An Exercise-Haters' Guide To Workout Motivation (It Will Help You Get Sane About Food!)

No, she's not my cat, she just reminds me of me when I first started exercising. Kinda scared, but curious, having to wade in slowly!

If anyone would’ve told me 10 years ago that I’d eventually end up falling in love with working out, I would’ve fallen down on the ground and rolled out the door laughing. Dude, you’re talking about a girl who almost didn’t graduate from high school because she was behind in P.E. credits. You’re talking about a girl who never played sports in her life. I believed I was uncoordinated, physically weak and definitely lacking in the motivation and will power to maintain any kind of exercise routine.

Then one day, in 2002, I was on a business trip in South Beach and saw a couple of women running down the beach. And found myself feeling … jealous. Jealous? Yes! I wanted to feel as healthy and awake as they looked bouncing across the sand. I wanted to squint into the sun and feel myself moving, fast. I wanted to breath hard and sweat and feel my body. I was young, but I didn’t feel like it. Somehow I knew that running would help. So I went into a shop, bought a sports bra, put on my silly little cross-trainers and went for a jog–that very same day.

The next morning I woke up and did it again. And back in New York I kept it up, running around my Brooklyn neighborhood for 10, 15 minutes at a time after work. I worked up to a mile, then two miles, then three, then I found myself a running partner. Within about nine months I could run for an hour at a time. It was mind-clearing, it was liberating, it was … so much freaking fun. My running partner and I did a couple 5Ks, then a 10K and eventually jogged (albeit slowly) the New York Marathon.

The key for me was a shift in attitude: Exercise no longer had to do with how many calories I could burn an hour. It wasn’t about burning calories at all. It wasn’t about punishing myself for a binge, or trying to make up for weeks and weeks of emotional overeating. Exercise became all about the pleasure and relief the movement provided in that moment–and the good, calm, strong feeling that continued afterward.

I found that exercise actually helped me feel saner about food and my body. It relieved a ton of stress, gave me a sense of accomplishment and made me feel better about myself at some core level.

It’s those things, not some fleeting focus on weight loss or calorie-zapping, is what is going to keep me hitting the gym. What about you–what place does exercise have in your life?

xo…Sunny

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[photo via Simon Davison]

4 Responses to An Exercise-Haters' Guide To Workout Motivation (It Will Help You Get Sane About Food!)

  1. Me says:

    Very inspiring as I’m currently struggling to keep up my daily biking routine into the cold months. Also: brilliant picture.

  2. Tamara says:

    I wish I had as clear an approach as you! I bought a treadmill two and a half years ago (because as much as I’d love to exercise outside, there are maybe two weeks total in Indiana with good weather), and though I use it at least every other day, I still can’t run two miles straight. I know I’m stronger and faster overall, and my mile times and resting heart rate have crept steadily lower, but I don’t think I will ever be a “runner.” And I’m perfectly happy with that.

    My motivation to run/walk each day: I feel icky if I don’t. The dreary weather, the dreary entry-level job–I know if I don’t lace up my shoes and get moving I won’t get enough seratonin in the day. And hot baths feel so much nicer when you’ve sweat a little!

  3. gina says:

    That is exactly where I want to go with my outlook on exercise! I recently made the decision to make running goals instead of calories burned goals. I too am anvious of people running all over the streets on ym way home from work, I want to be a runner and I want to love it. I can’t go very far yet, and it is a little frusterating at times, but little by little I will build my mileage and speed up and I look forward to that!

    • hlthygrl says:

      Gina and Tamara–I’m right there with you on the not-really-being-a-runner thing. But you know what? Just because we can’t go as fast or far as someone else doesn’t make us less than! If we’re moving our bodies, we’re ATHLETES! :) And we’re doing something so fabulous for ourselves. It’s a loving action every time we’re active–I truly believe that. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.