I’ve never really been a particularly active person. I suck at team sports, have zero coordination, and I’d rather lay on a couch watching reruns and reading books than being outside, where the sun gets into my eyes and where there are people and where I have to wear pants.
To make it worse, I have shamefully been fat on the inside for a very long time, and even though I always ate lots of sweets and desserts, my diet took a turn for the worst post-baby. I hadn’t had soft drinks more than twice a year since I was about 14 and all of a sudden I was drinking them, eating less fruit and vegetables, and a lot more takeaway. And I was consuming the same amounts of sweet treats as I did before, but there was no incidental activity to help burn them off. I spent a lot of time indoors holding a baby in my lap, feeding her a bottle while sitting on the couch, responding to emails from my desk chair and watching lots of TV in bed. I was still thin, but I wasn’t healthy. I lived a very sedentary lifestyle, and I knew that it would eventually catch up with me.
It was also affecting my marriage. My husband doesn’t let a thing get in the way of his workouts, and he has a body that shows it. But no matter how many times I spun the ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ line, he wouldn’t buy it. This wasn’t about the way that I looked, this was about treating my body right. Every two days he would ask me to exercise, and every two days I would either start a fight, or make up some excuse about it. And on the off chance where I would join him, I would spend the entire time swearing, threatening divorce or ‘chucking’ tantrums. I’d never done any interaction with him without a hefty dose of drama on the side, and exercise was no exception.
I’d never done any interaction without a hefty dose of drama on the side, and exercise was no exception.
But in my bid to start doing things better this year. I knew I had to change. And so ‘movement’ became my theme for January. I figured it was important to start the year off with a bit of a spark and nothing sparks quite like a strong and able body. I also figured that I would need all the endorphins possible to get me through January, which involved two weddings, book edits, a blog relaunch, a return to work and two freelance deadlines.
Despite all the unhealthy habits I waffled on about above, I loved to walk. My walks, though occasional, were idea churners, internal dialogues that relieved me of stressors, avenues for calm in an otherwise constant life. But to my husband, they weren’t enough. I needed to do more.
Leo Babauta’s 52 Changes, which was the premise for this challenge, said that as well as regular exercise, strength training is ideal. It boosts strength and confidence, physical appearance, health and focus. A female friend gave me more reason to do it (in laywoman’s terms): strength training makes you strong enough to hold onto heavier things (erm, babies and groceries, at once), hold on to things for longer, increases your stamina and improves posture and balance – all things which I desperately needed to improve on.
With Leo’s theories about making small changes as opposed to big ones cemented in my mind, and the desire to fit back into the non-stretchy versions of my existing trousers and jeans, I followed my husband outside one night and did one workout. It took forever, my legs killed for days after, and I hated him for pushing me to do weight levels and repetitions that had me REALLY struggling. It wasn’t a resounding success, but it brought a little peace to our relationship because I was making an effort, and I was a little proud of myself.
my legs killed for days after, and I hated him for pushing me to do weight levels and repetitions that had me REALLY struggling.
The problem though: it was bloody hard. It required a level of commitment that’s bigger and deeper than walking. You have to push yourself to newer limits, often hurting yourself in the process. Anyone who has had to sit down after a day of doing legs can attest to this. But the sense of accomplishment post-session is amazing. It almost makes it worth it.
Two days after, Husband had me do an upper body workout. I failed miserably at chin-ups and cheated a little bit when he wasn’t looking, but I did my time. Two days after that, I did a circuit in the backyard. He wanted me to go six times and I wanted to do three. I think I did five rounds of the circuit before using the baby as an excuse and stopping. But I had put in the effort.
And then something strange happened. The next day, I had no time to do exercise and Husband worked all day and well into the evening. I was in bed when he came home, writing notes. He didn’t bug me to move so I didn’t. The day after was a super-busy one. I ran around all day buying things for a get together we were having and preparing dinner. I ate. I bathed my daughter and put her down for a nap.
It was then that I had a flashback to one of Sarah Wilson’s posts, in which she wrote that the importance of exercise was just to move. And I suddenly noticed a massive urge to move. I just needed to get up and have that pump going through my body. I put on my runners and did a brisk walk and at some points jog for exactly 20 minutes. That’s all I set out to do. But when I got home, it didn’t feel like enough. I had more in me. So I did this, and although it took longer than eight minutes, I worked up a sweat and those two little things, which took up less than 35 minutes of my time, put me on a high.
I set out to move knowing that’s all I needed to…No daunting weight-loss goal, no set program, no big expectations
It felt great. Better than anything else I had felt in ages. And all it took was the word ‘move’. I did what I could, and nothing more, and worked my way up. I set out to move knowing that’s all I needed to. There was no daunting weight-loss goal, there was no set program, there were no big expectations. No pressure. I just let my body determine what it wanted and needed, and went from there.
In the process, I got a little closer to my goal for ‘betterness’.
And I liked it.