My fitness journey has been a roller coaster. We all hit walls and road blocks and bumps in the road and any other metaphor for the cycle of getting stuck, giving up, trying again, that you could possibly think of. But the bumps in the road and all the other metaphors don’t define you. It’s how you react to them. Getting back up is infinitely more important than falling down.
When I was in high school, I used to try to figure out what day The Mile was going to be on so I could conveniently stay home rather than feeling like I was going to puke my guts out or maybe just die from the lack of oxygen. PhysEd, or gym class, which was, to most people, a joke, was my living nightmare. I hated changing in front of other girls, I hated doing anything remotely active. Why should I have to, I complained to anyone who would listen, I don’t even weigh 100 pounds. Never mind the fact that I was hopelessly out of shape. I viewed gym class as something for the superathletes to become even super-er athletes, or for the overweight kids to learn how to not be overweight, not for mediocre people like me. What use could I possibly have for gym class? It was just a waste of time that I’d be much better off spending reading or writing or taking an extra AP class.
If I sound like I was obnoxious, whiny, and hopelessly close-minded in high school, it’s because I was. It was definitely the peak of my tragically low self esteem disguised by academic snobbery. I hate my high school self and don’t really recognize that person as myself, crucial stage though it may have been to go through and leave behind like a molting bird. I feel incredibly stupid, now, that I used to be under the impression that anything with the word “gym” or “fitness” in it was an unintelligent waste of time. It’s insanity to me now because of how much depth and meaning, purpose and direction fitness has added to my life. It has enriched my life in immeasurable ways.
In college, I went from almost-but-never-quite-actually puking from long distance runs because I was so out of shape to embracing the sweat, the red-faced exhaustion from a tough workout, seeing it as a positive rather than a negative. I started going to the gym my freshman year after falling into a dark depression, and I truly credit my gym habits for helping me find a sense of direction again. I’ve had so many ups and downs in my pursuit of my fitness goals, but, ever since I’ve started going to the gym, it’s been more or less a constant, and I’ve only learned more and more, about the best ways to work out, about how far I can push my body, and about myself.
I started out, as many girls do, only doing cardio. I would go to the gym, go to the “girls” section, and hop on a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes or so, then leave. I went to a couple Pilates and yoga classes, but not much more than that.
I grew bored with constant cardio, and realized it wasn’t really doing me much good, anyway. I hated running with a passion, even when I got better at it.
I put on the freshman 15 my sophomore year, and that only got worse after I discovered how much I actually loved food (see previous post). As a teenager, I had always hovered around 90-95 lbs, at 5’2″. In college, I just felt sluggish, out of focus, and constantly out of fuel from all the caffeine and antihistamines I was alternately consuming to keep myself awake or keep myself asleep. I felt shitty all the time, with my off-kilter sleep habits, overwhelming exhaustion, and the constant weight of feeling too depressed to do much of anything. I had all these goals and ideas about this fitness journey that I was going to embark on, but the fruits of my goals never seemed to ripen, mostly because I was too lazy to ever plant the seeds, for which I wholeheartedly and unabashedly blame myself, not my depression or anything else. I always had an excuse, as much as I wanted to achieve something and stay in shape.
My best friend started taking me to the gym with her and showed me how to lift weights. I had initially shied away from picking up heavy stuff because I thought, like so many misguided girls do, that I would get bulky, that, somehow, overnight I would get too big and muscly, when what I really wanted was to be compact and toned. Obviously, I was totally wrong, and started lifting with Tori. It made me feel so strong and so proud when I noticed myself getting stronger, able to lift more one week than I could the last. And then, suddenly, I had insatiable hunger to learn more and do more and be more.
I started learning more about different ways to work out from Pinterest, which I still use all the time to find new workouts. Then, I started a “fitstagram” and a whole new world opened up to me. I was so inspired by other girls my age working so hard to achieve their fitness goals, so amazed by the progress I saw, the before and after photos, the dedication and hard work. Why couldn’t I do that? I was too lazy, and didn’t think I could ever do it, but I kept trudging along, knocking down little milestones and enjoying, more and more, my progress and the strength I was building. At first, I was too scared to lift without my best friend, to venture into the gym bro section, but, eventually, I gained the courage, and realized I couldn’t let what other people thought about my workouts get in the way of me doing what I wanted at the gym. Especially because, truthfully, I’m sure no one gave two shits what I was doing anyway.
I don’t do much cardio anymore, don’t try to force myself to be an awesome runner because I still hate running no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise, and I rarely turn to the scale to validate myself or my progress. I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple times and hit some hurdles to either jump over or trip over but, since this August, I’ve been attacking my fitness goals with a renewed fervor, and seen more progress than I ever have. And it’s truly healed me, too. I always feel so much better, so much happier, so much more energized, motivated, and strong after a great workout. It’s invigorating, it’s one of the few things that ever made me feel in control when I was feeling powerless. Working out also made me want to start eating better so that I would stop feeling so sluggish, bloated, and weighed down. I wanted to eat to fuel my workouts.
Now, instead of dreading the gym and looking at it as a punishment for myself from myself, for eating too much or being lazy or for having too big thighs, I crave the gym, I itch to workout when I haven’t for more than a day, I spend hours at the gym just because I love being there so much. I invent more circuits to do so I have a reason to stay longer. Making changes big and small — changing my own body, my workout habits, my strength, my confidence — through working out has completely changed me as a person. When I feel like I’m losing control and that things won’t get better, going to the gym makes me feel like I’m in control, that I can make changes rather than waiting for them to happen to me.
This week, I started Karina Irby’s Bikini Body Burn program, and I’m super excited for the new challenge! So far, I like it. I will write about this specific workout guide in more detail in another post, but for now I will say it’s very colorful, easy to follow, and so far I really like the workouts. Week 1 let’s goooo. Normally I have a hard time following programs, but I’m determined to stick with it to the end!! Expect progress reports 🙂
So, to keep myself accountable and make sure I keep working towards those goals, fitness is one of the things I’ll be writing about a lot on this blog! You can check out my fitstagram, @miitchfiit, where I’ll be posting progress photos!