I’m an activity addict. Not the arts and crafts kind – the being active kind. This may make you feel like throwing up in your mouth, but for me, getting that feeling during a workout is oddly fun.
After college ended and my soccer career came to a halt, I needed a way to feed my addiction to movement. Exercise had been a part of my life since I was seven years old; I couldn’t see myself abruptly becoming someone who sat at a desk all day, taking extra walking breaks to the water cooler. On a whim, I took advantage of a summer membership at a local gym. I still remember Pauline, the trainer who took me under her wing and schooled me on circuit training, step climbers, treadmills, and the gravitron. She taught me how to lift weights to tone and strengthen my muscles, dispelling the myth that “weights will make me big.” The combination of cardio and strength training erased the late nights of beer and bad food from college, and not only made me feel smaller, but stronger. To this day, I wish I could see her and say thank you for being one of the best trainers I’ve had – and for being my gateway drug.
Enter the late 90s craze of step aerobics and spinning. Stepping to music, cheesy clapping, and a kind of dance coordination – I fell for it and reserved my spot every evening. Spinning made me feel strong, fast and competitive, (with myself that is, thanks to the dark room). Each class allowed me to lose myself for an hour, and I left less stressed and more clear headed. However, my body gradually adjusted to the workouts; I didn’t see a whole lot of change in my physique or endurance. That seemed to be true for the lot of us – the same group of people would show up every night, set up in the same spot, and never transform. But damn, it was fun.
With onset of the 21st century, I craved something new. I climbed indoor rock walls and became mildly obsessed, (if there is such a thing) with kickboxing classes. Zumba did not remotely resemble drunk inspired dancing, so that was a one hit wonder. However, before my wedding, I rediscovered running. It was cheap, could be done anywhere, and I could do it on my own schedule. Thanks to the invention of the Ipod, I could try running for longer distances without the heavy weight of my 90’s walkman or a phone. I could also customize my playlist, an extremely important and personal thing to runners, which I will write about in another post.
Running eventually became my new obsession, especially after having kids. I completed my first of four half marathons, dropped baby weight, and used it as a relief for anxiety. As an athletic kid who suffered from asthma, I felt invincible when I finally ran longer and faster than I had as a teenager. It was empowering to know this goal could be attained. But I was logging 35 plus miles a week, beating myself up if I missed even one day, and although I was “skinny,” after a while, I didn’t feel strong. I had lost muscle mass, and that’s not healthy, especially since I was entering my forties. When I completed my first Spartan race, I literally felt weak – not powerful at all. Time again for a change.
Thankfully, strong is now the new sexy. After all these years and the latest crazes of Tabata, HIIT workouts, ropes, interval training, and my new drug, Orangetheory Fitness, I’ve finally learned what works – and that Pauline was ahead of her time. Consistently combining cardio and strength, eating well at least 80% of the time, and doing what I like, all work to keep me healthy, strong, and fit. I don’t have to feel like I’m going to die to get results, but I do have to be consistent. Exercise has always been a way for me to feel good, regardless of my weight. And although I often need to remind myself that I’m supposed to love my body, I am so grateful for what it has done for me, and how it continues to perform. Until it tells me to stop, I’ll keep seeing where it takes me.