Straight talk with the Skinny
Loathing. Skin crawling. Anxiety. These are all the things I used to feel when I thought about exercise. And at the time, I believed there was no such thing as FUN exercise. I kept trying to make myself go to the gym. I would have little arguments with myself that sounded something like this…”if you’ll just get on the treadmill for 20 minutes, then you can get off. Maybe lift some weights for a few minutes. Then you can go do whatever you want for the rest of the night.” But then would come my reasons (ahem–excuses) for not going: I’m too tired, I’m too busy, I don’t have time. I’ll just go home for a minute to rest and THEN I’ll go.
Fast forward to now. Jittery. Anxious. Slightly crazy inside. These are the things I felt this morning because I was trying to have a “rest day.” This is how I always feel now when I DON’T go exercise. This morning, I gave in and went for a short bike ride, and all the tension and stress fell away as soon as I started out. As I pedaled up a particularly steep hill (for Texas), I felt the beginnings of joy bubble up inside me. The wind was blowing, the birds were singing, the sun was shining. The sky was such a bright blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at it. And I just wanted to lift my arms and shout with happiness that I was outside experiencing it all.
For some reason, in that moment I thought about the difference six months can make. Because this new me is really only six months old. Six months ago, I took my first long walk with my daughter and the dogs. Two months ago, I completed a half marathon in run/walk intervals. One week ago, I ran a 5K without stopping for the first time. Two days ago, my scale told me I had lost 45 pounds. In six months.
My typical weekly routine is now running on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, and I bike on Tuesdays and Fridays. I try to fit yoga into my schedule 2-3 times a week if I can. Read about my first adventures in yoga here. This morning, I wondered what had made the difference. Why did I love exercise and NEED IT to function now, when just six months ago I felt extreme loathing at the very thought? I believe the difference is that I found something I loved and I started doing it.
When most people think of exercise, they think of a gym. A treadmill. Weights. Some sort of aerobic class, like Zumba or cycling. A lot of people love the gym, and they feel exhilarated and healthy as soon as they enter the doors. But when I try to go work out in a gym, I just feel like I am suffocating. The walls begin to close in on me, and it’s like being in prison.
I love to be outside. I kept trying to force my exercise to the picture that everyone around me had, rather than to something I wanted to do. And when you do things for other people, rather than for personal motivation, you will fail eventually. As soon as I started to fit my exercise to something I enjoy doing, exercise became something I looked forward to instead of dreaded. Suddenly, it was FUN exercise. Walking, hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, swimming. If it’s outside, I probably love doing it.
Do this for you
So here is my encouragement for you today: do this for you. Exercise because it’s good for your body, and because you want to cherish and take care of the body you have. Not to look good for anyone else. Not to show anyone how hot you are once you shed a few pounds or sculpt a few muscles. It’s not that you can’t enjoy that moment when it happens, but if you are only putting in the work for the look in someone else’s eyes–it’s not a plan that’s going to stick on the hard days.
Find something YOU enjoy
Do this for you. Find something you enjoy and find a way to make exercise a part of it. There are a million ways to get in some fun exercise and activity. Maybe for you, it IS spending time in a gym or a Zumba class. Maybe it’s rowing, or basketball, or beach volleyball. Whatever that looks like for you, I encourage you to find it, and make sure it’s FUN exercise. Fun for you.
Find it, and do it. For you.
Ignore the haters
Do this for you. I used to have people telling me I was too heavy to run. Now they tell me it’s too hard on my body and I should do something else. They say that long distance running is crazy and I shouldn’t do it.
There will always be people in your life–possibly people close to you–that just don’t know how to encourage you in the right way. There will always be people who don’t understand what you are doing. Sometimes, there will be people who are uncomfortable with the changes you are making, because it fires up some of their own insecurities. If you are doing this for you, because it is something you enjoy, and has an outcome you desire, then it’s a little easier to ignore the people who (sometimes unintentionally) discourage you.
I am doing this for me because I love running. So I ignore the haters 😉
Find your tribe
Do this for you. Surround yourself with people who like the same things you like. Find people who want to do the same things you do. Look for encouragers, who will give you what you need to succeed. Find your tribe–your group of people who will lift you up no matter what. And don’t be afraid to pay it forward. Being a part of a tribe means you give as well as receive. Because there is always someone else who could also use a helping hand.