Since returning home from my five day trip to San Diego, I have made it a goal to exercise every single day. And it’s been much easier than I anticipated it to be.
In the past, when I’ve tried to build up an exercise regime, I have failed. Miserably. I’ve tried running in the morning before work or school, I’ve tried going to the gym in the evenings – nothing has ever stuck. And 100% of it had to do with me and my mind. How much did being healthy and in shape matter to me?
It didn’t. Not really.
At 28-years-old, I know I am extremely lucky and blessed to still have my slender body type – and it’s no thanks to the amount of garbage I put in my body. I absolutely love food, and I’m very fortunate to have no allergies to it [well, none that I’m aware of]. I put anything and everything into my body, and I just hope and pray that I won’t blow up like a balloon. And my justification for all of this is, “Well look at that oversized human over there, at least I don’t look like that.”
This, by the way, is horrible logic. Just because somebody else doesn’t have a beanpole body type doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Several of my family members struggle with thyroid disease and other reproductive diseases that make it almost impossible to keep weight off.
So to whom or what do I attribute my recent success at keeping a steady workout schedule?
Myself. My brain. My willpower.
Spending five days in San Diego really was exactly what I needed to get my motivation back. And I can’t actually say that it was the location, per se – I honestly think I just needed a break from the mundane reality I had come to know. Wake up – go to work – come home – take the dog out – come home – shower – eat – sleep. Repeat.
GODDDDDD. I’m bored to tears just thinking about it.
For me, the hardest thing about exercising has always been cardio. I have no problem doing lunges and weights and ab work – anything muscle building has never been an issue. I love the burn and I love the soreness that comes afterward. But cardio has always been the bane of my existence. So when I decided that I wanted to be more fit and start exercising more, I knew that I had to nip this little cardio problem in the bud.
I heard something on the radio the other morning – the DJs were talking about runners, and how some ridiculously high percentage of them, when surveyed, said that the only thing they think about while they run is how much they hate running. After hearing that, I realized that I have always been one of those people – I go for a run because I have to, not because I enjoy it in any way. I mean, who actually likes to pound pavement and sweat and be gasping desperately for oxygen? And all the while you’re trying to tell yourself, “You can do it. Run to that tree and then you can stop. Fuck. Okay, stop now. You’re not going to make it to the tree. At least you made it this far. Running sucks..” Yes. I know you are familiar with that inner dialogue.
So what was the difference for me this time around?
I think my issue in the past is that I have always made running [or cardio in general] about what it’s doing for my body physically. It’s shedding pounds, it’s getting me in shape. It’s making me healthy.
But what I’ve never noticed before, until now, is what it does for my mind.
When you run for the physical aspect, it’s a thousand times more difficult to get out of your own way. Your mind is going a million miles a minute, you can’t stop thinking about how taxing this is on your body, how much you hate this feeling and how much it sucks. But when you run to let off steam or to take the edge off of a rough day, THAT is when you will finally find some sort of release. That is when you will actually enjoy what cardio does for you.
On weekdays, my workouts happen in the evenings after I get off work. I’ve tried to get up before work and just get it out of the way, but I cherish a little bit of extra sleep in the morning when I don’t have to be up to get work done. And yes, the afternoons in Sac are hot, and yes sometimes I think that the last thing I want to do is go for a run after a stressful day at the office. But that’s exactly why enjoy it now – when I’m stressed at work, I can 100% count on running myself ragged on the road to bring me back to a calm state of mind.
This morning I set off on my run with both my dogs [Miss Roca is staying with me while she goes through her biannual heat cycle]. And I was eager to get my workout done so I could start my day. I woke up on the right side of the bed – I had the whole day ahead of me to do some shopping and get my errands done. I had plans to see a friend that I haven’t seen in a few weeks. And then literally two minutes into my run, the goddamn sidewalk jumped up, grabbed my foot, and sent me crashing and skidding across the ground. Nothing like throwing a wrench in my good mood. And at that point I had every intention of turning right around and stomping back to my apartment, but I took one look at my dogs and thought, “Fuck it. They need the exercise, and now I’m downright angry that this just happened.” And so I spent the next five miles running off every last ounce of stress and anxiety that I had accumulated in that split second of tripping and falling.
And it felt amazing.
I spent FIVE MILES out of my mind. Five miles just pushing myself because the anger hadn’t quite left my body yet. Five miles – and, upon returning to the apartment, I wasn’t even winded. The dogs were dragging behind me, and I probably could have run another five more. And not even for a moment did I have a single one of those “You’re almost there, just make it to that stop sign” thoughts.
And that, for me is a huge accomplishment.
The one thing I did think about, however, is that cardio, for me is, almost like terminal velocity. Once you hit a certain point, you’re no longer gasping for air, your muscles aren’t aching and tight with underuse. It just feels right. And it almost gets easy. Almost.
I can honestly and truly say that the only only ONLY thing standing in your way is you. And that goes for anything. We are all so in our minds all the time that we forget to just be. And I can truthfully say that if I am able to get to this place where I actually enjoy cardio, then you definitely can, too.
My advice to all of you, if you’re trying to find the motivation to get started on something, use what irritates you or angers your as a starting point. Make the upset into something positive – running off the anger instead of sitting at home and stewing about it. Let the exercise be your therapy.
Free your mind, and the rest will follow.