As we established in a previous post, I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Since we lived far from town, we didn’t go out to do many activities. I don’t remember going to the movies, out to eat, etc. Instead, we played outside and created our own enjoyment. The countryside was literally our playground and as long as we told our parents generally where we were going and were home by dark, we were free to roam. This meant that I moved a lot as a kid. I didn’t consider it exercise- it was just what I did for fun.
Sports were also a fun way to exercise as an adolescent. Sure, sometimes I prayed for a lightening storm so I wouldn’t have to go to swim practice, but for the most part, I enjoyed every minute of this “exercise.” Practice and games were part of my life. Sports took up the majority of my free time, so they became my social life as well. Some of my best memories are from times when I was active and constantly moving my body. Also, my motivation to work harder was linked to my performance, not my appearance. I didn’t run longer or lift heavier weights so I could change my body. I worked harder, so I could make it to the fifth set in a volleyball game and still have the energy I had in the first set.
Once competitive sports were over for good though, my “why” was lost. I didn’t have games to prepare for anymore, so I wasn’t going to spend multiple hours practicing. I always loved being active, so I decided to join a gym. I believe this is when my “why” changed. Rather than moving for performance, I was now moving for appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed exercising but the fun was taken out of it and I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. All of the sudden I became obsessed with the calorie count on the treadmill and would wonder how other women at the gym made their bodies look a certain way. I was 17 years old. This is not healthy behavior for any age, but particularly not for a teenager.
Unfortunately, college only magnified this problem. The gym was full of young adults of all shapes and sizes, but mainly dudes with deeply ripped tanks or girls in tiny spandex shorts. The gym was where I became exposed to the idea of working off the calories before drinking (so healthy!) and exercising only because some silly (although super important at the time) event was approaching. Although I hate to admit it, I did fall for this mindset. I became obsessed. I knew this wasn’t me though and I needed my “why” back again.
After college I began signing up for a variety races, from short running races to sprint triathlons, to 200 mile relay races. I finally felt like I had a “why” again. Getting up before the sun to run wasn’t dreadful anymore, because I had something to actually accomplish (besides the ever desirable goal for stellar abs). Every time I would run farther or swim faster, I was secretly extremely proud of myself. I loved it and was addicted to the endorphins. In fact, I was so addicted that I failed to listen to my body telling me to stop. My brain would say, “No, I can do another mile. I can make it to 13 miles today!” My knees, on the other hand, were screaming at me, begging me to stop. One day, I was driving down the road and saw a girl running with two knee straps on and KT tape all over her legs. It was like a slap in the face as I thought, holy shit that’s going to be me if I don’t stop.
So I stopped. Was it easy? No, not at all. Some people will find this pathetic, but it was probably one of the harder things I have done in my life. I envied people I saw running as I could barely walk a mile without pain. Luckily though, I had the running police, aka Kevin, to make sure I remembered why I wasn’t lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement. I honestly don’t think that I would have been able to do it without him.
I had to dig really deep to find my why again. Sure, I still enjoyed moving for the most part, but I deeply missed that sense of accomplishment that came from finishing a race. Luckily though, a light bulb turned on and I finally understood that I needed to take care of my body if I wanted to continue to move it for the rest of my life. I needed to move my body in a variety of ways to keep it healthy and injury free. Therefore, I started moving in new ways and changing my exercise schedule. I listened to my body. I changed my “why”.
Now, I move my body in all sorts of ways for many different reasons:
- I go to yoga to stretch my body, release the tension in my hips and feel amazing for the rest of the day. Do I have to do it? No, but I do it weekly, because I enjoy the feeling.
- I walk to enjoy nature, soak up some vitamin D, listen to an audiobook and explore new places.
- I lift weights to be strong, so I don’t have to rely on other people to lift things for me. If I want to arrange furniture in our house and Kevin isn’t home, you better believe I’m gonna go ahead and move that furniture (unless I can’t reach it, height is always an issue).
- I swim to allow myself time to think and reconnect with an activity from my childhood that I enjoy doing.
- I run to remind myself how great it feels to move my body quickly. Then I stop after a couple miles, because I know that’s all my body can handle.
- I do burpies, because I can.
- I go to group fitness classes to meet new people, learn new exercises and leave with a smile on my face.