Hi everyone, I apologize for slacking on the posting front. I caught a little bug the day after I made my first post and immediately fell behind. Not that I have a posting schedule or anything, but I probably should. So here’s my early New Year’s Resolution: I resolve to post at least once a week here, so my faithful readers don’t have to wait too long in between entries.
So for my first true entry, I’m going to tackle a very important topic for the entire scope of my blog: Why.
Well… it could be any number of things. Why write this blog – why eat a certain way – why get my butt to the gym… why do any of it?
I could post about how exercise gives you many health benefits, or how many of the top causes of death in the US are related to personal health choices such as nutrition and/or exercise, or even how mental health is affected by exercise. All of these things are important topics of conversation concerning your physical wellbeing, but that’s not exactly why I’m writing this blog. You can read up on these things on your own (and I encourage you to do so!), but I am here to tell you about why I choose to pick up heavy things and get sweaty.
The shortest/easiest answer I can give you is because I want to. The next shortest answer is because I have to, but that is not exactly an easy answer.
I mentioned in my first post that I consider myself an athlete. After I stopped playing soccer, I didn’t really do another physically challenging thing until I joined the LSU marching band as a freshman in the fall of 2006. During pre-season/tryouts, I wrote in my personal journal that it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life – physically challenging and painful – but those feelings didn’t last long. I adapted to the challenge set before me, and soon felt little to no pain. I enjoyed seeing the changes it brought to my body, especially in my arms. I felt strong, and I liked it.
I chose to not march again after my first season (something I sorely regret, because the next year, LSU won the National Championship in football). Unfortunately, I failed to replace that time spent in marching band with anything physically demanding. I changed my major, and with a new heavy course load, I put that part of my life on the back-burner. I didn’t go to the gym very often, and when I did, I chose exercises that were not very demanding on my body, like the elliptical machine. I was convinced, though, that if I went on that machine for an hour a couple times a week, I would still be doing myself a favor. Wrong.
I lost a lot of muscle over the next couple years, and gained a lot of fat. I remember being in one of my nutrition classes, and we were measuring our waist sizes (which are used as an assessment of health and a risk factor). I was surprised to find out that mine was higher than I would have liked, and also indicated that I was starting to become unhealthy. I was actually embarrassed to be bigger than a good deal of the girls in my class. However, I chose to put it out of my mind instead of addressing the issue while it was still fresh in my brain. I was not incredibly overweight at the time, but it got worse instead of better in coming months. I continued to not go to the gym enough and gain weight, and I experienced something that I think a good number of people can relate to: I felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body, and I could feel myself moving around inside this other person’s (fat) body. Yet, I still did not do anything about it.
It wasn’t until the beginning of senior year and my long-time boyfriend and I broke up that things changed. I experienced a “depression diet” and lost a good deal of weight (somewhere in the realm of 20 pounds) . I suddenly was smaller than I had been in a couple of years, and I liked what I saw (for the most part – for a little bit, I looked unhealthy and sort of like a bobblehead). It was at that point that I met my current boyfriend, who is a personal trainer. He encouraged me to begin an exercise program during my final semester at LSU, which mostly consisted of running. Suddenly, I began to gain my confidence back. As I progressed with my running, I felt good again. When I came home for spring break that semester, my mom proclaimed that I had “gotten my legs back,” or rather, that I was in good shape. The effect that my exercise had on my physical and mental wellbeing was undeniable: I felt like I was myself once again.
Since returning to Virginia from LSU, I have continued my descent into the depths of being a gym rat. Under the tutelage of my dear boyfriend, I have learned so much about my own body and increased my awareness of the ways I move. I have discovered my love for lifting (or as I like to call it, “picking up heavy things”), and the reasons why I love it: because it’s hard, because I have to try to get better, and the great sense of accomplishment I have when I progress. I am motivated by overcoming the pain of the obstacle and the ability to see my body as being strong and capable. Without the challenge, I am not even sort of motivated – and looking back on my history, this has always been true. Because I did not know how to challenge myself, I fell through on taking care of my body. I did not know that the sense of physical accomplishment would drive me back to the gym time and time again. I didn’t see it then, but I can see it now.
There are several other reasons why exercise is an important part of my life – it helps me manage my stress/anxiety, the mental and physical wellbeing business I mentioned earlier, it helps me sleep better (the topic for the next post), etc., etc. – but at the end of the day, I do it because I want to. Because I have to. Because it’s who I am, and who I’ve always been – I’m just lucky enough to be able to see it now, rather than many unhealthy years later.
Now it’s your turn: What motivates you? What aspect of your life drives you to be healthy? What can I do to help you figure it out?