We hear this time and time again: Exercise is essential to living a healthy life. We all know this to be true, but it is still so damn hard to put these thoughts into action.
I am not talking about the mixed messages we get from the media. Screw that. We do not need to set an unrealistic expectation for ourselves because we are comparing and contrasting our bodies to someone else’s digitally remastered professional photographs. That shit is defeating.
I am talking about when you are having that talk with your doctor and they mention exercise is one of the most proactive steps you can take when it comes to caring for our overall well-being. Or when you start to feel sluggish and you know you will feel better if you do something physical, but you are too exhausted.
And we all know the biggest voice of all: our mean inner voice. The one that never seems to shut the hell up when we are feeling less-than. The one that screams at us. The one that is pretty abusive and damaging whether we are willing to admit it or not, and says things like, Get off the damn sofa, you lazy slob. Do something with yourself. You used to look so much better. You have let yourself go. You will never look like her, so why even bother?
Almost every woman I know has had these thoughts, including myself. But how often do you think things like, I am worth it. I deserve this time to invest in myself. I will take the time I need to get my mind and body right.
I am almost 42 years old, and I’ve been exercising for almost 30 years of my life. I’ve gone from hating it, to tolerating it, to forcing myself to get back into it after having three kids. And fuck, that was hard.
But it was harder for me not to exercise. I would feel crabby and anxious. My mean voice would come out when I didn’t exercise, but would stay quiet when I did. I just like myself more when I am doing something physical on a regular basis. And I am not talking about chasing my three kids around. I am talking about setting aside time to exercise alone, at least a few days a week. Whether it involves getting some fresh air or dropping the kids with a sitter and hitting the gym, exercise is an investment in yourself.
And you, my dear reader, are worth investing in.
Once I started investing in myself instead of beating myself down, I fell head over heels in love with moving my body and kicking my own ass. And now, in my 40s, I am in better shape than I was in my 20s. It is my therapy. It is so much a part of my life I know I will exercise up until my last day on this earth. I certainly never say, “Damn, I wish I had not done that awesome workout.”
There is a secret to falling in love with exercise, it only took me about 25 years to figure out, and I want to share it with you:
If you are exercising solely to maintain a certain size, you need to come up with a new reason.
I know it sounds ridiculous — most people put in the work to lose weight or stay slim.
But what happens to so many of us is that we beat ourselves up to get to a certain size, and then what? We fall off the wagon after a weekend away. We get to our goal weight, and then we skip a few days. Those days turn into weeks. The weeks turn to months, and before you know it, you are saying things like, “Three years ago, I was really committed to exercising, and I felt amazing.”
And then the self-destructive thoughts begin all over again because you start reminiscing about how you used to feel, and what you used to look like, and that mean voice creeps back in to try to beat you down again. You truly believe you can’t go back to that. So you don’t even try.
About six years ago, after going through a tough time, I started to turn to exercising as a way to cope with stress. It started to become my church. A place I could go, listen to music, and leave it all out there; all my anger, sadness, hurt, and frustration. Instead of forcing myself to do it and just go through the motions, I channeled all my negativity into something positive. My soul needed it. It wasn’t just my body that was benefiting. I was getting a much needed release, and instead of telling myself to stop being a lazy sack of poo and to get up and do something, I was so in tune with myself after exercising, I began to crave that feeling.
After a workout, I felt good. I felt alive. It was a date with myself. I started to look forward to it, and it became something I was doing not because I felt I should, or because I wanted to be a certain size, I was doing it because I needed it for my overall well-being. And moving my body regularly made me feel like I loved myself.
We all know love breeds love. We are told over and over again to treat others the way we want to be treated. And I wanted my body to treat me right, so I had to treat it right by putting the right things into it (most of the time — we all need fried food and chocolate once in a while, and I’m public about my love of McDonald’s shakes) and moving it. That’s when you start to get a return on your investment. And it comes in the form of strength and a clear mind.
I am not saying it isn’t hard work. I am not saying you won’t have days when you want to throw in the towel. I am saying when you do it because you love yourself, you will begin to look at exercising in a whole different light, and it will stick.
Don’t feel guilty about telling your family you are going to take some time for you. They can give you a half-hour a few days a week. They will see how happy it makes you, and everyone will reap the benefits. You are showing them you love your body by taking care of it. Not only will you you be setting an excellent example for them, you will start to see the magic happen: On your body and in your mind, and you will feel amazing.
Remember, it’s an investment, and you are worthy. Don’t let anyone, or that inner voice, tell you any different.