Through the mud and over the bar: Bettina shares her fitness journey

Friday, January 24, 2014; 6:00 am ;
Editor's note: 

Aerialist Bettina von Ammon always inspires me with her Facebook posts of trapeze tricks and her tireless training for 5ks and muddy Spartan races. But Bettina wasn't always so motivated to work out, particularly as she finished up veterinary school. I've asked her to share her story with the Journal. As she continues to train, rain or shine (or mud), Bettina reminds we aerialists that our health and fitness is a journey, not a destination. We just need to keep at it. 

Motivating Myself to Stay Motivated

Let’s get one thing straight, I am not here to offer a 2-week-to-bikini-body guideline. My purpose, however, is to share my 2.5-year journey in which I underwent a total body transformation. 

Bettina shows her before and after pictures following 2.5 years of running and aerialI went from never running a mile to running over 15 races, including two half marathons, two Spartan Races and a handful of other mud obstacle races. I also learned how to do my first pull-up and can now do five in a row. During that time I began fabrics lessons and achieved a long-time goal of getting into an advanced trapeze class. 

The big picture of my story is that it didn’t happen quickly – and that meant finding, losing, and finding motivation many times.

Finding the right motivational phrase

There are a lot of motivational quotes on how to achieve greatness. Many sound positive or funny and may even influence you enough to get off the couch (“No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping everyone sitting on the couch” – that’s nice). But I have to be honest with you, there comes a point when that initial momentum dies. And it doesn’t matter how many times you read that workout board on Pinterest (“Strong is the new sexy” or “Today it hurts, tomorrow it works”), you aren’t seeing the results the way you imagined, and you seriously just want to stay in bed another hour instead of waking up to go for a run at 6 a.m.  

So here’s the only fool proof motivational quote I’ve yet to come by that works no matter what:  “Just Do It."  

No, I’m not endorsing Nike, but they kind of hit the nail on the head. There’s no misinterpreting this one folks, you simply have to quit making excuses and go do whatever it is that’s daunting you.

Now I know from experience that it’s not quite simple, there’s so much out there to distract us, so let me tell you how I “did it." 

Bettina's watch shows her speed, time and caleoric burn after running in the rainFinding fitness after vet school

I was never a skinny or fit child/teenager/college student. I probably started dieting and doing physical activities when I was 15 and nothing ever clicked.  To be honest, I never pushed out of my comfort zone because I was too afraid to fail. 

Then I went to vet school, and any thoughts of exercising or eating healthy went out the window to make room for studying. So by the time I was almost done with school I was at my heaviest. 

A friend of mine lost over 100 pounds by doing one 5k a month for an entire year, and this was my initial momentum to try running. 

I began running in September, 2011, and it was the first time I really started to see results. I started a basic training plan and asked my trainer tips on improving my running, and with each race I got a little faster. It helps to be competitive with yourself in this regard, because that kept me going on the runs I didn’t feel like doing. I would always say to myself, “Well this race ain’t runnin itself” (yes, I’m Southern). 

Around the same time I started running was when I came back to aerial dance, after a two-year break. What I started noticing was that the better I got at running, the stronger I was also getting at trapeze. 

Excited by seeing results, I then decided to try something crazy – an obstacle mud race called the Spartan Race. 

With her arms in the air and body covered in mud, Bettina finishes the Spartan RaceThe Spartan Race

I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. At about an hour and a half into it I had only done 3 of the 5 total miles. Caked in a mixture of sweat and mud I kept telling myself, “Just keep going." I also prayed a lot, which I have found helpful too. 

As I crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 10 minutes, I was exhausted, but a fire arose within me that catapulted me to where I am today.  “I did it!!!!” I screamed, in my head because I had no breath left. 

This, my friends, is the motivation that keeps you going. You don’t have to dream to believe. You have to DO to believe. You have to tell that little voice deep down inside that is full of doubt and would rather not give 100 percent in fear of not achieving that it’s time to shut up. 

Bettina swings on the dance trapeze at Canopy Studio

Setting goals on the road and over the bar

What was crucial to me was to write down my goals and my plan on reaching those goals and then taping that on my refrigerator. I set big goals – like running my first half-marathon, which freaked me out more than I can explain. But with a proper plan and the memory of finishing that Spartan Race in my mind I knew I could do it. 

I also set goals in the studio – like, doing clean v-ups and learning my first drop!  My trapeze teacher at Canopy helped me work towards my goals and once I achieved one it was hard not to get excited about the next one. God gave me an able body, and I plan nothing short of finding all that it’s capable of doing. 

So my encouragement to you is this: just do it, I think you’ll surprise yourself.