At night I become a physical therapist slash psychologist. I take a moment and check in with my body. How do my muscles feel? Are they sore? Tight? How about my joints? Does my left knee hurt? Are my wrists bothering me?
I proceed and reflect on my mood. Am I in need of motivation? Do I crave relaxation techniques? Do I feel like I want to push myself? Do I need to get lost in a workout? Am I feeling stressed?
I am then ready to plan my exercise for the following day.
I’ve reached a pivotal point in my life. Fitness is a part of my everyday life. When you make it a lifestyle, you recognize the multiple benefits. It is no longer a means to an end. It enriches your day, affects your thoughts and mood, and makes you happy. Fit and health is not a destination, but a way of life. And more importantly, it can be enjoyed.
It took me a long time to get here, but now that I am I realized it is the easiest way to stay fit.
I remember visiting nutritionists. I was regularly given meal plans that restricted calories and guidelines to exercise for a minimum of three times a week. My only thoughts were that if I trained hard enough, I could eat as much as I wanted. My only wish, along with all of my friends’, was to be skinny and exercise was the means to get there. There was only one end goal towards our gym time, which was to lose weight. I will never forget being 14 years old and eating a bag of chips while on the treadmill. The entire fixation was on simple calorie in and calorie out.
Three years ago I stopped dancing completely after a knee injury. I went from being active and dancing a minimum of five hours a day to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. My job was new and exciting; however I had low energy levels, trouble getting out of bed, and mood swings. I needed to incorporate some form of exercise and once again my only reasoning behind this was to not blow up like a balloon. After a 6 month period of inactivity, I took a yoga class and was soon hooked. I experienced the multiple benefits of yoga and began to look forward to the class and love the way I felt afterwards. It became much more than just necessary to maintain my ideal weight. Soon, I began taking barre classes to satisfy my dance cravings. I read a lot on fitness, realized how easy it is to plateau, and figured out the importance of mixing up the type of exercise you do. I began trying different classes: spinning, bootcamp, weight lifting, kickboxing, you name it. In addition to preventing my body from plateauing, each type also provided something different to my days, my thoughts, and my feelings.
The abundance of different classes and exercises made it easy to further integrate fitness into my life. I could choose the type of exercise based on how I was feeling physically and emotionally. Then, it truly became my therapy. If I was stressed at work, I couldn’t wait to take it out at a spinning class. If I felt drained from energy, I couldn’t wait to take a restorative yoga class. I looked forward to that time that was completely mine, to reflect, to see what my body could achieve, to set goals, to stretch, everything. I saw how the benefits extended, long after the class was over. If I took a morning workout class, it prepared me for the day ahead. It made me happier, my muscles felt better, my mind was clearer. If I took an evening class, I looked forward to it all day.
Now fitness enriches my daily life. There is no doubt that exercise makes you healthier. The health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, have been the subjects of many years of scientific research. In addition to the endless health benefits, strong muscles, and a leaner physique, exercise can make you happier.
It is no wonder I now crave that special hour a day that I get all to myself. Fitness as a lifestyle changed my mentality.
An hour a day where I get to be selfish, it is an hour that is only for me and my needs. What a luxury! It is a period of time where I get to be selfish and indulge. The rambling to do list and worries cease. My mind gets to live in stillness.
I get to concentrate on my improvements. Today I can lift heavier. I can do more repetitions. I last longer on the bike with that resistance level. I am getting closer to that yoga pose.
I get to know myself better. When I place my hand there, the triceps stretch feels different. Today, I need to spend more time stretching my IT band as opposed to my hip flexors. That hamstring stretch feels better if I use a Thera band. Today pigeon feels amazing.
I can change my mood quickly. If I feel sad, I know that a spinning class with great music will elevate my mood. If I feel anxious, a yoga class will quiet those thoughts. If I feel angry, I can go all out in a HIIT class.
I can boost my own confidence. Wow, I can now do that handstand. I can run faster. I have more flexibility.
I create my own goals. Maybe next time I will master that yoga pose. Maybe next time I can get through a thigh strengthening series in a barre class without resting. Maybe next time I will turn up the resistance on that bike.
Once you look at fitness through this lens, it will be easier to embrace regular exercise AND you will begin to crave it. As you see how much exercise affects your thoughts and emotions, you will make it a priority. A luxurious gift you get to give to yourself for an hour a day. Engaging in a fitness class tailored to your needs leads to a luxurious time that is only for you, not your boss’s, not your friend’s, not your significant others, it’s all yours. Go ahead and enjoy!
Originally published at www.ivonneackerman.com on January 13, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com