As 2013 comes to an end, so too does my 365 day challenge.
On January 1, 2013, I declared my goal to work up an intense sweat each and every day of this calendar year. With just 4 days left, I feel confident enough in my ability to finish this that I’m willing to post a year-end summary today.
You might want to grab a warm beverage and settle in. This could take a while. 😉
Those aren’t beads of sweat; they’re nuggets of wisdom!
Whenever someone asks me about My Year of Sweat, I find myself first citing my visit to BLR Fitness Ridge in November 2012. I explain to them that this one specific week was the catalyst for both my 365 day challenge and my commitment to a healthier life.
Yet there was a 6 week gap between my week at BLR and the kick-off of My Year of Sweat on Jan 1, 2013.
Why did I wait so long to get started? Why delay changing my life if that place really had (already) changed my life?
1. You have to get to a place in your life where your health becomes your priority. For me, that week at BLR Fitness Ridge gave me all the tools I needed to make better, healthier lifestyle choices.
But in the same way that having a hammer and nails isn’t going to get that picture hung on your wall, knowing what you need to do isn’t going to make you healthy. At the end of the day you just need to do it. Hang that picture. Go workout. It’s not enough to know how. You actually have to DO it.
It was early March, just a few short months into this daily workout challenge, that I realized how much my negative self-image affected not only my self-esteem, but all of my relationships and interactions as well.
It coloured everything. Absolutely everything. It was like wearing a heavy black veil, one that cast a negative pallor on everything around me.
Just 90 or so days into the journey, as I experienced the inherent physical changes that started to come from my effort (like pounds lost, energy gained, flabby bits tightened), I noticed that I could now see rays of light breaking through that dark veil.
Life became lighter as I got lighter.
2. You can’t be happy for others until you’re happy with/for yourself. I never considered myself a bad person, or one who was mean-spirited towards others. Yet, looking back, I now see how I constantly felt the need to compare myself with others.
I would think, “I love my house. Oh, but look at Jenny’s house. It’s really nice.” Or I’d question my success, “I’m doing so well at my job. Oh, but Sally just got that big promotion.”
The truth is, I was probably more envious of others than truly happy for them. And this stemmed from feeling …less than, not good enough, myself. Only when you find inner happiness can you truly be happy for others. I believe this with all my heart.
As my commitment to this year-long ‘project’ grew, and it became clear that this wasn’t a passing fad, or something that would end the moment I hit a hurdle (such as illness, a hectic schedule, or any other number of convenient excuses I’d latched onto in the past), people in my life began to take notice.
They saw the physical changes, but also the change to my demeanour. Several approached me wanting to know ‘my secret’.
I told them there was no secret.
I have openly and willingly shared the tips and tricks I learned both at BLR Fitness Ridge, and on my own through my commitment to healthier living. I’ve shared posts on diet (Spoiler alert! I don’t believe in diets. When I say diet, I mean nutrition/food choices), exercise, and general healthy-living choices I am trying to make. It’s all right here on this very public blog of mine. No secrets.
Yet everyone is still looking for that silver bullet. The magic pill. The one thing that will magically melt away the pounds and make you healthy. And happy.
It doesn’t exist.
3. There is no quick fix. Anything you do that has a start and end date on it (diet, workout program, etc.) is doomed to fail the moment you stop doing that thing. I try not to speak in absolutes, but in this case I will.
A diet will NEVER help you achieve your weight goals unless you are committed to that restrictive way of eating for the rest of your life. The diet (and diet pill, shake, potion) industry wouldn’t be a multi billion dollar business if this was a one-shot deal. They have a lot of repeat customers.
Inevitably I would also get the comments that they (the person with whom I was having the conversation) or someone they knew (daughter, sister, friend) would do so well if they adopted some of these learnings (move more, eat better) into their lives.
4. No one can want it for you. You need to want it for yourself. You can lead a horse to water… At the end of the day, even if I paid for a trip to a fitness resort for my X (fill in the blank: niece, daughter, mother, friend), and even if she attended, smiled and said how happy she was to be there, it doesn’t mean that she would a) give it her all; or b) get anything out of it.
I witnessed, first-hand, people at BLR Fitness Ridge who half-assed their efforts during group fitness classes or who skipped classes altogether. Anyone can attend. Only those who truly want it will show up.
You have to want it. For yourself. And it has to be a priority for you. Any questions? See Key Learning #1.
As I look back at these past 12 months, I see that excuses are everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
I went from January to mid November in perfect health. But then I found myself, those last two weeks of November, sick as a dog. First with a head cold, which turned into a bronchial cough after running a 5k race (with a head cold), and then the following week with a bout of the worst stomach flu I’ve had in years.
What I haven’t mentioned here for worry of sounding like a total whiner is that I’ve been sick (again) since Wed Dec 18th. I must have picked up another bug while flying to New York the day before. My maladies include: sinus infection, bronchial cough and a dull headache that has taken up permanent residence at the base of my skull.
In addition, an ice storm hit Toronto on Saturday Dec 21st, knocking out my power for 3.5 days. Being sick is one thing. Being sick in a house with no hot water and an indoor temperature of 5 degrees Celsius is a whole other thing. WAAAAHHHHHH!!! How can I possibly exercise in these conditions?
5. If you’re looking for an excuse not to, you will always find one.The truth is, I had plenty of reason not to workout several times this past year. But I knew it would be a slippery slope. Once one excuse is deemed worthy, what’s next? I’m too busy? There’s a good show on TV? I’ve got Christmas shopping to do?
Look, my workouts may not have been super intense or incredibly long during the most challenging days, but I knew I was capable of at least doing something. So I did the something that I could. Just say no to excuses. Your actions tell the real story. Save your words.
If there’s one thing more dangerous than courting excuses it’s playing the victim.
Back in August, during a cross-country road trip, I saw a billboard proclaiming, “obesity is a disease, not a choice” — which I had a pretty visceral reaction to. So much so, in fact, that it prompted me to write this post. I encourage you to read it, as it turned out to be one of the most engaging among my readers.
Basically, the idea that we are victims of our circumstance is what I have a problem with. It’s true that I can’t will myself to grow taller than my 5’5 (and a half) height. Men with male pattern baldness can’t stop the inevitable loss of hair. I can’t prevent wrinkles. Well, I could, but that would involve injections and or surgeries. And I’m not going there. Not yet, anyway.
There are many things I can’t control. But I can absolutely control my choices as they relate to how much I move and what I put in my mouth.
And this brings me to my most profound, and yet simple learning of this journey. Key learning #6:
6. Life isn’t fair. Suck it up Buttercup. Whether there is a ‘fat gene’ or not is really a moot point to me. At the end of the day, we all have a choice in how we respond to the cards we are dealt in this life. I certainly didn’t inherit a ‘skinny gene’, I’ll tell you that, for damn sure.
So, yeah, life is unfair. Why is it that Martha can eat donuts and laze on her couch all day without gaining a pound, while I have to workout every single day and make smarter food choices in order to stay healthy? Because sometimes life isn’t fair. Deal with it.
How do you say thanks when the words ‘thank you’ are not enough?
Friends, thank you so much for reading my words and sharing in my journey. I can’t even begin to explain the joy and gratitude I felt (and continue to feel) with every comment, follow, and like.
I feel as though I was encircled by a tribe of warriors early in this process. Your fierce support buoyed me during days of illness, self-doubt and low energy. I couldn’t have done this without you.
So, even though it’s not enough, …thank you, from the bottom of my [sweaty] heart.