A new series on the blog, Motivation Monday will share YOUR stories. Have you made a change in your life? Want to share your progress? Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s tell your story!
As cliché as it sounds, I really started to push when I was going to get married (this started in 2007). I thought that it would be nice to be slimmer for my photos. So I started working toward that goal and fell in love with fitness. For my wedding I went from a size 14 to a size 10, but it was really after the wedding that I got serious.
When I first began exercising, I started with a personal trainer who showed me all the important things about lifting and how my body worked. While this was invaluable information that I would use for years to come, it was still just work. I wasn’t enjoying myself. One day I wandered into a Zumba class at my gym out of curiosity and it was a revelation. I learned to love my body and how it could move and I learned to have fun without feeling self-conscious. Now that I am more comfortable with classes in general, I love classes that challenge my strength and endurance like Insanity, Body Pump, PiYo, and Body Combat.
When I lived in Florida, I had a shirt that I called my Miami shirt. It was a blindingly bright orange with beading on the shoulder straps and then a form fitting silhouette all the way down to my thighs. I would never wear this shirt because it was absolutely unforgiving. It wasn’t a tight fabric, but it was a clingy one. It sat in my drawer for months. One night I pulled it out and thought, how bad could it be? And it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it looked so good that I wore it out that night and got lots of compliments on it. It was something so small, but in that moment I realized that I had made it. I had gotten to the point where I could wear the Miami shirt. That didn’t last long, I was still in my 20s and in the best shape I had ever been. I would absolutely NOT wear that shirt today for many reasons, but it felt good that night.
I think my second moment was when I was finally able to do standard pushups. I had gotten strong enough to do them with little effort. I remember feeling so strong, so invincible, like I could do anything I wanted to.
Overall, I lost around 40lbs and have kept it off. As a result, I have been much happier with myself, much more confident in my abilities (not just physically but all around), and I can see how much healthier my body is. I hardly get sick anymore, I wake up happy, and there is an awareness of my physical self. I know when I’ve pushed too hard or not hard enough, I can feel the results of my efforts in my muscles and I’ve learned to love to sweat. I think the fastest change I was able to notice was how I was no longer out of breath from a small amount of exertion, which was a real eye opener.
I want to be able to move even when I’m old. I want my body to be as functional as possible when I retire and well past that age. I also don’t like to think about what I look like in the mirror, I just want to feel that it’s going to look ok.
Today – tips and keeping it up
Avoiding certain foods is a daily struggle. I can exercise every day and even do it multiple times a day, but no amount of exercise will take the place of a good diet. Establishing a healthy eating pattern is so hard because temptation is everywhere and I hate to deny myself something so simple. But I have learned that I am not a person that can moderate well. Once I have something bad for me, I feel like I have license to have everything bad for me. It’s a personal challenge that I have yet to overcome.
I will say that I have learned a lot about nutrition because of fitness and it’s easier to make good choices when you are informed–things like not all salads are created equal, avoiding center aisles in the grocery store and that low fat usually means high sugar. Being healthy can be expensive; you have to be willing to spend more for quality foods that are good for you, you have to pay for classes, equipment, gym memberships, clothes, etc. I remember when I first started how I really had to budget to afford what I needed. It’s an unfortunate hurdle, but it can be done as long as you’re willing to hold back on some other things. Of course it’s possible to exercise with nothing, but part of what guarantees success for me is that social aspect, the accountability that comes with being part of a group class or a gym.
It’s hard work and there’s no getting around that. Stick to it and push through because you will be happier in the long run. The only thing stopping you from getting what you want is yourself. I know the excuses, and some of them are really good and perfectly valid, but at the end of the day the only one who is being cheated is you. It’s not about being thin or looking like a fitness guru, it’s about feeling good and accomplishing something that is just for you. That kind of accomplishment is something that can’t be taken from you.
And the future?
Oh gosh, I never know where this journey will take me. For now, I really want to improve my strength and flexibility. I also want to continue to improve my skills as a Zumba instructor and motivate people to seek out their own fitness goals. Zumba was a gateway for me, the tip of the fitness iceberg. I hope that I can bring that same spark to someone else so that they start with Zumba and then go on to see how far they can go!
We Have to Ask About Fitness Classes…
My first love will always be Zumba! Join Natalie as she rocks out in Zumba classes (W/F 7:00-7:50 a.m. at WashColl and Sat 9-10 a.m. at Aquafit) and get YOUR motivation story started!
Or, offer to be her buddy during Insanity classes on Wednesday nights. She’ll make sure you work hard!