I love to exercise. I definitely do not love all forms of exercise – skiing, I’m talking to you – but I generally love to move.
I know not everyone feels the same way, and that some of you flat out don’t like to exercise. For you, it is comparable to having teeth pulled or hanging out at the DMV. You know you should do it, you don’t like it, you wish you didn’t have to do it and you put it off as long as possible to see if magically you won’t actually have to do it. You then feel guilty for not doing it, and that makes you hide away and avoid it even more.
I get it. I really do. I feel you. I understand because I have been there myself.
I was one year in to graduate school and had my nose deep in books every day. I had left college with a bad ankle injury, which left me without an exercise routine when I started my master’s degree. I had played team sports my entire life, and suddenly there was no team for me to join. I was figuring out how to meal plan and cook for myself for the first time, which meant eating entire boxes of Kraft mac and cheese in one sitting and still wanting ice cream for dessert (why did no one tell me that an entire box isn’t a single serving?!). Chipotle was my constant study partner, and I was just SURE I had the same metabolism I did in high school, so I didn’t sweat it. I was tired and stressed, and blamed it all on a tough grad school schedule.
In the space between college and grad school, I had joined the group of folks who “don’t like to exercise”. It was few days here and a few days there at first. “My ankle hurts”. “I have a test tomorrow”. “I’ll just exercise more next week.” Then, after a month, my body actually started to forget. It wasn’t comfortable moving. Exercise felt hard. It made me feel guilty to workout (what’s the point in this one workout?) and it made me feel guilty NOT to workout.
I will never forget the moment I saw a picture of myself. It was taken of a house I was looking at renting, and I just happened to be in the background, turned to the side. I couldn’t believe it was me. It didn’t fit the vision I had in my head of myself, but there it was. I got on a scale and it was 27 pounds heavier than the last time I bothered to check. Something clicked, and I knew I wasn’t living in the healthy body I should be. That changed my life.
I didn’t immediately start loving exercise at that singular moment. I didn’t suddenly know what athletic shoes to buy or playlists to download or food to eat or best time of day to exercise. I just knew I had to do SOMETHING. So I did the easiest and cheapest thing I could think of doing in the middle of my crazy schedule and studying – I ran. I was slow and I had horrible form. I really probably shouldn’t even call it running. But I did it. I set a schedule of every other day and made myself increase my time by a few minutes every other week.
That was 16 years ago.
This is not a story about running. You don’t have to love to run. Or love to bike. Or swim, or hike, or do crunches, or dance or even put on tennis shoes.
This is also not a story about “getting skinny”. Being skinny does not necessarily make you happy or make all your dreams come true. What I’m talking about is the ability exercise has to make you feel strong. To make you feel empowered. To make you feel encouraged. To make you feel energized. To make you feel in control. To help you enjoy the body you’ve been given.
This is a story about making a decision to do something HARD. About staying CONSISTENT. About not caring what you look like or if you have the right clothes or the perfect form or the correct “body type” for a certain exercise. About making a very deliberate and intentional DECISION to make a change. About letting go of FEAR and worry that maybe you can’t lose the weight, can’t feel better, can’t lift your grandkids, can’t walk down the stairs, can’t make it through class. Its about believing that YOU CAN DO THIS.
I have heard and made all of the excuses that there are. We are all busy and we are all tired. We are all in pain in one way or another and we all are scared. It all comes down to making exercise a priority in your life.
That can sometimes mean choosing workout time over a happy hour drink or cleaning the house or watching tv or catching up on your reading. It won’t always feel good while you are making that choice, but it will always feel good after you are done. It absolutely has to be important enough for you to make the hard choices and get up and move. Not tomorrow, not a year from now – today. Just get up and move TODAY. Don’t get yourself worked up about anything other than doing it today. You can worry about tomorrow when it comes.
I did not see immediate results when I started running. You know what I usually felt those first ten mintues? Tired. Sore. Annoyed. I did it anyway because of that darn picture, and the fact that my health had gotten away from me for long enough. A few months later I noticed I was running a half a mile farther than when I started. A month after that I decided to start some weight lifting. A few months later I noticed some actual muscle definition in my arms. A few months later I took my first Pilates class.
Now, 16 years later, I’ve tried more forms of exercise and fitness than I can possibly count. I have found things that I love and fit into my weekly routine, and I have let some things go because they don’t work for me anymore. I have learned to love exercise and am dependent on it to keep sanity and peace in my life.
I continue to make sacrifices to so that I can workout every day. I have limited pockets of time between being a mom to a toddler and a business owner, so I have to either prioritize or be creative with my time to get my workout in. It’s not always perfect and it’s not always pretty, but I get it done and always feel better when I fall asleep that night.
For those of you who are just starting or who know you need to start, please just take a single step. I know it’s hard and it’s really ok if you don’t even like to exercise. Most people don’t when they first start. Just pick one thing and do it today. Chose something that doesn’t even feel like exercise to you! Maybe dancing around the living room, or going on long walks with friends. Then do it again tomorrow. Don’t worry about what you look like or what people have told you in the past.
Be patient with yourself and be consistent. It may take weeks or months, but one day you will stop and say, “Wow, look at that”. You will see what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished. You will notice how good you feel. Don’t be surprised if maybe – just maybe – you love to exercise.