My health (and not-so healthy) fitness journey
It seems like in the past couple years, the whole concept of being healthy and fit has become "the thing," and that's totally okay by me. In fact, I'm kind of on a mission to make sure it stays that way. I remember taking my first spin class in college eight years ago to a blank wall, dim lighting, and a not-so comfortable bike. Talk about a transformation.. these days it's like you're walking into a club and dancing on your bike.. and if you're lucky, you might get a nice, cool, scented towel at the end of class to cool down with. The fitness scene has definitely turned itself around for the better with pretty much any type of class you can imagine (signing up for a "surf" workout next week, not kidding). Not to mention all the research showing that shorter workouts can be way more effective than a long, boring cardio sesh, so we no longer need to have the mindset that you MUST workout for at least an hour, and how picking up the weights WON'T make you bulky...really, if you're still worried about this, don't be.
But maybe all of this seems cool and you really want to make a change in your lifestyle, but classes can be a little intimidating and it's hard to find motivation to try something new. First of all, if you think you need to be taking 5 group classes a week to see a change, think again. There is sooo much you can do from your own home, in a small space, at a regular gym, or even outside, to see some differences in yourself and begin to feel more confident.
I write this as someone that's been "working out" for many years now, but I often think of those that are just starting out. With so much out there, so many fads, so many beliefs, it’s overwhelming to think about how to start and what to do. If you’re that overwhelmed person, I hope that reading this eases some of your worries and helps steer you in the right direction.
Here’s where I’ll tell you a little about me. For as long as I can remember, I've been into the whole health and fitness thing. Or so I thought. My dad was all about eating healthy and staying fit throughout his life, and it's just what I grew up around. I was never an athlete though, and I certainly wasn't a runner, or anyone that knew anything about the equipment in a gym. I danced competitively my whole life, so little ballerina me was definitely not one who thought the gym was for her. But when the long hours of dance each day stopped as I entered college, I started feeling helpless about what to do to stay fit.
The beginning of my journey started with running because I was too uncomfortable to try anything else. When I first started running, I was not fast at all. So naturally the competitive nature in me would go on the treadmill daily to work on that, and next thing you know, I was signing up for half marathons. After my first one, I was hooked. To a lot of people, running straight sounds miserable, but anyone that has ever run in a huge race, regardless of skill, knows that it's an addictive experience. So I kept at it. But the problem was, all I did was run. I ran because I felt like I had to. I thought I’d lose all the work I had done if I skipped more than a day or two. It ended up consuming me, making me feel guilty if I didn't have a chance to run at least five miles per day. I thought this was me being healthy and fit, but my approach was actually not healthy at all. Plus, I was dealing with some pretty serious and debilitating stomach issues throughout this time in my life, so my caloric intake was extremely low and unhealthy (I'll save that story for another time). But basically, it took me several years to fully understand that exercise addiction is NOT being fit and healthy.
Throughout my college years, I slowly started curing a lot of my stomach issues with diet experimentation, and although I was still running a lot, I also began experimenting in the gym. If you've ever felt the way I described (like you can't NOT do what you've always done), take a step back, and realize that your approach might not be the healthiest. To be healthy, we need BALANCE and REST. And to maintain a healthy lifestyle, VARIETY is good! If running is your thing, by all means that's awesome, and practice of course leads to improvement, but don't forget to live your life while you're at it.
I went from running solo to group exercise. I wasn't about to step foot in the weight room alone and pick up a little 5-lb dumbbell or attempt a machine that I had no idea how to use, so the idea of a group and an instructor seemed like the best approach. Looking back though, it's really not that serious. Who's watching anyway? You have to start somewhere. With group fitness though, the intimidation factor goes away. You’re not alone and you have an awesome instructor (hopefully) leading you through a workout so that you don't have to think about what to do next. You can just get in your own zone, work hard, and leave the class feeling great and inspired by all the positive energy around you.
When I finally started trying new forms of exercise, my goals shifted. It wasn't just about beating my last PR, but moreso about being all-around fit. I realized that this lifestyle doesn’t confine you to any single outlet, and that change is good.
Today, I’m finally at a point in my life where I can say that I am healthy (and strong). I strive for balance and I don't beat myself up about missing a workout (because life), but I do really try to improve my weaknesses, break a sweat each day, and step out of my comfort zone to try new things. Lately, my workout routine is a mix of group fitness (spin, barre, yoga, or HIIT) and then whatever I feel like doing in my home gym (treadmill, HIIT, weights) but life gets crazy, and sometimes my week calls for improvising! I have found through this journey that mixing it up and changing routines every so often (for me it’s after a few months) is soo helpful in staying motivated.
If you’re looking for a place to start, just know that the fitness community is one of the most welcoming out there. And there’s no better time to start than now. But make sure you’re doing what you enjoy, because life’s too short to be miserable!
So my point is: the key to making this a lifestyle is finding, not only what works with your schedule but also what leaves you feeling strong, happy, and balanced. A workout should be something you look forward to, not something that feels like a chore. So if you're in that boat, it's time to re-evaluate! There's not one set routine that you have to do to get in better shape - so find what you love and do it often! Just start.