I spent a good portion of my life feeling out of shape and uncomfortable with my body, but was able to pull myself together after college and make changes that have transformed my confidence and my life.
I’m sure many of you have a love/hate relationship with exercise, or have at some point struggled to make room for it in your lives. I’ve been there, and I’m sharing my story with the hope that you might relate, learn from my mistakes and examine how change might be possible in your own lives!
When I was younger, I loved dance class, soccer, playing squash with my dad and swimming laps with my mom. Although I genuinely enjoyed these activities and how they made me feel— I never made them a top priority in my life. Sports weren't a big deal in my family, and I never really thought it was important to be athletic. I began babysitting at 14, and was waiting tables by 16. I was so focused on making money and doing well in school, that I stopped finding time for the exercise and activities I’d once enjoyed.
College was a WHOLE NEW ballgame. I relished my newfound freedom and although schoolwork was still really important to me, my social life became king and I didn’t want to give up extra time for physical activity.
My college roommate was super fit, and no matter what was happening in our lives, she would always make time to go for a run (while I’d be busy chowing down on a mountain of froyo). I absolutely HATED running, and I felt like I was dying every time I’d try to go for a (not so) casual jog.
Halfway through college, I had to take “Info Hell:” a notorious Journalism class that required us to write a 100-page paper. I lived in the library, would only take breaks to grab dinner with friends, and released all my stress by partying on the weekends.
Of course this was all part of the “college experience”—but it didn’t feel very healthy, and it didn’t take long for that freshman 15 to catch up to me, either.
Although I’d been raised to eat well, being on my own meant I’d been treating myself A LOT and creating my own (unhealthy) rules to live by.
Ironically, I got a job as a weight loss consultant around this same time. Each consultant was expected to maintain a healthy body fat percentage (in order to be qualified to help other women lose weight)—so I had to turn around my eating habits quickly, in order to keep my job.
Before the end of my junior year, I met my boyfriend, Thomas. Thomas had played competitive soccer his entire life—so working out had always been a part of his routine. At first, he tried to change my perspective on exercise and teach me different weight training routines, but I HATED him showing me how to workout, and I was totally intimidated by the number of guys in the weight room.
Although I appreciated his help, I was so focused on school, work and my social life that it stressed me out to have to even think about getting in regular exercise.
A year later, Thomas and I went to Europe for a post-graduation trip. For three weeks, we had a blast eating, exploring, and touring different cities. Thomas tried to stay active and encouraged me to go for runs with him throughout our trip—but I would get really out of breath (and get into a terrible mood) and I just couldn’t keep up.
When I got home to Portland, OR, I was ready to make some major changes. Thomas had moved to England to play soccer for 6 months—which I seized as an opportunity to focus on ME and getting my bunz into shape!
The first thing I did was go to 24-hour fitness and purchase 3 personal training sessions (the cheapest deal they had). I was assigned a trainer who took my measurements, listened to my workout concerns (basically: “I HATE CARDIO”), and gave me my diagnosis. He told me to stop fearing the weight room, and explained that girls can get slim and strong by lifting weights (without looking scary) and with little-to-no- cardio!
Of course, Thomas had told me all this before, but I didn't believe that girls could lift weights without looking bulky. It was something I had to learn for myself.
After 3 weeks of committing to a weight training routine (and finding new tips online), I started seeing exciting results. I was losing inches and for the first time ever, I was seeing definition in my arms and stomach! I looked forward to my workouts; I was feeling stronger and more confident in my clothes, and I didn’t have to spend hours hating my life on a treadmill.
As soon as I was seeing results from my workouts—without it feeling like “work”—I was totally hooked. I had finally found my perfect fitness “fit!”
So what made all the difference?
Finding something I enjoyed—something that made me feel confident and strong, investing a little bit of money to get started, and remaining consistent until I saw results.
Motivation follows action and consistency is key!
Commit to an activity you enjoy, do enough of it until you see results (or find a new activity if you are unhappy) and do not let other people set you off track. Make a goal amount of workouts you want to get in per week, and plan your schedule a week in advance to allow for morning or PM workouts that you aren't likely to skip.
Once you see results (I don’t care how busy you are!) you WILL figure out how to make regular time for it in your life. There's nothing more powerful than feeling strong!
To this day, I maintain a regular weight-training routine about 4-5 days a week. I also love hiking, trying new workout classes, and I’ve even trained myself to enjoy (short) outdoor runs!
Learning to love exercise can be a real struggle, and I know its easy to decide you are not athletic or that you'll never enjoy working out! But finding a way to get physical is important. It’s one of the best investments you can make in yourself, and it will absolutely improve your confidence, ease your stress and help you become more productive in all areas of your life!
Stay tuned: next week I'll be sharing 5 amazing ways to get yourself in shape + enjoy your exercise routine!
I would love to help each of you find your “fitness fit” Email me with your health/fitness related questions or concerns and I will address them in future articles! firstname.lastname@example.org
A self empowerment blog by Ryan & Erica. Made for women discovering their strongest, most authentic selves.