Sunday: Walk 6 miles
Monday: Pull-ups, Toes-to-bar, Push-ups, Kettle Bell Swings
Tuesday: Pull-ups, dips, squats
Thursday: Dead lifts (150# This is notable to the narrative below); Overhead press; Cleans
These were my workouts this week. I feel good about this, but it took me a long time to get here.
I grew up overweight. From grades 3-7 I was easily somewhere from 20-40 pounds overweight. That’s a guess. It might have been more; I doubt less. When I’ve shown people pictures of me from those years, they don’t even recognize me. Somewhere in 8th-grade I got to more of a chubby stage and from that time through college, I constantly fought the battle against weight. I tried many a diet and my weight often fluctuated. During pretty much all of my k-12 years I only did the required PE classes. There was very little outdoor activity or exercise and definitely no sports. As a small child, I didn’t play outside much, and I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 25. Essentially, I lived a sedentary life for 18 years.
My first year of college I got a gym membership. Husband, then newish boyfriend, was very into working out and going to the gym. I played around at the gym with him for four years. I say played, because that’s really what was going on. I was getting used to the gym and learning to be comfortable there. He only used free weights, which meant I had to go into that room where all the men with super big muscles hung out. There were few women, and even those women were crazy strong. Rarely did I see a woman in that room with whom I identified. It was not comfortable for me, and there was no way I would go in there by myself. I tried a couple of times and just felt like a silly girl playing around. Even when I went with husband-then-boyfriend, I didn’t push myself very hard at all. We would leave, and he would be super sweaty from lifting weights, and I didn’t understand how he got so sweaty from only doing a few reps. Because I had never challenged my body, I had no idea what it could do. Fear of getting hurt, looking foolish, and “getting really big” limited my experience for those four years. I like to think of these four years as a transitional and learning period for me. Looking back, I needed that. I was overcoming 18 years of not using my body as it was made to move and never pushing its limits.
After we got married, we bought weights and had a work out room in our house. This was really when I began to learn and grow with this whole exercise thing. I was in the privacy of my home, and it was safe for me to try. Husband, MIL, and I worked out many times in that little room. I still remember struggling to deadlift 25 pounds. In the first four years of my marriage, I didn’t grow super strong, but I grew confident in lifts and movements. I was comfortable in the gym, and going into the weight room by myself was not scary or intimidating. Sure I was in there doing a small fraction of the weight as those big men, but I was in there and I knew what I was doing. That gave me confidence. It didn’t matter to me that my weights were so much smaller. It mattered to me that I was taking care of my body and growing stronger. Around now I was super happy to deadlift 90 pounds or so. This four year period was really the time that I began to identify myself as someone who regularly worked out and authored myself into that group of people. (Don’t mind the reference to Figured Worlds and Identity Formation there. This is for you, grad school friends.)
The last two years I fully embraced this part of my identity. I am someone who exercises regularly. That is part of who I am. It is not an anomaly for me to exercise multiple times in a week. It is, instead, odd for me to be sedentary most of a week. Here’s the thing though, it took nearly 10 years for me to get to this point. It took time.
If you’re someone who doesn’t exercise, but you wish you were. Or if you’re someone who is interested in being more active, but you’re scared, find someone to join you. And, most importantly, give yourself some time. Just try. Play around for a little bit. Enjoy yourself. Start to re-define your identity. I had 18 years practicing how to be sedentary. It took me about 10 years practicing to be active. Reflect on how long it took you to get where you are, and, in light of that, give yourself reasonable time to change.