I would consider myself a fitness enthusiast today, but one year ago, had you asked me to work out, I would have groaned, wormed around on the couch until either you got the idea or I had to make up an excuse. I loathed working out. I did not realize fitness was even important. This behavior roots to my childhood.
What Is This Thing You Call Fitness?
I grew up in a rinky-dinky small town of about 300 people. I did not know anyone who worked out or talked about their active life at least. Sometimes I would see people walking around town, but I figured people walked because there was nothing better to do. I was probably very blind to health-conscious members of my community, but because of this my world was shaped without any importance placed on my health or fitness.
Throughout my K-12 education, I played basketball and stayed active. A couple summers, I even joined the strength and training club at my high school. I did all of these activities because they were fun, not because I had ever considered health benefits. With no personal health issues and a twig for a body, it was not something to worry about so I simply did not worry.
College: Pizza, Pizza and More Pizza
When college started I went from living an active life to zero activity real quick. The only physical activity I put in was walking to class on the large UW-Madison campus.
During my freshman year of college, all of my friends worked out. Somehow that did not ever trigger a light bulb in my brain. I sat on my rump, eating pizza rolls and watching reruns of The Bachelor and New Girl. I was depressed that year, even before my Mom passed away, and I wonder now if getting active could have changed that.
I can remember thinking that I was eating healthy by choosing a side of mashed potatoes and corn. I could not understand why anyone would ever eat a salad. I did not like many vegetables, merely peas (canned only), carrots (raw with a mountain of vegetable dip), and potatoes and corn. I did not understand what a balanced diet was, and I remember joking with my friends about just how bad my diet was. Still nothing clicked, it was all amusing and I had no cares.
Once I found myself in the elevator of my dormitory building with two girls talking about one of their roommates. They were in disgust and shock that the roommate had not worked out once all semester. Meanwhile I hid in the corner, clinging my to-go box from the dining hall filled with a taco salad with “very little lettuce, please.” I was just hoping my secret would not somehow be revealed, that they could not somehow read my mind. I was essentially her roommate. Even after that day, I still did not change my habits.
As college went on, I had different roommates who lived healthy lifestyles, even some that became best friends. There were always people surrounding me who could have influenced me, and I even transferred to a campus (UW-La Crosse) known for being a highly active community. I tried working out a few times, but it never lasted more than a couple workout sessions.
My “Aha!” Moment
It was my senior year of college, when I hit a new number on the scale. I was 30 pounds heavier than when I started college. I was feeling lousy mentally and physically, always tired, and had a poor view of my self-image. I knew something needed to change, and I was finally ready to change my lifestyle. About this time, I found a blog by an old high school friend who was going through a similar experience. She had shared her raw feelings and the steps she was taking to improve her health. She was doing the Advocare 24 Day Challenge program (Don’t stop reading! This is in no way an ad, just a story of my experience). Feeling inspired by her honesty and courage to change, I reached out to her for info about the program.
I expressed my interest in Advocare to my roommate and found she was interested also. Fairly quickly, we ordered our Advocare, did a mass grocery haul and began our challenge. I ended up losing about 8 pounds and I forget how many inches. I ate healthy and found ways to fix my cravings. The most important thing that Advocare taught me is the definition of a balanced diet. I have been able to use their meal plan framework since the challenge. The struggle that remained was working out. I did not enjoy working out. To me, it was such a chore.
Finding Love AND an Accountability Buddy
Shortly after, I connected with my now-boyfriend, Drew. Things moved pretty quickly. I realized he was my soup snake (soul mate, if you do not watch The Office), and I moved to Iowa to be with him. Drew was into working out, and clearly, I was not. He would gently nudge me to go the gym, and I would agree… occasionally! A few months passed and I was feeling ready to try again.
Drew bought a gym membership for the two of us for my birthday, which created a great reason to get started again. Over the next 6 months, I worked out… Just very inconsistently. The winter weight started to set in. Drew and I traveled to California for vacation in April and thank the heavens it was rainy so I did not have to be uncomfortable in my swim suit. When we returned to Iowa, we looked at the pictures we had taken and did not want to share any as we were uncomfortable with the weight that we had gained.
By the end of April, we were committed to doing the Advocare 24 Day Challenge together (my second round!) This one turned out to be a real challenge. Drew had no problem with working out, but struggled with limitations to his diet. I struggled with the diet also, and then was tested positive for bronchitis about 12 days in. This halted working out for me. I still lost 7 lbs, but by the time my bronchitis was cleared and the summer holidays hit, I was back to square one.
Drew and I decided around May 2016 that we needed to get consistent about working out. Since then, our goal has been 3 days a week of working out at the fitness center in town. We have made time for fitness after work, and we have stuck to it. Drew usually exceeds the 3 days (because he’s determined as heck), and I make my goal most weeks. So how was I finally able to make this a habit?
First of all, I really wanted it this time. I wanted to get better. I could see the benefits and I was ready. But truly, I could not have done it with out an accountability buddy that I enjoyed going to the gym with. It is actually fun to go to the gym when you are going with your best friend. Drew was always there to motivate me on my “I just wanna take a nap” days, until working out became a habit, almost an addiction.
I also bought myself some new workout clothes which made me excited about going to the gym. When Christmas came around, Drew even gave me a pair of beautiful Nike’s, which I desperately needed. It also worked to have some variety in my gym routine. I tried some new machines at the gym, including the daunting treadmill, which I use every time now. In the past, each time I had tried to work out I would stick to abs and the elliptical only. I know now this just did not work for me. The variety offered at our fitness center allows for a change of pace and keeps me interested.
Now I feel wrong if I skip the gym on a week night for no good reason. If I am skipping, I usually have a pretty good reason. I still have a long way to go to get to my goals, but I have made some major progress and am excited for the journey to come.
There is a lot that has gone into how fitness became enjoyable and a healthy addiction for me. This is the first part of a short fitness series, in which I wanted to share my story. Stay tuned for more on how you can get into fitness and STAY into into it with tips and inspiration.