The biggest thing I hear from people who want to get in shape is that they are starting again. Whether you have started and stopped working out a dozen times, lost weight and put it back on, or have never been able to stick to a fitness plan, everyone has been there.
I personally never “needed” to workout when I was younger, or so I was told because I was thin. No one ever taught me the benefits of staying active no matter your body composition. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first daughter in 2004 at twenty-one, when I put on on 90 lbs. that I started to think about fitness. For those of you thinking, “holy shit 90 lbs.!” you’re not alone, I was thinking the same thing! During my teen years I weighed 112 lbs. at 5’8″. Very thin, but I ate a healthy amount and was a runner. Since I was underweight for my height it was expected I would gain a little more than the usual 30-35 lbs. recommended during pregnancy. I was on the cusp of having gestational diabetes so this explained the rapid weight gain. (And the massive plates of spaghetti I craved didn’t help.)
Post-pregnancy, I dropped my weight from 195 lbs. to 135 lbs. naturally, within a few months. My metabolism was still working quite efficiently, and I was moderately active. This was the first time in my life I felt “fat” though. I was only twenty-two and felt the weight on my body — it made me feel thirty-two. I struggled to figure out what workout regiment to do, so I went back to running. At my prime I was running five miles a day, 5-6 days a week. Still, I was ‘soft’ in my midsection, I literally didn’t understand why I didn’t look toned.
When I moved to Denver in 2009, the elevation took me for everything I had. I ran 1-2 miles at a time at best and quickly lost my drive when I started getting heart palpitations, ones I never got at sea level. [This was later diagnosed as a symptom of my anxiety, a large contributor to my depression that I didn’t know existed.]
I came back to Michigan in 2011 after a breakup and needed to pull myself out of my slump. I turned back to running and found my stride. Still, I was ‘soft’ and couldn’t figure out why cardio wasn’t giving me the toned look I wanted!
It wasn’t until last year, 2016, when my youngest daughter was a few months shy of two. I was ready to change my body, I was determined to have the body I had always dreamed of, and I wanted to kick my postpartum depression. I knew that intermittent bicep curls and running once a month were broken promises I had made to myself in the past. They became peripheral activities I did just to make myself feel less guilty.
But this time, did it: I started working out and didn’t stop. After the first consecutive twelve weeks I celebrated. The next twelve weeks I realized it had become a lifestyle. The next set of twelve weeks that passed my life had changed, permanently. If I have the choice, I will never go back to being sedentary again.
Starting, stopping, not understanding why I was doing the exercises or workouts I was doing. It has all been a learning experience, and I wish I had had more practical advice. I hope what I can offer gives you recognizition into the way we live our lives and how to co-exist with our healthy selves. Here are the top things I did/do to stay active.
I stopped making excuses. I stopped telling myself I didn’t have the time, energy, or will power to do it. I hear people say they don’t have time for fitness all the time — it’s the number one excuse. Conversely, I see people who work 50 hrs. a week, that have kids, pets, and a social life workout five days a week. It can be done. Of course there are always life circumstances, we fall off for a little whie, but the difference is knowing you will come back to it.
If you don’t make fitness one of the most important things in your day-to-day life, you aren’t ready for it, period. When you’re prepared to sacrifice the thirty minutes you spend in front of the TV, scrolling through Facebook, etc. you will find being active heavily outweighs the time you spend doing mindless things that don’t serve purpose to your life.
I started making appointments with myself. Like a date with a friend, a mani/pedi appointment, or dinner reservation, SHOW UP. Make the time every day to get your workout in. If you schedule time with yourself, you will find less excuses not to do it. Even better, workout at the same time every day. For me, I excerise first thing in the day because if I put it off, it can feel like a burden – another thing added to my list that I have to get done. In the morning, I look forward to energizing my body for the rest of the day. As a stay-at-home-mom I realize I have this advantage over working parents, but that’s not to say you can’t sacrifice an hour of sleep in the morning or get your workout in when you get home from work. It may not be ideal, but it rarely is. I squeeze my workouts in when I can. With a toddler at home it isn’t always a full hour session. Sometimes it’s thirty minutes, sometimes it’s spilt into several twenty minute sessions. The point, I make it work. And you can too, you just have to want to.
I began changing the way I thought about life. Our bodies are made to move. The more we move the happier we are, literally. As I worked out more frequently, I began to feel better, and realized how negative I was and how much self love I needed. Simplicity and mindfulness became my mantra. And the toxic mindset I once had became elusive. I no longer spent time on the phone gossiping, or telling myself that this was just something girls do. I cut ties with toxic relationships. And though this is one I still struggle with from time to time, I stopped giving a shit what people thought of me.
I began to realize that happiness is internal. It is personal, it is opinion, and it is solely our own. For me, in order to find happiness, the inertia of chaos in a day has to be condensed into a simplistic form so I can let it go, wash it away if you will. For example, in a single day we go through a myriad of experiences, exchanges with people, emotions, and atmospheric changes. These all compile to a day’s worth of shit being thrown at us while we do our best to catch and juggle. When I reflect on at the end of a day now, instead of thinking of everything as a whole, I divide and conquer. And then I break it down into one emotion it made me feel. When I understand how and why it made me feel that way, I can lay it to rest.
I started finding reasons to be happy. I used to complain a lot. Growing up in a negtiave household it was easier to expect failure and loss than to get my hopes up and be let down. As an adult this is a very depressive way to live. As I became more mindful, my once negative thoughts were now replaced with positive affirmations. I began to filter out the things I had been “sold” all my life and started taking things at face value.
I got rid of a bunch of shit. All the stuff I had held onto for the last twenty years: knickknacks, clothes I didn’t wear anymore, meaningless memoirs (old birthday cards, my daughters’ first tooth she lost). The more stuff I realized I had, the less meaning they all held.
I’m more interested in cultivating my life than things that only create mental clutter for me.
Letting go of the things marketed to me my entire life felt like swimming in the ocean naked — it was oh so liberating. This helped me think about necessity. Focusing more on the value of myself/my body, and less on the external habitual things we have been taught we “need”.
I only did workouts I wanted to do. I played with different modalities and ranges of intensity to find what I enjoyed. If you do HIIT (high intensity interval training) but you hate plyometrics and feeling your lungs at capacity, this is probably not something you want to do four times a week. There are so many different routes to get healthy, you don’t have to take a path just because someone tells you it’s a good one. Find your own path. For me it began as running. Today, it’s weightlifting, body weight strength training, HIIT 2-3 times a week, and running when I feel like it.
Lastly, I got honest with myself. You can’t build a house without a strong foundation. Get past your ego and allow yourself to fail, and keep going. When you are able to laugh at yourself and find humility in your day, it is much easier to be content and reach goals. Be realistic about your expectations and build your life around a strong and healthy body. The rest will come.