My 10+ year love/hate relationship with exercise....

Let me begin by saying I can't find any pictures of my heaviest self right now... I am sure I hid them deep within some box never to be looked at again... ooops, but for the sake of this story, let's just say I wasn't always able to enjoy the outfits that I love so much....The truth is, when you are heavier, it is harder to find things you really feel fashionable in... Here is my journey through my heaviest weight (194 lbs) to my current weight (145 - 150 lbs) and how I have maintained my weight loss. I DO still have a regular ol' gym membership and have managed to keep it all these years, even though I have tried different workouts and other gyms. I think it is critical to have some type of option for working out ALL year round. This is where when you feel like you just can't, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE. So, I technically have NO EXCUSE for not working out. If I can't go for a walk with Christian or a run with friends, for whatever reason, I can always go to the gym  - Although I try whatever it takes to NOT go to the gym ;) If that is my only option, I always reward myself with the steam room, sauna, and shower afterwards!!

When I was heavier, I would get invited to go to the gym or join my roommates for a run - my response was always along the lines of "With my work schedule, I just don't have time..." Well, the reality of it was that I didn't want to make time. I didn't want to be uncomfortable dealing with the issue of my weight. I wasn't ready to address it properly in a way that would cause a change. Of course at the time, I thought I wanted to make some changes, but I hadn't made my weight a priority. At that time in my life, I was young, had all kinds of other activities to get involved in... you know, dinner with friends, drinks with friends, going to the movies, going out in general (which required much time getting ready).... which in turn was soooooooo exhausting that after I squeezed in a full day of work, I had to come home and nap. It's funny how much time can just slip away when you are not paying attention to it... I used to think I was soooooo busy all the time. That I couldn't possibly fit any thing else into my schedule. Then I got a boyfriend (I was single a good three years, so yes, this was something I had to "fit" in). I made time for coffee with him, meeting his friends, going places with him.. and the funny thing was, I still was managing to do all the other things I was doing also - hanging out with my roommates, going out for drinks with friends, dinner with friends, etc - because those things were priorities to me.

A few years later while Christian was home in Louisiana for Christmas, I was feeling sorry for myself, feeling lonely and during this time also dealt with some moments of depression (which I was on medication for)...well, something clicked and I bought myself a gym membership at a women's only gym. The hardest part was putting on workout clothes and walking through the door that very first time... but it was very important for me to do this. I was at a point where I just didn't feel good about myself. I was tired all the time, I could never find anything to wear that I thought looked good, so on and so on... Well, I made it through my first ever gym experience and oddly, I felt AMAZING when I walked out that door. I was so proud of myself for making the effort and the payoff was an immediate burst of self esteem. This feeling is what made me prioritize exercise. After a few weeks, I felt so good, I was able to stop my meds for depression. You see, in MY case, I just had a minor chemical imbalance that was easily corrected with medicine (I was actually on Celexa). What I did not realize when I started exercising, was that the physical activity actually changes the chemical make up in your body. It is why so many people use exercise as a form of therapy for depression. It actually CAN make chemical changes so that certain meds are not necessary. How cool is that?!?

As time went on (the year 2003 to be exact), the gym started to bore me. I still felt exercise to be a priority though, so I never quit working out, I just started to look for other alternatives to the gym. I was a good 30 pounds lighter and near average size for my height. At the time I was 160 and 5' 8". I found myself interested in martial arts... I had no experience in this AT ALL, but I found a dojo that's focus was Shotokan. I signed up (but still kept my membership at the regular gym) and got a friend to join with me (unfortunately she was injured badly - broken nose - after about a year and didn't return, but at this point I had made friends at this dojo and I was comfortable enough to stay put), and three years later, as I was training for my brown belt, I was injured sparring. Torn ligament in my ankle. Honestly, it made me a little afraid to get into another match, and at this dojo, that was a requirement... my Sensei, was very encouraging and tried his best to get me back in the gym, but at this time I was in my late 20s and did not want to risk another injury like that. I had two months of recovery and physical therapy and all I could really do exercise-wise was walk and for someone that NEEDED challenging physical exercise for my mental health, that was a big setback..

I started going back to the regular ol' gym to get back in the swing of the exercise thing. I had already changed the way my body looked and with this newfound love of my NEW body, I created some accountability by starting a DJ duo with my friend. Our gimmick was that we wore bloomers or bodysuits while we DJ'd... I couldn't turn back now, this type of accountability was gonna keep me on my toes in the exercise department....

I worked out every morning at 5:30 - elliptical, weighted machines, you name it, but I wasn't really committed mentally though and took up walking in the mornings with a friend to get back in the swing of the accountability part - this was a HUGE issue for me.
I got wind that a former co-worker had started a bootcamp in town in the Spring of 2008. I wanted to support her and see what this 'bootcamp' thing was all about. I joined. The first day was brutal. It felt as though someone punched me in the buttcheeks with a sledgehammer about a hundred times. This bootcamp involved running. RUNNING. Something completely foreign to me. I hadn't run since field day in elementary school. But I was fit at this point, so I'm sure I could do it. Ha! I ran my first timed mile at the end of that first week at bootcamp. My time was around 10 minutes and I was in bad shape at the end of that. But at least I had a time to beat on the next run. A goal. A starting point. I kept up with this bootcamp for a few months. I signed up for my first 5K. Then I signed up for my first 10K. I was running a race every weekend. I felt challenged. I felt inspired. Working out in the fresh air was right up my alley. I LOVED it. Then it got cold.....
I looked for some options within the regular gym to keep me accountable....my old 'go to' gym started an indoor bootcamp in the early mornings (2009) - 5:30am. One of my best friends had already signed up for the bootcamp and encouraged me to join her. I committed. IT. WAS. AWESOME. A different work out every Monday, Wednesday, & Friday. The instructor was awesome and later became a great friend. I got to workout with my bestie, laugh, and get fit all at the same time! about a month later, the gym started up a fitness boxing program and offered classes at 5:30am on Tuesdays & Thursdays that was also taught by the same gal as the bootcamp. We signed up for those classes as well because what else would we be doing at 5:30am? Sleeping? NOT getting anything done? This M-F workout thing was great for the next year or so until the gym took away our boxing class at 5:30am.... then we were on our own Tuesdays and Thursdays in the mornings. We kept it up for a few months, and then the bootcamp dissolved. My workouts became fewer and fewer and I needed something new .... again.

The instructor from the boxing class (who was now a good friend) was a member at an MMA gym in town and suggested I look into that gym's classes.  She participated in the grappling/MMA part, but said that they were just starting up a kickboxing class and the price was comparable to what I was paying at the gym where she taught, but I would learn proper form. It involved all the things I missed about Shotokan - kicking techniques, combos involving the hands and feet, but with NO REQUIRED SPARRING. Awesome. This sounded exactly like what I needed. I signed up in January 2010 and went to classes 6 days a week - sometimes took two classes a day. It was mentally stimulating to be learning technique and physically challenging to execute these moves correctly. This is what I love about martial arts. The mechanics behind the techniques. This gym was on point with my needs. After the first year, the price increased, and the instruction started to lean more towards just a great cardio workout - which is great, but I get bored so easily, the mental stimulation of learning something new was the selling point for me.

I signed up for another year anyway and the curriculum kept leaning more towards cardio kickboxing, and the classes were so big at this point, there was no hope of getting any technique instruction in the one hour time slot allotted for this class. I started to get a little bummed out and then they added a morning bootcamp to this same gym on M, W, & F. I joined. I had new workouts every day again. Each day was different, challenging, and mentally stimulating. I still attended the kickboxing classes also in the afternoons until the days got shorter in the Fall and my farm duties did not allow me to make it to the gym in the evenings. Eventually the bootcamp at this gym fizzled out and subsequently so did my workouts.... The following Spring I tried the kickboxing class again for a few weeks and just wasn't feeling it... I was uninspired and no motivation was growing....

After my long hiatus with running, and it being perfect weather to take the workout outdoors, I decided to go back to the running bootcamp. I signed up online and told her up front that I was only going to get a few months in to kickstart my running. She was glad to have me back and I was glad to get my run on! As promised, I went my own way after 4 months. The weather was perfect and I started running every morning with a friend. I had two friends that I rotated days with. Just a short 30 minute run 5-6 days a week. No weights, no other kind of workout. The fresh air and this amount of exercise was perfect for me. As the mornings got colder, we ran a little less frequently until the running came to a halt altogether. That's when the 'Suppertime Stroll' was born.

 The 'Suppertime Stroll' is myself and a small group of girls (and sometimes Christian) - we walk around 6 or 7pm after supper for about an hour. We talk, laugh, goof off, sing, dance across the streets, walk backwards, and most importantly have fun while getting in a little exercise! This is where I am at right at this very moment. January 23, 2014. I have kept my weight off, I eat only whole foods (or I try really hard) - I stay away from fake food - fake cheese, butter, etc. I stay away from foods labeled 'fat free'. I use pure stevia as a sweetener (I do not use Purevia or Truvia - both of these have chemical additives). I eat REAL cheese. REAL butter. REAL whole raw milk. REAL bacon. I eat more vegetables than I used to. I don't stress over exercising and I actually don't really stress about anything in general at all anymore. This means that I don't NEED the physical exertion to keep my emotions in check. For the first time in a very long time, I feel balanced. I exercise for my heart health. I enjoy every moment of my time with family and friends. I absorb the good energy from everything I can and I also throw out that same energy into the world. I will be 38 years old this year and I have kept my weight off for 10 years and counting.....

 Need something to save on your phone for that last mile in your run, last 15 minutes of a workout, last leg of a walk? This is my last chance inspiration... hahaha! A little Ryan Gosling cheerleader at the end of your workout never hurt anyone ;)

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