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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you again Nancy!
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