Freestyle Fridays Guest Post: Slowing the Swinging the Pendulum

Welcome to my very first guest post for Freestyle Fridays! Nancy of my year of sweat lives an inspiring life exercising every single day since the beginning of this year as a challenge to herself. She inspires me because her challenge encompasses much more than exercise. Her struggles and victories along the way teach her much about life that we can all benefit from. Thank you Nancy!!

I was 46, overweight, unhappy, unhealthy and without a plan.

But I was very good at masking all of this.

I disguised my extra weight under flattering cuts of clothing, thus masterfully hiding the 40 extra pounds I carried on my 5’5 frame. I hid my unhappiness by donning the mask I wore for the outside world. And I fixed the effects of my potentially lethal high blood pressure through the use of daily medications.

It’s not so much that the life I was living was a bad one, rather that it was a fake one. One big facade to hide what was really going on.

An increasing malaise, a sense of unease, perhaps even a mild depression. Regardless of the label, one thing was abundantly clear; this wasn’t the life I hoped for. And I was tired of pretending it was.

I hated being unhealthy. I hated feeling ashamed of my body. And I really hated the anger this caused.

A white-hot heat that festered deep inside me.

And then there was the envy. An envy that reared its ugly head every time I heard about a friend who had just run a 5k, or attended a spin class, or joined a softball team. It’s not so much that I was envious they were doing those things, rather, that they appeared to enjoy them.

And I …did not. [That’s the understatement of the century.]

The idea of exercising made me cringe. It was something I had to do because I didn’t want to shop in the plus sizes. It was not something I wanted to do. Ever.

To enjoy exercise is completely unnatural, I told myself. Nobody likes to exercise. Do they???

I used to believe I had given exercise a ’fair shot’ before dismissing it.

I would go out for a run, then feeling the burn in my lungs less than 2 minutes in, I would slow to a walk. Then I would rationalize the whole thing by telling myself things like: “I don’t have a runner’s body.”, “My boobs are too big.”,  ”My lungs are too small.”, etc. And then I’d move on to the next thing.

For every exercise there was an excuse.

  • It’s boring
  • I’m not good at it
  • I’m not getting the results I want fast enough
  • No pain/no gain is gross. Who wants pain??

It was a never-ending cycle of knowing that I needed to address my health but not wanting to put in the work to make that happen.

7I longed for that silver bullet, the magic pill, a miracle cure, that amazing 5-minute exercise that would magically melt away my fat, tone up my jiggly bits and make me happy and healthy in the process.

I never found it.

But one day something interesting happened. A plan seemed to fall into my lap.

A Groupon deal for a fitness resort landed in my Inbox. It wasn’t a silver bullet, but it did seem to be a jump-in-the-deep-end experience, which would either fix my distaste for exercise, or prove – once and for all – that fitness just isn’t for me.

So I booked a one-week stay at this place where I would be forced to exercise for 6 hours a day, every day, for a week. And I would pay handsomely for this privilege. The girl without a plan suddenly had the beginning of a plan, it seemed.

But first let me put some perspective on just how big a deal these seven days were going to be for me.

I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle. If there was an elevator or escalator available, it goes without saying that I would take it, rather than climb the stairs.

I frequently circled the parking lot waiting for the closer parking spots to save walking a little farther than I needed to.

I worked out, perhaps once or twice a week. But if anything interrupted that schedule (like travel or illness, for instance), it’s fair to say that would throw me off for weeks at a time.  Any excuse.

So, let’s call that zero on the motivation and exertion scale.

My week at Fitness Ridge saw me working out over 6 hours per day. Vigorous, challenging workouts. For six hours or more. Each day. For a week. [Yes, I’m bragging. I earned it!]

When I arrived back home, I tried to hit the gym at least 3-4 times per week, but then the holidays came along, and things started to fall by the way side. Something interrupted my schedule. Lo and behold: another convenient excuse.

I like to think that my week away planted a tiny seed. But that seed took some time to grow.

For reasons unknown to me, that little seed finally shot up like a magical beanstalk on January 1st, 2013. That was the day ‘My Year of Sweat’ challenge was born. I can’t tell you exactly what happened that day, at that moment, hiking those mountains, other than to say that something changed.

It’s as if a switch got flicked to the “on” position.

Suddenly I knew I wanted to make my health a priority. And I knew that excuses were no longer an option.

If my previous level of physical activity was a zero, I suddenly I found myself in a gym for 2.5 to 3 hours per day, every single day. And I kept that pace up for many months.

In other words, I went from zero to 10.

I worked hard. I surrounded myself with happy and motivational memes. I documented my progress on Facebook. And on my blog. I reveled in tracking the amount of calories I burned each day, as well as how many had consumed.0afe9235a6c92ed7534b5e4696f3257c

I was singularly focused on doing more:

  • increasing speed
  • increasing resistance
  • lifting heavier
  • going longer

When people told me I was becoming obsessed, or suggested that maybe I should take it a little easier so as not to hurt myself, or burn out from doing too much, too fast, I nodded politely.

But I secretly scoffed at their recommendations, and I would go in search of a new meme to tell me I was right and they were wrong.

Sure there were days I wanted to cheat, to take a day off to rest and let my sore muscles rebuild.

Instead I dug in and hit the gym.

Sometime in March I realized I actually liked exercising, that I wasn’t doing it to fulfill my daily challenge, but because I wanted to.

The girl who hated exercise had fallen in love with exercise. And no one was more surprised about that than me.

For those who have been following my journey from the beginning, you know that I went hard from January to early September. There was no easing off the gas pedal. It was go, go, go.

But then something happened. It started to feel like work.

Not only did I begin to dread the workout each day, but I hated having to write about it. I begrudgingly posted motivational memes to my Facebook page. I donned that old mask once more, showing the world what I felt they expected to see from me.

All the while feeling like a total fraud because I felt neither happy nor motivated.

IMG_5961Not wanting to fall into the old habits of masking my struggles, I shared my feelings with my readers.

I was honest: Hey, I’m have a bad time here. I’m lacking energy, motivation…I’m afraid I might cave in and quit my challenge.

It felt good to type the words, to share my feelings, to let my guard down.

And the support I received in response was proof positive that I should lose that stupid mask once and for all. People care. They want to help and lend support. But first you have to be willing to ask for it.

Looking back now it’s pretty clear that I was just exhausted from the sheer madness of having gone from zero to 10 — and having sustained that 10 for so long (9 months, to be exact).

From mid September to present, I’ve been operating at around an 8. I still workout every single day, whether I’m healthy or sick, whether I’m busy or travelling or any other number of formerly convenient excuses. It doesn’t matter what my circumstance is; I workout every day.

My frequency hasn’t diminished. But my intensity has.

Some days my workout might be 45 minutes, other days I might go 2 hours.

Do I hit a 10 anymore? Yes, on occasion, I do. But I don’t operate at a 10 every single day.

PendulumThe pendulum had gone from the far left (zero) to the far right (10).

It’s no wonder my mind (and body) rejected that violent a swing.

Life is a swinging pendulum. That’s what keeps it interesting, I think. But I’ve learned that we can work to regulate the sway of that pendulum to avoid the nausea that a zero to 10 situation can cause.

I still exercise every day. And yes, it’s because I’m so very, very close to my goal of 365 consecutive days of sweat. But it’s also because exercise makes me happy. Pushing myself to an uncomfortable place feels incredible. It makes me feel strong, beautiful …unstoppable, even.

I’m no longer obsessed with burning at least 2,400 calories a day, or in consuming a maximum of 1,900. I don’t track those things anymore. It’s enough to know that I’m making healthier choices because I lead a healthier life.

This is my life now. It’s not a diet. It’s not a 365 day challenge. It’s simply the way I live.

And I love that.

Get moving!

xoxo nancy

Thank you again Nancy!

If you are interested in guest posting, please click here. I’d love to have you!

26 thoughts on “Freestyle Fridays Guest Post: Slowing the Swinging the Pendulum

  1. “I would go in search of a new meme to tell me I was right and they were wrong.” <- This made me laugh 😀
    Wow, what a journey Nancy and I so admire you. You are a very determined person, even when sick I see you posting about working out!

    • Thanks Jhanis — I won’t lie — it hasn’t been easy. Sick days and travel days are the hardest. But it does feel pretty amazing to know that I can dig deep enough to still do something, even if it’s not a crazy long workout, I can still do something.

  2. Pingback: losing my balance and then finding it again | my year of sweat!

  3. Awesome backstory Nancy. I joined your blog later so I was unaware of the details. What dedication you show. An amazing strength of spirit. When it becomes about you as a person and not about how you compare to others then it becomes sustainable wouldn’t you say?

    • For me, Kelly, it was more about moving away from an ‘end goal’ of losing X pounds, or going down X dress sizes. As soon as my mind shifted to the bigger picture: overall better health, my outlook changed. It went from being a chore to being my life.

      As I approach these last handful of days, I’m working on a year end wrap up post that speaks to the many key learnings I got along the way. Can’t wait to share them!

  4. You are definitely one determined woman Nancy! But I agree — any type of fanaticism is ultimately a bad thing. Getting it down to a determined but more moderate scale is a better way to go for the long term I think… that’s what I’m telling myself at least. And man oh man, truer words were never spoken about actually opening up and letting people help by sharing real thoughts and feelings! Who knew? Yup, as you know, I had a similar smaller scale ‘episode’ recently and it was many, many thanks to people like you that helped get my mind back on track 🙂

    • Isn’t it crazy, Mike, that we are strong, outspoken, successful people in so many areas of our lives, and yet the simple act of communicating real feelings/opening up/asking for help is so hard for us? That’s why I so relate to many of the things you have written about as well. The amazing outcome of taking those risks and letting people in is (for me, at least) it restores my faith in the good in people. Very cool to lose the cynicism (for a while). 🙂

      • Gah! I know… how strong are we really when we find it so difficult to share ourselves with others? We’re weak! Dammit. I hate being weak. So, yeah, with encouragement, I’m working on it 🙂

  5. Great post Nancy! Nice to hear a recap of your year and some of your thoughts about your journey. Something tells me that we’ll all be hearing about it more in the next couple of weeks 😉 And while you’ve obviously benefited from your journey in many ways, never forget that your example is reaching out to people you don’t even know and inspiring them as well. Keep sweating! ~Kathy

    • Thanks Kathy — I just love the insights I get from all your comments. I am formulating a year end wrap post, with a bunch of really great lessons learned along the way. It’s amazing how many of them translate beautifully, beyond the obvious weight-loss realm. Thanks so much for your support Kathy.

    • Thanks Christopher. Just the act of going to the gym is a big deal. That’s why I always sign off my posts with “Get moving!”. I truly believe that if people just moved more, it would make all the difference in the world. We don’t have to run marathons. But we can take the stairs. We can park a little farther away to get some extra steps in. We can even do things like squats during commercials when we watch TV at night. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. 🙂

  6. I just love reading about this – it really is the most incredible achievement and it inspires me every time I think about it. I love how 3 months in you realised you finally liked exercise… what Jan and Feb must have been like I can’t even imagine! Just brilliant.

    • I think I got lucky in that I was in Vegas all of January, so I got a fair bit of hiking in that first month. Hard workout, but enjoyable (for me) so it didn’t seem as much “work”. By Feb I was committed, if not loving it. So it was sheer stubbornness that kept me going. In March I was back in Vegas and back on the mountains. I think that’s when I was really hooked!

      Thanks so much for your support Rose!

  7. Whoa! This is really inspiring! I’ve been overweight for around fifteen years and am ready to shed the insecurity. I’m going to follow your post, it might be the kick in the pants I need every day. Thanks.

  8. What a motivational post. I’ve always hated exercise. Still do. All forays into that area have the same results you described – not for me, not enjoyable……Only a few times have I ever ‘enjoyed’ exercise and that was because I found something I liked doing…..yoga, pilates…but it doesn’t take much for good intentions to sway. I’m going to follow you now because I could do with someone else in my life that is not afraid to share their feelings and at the same time is doing something about making change in their life. I am so impressed that you have sustained this for so long. And you’re right, where the moment of motivation comes from can be a surprise. I think you may have just done it for me. It is possible. And I do need it. Looking at the bigger picture. Go you, missus!x

    • I am so humbled by this comment. If I can provide any inspiration or motivation through my story…wow…that is such an incredible feeling.

      I am going to head on over to your blog this weekend and follow on / cheer you on as you kick start your foray back into exercise. Go you!

  9. Oh, I absolutely LOVED being able to read your story from the start, since I’ve only “found” you in the last few months. I’m even more impressed than I have been– you’re nuts! And I’m glad you didn’t listen to the naysayers who said you were getting obsessive. What you’ve done is amazing 🙂

    • Never underestimate my off-the-charts stubbornness. I think it’s all that got me through some days. i.e. Not wanting people to say, we knew she couldn’t do it. In this case, I’m actually kind of glad for my stubborn-as-a-mule personality. 🙂
      Thanks so much for your sweet and funny support this last little bit. I appreciate it more than I could every properly convey.

  10. Pingback: Slowing the Swinging the Pendulum | my year of sweat!

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