In this post, I am going to discuss how fitness made its way into my life and some of the different types of exercise that I have tried throughout my life. I am not a personal trainer and do not have any type of kinesiology or physical fitness educational background. Nevertheless, fitness has always been significant in my life. I started really physically training my body when I joined a competitive swim team at the age of 10. I competitively trained until I was probably about 17 years old and then lost interest at the end of high school. Around that time, I started to frequent the gym with a friend and we would dabble with some strength training. This was my first experience with weight training. The changes I saw in my body from strength training were AMAZING and I continued to integrate a little bit of strength training into my swim program.
I went through a bit of a rebellious phase toward the end of high school and started smoking cigarettes, going to bed too late, and starving myself to be thin. I would occasionally take over-the-counter energy pills to get me through the day at school. Oh ya, and I was hitting up the old tanning booth on a regular basis to rock a tan year round. Ugh (insert emoticon with the hand slapping her forehead). During this phase of super smart choices, I continued to hit the gym with my fitness goal being to look good in a bikini no matter what the cost.
After graduating from high school, I went to college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had a hard time transitioning to the role of college student and became very depressed. I started to eat less and less. I was hell bent on not gaining the “freshman 15”. By the end of my first semester at school I weighed 110 lbs. I drank diet pop, black coffee, ate very little and smoked a lot to get through the day. I was so unhappy and my body image was so completely distorted. At the time, I wanted to lose more weight! Thankfully, this phase of my life did not last long and over time I made changes and healthier choices.
Over the next 5 years, I tried various types of fitness. When boot camps became super popular I signed up for one. I loved the intensity of these classes!! The one that I started out with was modelled after “army” boot camp type workouts. You even earned this super exclusive camo t-shirt when you completed the month of grueling workouts. This boot camp program integrated the element of clean eating. This marked my introduction into the world of clean foods and healthy portion control. Up until this point, I had been eating low-fat foods or starving myself to stay thin.
Over the next few years, I would do the odd boot camp and hit the gym inconsistently. It wasn’t until I was in my 3rd-4th year of nursing school that I kicked the smoking habit for good and started hitting the gym and jogging regularly. I found a strength training program in Women’s Health magazine and added it to my routine. Once again, I marveled at the results that strength training delivered. My husband at the time, and I got back into boot camps and joined one gym in particular that was just starting to incorporate CrossFit. We started out doing boot camps and then gradually tried a few of the CrossFit classes. I got super into CrossFit for about a year and went from not being able to do one pull up to doing 1-2 pull ups (I know, wah wah – it was a huge accomplishment for me though) and I could climb the rope multiple times. I gained probably about 15-20 lbs of muscle and was eating paleo at the time. When I found out I was pregnant, I took a step back from CrossFit and the paleo diet. I did boot camps and jogging until probably about 17ish weeks and then called it quits with both when they became super uncomfortable for me.
Swimming reentered my life during my first pregnancy. I started swimming laps for about an hour every day. Slowly, my strength increased and I could swim more meters per hour – I felt strong and healthy throughout my pregnancy. I had a healthy pregnancy with my son and I am so thankful that swimming gave me that opportunity to stay active during the pregnancy. I had planned to return to the pool after he was born but the transition into motherhood took over and I never did make it back until my second pregnancy.
I had a C-section with both my children but my recovery with my first child was much longer than my second due to an unplanned C-section and minor post-op infection. I started to get moving again probably around 10 weeks postpartum in the way of Jillian Michael’s DVDs. This was my first experience with at home workout DVD’s or “my workout tapes” as I like to call them. I was FRICKEN FLOORED at how difficult these DVD’s were!! I’ll be super honest, I thought at home DVD’s were for people who were too weak to get to the gym and do a “real workout”. I was so wrong. So, so, so, so, so, so wrong! WRONG! I also started to incorporate walking and jogging into the routine and would take my son in the jogging stroller and hit the pavement for runs.
When I made a return to work, everyone was talking about Beachbody programs and DVD’s. A friend of mine had started the 21 Day Fix program and she was seeing great results. I had heard the girls at work talking about these DVD’s and how they were only 30 minutes in length. Once again, I thought to myself, “Pfft…30 min? That’s not a workout. How hard could it be?” I borrowed someone’s DVD’s and once again I was knocked on my ass by how difficult that 30 minutes was. These DVD’s are strength based with a cardio element included. The results were incredible!! It once again proved to me that strength training is an absolute MUST when it comes to fitness and seeing big results. I did these DVD’s before I became pregnant with my second child and I had abs like never before!!
I am not a Beachbody coach and I don’t sell anything for this company. I am solely a satisfied consumer and I would highly recommend 21 Day Fix as a starting point for people who are trying to establish a fitness routine or who have never done anything with strength training before. The workouts are 30 minutes per day which I believe is totally doable, you can do the workouts at home with minimal equipment (a couple sets of dumbbells), and the results are phenomenal. I also like that this system does a 21-day cycle to get a person into the HABIT of getting their body moving. If you can commit to the 21 days, and finish it out, most likely the results and positive elements of physical activity are going to keep you wanting that movement in your daily life. I never did the eating plan that comes with the 21 Day Fix routine so I can’t speak to that. I was already eating pretty clean but no longer paleo when I started the DVD’s and I was seeing great results without having to change much. I was still having a couple drinks here and there throughout the week and occasionally eating not so clean food choices.
Like I said previously, I swam throughout both my pregnancies and LOVED it. Swimming was very cathartic for me in my second pregnancy. My husband left me half way through my pregnancy with my daughter and it was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me. I started to go to the pool for a “time out” for myself and to relieve anxiety. I got into the pool and I would think, analyze, worry…I would literally cry into the water sometimes. I worked my ass off. I swam hard and exhausted myself not only mentally but also physically and this helped me to sleep at night. This time of my life was so incredibly painful and difficult and fitness truly was a miracle in my life. I think my commitment to fitness not only helped me cope during this time of my life but it made me feel STRONG at a time in my life in which, I felt very helpless.
Over the past year my fitness routine and my relationship with fitness has gone through even more changes and I will continue to share what I’ve tried, what has worked for me and the results I’ve seen in future blog posts.
I whole-heartedly believe that EXERCISE in any form is so incredibly empowering and can be so positively therapeutic. It is something that will ALWAYS be a part of my life in a big way. The benefits it has provided me in the way of stress relief, increased confidence, empowerment and strength are truly astonishing. I strongly encourage all women to find a way to move their bodies in a way that they love. It doesn’t have to be boot camps, CrossFit or even weight training if that is not your thing. There are so many ways to get active. It could be in the form of yoga, walks in nature, pound class – whatever interests a person but the benefits are so worth it. I think the journey to confidence and empowerment starts with taking care of our bodies.