For most of my life, I’ve had mixed feelings about exercise. Mostly, I avoided it, and it wasn’t until about 8 years ago that I really took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and got MUCH more active. It’s made a HUGE difference on my life – and I’m not taking only about how I look. I FEEL so much better – mentally and physically.
Here’s a bit about how my relationship with exercise has evolved over my life!
Exercise as a Child
I grew up in Wisconsin. Anyone who is familiar with winter in the northern Midwest knows that it is brutal. You have to be really tough to go outside by choice when it’s below freezing and there’s a wind chill. No, thanks.
In the summer, I spent a lot of time swimming in the backyard pool. Outside of the pool, I overheated quickly and often stayed inside to read, play with dolls, and help my mom with the cooking.
Dance classes kept me from becoming a total couch potato. I started dancing ballet, jazz, and tap when I was 4. I loved it! Then I hit my teenage years…
That’s when I noticed that I was much taller than the other girls in my classes. Even though I wasn’t overweight, I felt big and out of place in the dance world. I developed insecurities about my looks which amplified other insecurities like my lack of flexibility.
Sooo…I quit dance at 14.
Since I couldn’t change how tall I was (and – maybe oddly – didn’t want to), I defaulted to trying to control my weight.
Exercise as a Teenager
In high school, I started walking on the treadmill at home and around the neighborhood in the summer. While it did nothing to boost my slow metabolism, it did help me to manage my weight.
Exercise in College
When I started college, I took a hiatus from physical activity and binged on French fries and alcohol. I gained the “Freshman 15” and once again felt self-conscious about my appearance.
My third year of college, I moved into a house, and my parents let me have the treadmill. I lost some weight and felt better about my body, but I knew I should be doing more.
Should is the key word….
I tried the college gym a few times, but I always felt overwhelmed and lost in the sea of machines. I hated how the place smelled like alcohol, and girls pranced around in full make-up…it just wasn’t for me.
Years later, after continuing to work the treadmill life, I shared my struggle with a friend. She told me about Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred program and asked if I wanted to borrow her copy.
“It hurts, but it’s really effective,” she said.
I’d heard of Jillian Michaels,but I had no idea that she made at-home workouts. I bought some light hand weights and decided to give it a try.
Jillian’s workout took me through strength, cardio, and abs circuits, and I just about died. Seriously, that’s how I felt. Moves that looked so easy for Jillian were nearly impossible for me. I’d never been more aware of how out of shape I was.
However, I liked that I could work out at home and no one would be watching me. Jillian’s step-by-step instruction took the guesswork out of what to do. And since the workout was only about 20 minutes long, it was very manageable to incorporate into my day.
Very quickly, I was hooked.
I consider this the start of my fitness journey. It’s been 8 years, and I’ve noticed huge changes in metabolism, muscle definition, and endurance.
I still don’t enjoy working out, but it’s safe to say I’m addicted to the results and how exercise makes me feel. It reduces anxiety and boosts my mood. Even when my body feels tired, I generally feel happy thanks to endorphins. Though I enjoy taking walks, walking never had this affect on me.
It’s been a really slow process, and I’ve learned that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diet and exercise. It’s not about the heavier weights my friend is lifting or the marathon she’s running; it’s about doing one more push-up than I did yesterday.
I try to focus on challenging myself, not playing the social media “compare and despair” game.
Despite the progress I’ve made, I still see imperfections in my body. I’m only human, and it’s true that we are our own worst critic.
But I’m proud that now in my 30s I’m in better shape than I was when I was 20. It’d be easy to look back on my youth and wish that I had done more.
But I did the best I could at the time with the resources I had. What I’ve come to realize is everyone is on their on own health journey, each with a different timeline.
No place is better than another, and as long as I’m giving my personal best, I’ll always have a reason to be proud!