Nike Master Trainer, Sandra Raju
When I met Sandra for the first time I knew she was somebody who I was able to relate. We started to talk and we couldn’t stop. Her energy will fuel you and her sincerity will inspire you. She is really one of the kind woman and I am so happy to have her here to tell her story and share her thoughts about being a Nike Master Trainer and dealing with eating disorder.
Talk about what are the greatest things you have learned about your body through you fitness journey.
Good thought how to start with, to be honest – makes me think that I haven’t had time to truly wonder on that point before. I guess that I’m trying to learn to take my body as it is – to love the curves and the bumps and bruises and all of the imperfections that make me who I am. Of course I’m still not in peace with myself yet, but I see it’s more like a marathon rather than a sprint or even 10K. I’m trying to accept myself, my flaws and also my strong sides. I’m going with the flow, but on the other hand still willing push myself to see how tough I really am. Without my weaknesses, I would be someone else and not me. I have learned that my body is so different from the body of, let’s say, Jennifer Aniston or Serena Williams or (let’s go into extreme) Kate Moss but I think I almost love it and even if it has some extra padding on the hips – at least I don’t get hurt when I fall snowboarding.
I have learned that I will never look like the girls in the magazines because even the girls in the magazine don’t look like the girls in the magazines. Of course I’ve had my times when I posted pictures of my dream body on the fridge to keep myself motivated to stay on the course to the enchanted land of fit bodies.This summer – I finally took them off the fridge because I felt that this part of the life was done. I do not need to body-idealise anyone else but myself. So, in order to be like the girl in the magazine, I guess I just have to love me, my life and my body a little bit more and eventually BE in the magazine. It’s important to me to show myself and to younger girls that you don’t need to look up to super skinny models, but you have to look up to yourself – be your own inspiration, be your own role model. Go get your dream – you have to be YOU and this is what is the key to success.
‘’You don’t need to be perfect to inspire others. Let them be inspired by your imperfections and how you handle them’’
What it means to you to be a Nike Master Trainer?
At first, it was kind of like a normal course of action to me – you work hard, get a deal with Nike, become their trainer and so on.When I attended my second Nike Global Master Trainer summit this summer, I realize that I might be on the course towards something big. As days go by, I’m getting to realize how big that title truly is and starting to understand that it stands for real hard work and dedication in the field that I adore. It stands for all the cancelled birthday parties and late nights at the training studio, the angry friends, who I’ve left waiting at the cinema and sweaty post-training after burn moments in the public. It stands for the sacrifice of not having a husband or kids nor a house in the suburbs. But it also stands for grit, dedication and a passion for being a role model and being true to what I am. In the big picture – it stands for making a difference. This year at Nike HQ, when I was at the same team with NTC Global Master trainers Marie Purvis, Joselynne Boschen, Eva Redpath, Holly Rilinger, Kirsty Godso and many others, I started to realize that this young woman from Eastern Europe, from a small country of Estonia can also play big in her area of expertise. I don’t know why but I have always made myself feel smaller than I really am (not size wise, hehe… I actually love my booty now). I’ve been telling myself that I’m not good enough, that I don’t work as hard as I should, that I’m not fit enough to be a world class trainer, that I don’t have enough money or power or knowledge or whatever stupid idea I put into my head to keep myself not going all in. There is a big difference between going for the win or going for not loosing. I have now decided to go for the gold and see what the World has to offer. If I try and fail then I’m ok with that but if I don’t try at all – well, that will be double as painful. It’s weird, in a sense, because everyone else keeps telling me the exact opposite of what I think about myself and now I know – you just have to do it all yourself, I mean you have to figure it out yourself. Someone telling you is just theoretical learning – practical part is the one that truly counts and practice makes perfect so a daily dose of self love and pat on the back should be a compulsory routine.
These past few months have taught me to love myself even more and to embrace my strengths and weaknesses. Let me tell you why – not because the people around me have changed but because I am seeing more people around me. I feel that I’m more open to new relationships and connections and that has made me a better person. I have met some pretty mint folks who have inspired me to use my full potential and I’m going to do that. I have had new and awesome people coming to my life and this is so exiting. People like me. And yes – I just called myself awesome. For the first time in public and not somewhere deep in my head, I have said it out – I am awesome! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not arrogance or cockiness – it’s self-love and respect towards myself and that is a totally different from sticking your nose up in the air. There’s a difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit so I choose to be wise and keep pursuing for excellence. My goal is to live not to exist and to do that you have to surround yourself with people like yourself.
‘’The older you get, the more you realize that it isn’t about the material things or pride or ego. It’s about our hearts and who they beat for’’
How do you describe your relationship with your body during and after your eating disorder?
I don’t really remember how I was before because it started such a long time ago. My story is quite classic, when it comes to eating disorders – high-school girl, performer/dancer, loves to eat (especially chocolate) and is aware that her body is her tool. One failed sentence about your weight from your role model and BOOM – there it was! When I think about it then I can say it started about 10 years ago but it got worse when I went to university. I remember a sentence from my ex boyfriend when we saw each other some years back and he saw me eating a pastry. His eyes were big from astonishment and his words were: ’’Wow, you are eating a sweet thing. The old Sandra would have never done that!’’. Oh, the old Sandra sure did but it happened when you were outside taking out the garbage. I would stuff myself full with whatever food I could find when I was alone but in front of everyone else, my portions were minuscule. Secret night raids to the fridge were a common thing and I hated myself for doing that, but I didn’t know how to stop or help myself. Now, there is a brilliant website in Estonia called eriline.ee that helps girls and boys with eating disorders to find their way to self love and healing. It’s a bit scary to think back to those days now, especially at this very moment when I’m sitting at a café, eating cheesecake and drinking cappuccino – life is beautiful but few years ago that would had been a nightmare for me. When one door closes, sometimes all you need to do is get some nails and a hammer and make sure that door stays shut.
I’m still struggling with my compulsive thoughts about weight and food from time to time and I have to say that it’s a long road to accepting your body as it is, especially for girls working in health and fitness. You are always judged by how you look by someone, the key is to listen to the right people and educate yourself on how the human body works. No miracles, no special formulas or diets – just a healthy attitude toward life, your peers and especially yourself!
‘’Eating well is a form of self-respect’’
What saved you?
I think I’m not saved yet, the process is still an on going project for me, but I’m looking for ways how to have people around me who can help me to save me. Complicated? Not really. I know that good friends and family are the key to happiness but the fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself. I guess it’s just one of those obstacles life throws at you to make your journey worthwhile. I always try to think that everything happens for a reason – it’s either a lesson or a blessing and a lot of that depends on how you choose to look at that situation. Positive approach is the best medicine I know so let’s apply like…a LOT of it!
‘’If we wait until we are ready the we will be waiting for the rest of our lives’’
As a trainer what are the biggest insecurities and healthy body image issues you see most women dealing with?
I guess it’s a little different for each and one of us and most of the issues are made up in our heads and empowered by what society believes to be the right way. Women often want to be like someone else instead of embracing them selves just the way they are in the life they are currently living in. If you work as a bank accountant or a zookeeper or a mother of 4 or a sales rep then you don’t have to look like a bikini fitness contestant, because it’s not your main purpose, of course unless it’s your aspiration then go for it! I just want women to know that the feeling inside is what counts; it’s the feeling of satisfaction, self-love and -respect towards yourself and others. If your heart is not covered or surrounded by fat then all is good and a little padding never hurt nobody! It’s totally different when your body fat rises over the level of healthy and approaches obesity – then it IS a huge problem and should be dealt with great caution. If you look at the mirror and think ‘’I’m pretty ok’’ then please embrace the little padding that you have on your hips or belly or cheeks because it makes you glow in a different way. I mean, chocolate is good – would you be willing to give that up? Didn’t think so. Just make sure that you don’t eat the whole 500g bar at once In my opinion it’s important to exercise, eat healthy and from time to time be a little bit lazy as well – it’s human, so let’s try to be one.
‘’When you screw up, skip a workout or eat a bad meal, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club – there’s like 7 billion of us. So eat whatever you want and the next time, when someone tries to lecture you about your weight, eat them too’’
What message you want to send out to women when it comes to our society’s beauty standards?
Be your own hero – it’s so much more rewarding and keeps you wanting to up your game. I think that we are all superheroes in what we do so keep your chin up, put on your favourite lipstick and go conquer the World!
‘’You will never look like the girls in the magazines because even the girls in the magazines don’t look like the girls in the magazines’’
Learn more about her here at Sandraraju.com
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