get a move on

My 40s Totally Changed My Relationship With Exercise

Instead of dreading my workouts, I feel incredibly lucky I get to move my body.

Exercise changed for me in my 40s and it can change for you too.
Valeria Blanc/E+/Getty Images

My exercise journey started simply, in high school, with walking. I was big on sports as a kid, but I’d lost interest as I got older. Even as a teen, I was feeling tired all the time and wanted to try to start actually exercising. Then I moved on to workout tapes and the stationary bike. Sometimes my friends and I would go for a run or take a class at the local women’s fitness studio. And even though I felt better and liked the way my clothes felt and loved all the things exercise was doing for me, I hated actually doing it. Like, dreaded it with a passion.

I’d feel anxious until I got it out of the way, and if I skipped too many days, I’d beat myself up about it. I measured my self worth by how hard I worked out, and I stopped enjoying all the benefits it gave me. It became a chore. And I slogged through it just to mark it off my list. It was miserable, and consequently, I was inconsistent with it all through college, my 20s, and my 30s.

Then, around my fortieth birthday, something changed. I was bored with just walking around the neighborhood; I didn’t want one of the same old mediocre exercise routines. I saw a workout online that looked really hard. I could almost feel my lungs burning just from watching it. But there was something in me that wanted to challenge myself. I figured I’d try to get through the jumping jacks and the burpees and the pushups and hate it so much that I’d never try it again.

But that’s not what happened. The workout was hard, but it was short. And when I was done, although I didn’t do it perfectly, I felt amazing, energized in a way I had never felt before. Maybe I was just so delighted I’d actually finished it that I was practically high on a sense of achievement.

I remember feeling like I had done that workout out of love for myself. And instead of telling myself to just get through it so it would be over, I encouraged myself. I told myself, between labored breaths, that I was strong and capable and I could do anything I wanted to.

And when I was done, I walked up my basement stairs feeling like a completely different person. I was empowered, and to my surprise, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I did the same workout the next day. Then the next. It became a little easier, and I surfed the web for new workouts at night when the kids were in bed.

Each morning, I’d get up early and put on my shorts and sports bra, fill up my water bottle and head down to my basement. It was quiet and calm and I had an hour all to myself. I was investing in myself and getting stronger by the day. And after a few months of doing that, I started running, something else I’d wanted to do regularly but always thought I was too weak for.

That was eight years ago. Now, taking an hour a day each morning is as normal to me as breathing. It’s my escape. It is how I push my reset button. I know I will give this gift of treating myself every single day. It grounds me, helps with my anxiety, and I feel incredibly accomplished.

Instead of dreading the time during my workouts, I feel incredibly lucky I get to move my body.

I exercise for the person I am today, but I also do it for future me. And it doesn’t matter where I am in life — on vacation, stuck inside during a snowstorm, or having a super stressful, busy day — I know I will get in a workout. I don’t have control over a lot of things in my life, but I do have control over making time for myself. And I promise, you can, too.

Katie lives in Maine with her three kids, two ducks, and a Goldendoodle. When she’s not writing, she’d reading, at the gym, redecorating her home, or spending too much money online.