I started writing this post over a year ago. I’ve since put it on the back burner multiple times. Not because I didn’t have time and not because I no longer thought it was something worth sharing. I set it aside because I didn’t feel like the kind of person who should be preaching this kind of message. I don’t have it all figured out so I hesitated to share, but after being reminded multiple times by various self-help books that my story is worth sharing, even when it’s stil a work in progress, I’ve decided to share. It’s something I’ve struggled with and still fight against and want to help others feel less alone. So here goes.
I used to hate working out. But even though I hated it, I was obsessed with it. I was obsess to the point that if I missed a workout, it gave me anxiety. It gave me anxiety because I was so fearful that I was going to gain weight. I was fearful that if the number on the scale increased by 2 pounds, my worth would decrease. I bought into the lie that if I took up less space in the universe I was worth more. That belief lead me into a long struggle with an unhealthy food and exercise relationship that took a long time for me to recover from.
In high school I was overweight and wanted to care about exercise, but I really didn't. My first year of college I started to get into exercise as a means to lose weight and quickly came to view it as a punishment. If I ate more calories than Myfitness Pal would allow me, then I would force myself to do a workout video that I didn't enjoy or walk 5 miles to burn off my overindulgence. If I had a donut I would calculate the exact number of minutes I had to spend on the treadmill to burn it off, even before I finished eating the donut. My view of exercise was obsessive, sad, and all around unhealthy. I dreaded getting to the gym because in my head, working out was what I HAD to do to maintain a particular number and ultimately my worth.
Although I am so thankful that most days this is not the way that I view exercise now, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a battle. Choosing to stop letting that number define my worth is a daily choice that isn’t always easy to make. Equating a number with my worth is still a thought that crosses my mind, but each day I’m trying to find motivation that is deeper and more meaningful than taking up less space. I hope this bring your some encouragement and allows you to find your own motivation to move your body that has nothing to do with weight loss, because you are worth so much more than a stupid number.
1. To feel strong
Exercise makes me feel strong. The first time I remember actually feeling strong was during an Orange Theory workout where there were a lot of high inclines used on the treadmill. With every additional incline increase I felt my legs work harder and harder. When I was done I had this "I just did that!" feeling and it's something I go back for again and again. Feeling strong while working out allows me to celebrate my body and what it can do rather than view it as a punishment.
2. To Have More Energy
For me, if I don't workout, I feel sluggish throughout the day. I shoot to workout 5-6 days a week and the days that I take off, I notice a significant decrease in my energy early in the day. On those days even if I don't do a formal workout I try to incorporate movement in some form, walking, running, biking, etc. to keep my energy where I'm used to them. It becomes something I genuinely miss because it makes me feel so good!
3. To start a positive cycle
When I exercise I crave eating healthy. I want to eat healthy so that the next time I workout I can feel strong and not sluggish. By choosing to move my body I create a cycle of positive eating choices and movement. Moving leads to better food choices and better food choices lead to me wanting to move my body more.
4. To Increase confidence
I'm not talking about increasing confidence because you finally start to have a gap between your thighs. I'm talking about confidence in your ability. Working out can force you to do things you thought your body couldn't. Pushing past those barriers reinforces what a bad ass woman you are and makes you feel like you can conquer the world.
6. To Manage Mental Health
Whether it's stress, anxiety, or depression, exercise can help. I have definitely experienced all three of these and can definitely vouch for the effectiveness of movement in managing them. If I ever wake up feeling anxious, getting to the gym helps me take a chill and remind me that everything is going to be okay. It allows me an hour to step outside of my worries and focus on myself. I've had times where I have woken up feeling down and going for a run may not have always fixed my problem completely but it has always perked me up at least a little bit.
7. To Just Feel Damn good
Exercise endorphins are real, people! And they feel so, so good! The main reason I keep working out is because it always makes me feel good. Moving your body, whatever way you choose, will always make you feel better than if you lingered a little longer on the couch. I have never regretted a workout.