My Personal Reasons To Exercise: What Are Yours?

Over the years, I have tried many different types of exercise ~ running, Zumba, yoga, weight lifting, rollerblading, walking, biking, cardio classes, dance, cross-country skiing, soccer, baseball, plyometrics, home DVDs… the list goes on!

But when it came to why I exercised, I only ever saw it as a means to an end – a way to lose weight. For most of my adult life I have battled my weight and I learned early on that exercise is a key component to any weight loss endeavour.  So throughout all those years, and many different types of exercise, I always had one goal in mind – If I do this, I will lose weight and if I lose weight I will look better.

Sure, sometimes I also told myself that exericse would make me feel better too, but I don’t think I ever truly paid attention to what that meant.

Until recently…

This past winter was the first time in my thirty-six years of life that I ever realized there is far more to exercise than simply being a tool to lose weight (nevermind the fact that there are far more important things to our health than simply losing weight – that’s another blog all on it’s own) This past winter was about the third year in a row where I noticed a marked difference in my mental state.  As late fall/ winter rolled around, along with it came a dark cloud over my head.  I lost my normal ambition and positive mindset, and felt unmotivated, anxious, and very, very exhausted all the time.  I hated how I felt and it dragged on for months – until summer rolled around.

At one point though, it started to become clear to me that just as my mood and mental state could be linked to the poor weather, it could also be linked to my lack of exercise.  Since then I’ve been doing more research and am reminded again and again that there are myriad reasons to exercise – and that some are far more important in our lives than the size of our waistline!

A couple of the people I have learned this from best are my former Beachbody coach Melanie Watson and a wonderful lady I follow on Instagram (Check her out: moms.can.be.fit – she is such an inspiration!) Both of these incredible woman are constantly preaching the real reasons to work out ~ not just to lose weight (although that can certainly be a positive side effect) but to have the right kind of mindset that will get us through life! Plus, so many other reasons that help us to achieve overall vibrant health.

With this, I started to consider my own personal reasons for working out.  Although I still have weight to lose, this alone hasn’t been enough to motivate me to exericse lately (yes, I’d like to lose some weight but at the same time, I’m sort of comfortable with the weight I am now. Also, I’ve been trying really hard not to focus on my “weight” and to focus on my health so this could be why too….).

But what got me started back to exercising this morning, after being off again for a couple of weeks, was the realization that just around the corner is back-to-school/ work!  Whether I like to admit it or not, I am about to enter a season where the lazy days of summer are going to come to an abrupt end and our days will be filled to the max with schedules, work, and responsibilities.  (I’m also preparing myself for a challenging year as I will have thirty sixth-graders which is the most kids I’ve ever had in a class!)

I know that the best way for me to handle the upcoming challenges of back-to-school/work (combined with some other challenges happening in our personal lives), is to get into a regular workout routine. That led me to start thinking about all my personal reasons for working out.  You’ll see that losing weight is on the list but there’s now so much more to it than that.  I hope that when I feel the urge to skip a workout or fall off the wagon next time, I can look to this list to keep myself on track!

My Personal Reasons To Exercise

1. Happy endorphins!

2. Mental clarity and focus!

3. To feel proud of myself!

4. Mental strength!

5. Positive mindset!

6. To gain physical strength and to feel strong!

7. So I don’t feel lazy! (A feeling I loathe)

8. It motivates me to make better food choices!

9. It gives me way more energy ~ I hate the feeling of constant exhaustion!

10. To lose and/or maintain weight

11. To overcome challenges (see: mental focus!)

12. To prove to myself that I can do what I couldn’t do before ( physically and/or mentally)

13. To make some things in life easier (ie. climbing stairs, walking long distances on hot/humid days)

14. To be overall healthy, vibrant, and positive!

15. To have confidence!

16.  To look good in cute clothes!

17. To like what I see in the mirror!

18. To feel accomplished!

19. To be an inspiration to others!

20. To be an inspiration to myself!

Are there other reasons you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them! 

 

 

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A Lesson Learned Again….

Well, guys, it’s been seven days since I’ve been eating healthier and working out regularly again and up until today everything has been going pretty great!  I’m sort of following the 21 Day Fix program – basically using the containers as guidelines for proper portions and to limit certain things like my carb intake and increase certain things like fruits and veggies.  I’ve also been doing the 21 Day Fix workouts which, until today, have been totally awesome!  I love that the workouts are only thirty minutes and that I can do them in my own basement.

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But today, I learned a lesson.  I’d been having a so-so day nutrition-wise to begin with because we’d stay at my parents’ place overnight and there are alot of temptations there.  I’d made the best of the situation but had already over-eatenmy carb intake (and it had been white bread to boot!). Plus, I’d drank quite a bit of coffee with french-vanilla flavoured cream which has a pretty high sugar content (it is so damn delicious that I’m just not ready to give it up yet!) Anyway, after getting back into town, due to some unforeseen circumstances, my family and I ended up grabbing dinner on the go tonight.  (I had planned to have roast chicken and salad for dinner but like I said, unforeseen circumstances…). We went to a little diner that is attached to the arena where my son was playing hockey.  Guys, this place has the best poutine I’ve ever eaten in my life.  So I convinced myself that since I’d done so well nutritionally for seven days that I deserved to splurge, so I went ahead and ordered a small poutine and ate almost all of it.

So where’s the lesson?  Again, you’d think I would have learned this one by now but I guess I’m still learning.  I think each time it happens it becomes more and more obvious to me: crappy food really does make me feel crappy!  Within an hour after eating that poutine, my stomach began rumbling and I started having cramps similar to what I get with my ulcerative colitis.  I was uncomfortable for the entire hockey game and the whole ride home.  In an effort to make myself feel better physically when we got home, I decided to do the 21 Day Fix Pilates work. Guys, I hate Pilates.  I’ve taken classes before and just hate it.  I find the moves so difficult and feel clumsy and uncoordinated when I do it.  But I was in my basement, and it was the next workout on the 21 Day Fix DVD that I’v been following, so I decided to give it a try.  Well, even though I was alone, I felt like a total fool trying to do this workout!   Next thing I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.  I was crying!  Now, I am proud to say that I did finish the workout, but I hated every minute of it!  I felt overweight, weak, and uncoordinated.  I was angry and disappointed with myself. Even when it was done, I still felt like total crap.  I was suddenly cranky, moody, and feeling down on myself.

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So there’s another thing I learned tonight.  Not only does unhealthy food make me feel terrible physically but it really does make me feel terrible emotionally too!  Between all the sugar I had consumed today (which had already been making my head feel fuzzy) and the poutine, I suddenly felt so down-in-the-dumps, frustrated and sad. Crazy!

The part that frustrated me most about all of this, though, is that I feel like I should have known better.  Even though I just got back to eating healthier a week ago, within days I’d been feeling the positive effects!  Not only had my mood improved, but more importantly, almost all of my UC symptoms had disappeared.  It had improved so quickly, in fact, that when my prescription ran out a couple of days ago, I decided to go without it for now since I’d been doing so well.  But after just one day of eating badly, the symptoms were back!  There is no way this is just a coincidence!

Anyway, as frustrating and disappointing as it all is, tomorrow is a new day!  I am grateful that I learned this lesson today (even if it was a tough one to learn) and I only hope that I will remember how terrible I felt today, next time I am craving junk food!

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Wish me luck!

 

My Newest (and most Important) Reason to Get Healthy!

I feel like I’ve made a revelation of sorts recently.  In fact, it’s one that’s so huge, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure it out.  It seems like something I should have realized years ago, but somehow I missed the boat.  It’s taken me almost twenty years to realize this:

Nutrition and exercise are directly related to mental health.

As I said, it seems so obvious that I can’t believe I never really saw or understood that before.  I mean, sure I’ve read it and heard it, but it’s never hit home for me until now.

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For me, losing weight was always about looking good.  It was about trying to meet some kind of ideal of “healthy” and “thin” which I always, always linked with beautiful, sexy, successful.  For years the desire to be those things was enough to make me want to lose weight.  But something has shifted in my life and although I still want to be beautiful, sexy, and successful, those things in themselves don’t seem to be enough to motivate me to put in the hard work that it takes to lose weight and maintain it.

So I’ve been struggling.  I haven’t been able to find the inspiration and the motivation to get back on the wagon.  Terrible eating habits and nights on the couch in my PJs are my daily routine again.

Also part of my daily routine, especially at this time of year, are a major lack of motivation, incredible feelings of laziness, always, always feeling exhausted, and some feelings of anxiety, overwhelmness, and hopelessness.  Not to mention headaches, bloating, gas and a multitude of digestive problems.  Ugh.

Why did it take me so long to link the two?

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For the first time, in my decades-long journey of weight loss, I have finally found a source of inspiration that I believe could be a real turning point in my life.   It’s like a giant, golden light bulb has gone off and what I have been looking for for years, is suddenly here, loud and clear.

I have a new, and significant, reason to want to eat better and exercise. Because now I know that doing those two things will impact my life in ways I may have experienced but never really understood before.  Fueling my body with healthy foods and exercising won’t just make me “skinny” and “self-confident”, it will directly impact my mental health and in essence, my overall life.

It will give me energy again.  It will give me the fuel I need to make it through the day.  It will alleviate my headaches and prevent me from feeling so tired by 4 p.m that I don’t want to do anything but bury myself under a blanket and never come out or cry. It will help to heal my digestive issues, build physical strength to prevent achy legs and hips, and take away the bloating and gas I so often deal with.  It will improve my self-confidence and drive me to want to improve other areas of my life.  It will fill me with positive self-talk and help me to be kinder, more gentle, and more patient with others – all things I want so desperately in my life but often don’t have the energy for.

I still can’t believe I never understood this before! 

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Many times my husband has told me that he thought I was “happier” during the few years in my life when I had met my goal weight, was working out like crazy, and eating on plan.  For so long, I disagreed with him.  I even wrongly perceived his comment. I took it as his way of saying that he prefers me to be skinny rather than overweight. I would shrug off his comment with the argument that I am just as happy now as I was back then.

But now I finally realize what he meant.  It doesn’t mean that I am unhappy now.  It’s just that the habits I had established then had such a direct impact on all aspects of my life.  It’s that eating well and working out regularly affects you in so many ways that I didn’t even realize it.  Yes, it’s possible to be happy without diet and exercise in your life, but it’s so much easier to be happy with those things.

For the last several months I have wallowed in self-pity and guilt. I have felt discouraged and was searching desperately for reasons to justify my lack of healthy eating and working out.  And now I can so clearly see that all that was doing was bringing more negativity into my life.

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So finally, finally, finally I feel like I have found my motivation again.  I have always known that eating healthy foods and exercising is important but I just couldn’t find the inspiration to do it.  Now that it is so obvious to me the direct impact they have on my mental health (and overall well-being) it doesn’t seem so daunting.  And although a new year is just around the corner, and it’d be so easy to say I’ll just start then, this new reason to want to get healthy doesn’t seem like something that can wait.   It needs to happen now.  And I can’t wait to get started!

 

Mind, Body, and Spirit

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I have been thinking about this quote for awhile and when I saved it I knew that one day I’d write a blog post about it.  Today, while out for a short (yet very frigid!) walk, I started to think more about it and what it means to truly take care of myself – mind, body, and spirit.

Like many others, I’ve been on every diet and workout regime imaginable at some point or other throughout my adult life.  I’ve counted calories, lifted weights, went running, did aerobics, kept food journals, joined Weight Watchers, used a Fitbit,  and obsessed over every food I ate (or didn’t eat) and every workout I did (or missed).  Needless to say, taking care of my body has always been at the forefront of my mind.  That’s not to say that I’m always taking the best care of it, but it’s definitely something I understand the importance of.

Until recently, though, I never really thought about intentionally taking care of my mind. I’m a pretty sensitive, emotional person who over-thinks a lot of things and internalizes a lot of situations. Not taking things too personally is something I am currently working on, although it’s not always easy.  I have a pretty high-stress job working with children which is more mentally exhausting than it is physically.  I am a stepmom to two children (ages 12 and 16) and a wife so I have all the responsibilities that comes along with those two roles.  I’m a people-pleaser.  I don’t like to say no and I always worry about upsetting others with my actions.  Long story short, sometimes I’m pretty hard on my own mental state.

All of this came to a head this past fall when I started to really notice a change in my moods.  For the second year in a row when October hit, I began to struggle with what I believe could be seasonal depression (although I have never been diagnosed by a doctor).  As the days get shorter and darker, so does my mood it seems.  I notice a major lack in energy, more feelings of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, and less ability to deal with the every day pressures of life.  When these feelings strike, I just simply don’t feel like myself.  I’m moody, irritable, cry almost daily, and just can’t get my mojo back.

It was on one of those bleak nights a couple of months ago, that I first found this quote online. Fall in love with taking care of yourself – mind, body, spirit. I realized then that despite all the work I had done over the years to try to keep my body healthy, I had never made intentional efforts to take care of my mind (or mental health). So I began to give it some thought….  but what could I do to take better care of my mind?   Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….

Write

Even though I spent hours as a child writing stories, filled endless journals as a teenager, and studied journalism in my undergrad, life had gotten in the way and I’d totally forgotten how meaningful writing is to me.  I’ve always felt that I could better express myself in writing. For instance, often when I’m angry, I’ll sit down at my computer and just hammer out all of my feelings.  As my fingers fly over the keys, my emotions pour out of me.  And once it’s all out, I instantly feel better.  But writing doesn’t just help me when I’m upset.  It also helps me express other pieces of myself, which is the main reason I started this blog.  Most importantly, it helps me to empty my mind of all the things that consume it day to day. No matter what I’m feeling, writing is fulfilling and helps immensely in clearing the space in my head.

Go for walks

Although walking has proven physical benefits, it’s another great activity for clearing my mind.  I’ve started the habit recently of taking a short, brisk walk after work which allows me time to reflect on my day and unwind (I get so wrapped up in my days at school that I often think of nothing else while I am there, so it’s nice to let all that go).  On top of that, the fresh air (despite how cold it is lately!) feels amazing and gives me the boost of energy I need to get through the evening routines at home.  The best part of my walks is letting my mind wander.  In fact, as I ponder different ideas, I’ll often start writing my next blog post in my head (like this one!)

On a freezing cold yet refreshing walk this week.

On a freezing cold yet refreshing walk this week.

Do yoga

I am definitely a beginner when it comes to yoga.   I’ve done a few basic classes and absolutely loved them and definitely plan to do more (starting tomorrow night!)  To me, yoga brings peacefulness, calm, and mental clarity.  It relaxes my mind and my breath while making my body strong.  I also happen to think that yoga poses are beautiful and know that it’s definitely something I want to incorporate more of into my current lifestyle!

Try meditation

If I’ve had only a little yoga practice, I’ve had even less with meditation. This being said, from the reading I’ve done about it, I’m eager to try my own meditation practice.  I’m still at the “learning” stage of this goal, but I’m sure that learning to be more mindful will only have positive outcomes.  For now, I plan to do some research and reading and to develop a better understanding of what exactly meditation is and the benefits it brings.

Take Vitamins

Currently I am taking B12 and Vitamin D (since we get so little sunlight these days!)

Be Gentle with Myself / Good Enough is Good Enough.

Of course, both of personal mantras lend themselves to a healthier state of mind (after all, that’s the whole reason I developed them in the first place).  I use these words often (sometimes aloud, sometimes quietly to myself) and find them both comforting and reassuring.  In the past, I’ve put too much pressure on myself which has only lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and stress.  I am slowly learning to let go of my perfectionism, to accept that little things are good enough, and to be more gentle with myself.

 

All this being said, I do realize that taking care of your body, mind, and spirit are not always separate entities.  There are certainly cases where these three areas overlap.  Going for walks and doing yoga, for example, obviously have both mental and physical benefits.  And it’s not hard to argue that taking care of your mental health naturally affects your spirit. That being said though, I do want to be more intentional about taking care of my mind and my spirit as much as I do my body.  Like many things, it’s a learning process but I’m always open to ideas and suggestions 🙂

What do you do to take care of your body, mind, or spirit?

xo,

K.