Friday, March 25, 2011

Where I'm coming from, part 2: Exercise

It's still weird that I'm (trying to) write a fitness blog.  Because 10 years ago, I was the skinniest couch potato you'd ever met.
As a kid, I was never into exercising.  I hated gym class.  During the summers, my mom would beg me to go outside and play, but I much preferred to stay in my room and read a book.  I had dreams of physical grandeur - every time I watched the olympics, I'd really want to be a gymnast or an ice skater; I briefly took classes in both to pretty much zero success.
In high school, we were required to play two seasons of sports.  I took up field hockey and lacrosse because I figured sports where you wore a skirt couldn't be that intense.  I spent four long years huffing and puffing and riding the JV bench.  It was moderately humiliating.
In college, I for some reason chose to play lacrosse (mostly the thrill of saying I was playing college lacrosse).  I went to a D3 school which was not known for its athleticism, so the fact that I'd held a lacrosse stick before was enough to get me on the team.  It was two more years of humiliating bench sitting for me.
Then, junior year of college, everything changed.  I was studying abroad in England, and decided to give rowing a try.  For some inexplicable reason, I was good at it, and I loved it.  I rowed for the first boat for my college (this is too confusing to really explain, so it basically means I rowed at a level between intramural and intercollegiate).  I wasn't the best on the team, but for the first time in my life, I wasn't the worst.
This changed when I tried to row back in the states; I sucked.  A lot, but I was up against girls who were 6' and weight 200lbs.  And as it was my senior year, I preferred staying out drinking to getting up at 4am for practice, so I ended up quitting the team after 2 months.  I dabbled in working out, but never seriously.
This trend continued after graduation; there was a gym in my apartment and  yoga and pilates classes at work, so I exercised, but never very seriously.  A year after graduation I got sent on an extended business trip for work, which wouldn't have stopped anything as there was a gym in the hotel, but I also started a new relationship, which meant the gym fell completely off my priority list.
Then, a year ago, I started having anxiety attacks, except I didn't know it at the time.  For me, this meant getting panicky and having chest pains and being terrified that I was going to have a heart attack, even though this was extremely unlikely, as I was 23 with no history of health problems.  I went to the doctor twice about the chest pains, had two EKGs come back fine, and after the second visit, the doctor looked at me and said "Exercise."  "But I don't have time."  "Make time."
So I  started making time.  It was almost magical how much exercise helped.  I was happier, more relaxed, my chest pains stopped.  But when I say 'more relaxed', this pretty much means I spent 70% of my day worrying about stuff instead of 90%.  I wanted more. 
Last September, I finally bit the bullet and joined a gym, and I don't think it's exaggerating too much to say it changed my life.  I started doing yoga and pilates on a regular basis in addition to cardio, and just those things have made a noticeable difference in my body, and have changed my attitude as well.  I've gotten up the nerve to try more challenging exercise classes, and even feel like one of these days I could really get into running.  Exercise no longer feels like punishment or a chore; it's something I actively seek to make a part of my every day life, which some days feels nothing short of miraculous.

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