You know the 10 year challenge that’s been floating around? Personally, I don’t really get it. I think everyone should look different than what they did 10 years ago. It’s called aging, people. We are meant to do that! Anyway, the 10 year challenge had me start thinking about how my fitness has changed over the past 20+ years. Some of it is the same but my perspective towards it has seen the biggest change.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I really started working out in my teens. I had an amazing PE Teacher who was also a Competitive Figure Bodybuilder. She was tiny (maybe 5’2″?) but so strong. She wasn’t bulky but you could tell she had muscles. It’s pretty common to see that in women now but in the early to mid 90s, that was unheard of. I mean, Kate Moss and the heroin chic was the thing. My teacher had us in the weight room lifting heavy and teaching step aerobics. No one was sitting still. We had to move! I fell in love with strength training but was more likely to brush it off for time on the stairmaster, treadmill or an aerobics class because those were the things that were going to help me lose weight and “tone up” according to all the fitness magazines.
When I was in college, even though I was an Exercise Science major, I still gravitated toward the cardio side of fitness at the gym with weight training thrown in for good measure. I’m proud to say I never fell into the “Barbie weights” trap even though a lot of my friends swore that you’d get big muscles from lifting more than 5 pound dumbbells. I knew that wasn’t true and stuck with my heavy weights. But still, to me, exercise was only for weight loss/maintenance and aesthetics. I liked it but it felt more like something I had to do because if I didn’t I’d gain 10,000 pounds in 1 day. Which is totally and completely false, by the way.
After college graduation, it was more of the same for the rest of my 20s. I was a regular gym goer. I would hit the gym at least 6-7 times a week after work and on the weekends. Some weekends were spent hiking for our workout. My 20 something year old self didn’t even think about waking up before 6 a.m. to exercise. Hahahaha! I still was fixated on how many calories I could burn with cardio equipment. I didn’t have any goals other than to keep my weight in check. I was kind of on autopilot going through the motions – 45-60 minutes of cardio, strength training, done.
When I was in my late 20s, I came up with the dream that I wanted to run a half marathon before I was 30. It seemed like it was a crazy far off idea since I’d only run here and there for no more than 3 miles at a time. When I was 29, I trained and ran my first half marathon…my first race ever. I got the running bug but still made the gym and cardio a priority over running.
My 30s came along and Ron and I were ready to start a family. I was regularly running a couple days a week, going to the gym and had found I really liked yoga. I soon found out I was pregnant but then miscarried around 11 weeks. I started spotting after a run. Even though the doctors reassured me and I knew that running had nothing to do with it, I stopped running for 2 years. I toned down my cardio and strength workouts and focused on lower intensity walks and yoga. I didn’t run again till after my twins were born.
Postpartum running became my everything. I signed up for my second half marathon (Seacoast Half – same as my first!) as motivation to get back into shape. I didn’t have a gym membership so walking, initially, became my thing. My two little babes, our dog Cooper, and I would spend lots of outside time walking during my maternity leave.
When I was cleared, walking turned to running. I’d wait till Ron came home from work to leave for my run. There were some days, where I didn’t want to run. I wanted to hang out with my little family and not miss out on anything. On those days, Ron would tell me to go for a run because it was not only good for me but good for him to spend the time with the kiddos. But there was also days that I would thrust a babe in Ron’s arms and then hit the door running. I needed some me time!
That training period was anything but easy. I can’t say that I loved running but I think it was an important time for me to remember that I was more than a mom. I still had my own thoughts, ideas and dreams. Running was a place for me to think about that.
After my second half marathon, I was hooked on running. It became a regular part of my routine. I also found a regular yoga practice. I started strength training at home, lifting heavy weights. Things were shifting.
The rest of my 30s were a continuation of that shift. Exercise was no longer something I “had” to do for weight loss/maintenance. It wasn’t something I “had” to do for the illusive 6 pack abs. It was something that I wanted to do. It made me feel good. It made me a happier person. It made me feel strong, not just physically, but mentally too. Running made up a big chunk of my exercise time but I still made time for strength training, yoga, hiking, biking, snowboarding and other forms of movement to fuel that feel good feeling.
And now that I’m in my early 40s, I have zero intentions of stopping that feeling. My workouts are about gaining strength, running faster (hopefully), staying injury free, and to keep the body moving because it feels GOOOOOOD. Gone are the days when I think a workout isn’t good enough unless it’s 60 minutes or longer. I know that short and sweet workouts can give me the same feel good feeling.
I’m sure my fitness journey will continue to evolve with every decade. That’s normal. I hope to be doing yoga, running, biking, snowboarding and whatever else I feel like doing for the rest of my life.
Exercise isn’t a bad word. It shouldn’t be looked at as something you “have ” to do. Find what you love and you’ll feel the difference.