Getting Fit: How Exercise Has Helped Me
For all my life, I’ve always considered myself a somewhat active person. I used to play field hockey during middle school and part of high school. I also enjoyed running and doing at home workouts. However, I would workout to “get in shape” for the summer and that was it. Maybe for a month I would try to workout, but I never felt very motivated nor did I feel any of the benefits. I like to believe my poor diet and the environment I was in were two huge factors.
Since changing my diet, cooking fresh meals, and changing my environment, I find that my view on exercising has drastically changed.
Just a few months ago, I was in a really dark place in my life. I struggled with my mental health a lot. I was sleeping more than ever and I was in a constant state of sadness. During this time, my boyfriend kept urging me to exercise. I kept pushing that thought to the side because I had no motivation and I couldn’t see myself having the energy to workout.
Slowly, I began to get back into the routine of school which provided my life with more structure. Shortly after, I started to push myself to exercise. This is when everything changed.
I want to talk about my journey getting back into fitness, how it has changed me, and the importance of being kind to myself.
Setting my intentions
The first thing I said to myself before starting to exercise was that my only intention is to feel good physically and mentally.
This was extremely important to me. I did not want to become obsessed with working out so I could have a huge butt and tiny waist which is currently glorified by social media. I often find myself becoming obsessed with how different my body is compared to girls I see on Instagram. I have a flat chest, square torso, and a small butt—the complete opposite of the body that is all over social media. I wanted to ensure I was working out with the clear intention of bettering myself instead of trying to change my body.
You may have the intention of changing your body to become more healthy which is amazing. Personally, I did not want to turn fitness into something dangerous for me.
My support system
I have found when I have support from others, I am much more likely to do something. My boyfriend and I both motivate each other with some friendly competition to workout. He helps to give me an extra kick in the butt to exercise. We also run together which always challenges me to have a faster pace because he’s a faster runner than me. Having support or even a workout buddy can go a long way.
This is also super helpful when it comes to a clean diet. Since my boyfriend and I live together, we make sure we both eat balanced diets so there’s no peer pressure to poorly eat. For instance, before moving in with him, I had a pretty poor diet because of the people I lived with which put all my hard work to waste. I saw no results and I constantly felt blah. What you eat really does matter and makes a huge difference.
Finding a routine
Having a routine makes life much easier. When you have a specific time dedicated to working out, you are more likely to check it off your to do list.
Before getting back to work, I used to wake up at 6 a.m. to practice yoga and give my body a good stretch. I would then complete either a HIIT circuit or body weight workouts. I later incorporated running into my routine when I began training for the Broad Street Run. In result of working out in the morning, I found I had a lot of energy throughout the day and I could use the rest of the day to complete other tasks.
Whether you set time aside in the morning, midday, or even at night, having this dedicated time is super helpful when first beginning to workout.
Establishing my pace
I knew I wanted to work slowly when getting back into working out. I didn’t want to push my body and potentially hurt it. I began to build up my cardio by completing HITT workouts at home. (I highly recommend watching MadFit on YouTube because her routines are incredible and effective.)
I also began to practice yoga again, but started at a beginner’s pace. This allowed my body to build up flexibility.
Additionally, because I lacked so much strength, I would only complete body weight workouts. In other words, I just relied on the weight of my body as opposed to using weight equipment. I followed MadFit’s videos and I noticed quite a difference pretty early on. It’s amazing what your body can do even without equipment.
Starting off slow ensures you will not injure yourself. As much as I wanted to believe I was in shape, deep down I knew i wasn’t. Just working out for a 20 minutes a day will help your body and your mind. So, start off slow.
After working out for about two months straight now, I have seen results in my body, but also my mental health. Let’s talk about the physical stuff first.
I have more muscle, my arms are more defined, I can workout for longer periods of time, and I can run longer distance without burner myself out. The small successes I have seen in just the past two months humbles me. I ran 7 miles the other day with a pace under 11 minutes which is huge for me.
I also find I am more confident in my own skin than ever before.
Now, let’s talk about how exercise has changed me mentally. Prior to working out, I was in a constant state of anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t get pass the trauma I had experienced a few months ago. I felt hopeless.
Today, most of that has changed. I feel much happier, I have energy, and I’m more optimistic. I wouldn’t say exercise has fully healed me, but it sure has healed parts of me. I never believed exercise could help people mentally until I experienced it myself.
I encourage people to workout even if it’s only for a few minutes because of how much exercise helps the brain. You don’t need to complete insane and intense workouts either. Yoga is an amazing practice that helps clear the mind while also toning the body.
I cannot wait to share more about my fitness journey in the next few months.