BlogHer, Fitness

Fitness: It Changed My Life

(In addition to my weekly BlogHer post for singles, starting today I’ll be writing a bi-weekly post about fitness. You can find it cross-posted at BlogHer.)

What causes a person who’s never worked out on a consistent basis to become interested in fitness?

For me, it all started about six months ago. Last summer I went from wanting to be more active, and thinking that I should be doing something, to actually doing it.

What happened was, after too many years of putting way too much time and energy into retaining a certain number on the scale, I decided I was going to start focusing on how I felt. Instead of being skinny and weak, I wanted to be stronger. I was tired of joking about my almost nonexistent cardio endurance, and my serious lack of upper-body strength. I’d never lifted weights regularly in my life (other than a few halfhearted attempts at dumbbell curls using a 5-lb weight).

So why am I interested in fitness? And how do I continue to stay motivated?

Confidence: Even though I’ve actually gained a few pounds since I started working out (it was weight that I needed to gain), I feel more comfortable wearing close-fitting shirts than I did when I weighed less — there are muscles there now, holding my stomach in. Even though I can’t fit into most of my old pants anymore, it’s okay — it means my butt is no longer flat and saggy (I’m just going to tell it like it is, okay?). When I walk up a steep hill, I can feel the muscles in my legs working to give me momentum. I like being able to see how far I’ve progressed, and how much easier it is for me to do certain exercises than when I first started.

Results: If you keep at it, you will see them. Certain people are going to see results faster than others, which is why some people tend to give up too soon. Maybe it can seems like too much trouble; you have so far to go, you feel tired and defeated before you even start. Keep going.

Energy: There were a few years where I didn’t eat enough, and what I remember most about that period of time was my lack of energy — and I really hate that the lethargy is what I remember most. I felt tired all the time, and I never want to go back to feeling that way.

The “good sore”: I actually like when I do so much work with weights that I’m sore for a day or two afterwards. Some people don’t like being sore, but to me it’s proof that I’m working hard.

Self-sufficiency: An increase in strength means you can do more things for yourself rather than having to ask for help. I bought a 25″ television back in 1998 — a big, bulky, heavy thing. I had to transport it from my sister’s house last month, so I called my brother for help. He wasn’t available. I ended up hoisting it up myself (from the floor) and carrying it down the stairs, through the front door, and out to my car. I know I couldn’t have lifted it like that six months ago — it was an incredible feeling.

Inspiration: If I find myself searching for new ways to be active, rather than getting bored and quitting, I know I’ve found something that’s made a positive difference in my life.

Speaking of wanting to “do more” — I have a tendency, with all the fitness-related stuff I’ve been reading, to look at all the activity options out there and see how much stuff I could be doing that I’m not currently doing (not to mention all the stuff I’ve never come close to trying). There are people who get up ultra-early in the morning to attend boot camps before work; people who like to run a 10k or train for a marathon; people who spend hours at a time on a bike. I don’t do any of that. But the advantage to noticing all these options is that there are so many of them to choose from, and you don’t have to try them all — or even be good at all of them, for that matter. The important thing is to make an effort.

For all the gains I’ve made in the past six months, I still can’t do “real” pushups or pull-ups — but I’m a lot closer than I was, and that’s what I care about. I can jog longer than I used to be able to, and if so many professed non-runners can turn themselves around and start running regularly, I know I’m capable of it. And I also know I’m not giving up any time soon.

So why do I want to write about fitness? I’m not a personal trainer (or even a long-time enthusiast), and I didn’t major in exercise science. There’s a simple answer: I find fitness information to be interesting, useful, and inspiring — and I thought if that was the case, there might be other people out there who think the same.

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