were being robbed of their victory and hard work. The credit was going to the wrong place. It was the people in the pictures who had done the work, not the trainers. The trainer didn’t do the push-ups, squats, lunges, runs, planks, bench presses, or dead lifts for these people and they didn’t lose the weight for them, either.

Looking at the poster, I realized why I so dislike advertisements that say things like, “I’ll have your abs rock solid in six months,” or “{Fill in misc product here} will sculpt and tone you…” These products may be the tools to do the work but I am doing the work.

My defiant inner three year old stomps her foot and declares that no one shall take the victory. She will not join Weight Watchers, she will not audition for The Biggest Loser, she will not be a walking advertisement in exchange for free personal training, she will not use Slim Fast, Quick Trim, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, and she will not be your testimonial.

This is my life, my effort, and my story. I’m not so pompous as to not acknowledge the help and tools I’ve received along the way but I won’t let someone else have my glory. Selling out is not an option.

This is my story that I’m working for. With every sweaty workout and every sore muscle I get closer to what the world calls the success story. I won’t give that away and neither should you.

So, how do you feel about advertisements like that? Are you willing to be someone else’s success story?

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