Sigh, this is a long post. Long, long, long. I realize this post isn’t relevant for many of you, as I have so may awesome, fit, active readers. But I also know I have many friends who struggle. Struggle with their weight, their eating, their fitness. And so I couldn’t pass up the chance to really share my story. You see, readers, I was asked by Aunt Kelly, our FitFluential Fairy Godmother, to post a blog with 7 tips to inspire newbies to fitness. And this was sort of a hard assignment for me. I mean, a simple google search of “how to begin an active lifestyle” will likely yield a bazillion posts. And quite honestly, they are almost all IDENTICAL (once you weed through all of the advertisements for gimmicky junk, that is.) There is no secret to getting healthy and in shape. Our bodies were designed to eat good food and to MOVE. That’s honestly all there is to it.
The bottom line is, all of the tips in the world will not get you moving if you don’t honestly want it in your heart. If I had a dollar for every time someone said wishfully (or resentfully) to me: “I wish I had your motivation to exercise”, I’d provide free Starbucks to everyone to sip and enjoy while reading this post. So let me publicly declare once again to all of you dreamers (and haters), I have NOT always had this motivation. It did NOT come naturally to me. Want to know my secret?
Quit wishing. Start doing.
So instead of just throwing some tips out there, let’s make it more personal first. Here is my story:
I played sports in high school. Soccer was past time of choice. Mostly for the social aspect, I won’t lie. Sure, there was a good bit of running, but believe me when I tell you I would groan and complain with the best of them when Coach Grobe would get “mad” at us for slacking off at our last losing game, and make us run a mile at the next practice. A whole, miserable, *mile*. I remember feeling resentment towards the girls who would hide in the bushes on the out and back, and gloat inside when one day they finally got busted by coach while trying to hop back into the pack as we passed by. I loved soccer, but I hated conditioning, I hated overly exerting myself. And I HATED running. When the season ended: so did my physical activity. Lucky for me, I was blessed with naturally skinny genes. For the time being, at least.
And then college hit. And the “all you can eat” cafeteria…and the beer…oh my so much beer. I’m pretty sure I lived on beer, pizza, waffles, and pasta. I was as anti-paleo as they come. I actually quit the college soccer team (that I played on for a whole 2 weeks) in lieu of drinking and partying with my new friends. I know, I know, hindsight is 20/20. Blame the beer goggles? Anyway, long story short, I will NEVER forget going back home to my Grandparents house for Christmas my freshman year. My Grandfather took one look at me and my new Freshman 20 lbs (that I acquired in a mere 3 months) and said, I kid you not, “Boy….they sure do feed you well at college, don’t they?” Don’t get me wrong, he meant well…but it was still a blow to the ego.
But still, despite feeling horrible about my body, and with an entirely unhealthy body image, there was no motivation. Instead, I just drank, ate, and slept off my insecurities. To give you an even better idea of my serious lack of motivation…Freshman year, I lived NEXT DOOR to the gym. And I don’t mean, the next building over. No, no. You see, they over-accepted freshman that year, and therefore, myself and 7 other lucky individuals were moved into dorm “rooms” that were formerly offices on the basement floor of the Freshman dorm. The wall to my bunk bed was literally separating me from the aerobics studio, where at any given time during the day, we would hear the dance team practicing or some yoga/meditation “Ohm” chanting going on. And lets not forget, the all day clanking of weights, testosterone induced grunting, and purring of treadmills (and the awful musty sweaty smell. I swear Roger Williams University still owes us some room and board money back for that!) Yet, with nothing but a cement block wall and maybe 15 feet separating myself from the gym….I had a million excuses as to why I couldn’t go.
The next 6 years were a lot of the same. Well, not living in a disgusting basement of a college dorm, but choosing the party life over working out. Even when my self esteem was at an all time low…even when I got an anonymous instant message (remember AIM?) from someone laughing saying “look at you, you got fat!” (true story)I could not muster up the motivation to make myself healthy. I eventually moved to Myrtle Beach where I took up surfing, with a passion. That was probably the most regular physical activity I had had in a long time, and I was able to shed that extra weight. Occasionally, I’d get on a crazy whim where I felt “fat”. I’d do some stupid diet for a few days (typically, no carbs, atkins nonsense that left me horrible dizzy…and mean) and run a mile or two, once or twice. Then I’d go back to my regular partying ways.
I think I’ve mentioned once or twice before on this blog about that one time my sister suckered me into a half marathon. I didn’t train, unless you count the two miles, two consecutive days I ran on the treadmill at my apartment complex gym the week OF the race. It sucked. I hated it. I couldn’t walk for a week after, and my boss reminded me every single day how stupid I was to tackle that race. But I think…a seed was planted.
Because within a year I became pregnant. 9 months later I became a mom. And when faced with the “how the heck am I going to get my body back conundrum, I eyed that half marathon medal hanging on my wall. Sure, running was not enjoyable…at all…but the race, well it might have been fun. And watching the athletes at other races my sister did was inspiring. Their dedication, their physique, I wanted that. I wondered if I could be one of them, was that even possible? Did I have an ounce of that in me? I wondered if I could have a wall full of medals and race stories to tell. Besides, running was a great way to burn calories, no doubt, and I had a post baby gut to burn.
So, about 8 weeks after my first child was born, I laced up my old worn out Nike Shoxx, and I ran down my driveway, and headed down the road on my journey to become a runner.
And about 200 yards later, I stopped, gasping for breath, and walked. This continued for about 20 minutes. Just over a mile. And as soon as I stepped foot into my front door, red faced, feeling utterly defeated…I took off running again. To the bathroom, where I puked my guts out.
Yes, my first day of running was horrible. I HATED it. But this time, unlike any other time before, I refused to let myself quit. So the next day, I laced up those sneakers again, and ran. Save for no puking on this outing, it was equally as horrible as the day before. But again, I refused to quit. So the next day I ran. And the next day. And the next day.
And before I knew it, over a week had gone by. I was running more and walking less of my mile. But even more shocking…I started looking FORWARD to my run. I wasn’t seeing any physical changes in the way my body looked, but I was noticing changes in my mental health. A new mom with a baby who REFUSED to sleep at night…the running was, believe it or not, giving me MORE energy, and not taking away from it, which was an excuse I myself had mustered up HUNDREDS Of times before. My confidence was growing. I felt GOOD.
And I hate to sound cliche, but honestly, “the rest is history”. Don’t get me wrong, I have my streaks where I need a kick in the butt to get moving again. But the point is, much to Lady Gaga’s chagrin, I wasn’t born this way. It took sincere effort into creating a healthy lifestyle for myself, realizing that it was a commitment for LIFE, and not just a quick fix, for me to see and feel REAL results…physically and emotionally. Exercise changed my life. And you CAN have that too.
Which brings me back to my opening argument: Quit wishing. Start doing.
Now, to complete my assignment, here are my 7 tips to starting your path to a healthy lifestyle. You’ll notice these 7 tips are VERY similar, if not identical, to tips you’ve probably read a million times in similar blog posts, healthy magazines, on the Yahoo front page on New Years day. You know why? Because they are NOT a SECRET.
1) Throw out that scale. Seriously. Or at least, do not step on it multiple times a week…or a day. Your weight is just a number. You are not a number. Once you get the idea in your head that fitness and healthy eating is something YOU NEED to live a truly fulfilling, healthy life, regardless of the number on the tag in your jeans, you will be a much, much happier person. It is not a chore. It is a gift!
2) Make small goals. Rome was not built in a day (so they say). You didn’t gain all of that weight in a day. You didn’t become lazy over night. Nope. It was a gradual process to get to where you are now, it’s going to be a gradual process to get to where you want to be, be it weight loss, running distance or fitness goals. Sure, in the days of digital cameras we all want instant gratification (anyone else remember having to wait DAYS to see what pictures you took at that party?) but believe me when I tell you that the long road is well worth it. YOU are worth it. Celebrate those small accomplishments. Because guess what? 2-3 lbs a week is around 10, yes TEN whole pounds in a month, and that my friends, is awesome. 10% increase in your running weekly doesn’t seem like much,but it sure feels good to toe the starting line of your race INJURY FREE. Further, small goals, be it weight loss, or running, are more likely to stick in the long run. TRUST IN THE PROCESS!
3) Find something you LOVE! Yes, I’m a running freak. That doesn’t mean you have to. Zumba is a blast. Then there is swimming. Yoga. Hiking. Cycling. Pole dancing (I’m serious!) Heck, there are workout VIDEO games these days for goodness sake! Find something that makes you MOVE and leaves you saying “hey, that was kinda fun” and go with it. Physical activity is NOT limited to the walls of a gym.
4) Build a support system. Believe me when I tell you that there WILL be people out there who want to sabotage your efforts. Some out of jealousy, some out of love. Yes, love. Some people see you perfect just the way you are and do not understand why you would want to make this sort of change in your life (especially if it doesn’t involve them). And you’ve got to love them for loving you, but at the same time, you also need someone who understands what YOUR goals are, and will hold YOU accountable. KNOWING that someone is waiting on you for a morning walk, or to laugh with you as you attempt Hip Hop Abs, or is just waiting for you to check in at the end of the day with your workout report can make ALL of the difference in the world. And best of all, having someone who understands the process you are going through makes you feel less alone.
5) Journal. This goes with #4 as far as accountability. Journal your workouts. Journal your eating habits. Sometimes seeing it (or, not seeing it) on paper can make you MUCH more aware of your habits and emotions that may lead to those habits (or lack thereof in regards to exercise). Old fashioned pen and paper works wonders, but if you are an internet addict like the rest of us, great websites such as www.fitday.com can help you track your food and my favorite, www.dailymile.com helps track your exercise.
6) BE SELFISH. I’m a mom. I get it. Everyone else comes first. I’m pretty sure selflessness is something they inject in you when you aren’t looking in the labor and delivery ward with your first child. But listen, YOU NEED THIS. You need this like you need sleep and food and water. You need to know that in this case, it is OK to make yourself a priority. And you are worth it. Set an example for those in your life, be it your kids, your friends, your co workers. Be healthier and happier for them…but mostly, for you. Do this for yourself, but don’t forget, people are watching. You never know who you may inspire.
7) BELIEVE! Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Believe in your goals and the process it will take to get there. Believe in your heart that the only, ONLY person standing in your way…is you. Know that it won’t be easy, that there will be a thousand times you want to throw your hands up in the air and quit, but BELIEVE that it will be worth it and you can not give up. Know that YOU are worth it. Whether it’s loosing 100 lbs or running your first marathon, BELIEVE that you can do it, and YOU WILL!
Remember that wall of medals I dreamt of?
Each one has a story to tell. A story of trials, but always triumph. It’s been 5 years, almost to the day, since I stepped out the door for that first run post-baby. As my medal holder says, Dream it. Believe it. LIVE IT.
So…what are you waiting for?