Getting Fit to Give Back
October 19, 2016
Rachel Elizabeth | Founder of Cause Fitness | Certified Nutrionist
The following is an edited transcript of the interview
Q: So I know about your brand, Cause Fitness. Could you explain more of what you’re doing and how you got to this point?
Sure — So, I grew up in a Christian home and since I was four, I have always believed that God was there. I knew the right things to say, but it was all head knowledge, not a heart understanding.
I went to college in that state of mind, and like everyone else hitting that stage of life, I began to experiment and discover different things. Summer before my junior year, I visited a girlfriend across the state. We went to a party with her friends and I was raped by one of them that night. It destroyed everything about who I thought I was, but the worst part about it was that I didn’t realize it for months. It was like I was numb to something that was destroying me quietly. I eventually told my family and went to a couple of counseling sessions, but too soon after, I flew to London to study abroad.
Fall semester after I was back from Europe, a friend “randomly" introduced me to weight-training. Before that, I had just been running. But I was running so much so hard that it became destructive. I found a release there, and I needed to feel something. I was so numb to everything else. — Unfortunately, when you numb the bad, you also numb the good. — So, I would run long and hard until I found a point where I could just cry, to feel something. I didn’t realize at the time that what I thought was helping was actually hurting me. But then I experienced weight training and it made me feel empowered and strong for the first time since before the abuse, if not ever. I fell in love with it.
So, after college, I moved to Seattle, pursued personal training, and got a job through a friend at a corporate gym. Around the same time, another friend sent photos of me to his sports modeling agency. They sent me a contract and I booked my first job the first week I was signed! Between training and sports modeling I saw the opportunity to build a personal brand, so that’s what I did.
It wasn’t long before I was training privately. I was booking jobs all over the country, landed a magazine cover and booked the lead in a Reebok workout DVD… I was thriving; a success, by the world’s standards. Without realizing it, I was also becoming very self-sufficient and arrogant — I remember believing at one point that I was unstoppable.
But then, after a series of successes, I hit a point where all of my resources dried up somewhat suddenly without good reason and I found myself calling out to God in anger saying, “God, I did this, and this, and this, but nothing’s working. I’m doing everything right! What is going on?” It was right then that I had this moment, clear and vivid, where I undeniably heard the voice of God respond, “You didn’t do any of that. I did all of that.”
That was it. I was left with a sense of awe and amazement, but also panic and terror. All I could think was, “Who was that?” It compelled me to open my Bible, not out of obligation, but for the first time, to actually find out who that really was.
The rest of that summer, business was still slower than usual, but I was figuring out who God was by reading The Word. I found out that he’s a good God, a personal God, and that he wasn’t angry at me for anything I’d done. I realized that He sees me as pure, because of Jesus, despite what happened to me and despite the repercussions of that. This broke my heart in the best of ways. I wasn’t searching for myself, but in my search for God, He showed me how He sees me and how much He loves me. It literally changed everything. I even got re-baptized in January 2012 because what was once only head knowledge (my parents' religion) became heart knowledge (my relationship with my Creator) and a lifestyle of learning how to live like Jesus did.
Then through a series of (miraculous) events over the next six months, I moved to Los Angeles. But, I have no doubt that it was less of my choice and more of an agreement between me and God, because the last few years have been such a “stripping" and redeeming process.
Being in the fitness industry for a decade now, I see it for what it is. My heart breaks for everyone in the fitness industry because the whole point of “fitness” is health, but it seems no one is in it for health or fitness. There can be such deep-rooted reasons behind why people really want to get “fit". Creating the “look” physique athletes strive to attain is an insane discipline. Our bodies and minds default to what’s comfortable (homeostasis). I’m convinced that anyone who pursues a fitness-extreme outside of general exercise or athletics, either has a gift, or they’re motivated by something that needs healing. But I digress…
Not long after I had the experience of God’s voice, I prayed for a new business name. I just asked God what I should call my brand. Without any brainstorming, the name "Cause Fitness" seemed to drop out of nowhere and I thought it was brilliant! Not only did it encompass the idea of results from training (cause and effect), but it also implied that there was a cause, a reason, something to give back to. I was in Thailand in 2008 for a mission-trip to a little girl’s orphanage that truly inspired me, and since then I’ve wanted to find ways to give back. I’m just not sure what that looks like outside of monthly donations yet.
Q: Can you expand on what Cause Fitness is and what it represents?
The name is a call to action; to cause your own fitness-effect. Then, living by example, you’ll create an effect: you’ll inspire and influence people around you to cause their own fitness-effect, and so on, creating a ripple of healthy living. Lastly, it’s fitness for a “cause”, which is why I use the hashtag #getfitgiveback along with #CauseFitness.
The idea is like this:
On airplanes, you put on your own oxygen mask before you help someone else with theirs. I don’t believe that’s selfish at all. You have to take care of yourself so that you’re able to help others.
For me, currently, that looks like taking a step back from private training to focus on asking God for direction and clarity (and trusting that He has a good plan because He is God and He is good), and working on what’s right in front of me. I have an educational/inspirational blog that focuses on nutrition, fitness and lifestyle that includes faith, so I’m staying consistent with that.
I’m currently in a season of transition – God has been reordering my path, but my heart still wants to help people, and I care personally for so many in the fitness industry. He’s been moving me to take a more missional approach in my social media and blog content. He’s been shifting me to a more specific demographic: women who have a similar story to me – women who may have grown up in the church or may have had an experience that pushed them away from seeing who God is, and women who struggle or have struggled with self-worth, value and body-image. It could be that they’ve also experienced abuse, or how they were raised...anything really, but that is my new focus. And I’m so excited to see what direction it takes me, but I see it taking a variety of forms.
Q: So what would you say is your Tree?
I would say it looks like a community that educates, encourages, and empowers young women and children to basically understand what true fitness is, and my definition of that is being healthy in every aspect of life.
I also see myself on a stage, speaking to a lot of people. But as cool as that sounds to me, it’s also extremely intimidating. I’ve always loved performing, but speaking on something of that much value, when it comes to the gospel… I just don't want to mess it up! So, that’s something I’m not entirely sure what it will look like, or what that vision means. It’s pretty foggy.
But at the end of the day, my main focus is worldwide community.
Q: What would you say to someone coming out of college pursuing work that’s solely for comfort and not really going after their passion or God-given dream?
I would say check your motives. Why are you doing it? Is it just for comfort? Or pride? To look good? It's not wrong to have a good-paying job, but don’t let it become an idol.
Make sure you’re taking a job that you can steward well, where you can be a good example in the workplace, where you won’t change or compromise yourself or let it negatively impact you. If it’s not a office work setting, for example, some sort of entrepreneurial work, make sure you’re talking to God everyday, committing your plans to His will and asking for wisdom and direction.
Something I’ve just come to understand after all these years is that I don’t own time. As much as I want to be, I’m not in control. God is. Living is all about dying to self. True freedom is in surrender. Make sure you surrender everyday. That doesn’t mean that you’re trading in your dreams for a boring life.
I used to think that when people said “lay down your desires because God knows better,” that it was like your parents giving you vegetables when you wanted the donuts, because vegetables are better FOR you. (Obviously donuts are better — kidding!) The point is, that’s not what God’s "better" looks like. God’s "better" is something we couldn’t possibly have imagined for ourselves. Every time I’ve experienced this — me giving God my “good" and Him giving me His “better”— it has literally blown my mind. It’s always such a good surprise in the end, every time, even if it may not seem good in the middle of the process or the waiting for the “better”. It’s really an adventure when you surrender. If you hold up all you have to God and say, “Okay, here’s what I have, what can You do with this?,” He will just blow you away. He loves to show off like that!
All that to say, my advice would be this: never count on something the world provides to sustain you, but you can always count on God, who always provides for you, never leaves you, and is always a good Father.