I Started Working Out Regularly, And It Changed My Life.

Carolyn California Poppy Field

I have always dreaded working out. I believe it started in 4th grade when I found out we would have to run the mile as part of our training for the presidential test, that requirement of how fast you needed to run/how many sit ups you needed to be able to do, and so on. I think part of why I had this strong dislike for it all was that I was never any good at it. Without getting too into it, growing up in a naturally competitive school environment was not the best for me, and so having to partake in an activity I did not feel confident in, in front of all my classmates, led me to feel like a failure at times and be really hard on myself.


I’m not trying to brush past that like its nothing, but that’s not what this blog entry focus is on. I just wanted to give a little backstory before getting into how regularly working out has changed the game for me.

But also a quick piece of advice before I get into it. As someone who has struggled with their health and body image since my adolescence, YOU need to be the one who WANTS to make the change. It’s a tough journey, so you need to be your biggest motivator. I know I’m not saying anything groundbreaking by repeating what you’ve probably been told thousands of times, but it’s true. Believe in yourself and focus on yourself, don’t worry about where others are at in comparison.

So if you’re wondering what kicked off this health journey for me, the answer is actually really dumb and very LA. I had been a member of the same gym for around 4 years, and I dreaded going because the parking was so bad. How dramatic is that? But it’s genuinely what kept me from going, I was spending around $40 a month to a gym I wasn’t going to because of their parking. I was more willing to drive 30 minutes away to go on a hike because at least there was parking. So I finally went through the hassle, they really don’t make it easy for you, of cancelling my gym membership.

I then quickly signed up for a different gym where I knew the parking wouldn’t be an issue. I thought to myself, okay cool I’ll go tomorrow for a bit. I did not go. Instead I got a call (how very “hero’s journey”). As it turns out the new gym I signed up for offers a free consultation with a trainer.

My brother, who is in worlds better shape than me because he was a lifeguard for a summer (its not just that but that, but I spent my summers working at a theatre and he spent his working at a pool, very different people), has recommended for years that I try working with a personal trainer. I’d always nag back that its not worth the price tag. But since this training session was free, I’d be a fool to pass it up, right? I figured I’d learn some new exercises that I’d be able to use in the future, and some tips about some of the weight machines.

I did not think I would love it, but I did.

So now I have a trainer. I can’t help at laugh at myself for that. Like it just seems so silly to me, but it’s made such a difference.

After our first session, my trainer mapped out my workout plan for the week. I am the girl who if I made it to the gym one day out of the week, that was a celebration. Two days? I’m on a roll. So you can imagine how big my eyes got when my trainer told me I’d be coming in four days a week to work out. And also hiking once a week. Five days of exercise and two rest days. Again, I laughed to myself and thought “Well okay, I guess this is my life now”.

This has now become my routine for the past month. I keep telling my mom “I’m a whole new person” because of how night and day my life is to what it was last month.

Prior to working with a trainer there were a ton of machines I was hesitant to use because I either didn’t know how to, or was worried about using bad form and injuring myself. I have a bad knee that I had to get surgery on so I’m extra cautious about that. I now feel like I have a confident game plan of things I can do when I walk into the gym. The most exciting thing has been building up strength in my legs which I’ve been too nervous to do on my own because of my knee.

The process thus far has been tough, especially when I try a new workout and am reminded just how out of shape I am. It’s hard for me not to get frustrated over it. But I don’t allow that feeling to defeat me, I try again, and I get better.

I really wasn’t planning on writing a short essay before the key points of how my life has changed from working out, but it just felt important for me to jot out. Anyways here’s the improvements I’ve found in how my habits have changed.

For starters, I’m going to bed earlier. I have always been a huge night owl. I struggled with falling asleep at night my whole life, even in the days before technology and blue light were an effect. Luckily in college I found a melatonin that works for me, but I don’t use melatonin to force myself to go to bed if that makes sense. I use it when I already know it’s time for bed but I need a little help so I’m not lying around for 30 minutes. I’d say on most weekdays I was getting to bed at midnight the earliest. Now I’m tired at 9:30 pm, and out around 10pm. It’s pretty great.

In correlation with this, because I’m going to bed earlier, I’m waking up earlier. But actually waking up. No longer in this groggy state of reaching for the alarm clock and pressing snooze over and over again. When I wake up, I’m awake. Most days I even wake up before my alarm. Like today it’s the weekend and I woke up on my own at 8am. WHO. AM. I. I don’t even rely on coffee, like I’m set for the day, not even tired. I remember just a few months ago venting about this to my mom about how annoyed I was that I couldn’t wake up in the morning and her reminding me that exercising has been known to improve that and just responding that I’m too tired to exercise and that was the problem. Moms always know best.

So another great perk to working with my trainer is that he’s helping me with a nutritional plan. Before I got set up on it, he asked me to send him a list of the meals I was making for myself so he could adjust it more to thinks I’d actually eat (being a vegetarian has drastically improved my willingness to try new foods, but I still won’t eat bananas). Writing it out was when it really dawned on me that I was not getting enough protein in my diet. Being vegetarian, my main source of protein has always been tofu, which I just don’t cook for myself enough. On top of that I realized how often I was opting for fast food, aka In N Out, my number one passion in life. I knew this wasn’t going to cut it. That if I wanted to actually see results I needed to be mindful and responsible for what I was putting in my body.

In the past when I’ve been on a weight loss journey, the routine has always been portion control as the focus with minimal cardio workout to help improve the process. It’s sucked. It’s always the same old same old of microwavable pizzas and pastas. It gets old fast. Now I’m cooking for myself and learning new recipes that taste good, and fill me up way better. I made a Tomato & Artichoke Gnocchi the other night, it was awesome.

On top of that I’m not craving junk food. Snacking has always been a bad habit of mine where I haven’t been good at self limiting it. I’ll get brands that are “healthy alternatives” knowing that I’m still going to have an unhealthy amount in one sitting. And it’s not that I’m now forcing myself to not have snacks, it’s that I’m not even thinking to have them. Who knows how long this will last for, but it’s pretty wild.

To go along with eating well, I’m also drinking way more water. I know my water intake hasn’t been good in the past because I have a pee chart in my bathroom (I got the idea from one of my friends who has one in his, our local park rangers give them out, his is laminated, my is framed, I love it okay). With my workouts I can’t do as well if I’m not hydrated. I just can’t. My biggest tip to this is invest in a water bottle that keeps your water cold. My hydroflask is my absolute favorite. I prefer it over the Swell model because you can switch out the tops to be of a more traditional water bottle style which is great for those of us who are clumsy and spill on ourselves. I’m also picky and won’t drink as much water if it’s not cold so this helps with that. I can leave my bottle in my car as the sun beams down on it, come back and take a sip and it will still be ice cold, BUT ENOUGH ABOUT MY HYDROFLASK. So in the morning I will drink an entire bottle worth (24 oz) before going to the gym. At the gym I will drink another bottles worth, and often have to refill it at the drinking station, which is not as cold as my water from home but I’m a big girl and can handle it thank you for your concern. Once home I’ll refill my bottle a third time and drink that for the remainder of the day. I went from drinking probably a cup of water a day to drinking 72 oz of water. I pee a lot. You don’t care.

Also thanks to cooking in for myself more, I’m spending less money! Yay! I had already deleted postmates from my phone back in December as part of a New Years Resolution, if you will, because I realized I was becoming way too reliant on the app when I wasn’t feeling up to cooking for myself or didn’t have groceries on hand. It’s been the right call. My food money is also going more towards actual groceries instead of easy to microwave frozen meals (no shame, Trader Joe’s has the best frozen section especially for vegetarians). I’m not perfect of course. I’m being more mindful and responsible with my purchases, but I also treat myself to a bathbomb from lush each week for my intense workout day, but you know, progress.

And finally, the biggest improvement I’ve made, I’m feeling more pride in my progress. As I mentioned throughout this, I have a habit of being self defeating and feeling like a failure if I’m not doing as well as those around me. This has been something I’ve been working on for a majority of my life now in other aspects of it, such as my education, but I’m now applying these skills that I have gained to my health. My health, and my journey with it is my own. The pride I feel for myself doesn’t need to be validated by how others look at me. My weight has fluctuated back in forth over the past decade. I lost a ton of weight, I gained some back, lost it again, gained it, kind of let it do its thing for a bit, lost some, and gained it. Even when I was lower on my scale I never really felt prideful in it. I was excited for my accomplishment to fit into clothing I hadn’t been able to before, but I didn’t really feel like I’d earned the reward. A huge reason for that, was because of how I was losing it. As mentioned, the focus for me with my weight loss has always been portion control and how much I’m eating, with exercising taking a back seat. I would play Wii Fit for 30 minutes and that would make enough of an impact that I wouldn’t bother doing anything else.

This is the first time where exercising is taking priority. I’m in a good mindset now where I know it’s not about the number on the scale, it’s about how you’re feeling about yourself (and in your clothes). I track my progress each week with my trainer and my BMI every two weeks. I’ve also started to track it each day on my own with my WiiFit. It can be annoying to see my weight go up a pound one day when I know I pushed myself at the gym and ate well the day before, especially because in the past it’s been a more consistent down but again, I remind myself that it’s different now because I’m gaining muscle, and it shows. I’m getting sore in parts of my body I didn’t know I could (that sounds weird, oh well). And I can tell I’m improving. I can lift heavier weights for longer, I can do exercises I didn’t have the strength for days prior, and I can plank for over a minute now (please don’t tell me trainer he thinks my best time is 45 seconds).

The biggest takeaway is that I’m finally feeling confident about my body.

So, what I want you to know is that if you want to change your routine, it’s possible. It’s hard work, I don’t know if I would be having as much success right now if I was doing this on my own. I’m really grateful I have someone in my corner who’s helping to hold me accountable. I can’t just lie and say I went to the gym, because it’s going to show if I’m not making improvements (and also they have an app that tracks each time you come in so it’d be pretty embarrassing if I was like yeah totally came in four times this week and then you check the app and I hadn’t been in once). I feel better about myself, better than I have in my whole adult life. So don’t cut yourself short. If you want to make a change, make it for yourself. Be your biggest cheerleader. Do a fist pump when you finish a session on the elliptical. Do a victory dance when the sleeves on your dress don’t feel so tight. Celebrate the little moments even when you feel the results aren’t showing.

You’re working on you. And that’s important.