Making Exercise A Habit

I decided that this edition of Workout Wednesday should have more of a purpose than just what I did this week. To be honest, it’s not much different than I’ve done the past couple of weeks.

It’s now been about three years since I started my weight loss journey. I will be honest with you when I say that if you want to see a huge difference in your health and how you feel, it starts with how you fuel your body. That being said, exercise is such a huge important part of life that is often neglected because there is really not enough time in the day.

I get it. I really do. I didn’t get it when I was in college and only had to focus on classes and my job at the library and had two hours a day to dedicate to kicking off my new lifestyle. That was a blessing for me because it gave me the time and the motivation to truly work my body to a new level. I fell in love with exercise, not just the way it made me feel- brave, powerful, and beautiful- down to the last drop of sweat clinging to my toes, but also in the way I learned that my body is not just a shell protecting my soul. The body is a workforce that can make or break you.

Through exercise, I have connected with myself and learned more about who I am and what I can do. It’s made me independent and confident in ways I never could rely on before. I am a better improved, less shy, less closed-off and shut-down version of myself because I learned to trust myself. The biggest part of that didn’t come from the weight loss or what I looked like, it came, and still comes, from how I fostered new eating habits, the journey my body and I took to become stronger, physically and mentally.

It started in the summer, shortly after my junior year of college. It took a lifetime to get to that place where I not only knew I needed to lose weight, but I was ready to lose weight. The momentum grew in slow spurts, but it was that year that I suffered, for the better, a few chief events that thrust me into this new regime.

The three that stand out huge for me happened when I was outside of my comfort zone, but in places that should have offered fantastic experiences. The first was when I was in New York City, the place of my dreams, and I had a huge ice cream sundae at a famous restaurant, hating myself with every spoonful, unable to enjoy any of it, and then staying up half the night crying and hating myself. The second was when I visited my college roommate in Ireland and felt so self-conscious the entire time that I wasn’t able to enjoy being in EUROPE. The third was when my family and I went to Montreal for a weekend, stopped at an amusement park, and I decided to skip a few rides because I was too afraid I wasn’t going to fit on the rides.

That was it.

Those moments were painful, but they opened my eyes. I started better listening to what my body needed and wanted for sustenance and took enjoyment in what I was eating. Even though I was heavier, I never appreciated or savored my food. It was a damaged relationship that I am lucky to have repaired. Beyond that, I sought out ways to move more in my life.

We had an elliptical in my basement that I started to use for twenty minutes a day before swimming in the pool. I went on walks with my mom and my dog Mac and didn’t complain with every step. When I had mastered the Elliptical and then broke it (from overuse, not overweight FYI), I mustered up the courage and got myself to the gym. After doing a little research, I started lifting weights, the big influence of my body’s strength. After awhile, and to my absolute disbelief, I started the slow process of becoming a runner. I mean, if I can run, ANYONE can run.

Not only can I do it, I like to do it.

Okay, not every day, not all the time. We’ve discussed before that sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself off the couch and to the gym or to wherever you go to exercise however you like, especially when you’ve had a long day of work and family and expectations. I didn’t get that in college, but I got it in grad school while working a full-time job.

But I still fit in exercise almost every single day. In random spurts, and definitely not always for two hours, but I did it and it helped me through my Fellowship.

Listen, I would not have finished that Fellowship without exercise. I promise.

I’m proud and happy to know that when looking back in the past year, even the past three years, I have exercised more days than I haven’t. That started as a habit, taking the initial terrifying step and increasing it every single day, with a pinch of positivity and a dash of force.

Three years ago, I could not imagine working out one day a week, let alone six. Today, I cannot imagine where I would be without it. Exercise keeps my body healthy and happy. It keeps my mind sane and less stressed. It is my greatest therapy and my private time. Working out helps me to sleep soundly at night and ready to wake up in the morning.

On those days that I find it hardest to get myself to workout, I do it anyways, out of habit, and more often than not, I end up having a fantastic workout. Sometimes, your body is ready, even when your mind tries to deceive you. Again, remember, it is always important to have that rest day when you need it and to listen to your body. But more often than not, despite what your brain is saying, your body wants to get out there and move.

Take the first step, take another, and then another, and when you do look back, do so with purpose and with pride. You’ll be surprised where you end up.

Three years ago with my friend in London (on the left).

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Now.
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