At the end of last month, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. And, earlier that month during Labor Day Weekend, I celebrated a personal milestone—four years of working out. But, before I dive in to my personal fitness and wellness journey, let me warn you by saying: four years of ANY type of workout is extremely rare for me. And, getting started wasn’t easy. But, it was worth it.
Four years ago, I was traveling around Washington, D.C. with a co-worker while on a work trip. We were there for a conference, but had the day before the conference when we arrived to ourselves, and sometime after the event on a couple of days. I had never been to the city, so I was excited to roam around. Every time we took a photo–a selfie, or any photo near stunning landmarks, all I saw was how unhappy I was with how I looked. I had a huge smile plastered on my face. I was enjoying my time with my co-worker and loving every monument we stopped for a photo-op with and every delicious meal we shared (and some drinks, too). But every time I wanted to post a photo from the trip, all I saw were how my cheeks had gotten chubbier, the size of my arms, and how uncomfortable I felt in my skin. During this trip, I also had the chance to meet up with an old friend and his family, we enjoyed dinner at a food hall and hung out at his home. Yet, all I kept thinking was how tight my jeans felt, how I didn’t feel “cute” in anything I wore, and how truly uncomfortable I felt.
During that trip, my co-worker and I had signed up for an early morning workout at a local Barre 3 studio. I was beyond excited for this in-person workout, and even more so to finally be trying out a Barre 3 workout that wasn’t virtual. I had been taking virtual classes on and off four about four years prior, since a surgery I had in 2015, intense workouts were uncomfortable. Though I was never a gym rat, or a constant workout person, I did often go for walks around the park, or take a yoga class now and then. I blamed the lack of working out since my surgery to my added weight gain, plus the stressors of working for a travel magazine and being away from home (and workout facilities) often, plus the perk of dining out in stunning hotels and beautiful restaurants around the world a few times a month. When you don’t have control of what you’re being served on a press trip, it’s tough to make healthy choices.
I felt so out of shape during that in-person workout. It wasn’t the same as doing it at home at my own pace. When I returned home from that trip to Washington, I had one goal in mind: find a gym that I felt comfortable in, and one that would offer evening workout classes. Why the workout classes? Well, because I didn’t know how to use any workout machines (honestly they intimidated me), I liked the sense of community, and missing a class would make me feel guilty and force me to go more often.
Looking for the Right Place
This took me a few weeks. I visited a few gyms, and walked out of most of them. I began to search social media for inspiration. I began following people who looked like me that were working out. People who were bigger than me, people who looked like me, people who were not sporting 6-pack abs and muscles on every inch of their bodies. These women inspired me with their posts. They showed me that I could do it, too. The showed me that you didn’t have to be in perfect shape to workout. They showed me that the struggle was real for everyone. They showed me that hard days, and days when you weren’t motivated would happen often. They taught me that sometimes lack of motivation was a sign to rest. But, most of the times they pushed through and felt better in the end. They taught me that you don’t have to be perfect to work out. You don’t have to be the smallest woman in the room during a studio class. And, you don’t have to look flawless in a sports bra and leggings, to feel good about yourself and workout.
What inspired me personally to start working out? Well, my 20-year high school reunion was a year away, and my 40th birthday was two years away. I thought that this would give me enough time to get in better shape by the time both events rolled around. The week before Labor Day, I walked into a gym that made me feel comfortable—it came recommended by some friends on social media. It didn’t have men hitting on women at every workout station, like many of the other gyms did. It just felt like a spot where people went to focus on themselves and workout. And, on the plus side, it had yoga, spinning and workout dance classes after 6 p.m.—the most important things I was searching for. I instantly signed up with a special they had going on that week. I then went back on Labor Day weekend and experimented with my first workout; I figured I’d start slow and took a morning yoga class. It was more intense than I expected, I was sweating, feeling great, and felt as if I had worked out.
The gym that slowly began to be my sanctuary was UFC Gym Kendall, and one of the things I liked was that when you signed up, you were paired up with a Coach who would assess your health needs and give you tips, plus show you around the gym and show you how to use the machines. I was paired up with a female Coach, and this one-day introduction with her was very helpful, personal, and friendly. She even texted me for a few days after to check-in on how I was doing, without pressuring me to sign up for any other classes or Coaching.
I then started to follow the gym’s Instagram account, as well as a few of their Coaches. This allowed me to see some of the other workout classes, before signing up. It helped me feel less afraid to try something new. It inspired me to see others, who looked like me, working towards their goals. It motivated me to see others who were in better shape than me and pushed me to get to where they were. It also inspired me to see other women working out in the early mornings, between work meetings, or at the end of a shift. The personal posts I was able to see by following these accounts, as well as the accounts of others including a few Weight Watcher (WW) followers (though I did not do WW), inspired me to work on myself, to give myself a chance, and to figure out what my wellness journey looked like. One thing I didn’t do was focus on a weight goal—though I’d often track it. My focus was my “wellness journey” as I still call it. Because I knew that it wouldn’t be a lateral change, but one that would have many valleys, and a few highs. My goal was to move a few times a week, have fun, not diet, and get stronger a little at a time.
This is just the beginning of my wellness journey. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come. But, if you’re thinking of getting started, think about why you want to work out. What inspires YOU. What will keep you going and what do you need from your workout. Do you need flexibility, a personal coach, late classes, a 24/7 gym? Find out what works for you, and follow that. Because, one thing I know is that no matter how much your loved ones tell you that you should start focusing on your health, or that you’re gaining wight, or you should work out. None of that will matter. None of that will push you to do it. Not even seeing the numbers rise on a scale will motivate you. You have to be ready to do this for you—no one else. And when you feel uncomfortable enough, when you don’t feel like yourself, that’s when you’ll do it. And, if you need a little inspiration, look around, follow accounts of others, mimic what they’re doing. Maybe that can motivate you.