learning to love exercise: not urban legend, it happened to me

As far back as I can remember I hated to exercise. Sure, as a kid I played tag and hide-and-seek, jump-scotch and double-dutch. Those were the days before thousands of channels, remote controls, video games and smart phones. Staying inside meant helping my mom with dusting and vacuuming. So I played outdoors for hours on end.

Then puberty hit. My boobs grew. Hormones began to rage. I noticed boys.

And exercise was the last thing I wanted to do.

Even dusting and vacuuming seemed like a better option. At least neither of those made my boobs hurt, like running did.

In junior high I used any excuse I could to get out of gym class. Periods always came in handy. Good thing my gym teacher wasn’t charting my cycle and the frequency of my ‘cramps’.

I genuinely don’t recall working out in any structured way through my last couple of years of high school (when gym class was no longer mandatory), or during my college years. Which means I likely didn’t workout at all the year after I finished school and started working full-time.

I spent most of my free time that year planning my wedding, so I guess any weight loss would have been from dieting, skipping meals and running around organizing the wedding.

My first gym membership came a few years later, following the birth of my daughter. I seem to recall going 3 times per week to start, but then quickly dropping to twice, then once, and then only seeing the inside of that gym on the rarest of occasions.

I was about 25 years old, healthy(ish) and capable. Yet I could not muster up the energy or desire to prioritize exercise. Why?

  • It was boring.
  • I hated it.
  • I wasn’t good at it.
  • I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Not fast enough, that is.
  • No pain/No gain is gross. Who wants pain? Not me. Pain is for suckers.

The list could go on and on. I associated exercise with anything and everything negative. Moreover, I saw it as punishment: i.e. I gained 10 pounds so I needed to go workout to get rid of it. Cause and effect. Open up wide and take your medicine. I know it tastes like ass. Smile and swallow. That’s a good girl.

I was in my mid-30’s when I tried to fall in love with exercise the first time. I knew the positive impact exercise would have on my body, and since my never-ending cycle of fad diets was not giving me the lasting results I wanted, I turned to exercise to help things along.

It was clearly still a punishment for not being thin enough, but at least now I viewed it as a weapon in my arsenal of weight-loss tactics. I actually found things I enjoyed doing [to a degree], like Pilates and Step Aerobics. And I tried to convince myself that I actually looked forward to doing those activities a few times per week, although any excuse to miss one was readily latched onto. Groceries, yes! I need to do groceries right this very minute. Such a shame I have to miss that fitness class that also happens to be at this exact time.

I was in my early 40’s when I finally did become more serious about exercise. That’s because I needed to. My health was in decline. I had gained 40 pounds in 5 years, was taking daily medication to control my high blood pressure, and was considered pre-diabetic, with a blood sugar level of 6.7. My BMI was 30.1, and while I didn’t look it, I was therefore considered obese by the BMI standards.

With a mom who developed Type 2 diabetes in her 60’s, and a dad who had suffered a massive heart attack at 46, followed by a stroke 15 years later, I knew that my gene pool wasn’t painting a particularly rosy picture for my future. Not unless I finally took some responsibility for my own health and well being.

I was certain that weight loss held the key to my better health, and I continued to try to take the weight off through decreased calorie consumption (i.e. diets), but at least at this point I was adding more regular exercise to the mix. Baby steps.

I found an outdoor Bootcamp near home and signed up for a free try-before-you-buy class. It damn near killed me. But I liked it. Sort of. I think what I liked about it was the variety of activities. No two classes were exactly alike. The only thing they had in common was that they challenged the crap out of me. like nothing else had before.

When the classes moved indoors, I moved with them. When we changed venues (multiple times), I followed. I had found the one thing that I actually wanted to stick with, and prioritized on my schedule. This was a breakthrough!

Dan, the owner, shut down the Bootcamp classes in September 2011 because he wanted to spend more time focusing on his personal training clients (and presumably wasn’t making money with this program). I was crushed. The one exercise program I had learned to love. Something I did at least 4-5 times per week, voluntarily, was no more. And I panicked, knowing that anytime I had broken a set workout routine in the past, it had taken me weeks, if not months, to get back into something else.

A year later, I bought that Groupon for a one-week stay at The Biggest Loser Resort, where I worked out for 6 hours a day, for 6 straight days. I think it was day 5 before I actually liked it. But by day 6, I wished I had a second week there.

I worked out some after returning home, but as usual, with the Christmas holidays approaching, I wasn’t as active as I should have been. And I gained back the few pounds I had lost during that week at the resort.

I’m still not sure exactly what clicked for me at the summit of that hike on New Year’s Day 2013, but something told me that I just had to stop making excuses and just make it a priority to move, to be active, every single day. And My Year of Sweat was born.

I won’t lie. There were many days in the first few weeks when I dreaded lacing up my running shoes, and would have given anything to find a plausible excuse to avoid that day’s workout. But having that resolution hanging over me, and having this blog to answer to kept me committed. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to have to explain why I hadn’t finished what I started.

So, yes, it was forced to begin with. It felt like something I had to do because I told so many people I was going to do it. I felt accountable.

But somewhere along the way, something magical happened. I started to love exercise. Or to be more accurate, I fell in love with the way that the exercise made me feel.

These days I don’t workout because I told everyone I would. I workout because I want to. Because my body craves it. Because I always feel better after I workout, even on the shittiest day.

And believe me, no one is more floored by that than me.

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Get moving!

xoxo nancy

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8 thoughts on “learning to love exercise: not urban legend, it happened to me

    • Thanks Rob! It is still tough, all this soul-baring, but I find that once I hit the “publish” button, I do breathe a huge sigh of relief at just letting the past go.

  1. “Because my body craves it.”—Yes! I completely get that. I feel sluggish and achy if I don’t do some form of movement for the day whether it be walking, cardio, weights, or just some light yoga.

  2. Hi Nancy – So proud of you and your commitment. You are inspiring!

    In May, my girlfriend and I signed up for a BootCamp at our local GoodLife Fitness. We go 3 times a week and it’s an intensive workout. Like you, I now love to go. My trainer is great, the other women motivate me and I love the way I feel. In fact, I have been smoke free for the past 3 weeks!

    Reading your FB posts and blog had a lot to do with me starting this program so I wanted to let you know and say “Thanks . . . keep it up. I am.”

    Ev
    xo

    • Ev….CONGRATS!! Especially on the no-smoking part! I know that takes unbelievable strength and willpower. You are amazing! Thanks so much for your support and love on FB and here. I am so grateful! Please keep me posted on your progress! I’m so excited for you!
      xoxo nancy

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