By Jill Farr
Career woman and single mom Dianne Rideout has a very clear answer when asked the standard GORGO interview question, “What do you believe sets you apart? What’s your source of empowerment?”
“I have never been handed anything in my life,” Dianne says. “I have worked for every single thing I have.”
While achieving goals as the result of hard work certainly builds a certain amount of fortitude, it’s also not something born in a vacuum; the mindset of success has to be there, too. It’s something Dianne has cultivated carefully, over the years.
Dianne was not fitness minded as a child, or particularly athletic. In fact it wasn’t until after her second pregnancy when she turned to fitness for weight loss that she discovered its secondary benefits.
“I started my fitness journey with Sisters in Shape after I had my second child,” Dianne says.
“I was heavier than I had ever been in my life--almost 200 pounds and I am 5’2.”
“I had my daughter in May 2014 and was heading back to work in January 2015. I started searching the internet and stumbled onto Sisters in Shape. I did a 6 week challenge and lost some weight but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be so I contacted Erica Willick and she started coaching me one on one.”
The newly found fitness focus ultimately helped Dianne with more that just physical strength.
“I was having a lot of troubles in my marriage and personal life,” Dianne says. “I turned to working out as a way to work through those issues. I lost weight and became fitter than I had been before, but more importantly I really gained mental strength and clarity from working out.”
As it happens so often with women, Dianne’s foray into strength training brought to light a need for the coalescence of strength and assurance from other areas into the places where it was lacking.
“I’m a lawyer by trade,” Dianne says, “And I feel that in that realm I portray myself as strong and confident.”
“In my personal life I was anything but that.”
“I had been beaten down a lot and I felt like I was far from the person that everyone saw in my professional life, and on the surface.”
In the summer of 2016, just as she had amped up her fitness journey by going from a program to personal training, Dianne went a step further and traveled to Camp Gorgo for the first time.
“It was very much out of my comfort zone to go to something like this where I didn’t know anyone,” Dianne says. “But it really changed my life.”
Dianne credits meeting strong and inspirational women at the camp with challenging her to make another jump, and transform her life even more.
“After meeting women who had overcome many difficulties in their life, it really made me realize that I needed to take action to life a live that made me happy,” Dianne explains. “I set out to start living an authentic life. I wanted to be strong and happy, and show my daughters a strong female role model.”
While the courage to strike out and change the aspects of her life that were unhealthy--both physically and situationally--is something she advocates for, Dianne also shares that realistically, the choice to make even positive changes isn’t without struggle, itself.
“Single mom life is so hard,” Dianne relates. “Some days I feel like superwoman. Some days I’m hiding in my bedroom just to escape my kids and cry. But I keep trudging on. Ultimately I want my kids to know that I did not put up with an unhappy or unhealthy situation. I stood up for myself and ultimately for them. I don’t think they see it at the moment, but I hope one day they will appreciate it.”
Fitness competition became the next tangible marker for Dianne’s strength journey.
“I never wanted to compete, initially,” Dianne says, “But I found that once I started to build physical strength my emotional strength also grew. I felt empowered and decided that I would challenge myself to compete in a competition to prove to myself that I was strong.”
“Competing really wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about showing myself I had the dedication it takes to do it. When I stepped on the stage I felt like a different person. It was so empowering. It turned out to be more that I had hoped for because I ended up winning two first place trophies and one second place trophy.”
Fitness became an integral part of Dianne’s life, one that helped her make strong moves in order to pursue happiness and health, and realize the depths of her inner strength.
That inner strength was tested when tragedy struck for Dianne, but ultimately her fitness provided a solid foundation for her to move forward.
“Last year, I lost my biggest support, my best friend and the love of my life in a tragic accident,” Dianne shares.
“It’s hard to put into words how traumatic his death was for me. He was my constant and biggest support. During the times that I wanted to give up, he reminded me of how strong I was and told me how much he admired my strength. When he died, my life was shattered. The strength that I had worked so hard for seemed to suddenly disappear. Now I am trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life. I don’t think you ever get over something like that. I know that once the pieces are together I will be a very different lady - and a much stronger one.”
“It is ironic – I remember thinking that 2017 was the hardest year of my life. Entering 2018 I thought to myself that 2018 was going to be “my year”. After all my struggles and all the work I had put in, I was finally going to be happy. I had no idea then what life had in store for me. Even though I felt I had already come back from “rock bottom”, I had no idea at the time what rock bottom was.”
“Even with all of the other challenges I’ve had these past few years, attending his funeral was the hardest thing I have ever done. So, in the end, 2018 ended up being the worst year of my life.”
“It is so hard to put into words what I felt. The best example that I can think of is that for many years I was in a dark hole. I worked very hard to dig myself out. At the end of 2017 I felt like I could finally see the light. I was just at the surface of the hole, but before I actually climb out fully, someone grabbed my hands and threw me back down in that hole again. Only this time, the hole was deeper and darker than it had been before. I didn’t really know how to process my grief so I turned to my workouts to help get me through the days. It gave me time to think and reflect on everything that had happened.”
“Despite everything, I survived. I am still standing and slowly I’m picking up the pieces. My goal for 2019 is to start rebuilding my life.”
Research has shown correlations between improving physical fitness and enhanced mental states, and that can extend to coping with grief. Dianne’s fitness foundation provided a great outlet to help her cope with her grief. While it’s still a work in progress, she’s focused on moving forward.
“I definitely am not out of the woods yet,” Dianne says. “But I have come a long way since last year.”
When asked what she would tell other women who are struggling to leave unhealthy situations, or what advice she would give the grief-stricken woman who is fighting to just get out of bed, much less to the gym, Dianne adds her own dimension to a favorite quote from a book she loves…
“Never ignore your inner voice. Listen to yourself and believe in yourself because you are stronger than you think. I love this quote from Glennon Doyle Melton’s book Love Warrior, and it sums up what I believe…
“I will not betray myself. I will trust the wisdom of the still small voice. I will not let fear drown her out. I will trust her and I will trust myself. Love, Pain, Life: I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”