I’ve always dreaded physical fitness. From waking up to my mother jumping up and down to the oldies while doing Aerobics when I was growing up to the exercise regime and (perceived) constant criticism of my how fit I was, I developed a hatred of anything and everything related to exercise and used this hatred of exercise as a form of rebellion throughout my college years. I know, I should have rebelled using some method that wasn’t also self-destructive, but you live and learn, right?
It wasn’t until I moved home from China with my husband in February and into my friend’s house that I really actually began to get somewhat serious about fitness for several reasons.
- I wasn’t as thin as I used to be despite losing weight in China (perhaps my mother’s exercise regime did some good after all?).
- I wanted to be attractive, not only to my husband, but also just in general.
- I’d known for approximately a year and a half that my cholesterol was dangerously high and had taken small steps to work on it but hadn’t really been that serious about it. The threat of beginning lifelong medication in my early twenties should have been more motivating…
- I wanted to live a simpler, healthier lifestyle and take care of the body I have since it is, after all, the only body I’m ever going to have.
So with my friend’s encouragement and love of fitness, I painstakingly began to actually work out regularly for the first time in years and not just count the walking around whatever town I lived in as daily exercise. She had a Pilates DVD, so I started off slowly. Ten minutes a day five days a week at first. Then twenty minutes a day five days a week. Finally, thirty minutes a day five days a week and occasionally the entire fifty minute DVD. Since it was too cold to run or jog outside (oh the joys of living in the Midwest during the winter!), I was limited to Pilates and my bundled-up walks downtown.
I began to see results. Nothing drastic by any means, but I had slightly tighter abs and more toned arms and legs. I had more energy. I could wear skinny jeans for the first time in my life. My thighs had always been too big, which I attribute to years of ballet and soccer followed by years of weight gain and lack of exercise to tone the muscular tree trunks that I had developed. I was on a roll, exercising regularly and eating much healthier. As the weather warmed up, I even began to occasionally run. I felt great! I was confident and hopeful that I would continue this healthier lifestyle for a long, long time.
Then I moved to Portland. With no access to the Pilates DVD since I was too broke to afford one, I stopped exercising. I didn’t even run since I was living with a friend and had to abide by her schedule while looking for an apartment, a schedule that meant only being home to sleep. While I didn’t gain any weight, I lost the muscle tone I had been developing. I was walking around more than ever, but that was it in terms of exercise. I was discouraged.
Once my husband John and I moved into our own apartment, I thought about exercising. I wanted to exercise and regain the muscle tone I had lost. I wanted to continue to be fit and healthy. I was walking even more than before due to a lack of car, a lack of bicycle, and a lack of money to buy a transit pass. In fact, I walked just over a mile to and then from work five days a week. But even in combination with trying to eat healthier, I wasn’t seeing real results. I lost some weight, but wasn’t getting toned. I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my appearance, especially since any weight I had lost only accentuated the weight I hadn’t lost in my stomach and thighs.
Finally, after several months of hating my appearance, I checked out the Pilates DVD I had used in Ohio from the local library. But I lacked the motivation to begin again. Beginning is always the hardest part. It took feeling like I looked pregnant, being upset that my jeans were wearing out after seven months before they were falling off, the prospect of seeing friends from Ohio and wanting to be thinner, the prospect of going to the doctor to be weighed, continued discussions (and consequent guilt) about healthy living (aka eating and exercising) with John, and getting a bike only to realize that I wasn’t in the same shape I had been the last time I had owned a bike to actually motivate me to start exercising again. Wow, am I stubborn!
Daunted, I didn’t do so well the first two weeks. I had set unreasonable goals and got stuck in failure. However, since I really dislike my stomach and thighs, I reevaluated my goals this week and set smaller, achievable goals. I can always go above and beyond these goals if I really want to (now that would be quite the accomplishment!). So far, I’ve stuck with them, and exercising is getting easier and more enjoyable. In addition to riding my bike to work (hooray for a shorter commute!), I decided to do twenty minutes of Pilates at least four times a week. Also, I am going to go on two or three bike rides this week – the first of which will be tonight once it is not blistering hot outside.
I’ve already done Pilates twice this week, and since I don’t work mornings for the next three days, I plan to do Pilates all three of those days. I may need to plan time for an extra long bike ride to prepare for the 7-miles-one-way jaunt that I planned for Monday. Oops. It’s a start. And while I’m sure my weight won’t be what I want it to be at my doctor’s appointment next Wednesday, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as it once was either (a number so high it is unpublishable). I am starting to be toned again (perhaps I can buy a size smaller in my jeans?). Most importantly, I have more energy and feel healthier, a definite step on my way to being confident with my body again.
I’ll keep you all updated on my fitness progress…. perhaps I’ll even investigate a widget or chart or something to track what I’ve done.
What is your favorite workout routine?