Balance Your Life with Fitness

How fitness helped NPC competitor Michelle Johnson achieve harmony in all areas of life.

March 24, 2013
Balance Your Life with Fitness

One of the hardest things I’ve had to admit as a single parent is that I have not coped well at times. I thought being the “Madonna” meant I was supposed to be able to handle it all and be in a constant state of bliss. But the truth is, I felt quite the opposite. When I really needed help, I wouldn’t ask for it. Instead I found myself frustrated and shouting out words that I could not believe were my own. I did not realize that overworking, volunteering all my extra time, and trying to keep up with the Joneses, was creating so much chaos in my life. The stress and anxiety I felt literally became a thorn in my side.

I wound up battling issues that nearly crippled me before I realized that I needed to make changes. I remember times where I felt like I was dying. In fact, I got to know the 911 operators quite well during that period of my life. (If only there was such thing as a hotline for single parents!) I recall being on the phone with an operator one time, explaining my symptoms—which were a cross between a heart attack and paralysis—when the medics arrived, and the next thing I knew I was blowing into a bag. On another occasion, I went to the ER for back pain that was so severe I couldn’t even sit or stand. Picture trying to get into a wheelchair when your body is locked in a plank position—I felt like I was the tin woman! On my last trip to the ER, I walked in fully prepared with a list of symptoms that I was sure would result in a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I asked for a spinal tap and got one, but the results came back negative. Was I insane, or a hypochondriac?

I went to see a psychologist to help me figure things out and they assured me that I was not insane. However, they did prescribe me Zoloft to help relieve some of my symptoms. Here’s where it gets even more interesting! I had the medication at my house for one day and it appeared that my daughter got into it. My anxiety became absolute panic. I took her to the hospital and insisted her stomach be pumped, only to later find out that she hadn’t even taken a single pill. She had only been showing me the bottle that she had accidently emptied out on the couch. I wanted those pills out of my house forever, and I vowed then that I would never get a prescription again. I would rather hit the grocery store and get a supply of those brown bags.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way the necessity of allowing yourself some downtime. My anxiety played out in my life in many ways. It cost me my hair, jobs and relationships. I knew I had to make changes, and the first step was learning how to better manage my stress and my life. After suffering with this dirty little secret for years, I finally decided to do something about it. The light bulb moment was when I was in a bookstore going through all my symptoms in a medical book. I turned to a page on “Anxiety Disorder.” The symptoms were all there along with advice on how to treat it holistically. That’s when I enrolled in my first yoga class. Yoga helped me stay centered and taught me how to work through the physical tension while “watching” my mind and focusing on my breathing. I also started to invest in massages regularly. I eventually opened Massage Express, LLC as well as a full-time yoga practice. Lying there for an hour during a massage doing nothing more than relaxing and breathing can be very healing. Learning how to breath properly can itself be like medicine. For me, it was like a magic potion. I felt like a real-life superwoman with unlimited potential. In fact, that’s how I eventually got into weight training and became brave enough to compete.

When I look back now, I realize these obstacles served me on a much greater level. They forced me to place more value on my health. I treasure my wellbeing more now as a masters competitor than I ever did when I competed in my thirties, and I pace myself much differently these days. I learned I was creating my own suffering and that I could shift this all by exploring mental and physical outlets. I also learned that lifting weights was not going to buckle me!

By eliminating the things that were holding me back, doors began to fly wide open. People can’t imagine I have a diagnosis for chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia knowing all I do now. Would you be surprised to know I spend 50-75% of my time refueling my energy systems weekly so that I can lift weights, do my cardio, compete, work to help others and support my family? I pace myself very differently and still am able to survive! If anything, I am more abundant. was born out of a condition I had that was unhealthy and gave me a story to inspire others. The greatest lesson I have learned through all these trials is that there are no coincidences and you can find harmony and wholeness in times of stress!

Michelle Johnson
Transformation Specialist