Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Exercise Evolution


In 2011, I wore a heart monitor for a few weeks during the summer. When I went to the heart doctor, the doctor said something like, “Usually with athletic young ladies like yourself, we don’t worry about it.” I was totally flabbergasted that somebody would call me athletic. Athletic? Me? Really?

A couple of months ago, in January, I hung out with a cute, very fit boy. He has lots of muscles and works out a lot. He’s very intense about fitness. I sat at his kitchen island, and out of nowhere he said, “Wow, check out your triceps! Those are awesome. Let me see!” I flexed proudly after my countless pushups and kettle bell swings and wall ball squats and high pulls  and push presses. And suddenly my composure improved. I sat a little straighter and smiled a little brighter. Knowing his personality and how he tries to purposely motivate people, I’m not sure his being impressed was completely sincere. But it still influenced me strongly enough that I’m still talking about it months later.

I got sick for a couple of weeks in January or February. I couldn’t run the whole time. My head felt heavy, and I couldn’t do anything without coughing up green stuff. When I was finally well enough to work out, I got onto the treadmill, threw my head back, and smiled because of how happy I was to be there.

About a month and a half ago, a girl I used to visit teach posted a status update on Facebook. She tagged three friends of hers. I was included in this group of three. The update was calling on all of her “fitness friends,” to help her out with some stretches for her thighs and glutes. I was so flattered that she thought of me when she needed advice!

I was texting with a girl I used to visit teach a couple of weeks ago. She is very fashionable and clever. I love her blog and her Twitter. Because she posts “Workout Wednesday” blogs and has mentioned her workouts a few other times, I invited her to come kickboxing. I bought a package deal of 5 for $30 and thought she might think it was fun to try. She proceeded to tell me that I am her fitness inspiration. This comment totally made my day (or maybe my week or month). The fact that I’d be even a slight motivation to somebody is so cool, and so unexpected.

I’ve had a couple of occasions in the past year or so where somebody asks me how much weight I’ve lost.  A coworker said that to me. A classmate from my writing course said so too. A couple of past students have visited me and said it also. I’ve had others in conversations mention, “Well you’re always at the gym.” I’ve had an ex tell me every so often, “You look thinner every time I see you.”

On Wednesday, I went to kickboxing. I had run eight miles the day before with a girl from my ward. My other friend showed up to the same class. I told her that I had run the day before. And she said, “Oh yeah, I saw you running when I was driving here yesterday.”

On Wednesday at Institute, my teacher told me I am looking thinner in the face. When I walked out to go to the bathroom, she said, "Janae, dear, you really are looking much thinner." 

At kickboxing the first time, I realized how rusty I had gotten since leaving martial arts over eight years ago. Wednesday was my second time, and I wore my black and white karate pants for comfort’s sake. After a roundhouse kick, the teacher asked me if I’ve done martial arts. I figured she could tell just because of my goofy pants. She said, “No I could also tell by the way you kicked.” That made my day.

This morning as I was walking to my car in my Easter dress and high heels, my roommate walking behind me told me that my calves are looking really good. That made my day.

Today at church, the bishop’s wife asked me if I was running down Creek Road yesterday. I did, in fact, run 4 miles down Creek Road yesterday. “Yes, that was me.”

I have officially registered for the Provo Half Marathon. I have run 80 miles in the month of March training for it, with only two rest days per week.

All of these events and words from others have been small steps and milestones in helping me to recognize myself as an “athletic girl.” I subscribe to Women’s Health, Fitness, Vegetarian, Yoga, and Running magazines because that is where my interest is or has been for the past couple of years.

I have learned in all this time that I LOVE fitness. I love running. I love weight lifting. I love cycling. I love ellipting. I love stair-stepping. I love Crossfit. I love kickboxing. I love Zumba. I love yoga. I have so much to learn about all of these and am excited to do that and to try new things. There's still so much I don't know!

All I look forward to all day is my workout. All day at work, I am stressed and trying not to be miserable. When I finally put my workout clothes on and head into the gym or hit the road to run, I feel like I’m at home. I am happy. I feel good. I let go of my stress, and just focus on the next step or the next rep. I feel amazing after I finish and am so grateful for the things my body can do.

For those who think they have no time, I say, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” I get five hours of sleep or less per night. I have two jobs. I have to study for yet another Praxis. I have institute. I am a teacher—that takes many hours outside of regular hours. I have a church calling that takes hours and hours every month. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.

For those who think you are fat, exercise will give you a new appreciation for your strength and capabilities. Love your body for what it can do.

For those who want to but “don’t have the equipment,” or “forgot your water,” or “forgot your towel,” or “didn’t bring a hair tie,” or “your machine is taken,” or “have back pain” or “have hip problems”: shut up and do work. There is some way around every problem. You can work out.

Once you see what your body can do and once you focus on how you feel afterward instead of on losing weight, once you develop your love for exercise—whatever kind it may be—you will stop making excuses and feel the contagion, the need—the craving—to sweat it out.

I am not thin. I’m not super fit. I don’t have a six pack. I have a weak core. I have plenty of meat to spare on my hips and in my belly. I love to eat healthy and clean. But I also love junk food and chocolate and practice little self-control. This is all a process. But for me, exercise is not about losing weight. It’s about how I feel when I do it and after I’m done. It’s about my stress level and my future health. It’s about loving my body for what it can do.

Stop telling yourself you can’t. Because you can. You can do anything. God made you. Your body was built for this. And you have to start somewhere.

Just do it.