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?