lessons learned, one sweaty day at a time

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?

priorityWell, that leads me to Key Learning #1:

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.

I found joy in the simplest things. And I was able to share that joy with others. Key Learning #2:

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.

quick-fixI learned that people don’t like to hear this. Key Learning #3:

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.

To which I would nod my head and agree. Absolutely. But I also know one other thing for sure… Key Learning #4: 4b3b40f802fc21892c20ad624557c627

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?

1380165_651670781521834_285447834_nOkay, so things are tough. Fine, no arguing that. But here’s what I know for sure: there will always be a convenient reason not to do the thing you should do…  Key learning #5:

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:

Photo credit: Forbes.com

Photo credit: Forbes.com

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.

And…get moving!

xoxo nancy

60 thoughts on “lessons learned, one sweaty day at a time

  1. A thoughtful and inspiring post as we approach the new year. I read your post about fat genes. It made me tut and huff. I think bad thoughts about people’s food choices in restaurants and grocery stores too. I’ll concentrate on your five lessons instead!

  2. This has really been an awesome journey for you 😀
    I am so proud of you and what you have achieved and learned! I am truly inspired by your posts 🙂 and I believe wholeheartedly that you have made a real lifestyle change for more than just 1 year!


  3. I love this…you found life lessons in your exercise routines. It is true that we learn through every challenge we take on.

    You must be so fit! I think that you are hard on yourself and that fitness is a process of ups and downs and it is only in retrospect that we can say good job to ourselves.

    • You’re so right Kelly. I’m still my harshest critic, but I have learned to be much kinder to myself this past year. It’s a process, and one that I’m sure I’m need to consciously work on forever.

      It can be a bit if a grey area too; when is it pushing yourself to new heights versus beating yourself up…?

      I’m committed to bettering myself, but balancing that with being kind to myself and celebrating my accomplishments sling the way.

      Thank you so much, Kelly, for your always thoughtful comments.

  4. Great post Nancy and filled with great learnings! Every single one of your lessons applies to me (and likely everyone else too). My personal favorite is: “No one can want it for you. You need to want it for yourself.” The trick of course is remembering all when day in and day out. Thank you for the reminders and the great sweaty perspective. i’m looking forward to hearing what lessons you share in the future….~Kathy

    P.S. I hope you’re feeling much better NOW!

    • Kathy, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. I love seeing your name and face in the queue when I review comments. 🙂 I know there’ll always be some thoughtful and supportive words waiting for me.

      I wish I could tell you I’m all better… This cold has taken a death grip on me and won’t let go. Right now it’s mostly the coughing/rattling in my chest and the damned never-ending snot factory that are plaguing me. Not nearly enough to skip a workout though. 😉

      Thanks again my dear friend. I am so grateful to have you in my life.


  5. I’m sooo proud of you. You have always been my mentor and the rock I knew I always had in my life. This year just proved to me once again how strong willed and awesome you are. I have so much to learn from you. Your determination to keep going motivates me to get up early in the am and hit that treadmill. “if Nancy is going it, why can’t I?!”.
    I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring for both of us! xoxoxoxo

    • Babes, I am so unbelievably grateful and happy that this whole thing started with the experience you and I shared at BLR that week. I couldn’t have picked a better partner to do that with. And when I had my breakdown on that Thursday, I am so glad I had you to lean on.

      I love how much closer this has brought us and I, too, can’t wIt to see what you and I will take on in 2014! Let the goal setting begin!!

      Love you always xoxo

    • Thank you so much for encouraging me and also motivating me with the great and challenging hikes you took on this year!

      I am so happy you stayed on course and are continuing the hard work past your previously imposed deadline of your 40th birthday. You are a rock star! I look forward to cheering you on for the rest of your journey.

  6. What a fantastic round-up Nancy. I love your learning points and above all your honesty and humor. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for year 2. 🙂 So sorry to hear about the latest nasty cold bug though, it is in our house as well and looks like poor Ryan is going to spend his entire winter break attached to a box of Kleenex while we try to keep our distance without totally hurting his feelings…

    • Lisa, thank you for always being here and cheering me on. I just love your positive energy (not to mention the beauty you share on your blog via your amazing photography).

      I hope Ryan kicks it soon. This is day 9 for me and I still feel like crap. 😦 Poor kid. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

  7. You just blow my mind. Seriously. All joking aside, I need to keep so much of this in mind when it comes to healthier living… and other things too. Keep up the inspiring work 🙂

    • I’m kind of ashamed it took me 47 years yo figure this shit out, but I’m happy I finally did. Thank you for your humour, honesty and genuine support. It means the world Aussa.

  8. Wow, you should be very proud of yourself! So close to the finish line. But as you point out, it’s never really finished, is it? Getting healthy–in body, mind, and spirit–is a lifestyle change, not something with “a start and end date.” Sucks, but that’s indeed the way it is. Good for you for accepting that and making it happen. I’m very impressed with your fortitude!

    • This 365 day challenge is absolutely nearing its end! But, you’re absolutely right, the lifestyle changes are permanent. I now see a direct correlation between my efforts and my results. Saddened that it took me thus many years to figure that simple truth out, but glad I finally did. xoxo

  9. I love that you not only give tips and motivation for fitness but you take it and continue to take it a step further with your deep introspection and life lessons but expressed without any judgement and with humor. I have enjoyed each and every post since I came across your blog earlier this year, even the workouts which I don’t do, but enjoy reading. haha! You’ve accomplished so much this year!! I can’t wait to hear what is in store for you this next year! xo

    • Oh Kerry, I am so grateful to have met you. Yours is a voice of truth, vulnerability and optimism – three things I strive for myself. Thank you so much for your sweet support these many months! I treasure you! xoxo

  10. Nancy, you may have worked out that we don’t take life or ourselves too seriously in our household, and it makes for a lot of fun.

    But I’m putting my serious cap on right now.

    Unfortunately, we are bombarded with quick fixes for everything these days, and that includes our health and wellbeing. We are lead to believe that remedies come in bottles with little red or green pills, or in the form of some supplement. Of course, for the most part all they seem to do is empty our wallets and produce little other benefit.

    I’m no fitness expert, but try to stay fit and healthy most of the time, and like you I frequently have people ask what is the secret – and like you, I tell them there is none, and you hit the nail on the head by making this point in your post.

    You need to want to change, in fact that is usually the hardest part, once beyond that it can be smooth sailing for most of the time.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and they are inspirational, for even though I say it is smooth sailing most of the time, there are times when we all need a little encouragement, and this is often from comes from knowing there are others doing and going through the same things.

    Bravo to you and I will be sure to read this post often!

    Know go and have a Tim Tam – what, you’ve eaten them all already? 😉


  11. I just deleted my whole comment somehow. Attempt number two.

    This is so much more refreshing than the “things I resolve to do in 2014” posts I see everywhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but this is proof that life is best lived by attacking it a little every day. I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for you, Nancy.

    • And I just list my response to you (multi paragraph). DOH! I think it’s when you’re commenting in iPhone and another notification comes in via WordPress, it knocks you out of comments and poof! 😦

      I’m going to respond via laptop tomorrow I think. I freaking hate typing with one finger.

    • Ah, screw it. Why wait? I should learn to be less verbose anyway. 🙂

      I agree with your comment Andra, the key is little steps each day. Progress. Moving forward.

      It’s not about boiling the ocean. And it’s not about the quick fix.

      In this age of instant gratification, though, I’m not sure a long term plan is appealing to most.

      It’s why we’ll see packed gyms next week, a little less so the week after, and within a month everything will be back to normal.

      People want results now. And that’s not reality. Put in the work. A little every day. Make it a lifestyle.

      I’m still thinking about my 2014 goals. Kind of excited to nail a few down and make them official. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Group Therapy: December « HACKER. NINJA. HOOKER. SPY.

  13. I really appreciate this post. I’m not sure what 2014 holds for me, but your sharing is in the mix. Thanks and peace, John

  14. Pingback: lost and found | my year[s] of sweat!

  15. Pingback: from sugar high to crash and burn | my year[s] of sweat!

  16. Nancy, these are very similar to discoveries that I’ve made and am still making along the way. How many times have I sat in my house and made excuses. How many times did I say I wanted it, but did nothing about it. #3 really resonates with me the most. Accepting the fact that there is no quick fix is the most humbling, yet valuable lesson that I have learned.

    • Amen to that. No silver bullet.
      A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my overweight niece, who is determined to lose weight prior to June 2015 (senior prom). She talked about dieting, limiting calories, etc. I suggested exercise. A lot of it. She responded, “It’s hard.” I told her, “So is being hungry all the time, my dear. Personally, I’d rather be really uncomfortable for 45 minutes to an hour and then know that I can actually EAT food I like thank be miserable 24/7 because I’m so hungry. Pick your hard.”

      • Excellent advice. I’m afraid that the culture of instant gratification that we live in makes choices much harder for kids to make.

      • Agreed, but at the end of the day it serves no one to smile and nod and join their pity party. I want to help her. I’ve told her I’ll even be her personal trainer. 🙂 she has to want it though. Because in my heart of hearts, I just don’t see her being able to achieve her goal via diet alone. It’s almost to cruel to even consider, depriving yourself that much, for that long.

      • And it’s doomed to failure once the dam breaks open and you make up for the lost time on the deprived foods. The key, as you’ve stated, is really wanting it. Isn’t it true of everything? Wanting it? I do fair amount of youth sports coaching and that’s the question that we ask. How much do you want it? It’s the limiting factor.

      • Absolutely. You have to decide that fighting for something is worth it. Or that the pain of doing nothing outweighs the pain of doing something…

  17. Reblogged this on Weight2lose2013 and commented:
    Today’s reblog, comes courtesy of Nancy of myyearofsweat. I find that her discoveries along the way are relevant to anyone in their journey.

      • Aw, Helen! You were the first to reblog this back in Dec 2013. I’m so glad we met and that we each motivate and inspire each other. You definitely inspire me!

  18. I only found your blog because of the reblog Rob did on weight2lose2013 but I’ll be sure to go and check out some of your earlier posts. Thankyou for the wisdom and inspiration! 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words Merryn. Rob asked me to recommend some earlier reading yesterday, so I provided a few suggestions as a comment on the “copywrite” page if my blog. Hope some of those posts resonate too. Cheers, nancy

  19. Pingback: breaking a trail to prom | my year[s] of sweat!

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