Finding My Way Back to the Gym


This morning I texted a friend and told her that my favorite trainer recently started doing one-on-one sessions and I was planning to head back into a gym and workout with her once a week. The response “whaaaaaattttt”!

This friend knows about my relationship with exercise, the gym, and overall health. So for me stepping back into a gym was actually a big thing. In truth, I have not stepped into a gym in years. Yes, that’s right years!

But Let Me Back Up

I lifted my first weight at 14 years old. I was at a school where we trained about as much as we went to school. Sometimes more training than actual school time. I learned to squat, clean, box jump, deadlift, jump rope, and more. This was well before CrossFit and Functional Fitness became all the rage. We just called it dryland training in order to prep for the alpine ski racing season.

This was my life all the way through college. I studied and trained for my various sports. My first year out of college I coached two sports. Then moved back to the school I went to and was an admin at the school and coach. So being in gyms was basically ingrained into my DNA.

I found obstacle racing, got obsessed, and headed back into the gym again, taking off my coaching hat and putting back on my athlete hat. In Vermont, I lived about 10 steps from the gym at the school. I moved to Utah and days before arriving met a CrossFit Gym owner, who happened to own a gym less than 2 miles from my new home. This was when I was obstacle racing professionally, they invited me to do my training at the gym.

Welcome Insta Community

I moved to Utah and found my initial friend group at the gym. Initially, I trained with the competitive team trained for the CrossFit Games. I got to be friends with the trainers and was welcomed into the gym culture. I loved it and embraced it.

When I was injured in 2013, the gym owners helped me out and helped create a recovery plan. After my injury and when I had drifted away from professional racing and more into the media I found myself in the 8:30 am CrossFit Classes three or four times a week.

I loved it, and it fed competitive flair in a different way. It also led to me working out too hard often in WODs, sacrificing form in order to “keep up”, and basically injuring myself even when I 100% knew better. CrossFit is great for some and has provided a lot of community for me but the actual workouts were killing me.

Going from an “Exerciser” to a “Mover”

As I found myself way too sore and suffering weird ailments I read “Move Your DNA” by Katy Bowman (she is brilliant and have been on the podcast twice Episode 28 & 76). Her work completely shifted my thought process from being an “exerciser” to a “mover”. Exercisers basically go to the gym an hour or two a day and otherwise live a sedentary lifestyle (which is most of us and was me). A mover is someone who just incorporates movement into as aspects of their life (walk to the post office much carrying lots of boxes, farm chores, cutting veg by hand, etc…).  It was her that made me think about my time in the gym and made me ask the question – why?!? – was I killing myself and was I only an exerciser? Turns out I was.

Couple that with a powerful spiritual journey which made me look at myself and my motivations. I came out of that experience feeling deep in my soul “I don’t have to compete anymore!” This was a huge moment and the moment I knew I wasn’t going to be a competitive athlete anymore.

Walking Away to Gain Clarity

About that time I completely stopped going to the gym. I stopped running. I basically stopped all athletic endeavors and things people call “training”. I embarked on a life of moving and just eating well.

It worked for a while and I needed the break. I started to work myself back into “exercise” in the last year. Between getting on skis after a 5-year hiatus from the industry, trying pole fitness, and this summer learning to love trail running again. The last piece of the puzzle was the gym.

What I learned in the last couple years gymless is I don’t need the gym. In truth no one does and there are so many ways to be “fit”. However, I learned I do enjoy those workouts and have been missing them. While the gym I once loved has had a lot of changes and no one coaches there anymore who I use to train with back in 2012 my favorite trainer from that gym just started to offer private sessions. How serendipitous that the moment I wanted to go back to a gym, there she was!

My Balance Point

This was the balance point I had been looking for. I want to have the structure that CrossFit offered. I’m not interested in making my own programming. I created workout programs for over 15 years for athletes and clients. I knew going back to the classes could lead me back down that overworking path. So this is the balance point, at least for me. Everyone is different.

In my time off from the gym I was able to work though a few key elements and maybe they will help you too in finding your balance.

1. What is my motivation? 

2. Am I serving myself and my goals here?

3. What about the gym do I enjoy?

4. How can I incorporate the good aspects of the gym?

5. How can I avoid past pitfalls?

I took a lot of time to think about those five questions and realized one-on-one works for me. I need some structure. I enjoy having someone program for me and I love showing up not knowing what is going to happen in the session. I love my trainer and love to be able to support her in her ventures and also I benefit physically. It was literally a win, win, win.


A huge part of getting back in the gym was realizing what my intention was for being there. When I was young the gym was a tool to get me to be a better ski racer, then it was my job as a coach to teach others, then my job again as an athlete, then a community place, a place of injury, and now finally it is a place and a tool that I can use to help me be in the shape I want to be in to do the things I want to do.

I am not about the looks anymore. I am not about the abs, the PRs or anything like that. I am just there at least for right now to kickstart my ski season and get ready so I can spend 3 or 4 hours ripping turn after turn and run after run without taking a break or having my legs feel like noodles. Also, secondly I am supporting another female going after her dream and love I can help her by helping myself.

It’s all about alignment, intention, and balance. I share these things as they are the cornerstone of my alignment coaching. While sports is only a slice of the pie, I find if you can be aligned in one aspect of your life it is easier to apply those skills to the rest of your world. If you want to learn more about coaching check out the coaching section on the site.

Sorry, No Gym Selfies.

I Just Went to Workout.

Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
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One Response to Finding My Way Back to the Gym

  1. Barbara Deubel says:

    I love this article, Margaret! Since moving to Steamboat, I actually joined a gym (which I thought I’d never do) and take a Total Body Conditioning class 3 times a week. I’ll
    admit that I do still run every morning too!

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