November 10, 2019

An Exercise Mea Culpa

In June, I wrote a post and said, “I don’t like exercising.”

In August, I wrote another one and I said I had to trick myself into exercising.

In September, I began to change my tune and admitted that I’d started looking forward to early morning exercise classes.

Now it’s November and guess what? I LIKE EXERCISING!

Yes, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’ve become one of those people who likes to get up ridiculously early and head to the gym (6:00 a.m. or before). Five to six days a week I’m there doing some combination of strength training and fitness class with Jason or Stephanie. Two of those days, one hour stretches to two because I add personal training. And I enjoy (almost) every minute of it even when I’m complaining and swearing I will NOT do one more damn burpee.

“What happened?” you ask.

It wasn’t an epiphany or a miracle. It wasn’t even a light bulb moment. I simply taught myself to like exercise.

I know, right?! I never thought it was possible either. However, here’s what I did, and it worked.

I found something I like to do. In my case, it’s the routine and structure of going to the gym. I’ll never be able to motivate myself to do home workouts. Many people do, and I think that’s great. But I need a schedule and accountability. I also need to feed off the energy of the group which is surprising given that I’m an introvert.

I developed a habit. I stopped exercising for many months. The result? A sore back and increasingly more anxiety attacks. I knew I had to get moving again, but I’d lost my motivation. I didn’t want to get out of bed early, I wanted to go straight home after work, and I was happy to sit on the couch.

This is where discipline had to kick in. I made myself get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. day after day after day. And slowly, it became a habit to the point where I now wake up, pull on my gear, and head to the gym without giving it a second thought. It’s as entrenched in my routine as brushing my teeth.

I resumed personal training sessions. I admit it. I like one-on-one attention. Under the watchful eye of a professional (hugs to Jason), I’m working towards my goal of being a beast (which means getting stronger and being able to do full-body push-ups and pull-ups).

Personal training ensures I’m learning proper form, taking a balanced approach, preventing injury, and learning some of the mechanics behind what I’m doing.

I gave up the excuses. I had an endless list, but this was the big one: “I’m too busy!” I used that ad nauseam, and it’s the lamest excuse out there. If I can scroll through social media for an hour every day, I can find an hour to exercise.

It doesn’t matter what excuse anyone comes up with: working, running around with kids, cooking, cleaning, dealing with an injury or facing other limitations. It’s possible to work around any of this. If you say you can’t, it’s a choice you’re making. I was making that choice much too often to the detriment of my health and well-being.

I started exercising for the right reasons. It’s not about being skinny, burning calories, or having a six pack (although I admit I’m working on having some muscle definition). I exercise because I love being pain and anxiety free. It’s the best medication I’ve found.

I began to treat exercise as me time. I have demands on my time like everyone else. But at one point, I realized how important it is to carve out daily space for myself, to do things I want that help me relax and feel better.

My early morning forays to the gym are a block of uninterrupted time where I can focus on myself instead of work, meals, laundry, or a howling cat who wants to go for a walk. My gym time is sacrosanct, and I don’t let anything else interfere.

I started to appreciate the benefits. Muscle gain, better posture, increased endurance, increased flexibility, more strength, and better movement. I’m not so easily triggered by stress and I handle it better. Better yet, I’m not having anxiety attacks!

Exercise is like fuel for me, and now that I’ve made it a priority, I’m more energetic and positive. How can I not like something that does all that for me? It’s impossible.

I’ll admit it took me many years of fits and starts to develop this mindset. It doesn’t happen overnight.

What I’ve learned throughout this process is that it’s best to make a commitment, start slowly, and on the difficult days, exert some discipline. My hope is that when you begin to see how good you feel, you may start to like exercising too.