By Meg Reichert, MS, CPT, owner of Sage and Thyme Wellness
I spent my childhood doing two things: swimming and singing. But by the time I got to high school and needed to put more time into one, I had to choose. I chose singing.
At the time, it was a simple decision. My friends were there, and I didn’t have to wake up early before school to practice. But looking back, I totally regret it. I nearly failed gym class. I was one of the only girls in the class who couldn’t run a mile in under 12 minutes. Heck, I couldn’t even run a mile. I was a ball of anxiety. I lacked self-esteem. Walking into a gym, I convinced myself everyone was watching me, judging me. So, I didn’t go…until I was 27 years old.
When I turned 27, I had finished grad school and was working full-time at a children’s hospital, interning as a mental health therapist, and studying for my licensing exam. I was also chain-smoking and having panic attacks.
I knew I had to make a change, so I recruited a friend who showed up at my apartment every morning, pounded on the door, and made me run. I hated every second of it. It took me six weeks to be able to run a mile without walking. I was miserable. And my feet hurt.
But I was still committed to making a change, and eventually, I did. Here are the lessons I learned along the way.
You need to find a workout that you actually like.
I hated running. But when I joined the military-style gym on the ground floor of my building, I really started to thrive. It was a mixture of HITT (high-intensity interval training) and Crossfit. There was enough change during the hour that I didn’t quite feel like I was going to die, and I didn’t get bored.
After a month, I signed up for an unlimited plan, and after six months, I was down 40 pounds and five dress sizes. I wasn’t necessarily exercising for the sake of losing weight, but it was a nice by-product.
Make fitness a true priority.
Heading to the gym won’t feel natural at first, especially if you’re short on time (who isn’t!?). I certainly felt overwhelmed in those first few months, but being rigid with my schedule helped make the habit stick. I planned out my gym days at the beginning of the week, added them to my planner, and signed up for classes online. I used to think I was too busy to work out. But now I feel like I’m too busy to get sick.
It will get easier.
It turns out, most bodies enjoy movement. And mine is one of them. After exercising consistently for a few weeks, my body began to crave movement. That sore feeling I was getting after a workout, was now happening if I didn’t work out. My legs and back grew tight. I was uncomfortable. If I took a weekend off, my body was ready to get moving on Monday morning.
The gym is more welcoming than you think.
I had built up in my head that the people at the gym were self-centered and judgmental. I know, I sound like a horrible person. I’m not, I promise. I just have some deep-seated insecurities. I was surprised that everyone at my new gym was so welcoming, kind, and friendly. I could ask questions and no one rolled their eyes. If I needed help, I could always ask. Remember: The first step is always the hardest.
It’s never too late to start.
I didn’t start working out until I was 27, and now I’ve been exercising five days a week for six years. I’ve deadlifted over 300 pounds and I’ve ran countless 5Ks and two half-marathons. My new-found love of exercising segued into a passion for nutrition and fueling my body with real food. I quit smoking, my panic attacks stopped, and I currently exercise with some of the most amazing women I know. And yes, it’s actually fun, something I never would have believed when I first embarked on this journey. So, who wants to join me?
(Photos: Shutterstock & Meg Reichert)