How I Added More Movement into My Life

I don’t know about you but I really dislike the gym. As a somewhere-in-my-30s-year-old woman, I’ve done my fair share of gym time. In fact, I spent most of my 20s trying everything from weight lifting to kickboxing to body sculpting, Piyo, Zumba, aerobics, yoga, swimming, Jazzercise, spin… you name it, I’ve probably tried it. I had convinced myself that the only way I was going to exercise was if I was paying for it. And I was paying for it both literally and figuratively. Going to the gym felt like a chore and I dreaded it every single day. I hated feeling intimidated by the incredibly fit women in their tiny tight sports bras and shorts. I hated the feeling of unwanted attention from men who would look me up and down as I walked by. All in all, I just didn’t want to be there… ever.

Until I discovered running.

I loved running. I loved loading up my iPod with my favorite tunes and hitting the pavement. When I started in my mid-20s, I had never run before in my life and could barely make it half a mile without breathing heavy with a stitch in my side. I set a goal for myself to finish a marathon in two years. And I did! I ran my first and only marathon on October 15, 2006 in Denver, Colorado with my parents cheering me on. It felt euphoric!

Then running became painful. For the next several years, I was logging 5-7 miles per run most days of the week. The pain started in my knees after runs, but eventually I felt it even when I wasn’t running. I saw a doctor and physical therapist. Finally, I decided it wasn’t worth the potential for serious knee problems in the future so I significantly pulled back on running.

Fast forward many years to 2014 when I found out I was pregnant. As is the case with many women, as soon as my son was born, life became all about him and I barely had time for myself. But breastfeeding was burning so many calories that I became the thinnest I had been since I got married. It was the perfect diet plan. My daughter was born three years later leading to even more chaos and less time. Except this time breastfeeding did not work its magic so the weight stuck around.

Then came the pandemic… and pandemic pounds.

Now, I weigh more than I have ever weighed not pregnant. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening! I’ve tried to give myself grace and remind myself that I’m raising young children during a pandemic so if comfort eating is what is going to get me through, then I shouldn’t feel shame in doing it. And let me be clear, no one should ever feel shame about this. We are all doing our best.

But I knew something needed to change. Not because a number on a scale matters, but because I need to improve my overall health – both physical and mental. It started by reframing how I thought about exercise. When I hear the word exercise, I immediately think of lifting weights, or running, or attending a spin/aerobics/body sculpting class. Exercise, to me, was an organized activity that you set aside time to do where you must sweat and must feel sore afterwards.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s not about the exercise, it’s about the movement.

In order to be more active throughout my day, I need to move my body. It can be a structured activity. In my case, I discovered that I really enjoy doing Pilates videos in the evening in a dimly lit room because it calms my body and mind. I also try to run a couple of miles, albeit slowly, once a week. My movement can be a walk – something simple that doesn’t burn a ton of calories or make me sweat but helps clear my mind. It can be unplanned movement – like the other day when I had to go into the office, and I walked all over the building and took the stairs instead of the elevator. Or a couple of weekends ago when I raked and bagged leaves in my front yard.

The bottom line is my body is active throughout the day. In early October, I set a goal for myself to close all three rings on my Apple watch every day. For those who are unfamiliar, the Apple watch has three rings that track your move calories, exercise and standing. You calibrate your watch to your personal settings so it can accurately track the goals you set for yourself. To start, I set a goal of 300 move calories, 30 minutes of exercise and 12 hours standing, meaning I stand for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours.

I’m not going to lie. It was hard in the beginning. Sometimes my kids would go to bed at 8 p.m., and I’d want nothing more than to lounge on the couch with an ice cream bar and a TV show. But I’d look at my watch and see that I barely moved all day and my exercise ring wasn’t even close to being closed. So I’d trek downstairs and do a 30-minute Pilates video.

Over time, it got easier. As I began to see results and could actually hold a plank for 20 seconds, I grew more motivated. Today, I look forward the 30-45 minutes in the evening that I get to stretch, tone and strengthen my body. I can’t wait to head out on the mid-afternoon walk between work meetings where I breathe in cool fresh air and feel the crunch of leaves under my feet. I crave that run that I allow myself only once a week and enjoy every second that I get to do it. And I am so dang proud of myself to continuing to achieve the goal I set for myself daily.

Have a lost any weight? No, because I haven’t changed my eating habits. Right now, I’m not going to deny myself that treat at night when the house is finally quiet.

But I feel so much better. I’m stronger, healthier, more confident than I was before. And mostly, I prove to myself every day that I can do this!

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