People are always asking how a girl from Arizona ends up working at a fitness club in Düsseldorf, and why I speak such good German, albeit with a funny accent. So I tell them about my Austrian parents who fell in love with Arizona and decided to have a family there. About growing up with German workbooks, Austrian Christmas trees, and Wienerschnitzel. About the Phoenix Oktoberfest where I met Toby, my German husband. About our decision to move to Germany together, which gave me the opportunity to make the career leap that might otherwise have been left for ‘some day.’

The reaction is almost always the same – wow, you’re mutig. Translated that means something like brave, courageous, ballsy.

Funny. Most days those aren’t the words I would use to describe myself. Maybe confused, worried, overwhelmed. And sometimes lonely, lazy, useless. There’s always a little crazy sprinkled in. Some days I even feel hopeful, curious, inspired.

But ballsy? Me?


What’s the best way to avoid impending doom, i.e. winter? Escape to warmer climes! Which is what Toby and I did, and why you haven’t heard a peep from me until now. First we spent ten days playing in my beautiful home state. Then we had a few weeks to catch up on laundry and repack for some adventures in Thailand. Ah, life is good when you bank all your vacation until the end of the year….

Arizona was wonderful. We hung out with A every day. We celebrated Daddy’s 70th birthday and swam in his pool. We took Mom out for coffee and margaritas (not on the same day). We ate Mexican food and our one-year anniversary cake top. We went out with friends and shopped. We visited the Phoenix Oktoberfest and hiked in our favorite Phoenix-area mountains. We had a Grand Canyon adventure.

Thailand was an adventure of epic proportions and perfect for our long overdue honeymoon. There were temples, jungles, and beaches; mosquitoes, elephants, and monkeys; bicycles, rickshaws, and longboats; and lots of rice. It was a different world for us, and we had fun creating so many new memories together.

But, by definition, all good vacations must come to an end, and so now we’re back home. While it is definitely cold (gloves, beanie, and scarf are a must for bike riding now), at least the sun is shining. The piles of laundry are done, Toby is back at work, and I’m back to getting my fitness career up and running. Right before Christmas I take my test for my personal trainer certification; it’s time to take The Christina to the next level. And in January I start my very own Zumba class; I finally will be paid to shake my booty in front of a room of people.

Now, if that won’t keep the winter doldrums away…

Pumping grannies and more

I think it’s finally time to report on the job. The Christina is doing well. I’ve gotten comfortable enough with the procedures that I’m finally able to veer a little off the ‘script’ and bring my own personality to the, er, workout bench. I’m not always sure if the gym members I speak with get or appreciate my jokes – your sense of humor is the hardest thing to regain when you’re speaking a different language (the cultural references and word plays I know just don’t work as well in German) – but everyone, myself included, seems to be having a good time. As good a time as you can have while pushing out another set of 20…

But that’s what I love about the job. There’s a generally positive vibe around the gym. While each of the ladies (it’s a women’s gym) has different goals and reasons for being there, they’re all motivated by the same desire to do something good for themselves, to improve themselves. And you can somehow see that. They go through their routines with determination and skill (each new member gets an introduction to our machines and a personalized training plan to get started off with). I’ve never seen so many women using weight machines and free weights. On a busy night, you actually have to wait for the leg press.

Who are these women, you might ask? It’s a refreshing mix of young and old – some with jobs or college schedules, some with babies, some with a solid foundation of muscle, some with a little extra padding. And, because our regulars are fairly regular, there’s a sense of community among many of the members. My favorite group is the Monday morning coffee clique – these older ladies start out with a back strengthening class, go to their balance class, and then sit at our bar sipping cappuccinos before tackling the rest of their days. Seeing them makes me smile.

And, I’m slowly becoming a member of their community. I’m getting to know the names and stories of many of the regulars, just like they’re getting to know me. And, even though I already have the reputation for knowing how to make your muscles quiver, there are a few who really like working out with the ‘Arizona lady.’

It makes working evenings and Sundays not so bad.

Ich bin

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been in training for my new job as fitness coach – learning the procedures, the computer system, the equipment, the course structures, and the personalities of the regular members. The last point is the one that challenges this rather shy girl. You want me to walk around, make small talk, make myself approachable…in German…? Gulp.

Lucky for me, I’ve discovered an idiosyncrasy in the German language that allows me to define and assume an alternate personality as fitness coach. Hallo, ich bin die Christina. The literal translation – Hello, I am the Christina. Yes – The Christina. I’m giving it a capital T for effect.

I’m the outgoing, totally approachable girl with the funny accent who will help you get to those killer abs and lean, sexy muscles. I’ll create an inspiring training plan you can’t wait to do. I’ll lead the most fun abs/butt/legs/back group workouts you’ve ever experienced. I’ve got great nutrition tips. Anything else you need to reach your fitness goals? I can whip that up too!

Just in the nick of time – next week I start my regular schedule. Here comes The Christina, fitness coach extraordinaire!

Exciting times

It’s been a while. A lot has been going on. All good. Where to begin…where to begin…?

We got back 10 days ago from a fabulous trip to Egypt for an escape from the end of winter. Go figure – the day we boarded our plane, it was sunny and warm. Isn’t that just how Life toys with you? No matter though. The five days we were away were just what the doctor ordered – we soaked up the sun, read our books, hung out with Toby’s parents, slept too long, and ate lots of food. Perfect!

When we got back, the sun was still shining. I survived my first Düsseldorf winter (let’s ignore the fact that it was a pretty mild one aside from the two weeks of -10°C weather), and now spring is in full force! While the next few days are forecast to be cold and rainy (just a glitch in the system, I’m sure), it’s turning out to be amazing. The view of the Hofgarten from our living room windows lets us watch the approach of spring. The park gets greener by the day as new trees decide it’s time to get their photosynthesis on. It’s all so fresh and alive, and I can’t help but feel more fresh and alive too.

Another happy side effect of spring and that funny thing known as Daylight Savings Time is that it now stays light until almost 8pm. It makes the day so gloriously long! Toby and I have been taking advantage of it by adding a morning bike ride along the Rhine to our daily activities.

And now for the biggest news – I am no longer a bum. Yes, I have landed a job! I had an interview the day after I passed my fitness trainer test, and by the end of the interview I had a job at one of the local gyms. And all of this within the last four days, mind you. I know, right?!

Now comes the real test – will Christina like her newly chosen career path? Oh, such a big question for a smart girl who’s dumb enough to try to doubt herself….

Exciting times, indeed!