This post has been on my “to write” list for a while, but I thought with the onslaught of holiday gluttony and new years resolution speak about to hit us hard, now was a fitting time to talk about how a regular exercise routine has changed my life for the better.
Before we dive in, I wanted to say several quick things. One, when I say exercise routine in the context of this post, I don’t mean a specific workout program or fitness app, I’m just talking about the act of working out on a regular basis. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of indoor cycling and Orangetheory, but those are just the things *I* love to do—those things are probably different for you! Exercise shouldn’t be something you dread doing—it’s not supposed to be torture or penance for a weekend of overeating. It’s supposed be about moving your body, sweating a bit, and feeling the power of those endorphins. If you hate what you’re doing for exercise, it’s not going to last very long or be a positive force in your life.
Two, as juicy as they are, this definitely isn’t a weight loss post. I’ve maybe lost five or so pounds since I started working out regularly, but I’ve toned up and am more physically fit than I’ve been in a long time. (I can run my third grade mile pace, so that’s gotta count for something!) Anytime I want to drop a few lbs, I clean up my diet and cut down on drinking. Exercise can definitely help with weight loss, but you can’t out run a bad diet! (Or, at least, my metabolism can’t.)
Lastly, I think there are some seasons of life where we’re better at exercising and eating clean, and other seasons in life when those things fall to the wayside. So I just wanted to say that if you’re in a season of life where exercise and diet can’t always be a priority, that’s more than okay. You’ll pick it up again when you can or you’re ready or maybe it’ll be a slow build to a new routine. In the meantime, just find ways to be kind to yourself about the whole thing. As you’ll read below, I’ve definitely been there—and life is too short to not enjoy the things we love.
When I was in college, I had a pretty consistent exercise routine that I (somehow) managed to maintain for all four years I was there. I’d go to the AFC (aquatics + fitness center for those of you non-UVA folks) almost every afternoon or evening Monday through Thursday, hop on the elliptical for 45-60 minutes, and then maybe lift some weights or do a quick ab routine if I felt like it. On top of that, I walked at least 30-60 minutes around Grounds everyday, and let me tell you, those Charlottesville hills kept me in tip-top shape.
After graduation, I moved home and started working full time. I lived at home with my parents for three months before I moved to Arlington, and during that time, despite having a sedentary job, I lost about ten pounds because I wasn’t going out every night. Instead of hitting up the AFC after class, my mom and I would walk two laps around our relatively large neighborhood every night after I got home from work. When I moved to Arlington that fall, I swapped out our neighborhood walks for the gym at my apartment, and did a great job getting myself there pretty much every night I didn’t have plans and, many times, on Saturday or Sunday mornings.
Then, I started grad school two nights a week after work, and something just had to give. I let my regular exercise routine go, instead choosing to prioritize work, school, this blog, and my social life. Sure, I snuck in a workout every now and then, but not with the regularity of before.
Those two years of my life were extremely stressful for obvious reasons, and by the second year of grad school, my anxiety levels were at an all time high and impacting me mentally and psychically—my mind was constantly racing, my heart rate running after it. Though exercise is most of the most common releases for stress and anxiety recommended by just about everyone, I still didn’t prioritize going to the gym or even getting myself moving in simple ways, like talking a quick walk at lunch.
When I finished grad school in December 2016, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I went into 2017 with the goal of recovering from the intense grind of the two years prior. Though my stress levels dropped since a major stressor was removed, I began to realize that I needed a proactive way to manage my stress and anxiety levels moving forward so that I’d have better tools the next time a period of intensity rolled around.
So, on a chilly Tuesday night in March, I found myself clipping into a bike at a indoor spin studio.
Read more “How an Exercise Routine Changed My Life”