It’s officially spring! Okay, maybe it doesn’t feel like it here in the east coast but fear not because warmer days are ahead of us which means better weather for running! If you know me you know I live a very active lifestyle- I’m most definitely always doing something, whether it’s kickboxing, SoulCycle, or weight lifting. My workouts are the number one thing I look forward to every day, but it wasn’t always that way. My journey into fitness is a pretty long road with lots of realizations (this is a warning that there will be a lot of cheesy stuff below!); it’s nothing like the pretty Instagram fitspo posts you see on your discover page, just a candid story of how I’ve become to see myself as an “athlete”.
Growing up I always saw my mom exercise and take very good care of herself, and because she set that example I started to workout at a very young age as well. While I admit I was fueled by the wrong intentions of only slimming down (something that I now discourage), it became such an essential part of my everyday routine that I carried this habit with me into adulthood. It started with Zumba DVD’s and Pilates videos online, but it didn’t take long for exercise to become a monotonous thing for me. Yes, I still did like it and would feel accomplished after finishing a workout, but it was nothing truly exciting or remarkable and I couldn’t say it was really something I looked forward to. It was what it was, and I did it because it would make me feel accomplished (and I could still eat fries and pizza!).
My junior year of high school I plucked up some courage and decided to join the track team as a long-distance runner. After a couple disappointing races, however, I recognized that I didn’t add much value to the team for two reasons: I was super afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone, and I lacked the determination and competitive edge to improve on my time. Because of this I never pushed myself to be a better runner, and to this day one of my biggest regrets is not having had taken track seriously. Looking back, I see that I lacked so much self-discipline and determination when it came to fitness because, again, for me it was just routine. Don’t get me wrong though, I actually did enjoy running a lot (and still do. I know, crazy!) To me it’s such a liberating experience: it’s just you, your thoughts, and the pavement underneath your feet, and only you have full agency of where your legs will take you. The problem was I didn’t believe in myself enough to actually see myself as an athlete, and so I never pushed myself to train like one.
My doubtful mindset didn’t shift until this past summer in Madrid where, during my morning run, I injured my ankle and consequently wasn’t able to run for two whole months. Those two months were pure hell y’all! All it took was 5 seconds of distraction and a lose pavement tile for me to lose the ability to enjoy one of the simplest pleasures in life, and you have no idea how long I beat myself up for it. Sure, it was a tiny injury, yet I couldn’t help but imagine how much worse it could have been; I was heartbroken, but it was a wake up call in which I finally saw just how integral fitness had become in my life. The shifting moment came when I was finally able to bounce back from recovery: it was on.
I began taking myself more seriously as a runner and I stopped shying away and finding excuses. After recovering I forced myself every single day to get out of the apartment and run, and I don’t know if it was the beautiful view of Brooklyn across the East river right before sunset or the implicit solidarity felt when surrounded by dozens of other runners, but whatever it was I saw the runner within me break out of my shell. It wasn’t just about running though: the true transformative moment came from finding a community within fitness. SoulCycle changed my life (however corny that might sound), and led me to try different kinds of workouts and classes, including kickboxing and even pole dancing. After taking countless different classes and having to step out of my comfort zone alongside other strangers, I can honestly say you can find support from anybody especially when you are all aiming towards a common goal.
I look forward to all of my workouts and classes now to the point where I find myself anxiously checking the time waiting to break out of class or work and put on my sneakers. I find solace in the pain of gaining strength and pride in doing what I wasn’t able to a week before, and I see myself becoming more open to challenges not only at the gym but in life. Through it all, I noticed there’s one strange thing that changed within me that I’d never given much thought to before: I started looking at my body as a practical instrument versus looking at it aesthetically. I stopped seeing my body as something that constantly needed improvement and that I’d never be fully satisfied with. It is not my enemy; how could it be when we are on the same team? Our bodies get us where we need to be; they withstand so much pain, give us the ability to live and feel life, and encapsulate our soul in the most unique way possible.
Inevitably, I also started seeing just how important it is to nourish my body and brain, not just nutritionally but also spiritually. I gave up dieting completely; I don’t deny myself the small pleasure of a treat once in a while, but I have learned to be mindful of what I choose to put in my body as it needs to nurture me physically and mentally. Not only has all of this improved my energy levels, but I see life through a brighter and more positive lens. This lifestyle has given me the opportunity to gain a level of confidence and euphoria that I didn’t think I could find within me, but this is only because I actively make the choice to invest in myself every single day. Through fitness I’ve gained so much courage, and while it’s not for everybody it personally brings me so much joy to constantly push my body out of its comfort zone and see myself growing stronger day by day.
Thoughts? Similar experiences? I’d definitely love to hear!!