Why has fitness become an industry where we have to be these perfect shells of a body in order to inspire and motivate others? Discover how an injury 5-weeks before her wedding forever altered Summer Sides' life and career.

One day can change Everything

Has one day, one experience, one moment completely altered the course of your life? 

Do you have an event that you look back on and say “wow, without that day/moment the story of my life would be totally different”?

So often questions like this make us think of negative moments in time. But the truth is, times of joy can also alter the course of your life. 

July 14, 2007…that’s a day that forever changed the story of my life. 

How an injury made me a better fitness professional 1

On this day I was hanging out with my best friends. Putting on a pretty dress. And hobbling down the aisle, clutching my Dad’s arm for dear life as I got ready to embark on one of the greatest life journeys — marriage

Like so many things in life, marriage has taught me a lot. But reflecting back on that day now I know that one simple trip down the aisle has taught me more than I ever imagined.

We all make decisions that craft our story

You see, 5 weeks before our wedding we were rock climbing, and I fell. I fell bad. So bad that I snapped the ligament in my ankle in half. 

A trip to the doctor (and an insanely painful functional x-ray) showed the only option was a complete and total ankle reconstruction. 

Being told you would need a complete reconstructive surgery is not the news you want to hear 5-weeks before your wedding day!

As the doctor described the 12+ week recovery process and the 6–8 weeks of wearing a cast/boot, I made a decision that may have altered the story that is my ankle and my life.

I told the doctor we would wait on that surgery until after our wedding and honeymoon. I was determined to walk down the aisle in my pink polka-dotted heals. And I would explore Disneyworld and the Caribbean Islands without a boot or cast!

How an injury made me a better fitness professional 3So on July 14, 2007, I made two choices that would forever craft the story of my life.

  • I walked down that aisle in those pink polka-dotted shoes.
  • I married my forever best friend.
  • But most importantly, I showed up as my authentic self — not afraid to kick off those heels and get married barefoot. (Yup it’s true. After clutching my Dad’s arm for dear life down the aisle, I kicked off those adorable shoes and went barefoot for the service!)

changing the conversation in fitness

This moment is so profound and important in my life as I’ve dedicated my career to the world of fitness. I empower and encourage people to move their bodies on a daily basis. I teach proper form and technique to new coaches and exercise science students. 

Yet, I have an ankle that is not perfect. I have an ankle that causes me pain each and every day. And I have an ankle that will never allow me to do things like run, jump, or climb again.

I’ve had people say I should hang up my coaching shoes and not teach group fitness classes if I can’t demonstrate 100% perfect technique.

To those people I say — WHY?

Why has fitness become an industry where we have to be these perfect shells of a body in order to inspire and motivate others? 

As humans, we experience life, which means our physical bodies will go through challenges. Our brain will experience trauma. Our life will not be all rainbows and butterflies. So why should fitness professionals try to put on that persona?

I believe that if we were a bit more real in the world of fitness maybe we would have more people actually active. Maybe we would get more than 20% of the American population to move their bodies regularly. And maybe we would shift the conversation from how the body looks to how it moves. 

Take that in for a moment…

It’s time the conversation isn’t about how the body looks, but instead about how it moves through space.

How an injury made me a better fitness professional 5Any doctor who looks at this beautiful x-ray says I shouldn’t be hiking, my days of strength training should be behind me, and I should decrease my activity levels. 

But they’re looking at a static image of how something looks. They are ignoring the fact that I can in fact actually move. Sure, it may not look the same as everyone else, but I can do it.

So it’s time we as fitness professionals do the same thing, we shift away from looking at someone and thinking we know how they’ll move, and let them discover for themselves the pure pleasure that comes from human movement!

5 lessons my ankle taught me

If you’ve ever taken a class with me, you know I talk about my ankle (and my husband) a lot.

In every class, I share that I’ve got 3 cadaver ligaments and a pin in my ankle to showcase that I’m a human with challenges just like everyone else. I don’t pretend to be perfect and allow modifications and variations to happen. 

As Brene Brown says, vulnerability takes courage, and I aim to bring my courage and true self to every class I teach — despite my physical flaws.

15 years and 2 complete reconstructive surgeries later, my ankle has shifted my perspective as a fitness professional and coach….

  • It’s made me more empathetic.
  • It’s shown me that we don’t have to be “perfect” to be successful.
  • It’s allowed me to be more authentic.
  • It’s also caused lots of frustrations, anger, and raw emotions around what I simply can’t do.
  • But it’s also showed me that being authentic and messy is better than fake and perfect.
That’s right, coming to terms with an injury and sharing that with others has made me the fitness professional I am today – raw, real, and with my own unique abilities.

So friends, that is the lesson I take from my wedding day! Life will be messy; things won’t go as planned. But all we can do is show up, grab the pink polka-dotted shoes, and make that hobble down the aisle!

Today I encourage you to think about the stories of your life and how you share them with yourselves and the world. Be kind and embrace the amazing human you are!!

Cheering us on together!

How an injury made me a better fitness professional 7
Introducing Ms. & Mr. Summer Sides & Michael Griffith
Share Post

Meet the author

We write and share stories that help fit pros become
inspired teachers and humans

We want you to thrive as a fit pro – so we’re giving you resources to save you time planning classes. But more importantly, we’re here to support you as you aim to avoid burnout, stay mentally sane, and keep your body healthy.

Because you matter