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?