I'm writing this post at 6 in the morning while sipping a cup of coffee and eating a big slice of peanut butter chocolate cake. Don't judge! These early morning hours before the children wake up are precious to me and I try to enjoy them. (Also it was my birthday a few days ago and what's the point of getting older if not to have a perfectly good excuse to eat cake for breakfast all week?) But I'm telling you this only for the sake of putting my post about fitness into context. Yes, I want to post about my fitness habit. Yes I work out every day and yes I work out very hard. Yes I have tried out a few different programs and routines and yes I have opinions about which work for whatever reasons. But, NO, I am not a "fitness person". I don't want to be squeezed into that mold. I don't want you to read my posts and shrug them off thinking, yeah, well, she's just a fitness person. NO. I eat chocolate peanut butter cake for breakfast! I've never made a protein pancake. I don't take selfies of myself in Lululemon leggings and sports bras - in fact my sneakers literally have holes in them and I wear tanks that I've cut out from my husband's old t-shirts. Fitness isn't my life. I'm not a fitness crusader. That being said, it's a very important element in my day; I am diligent about working it into my schedule and try to minimize the number of days I take off. I do want to post about why and how I got started, and how I keep it up during and after pregnancies. But maybe you're curious what keeps me going every day after nearly 7 years of daily exercise and lucky for you I've actually thought it through (because it helps to have your motivations clear on those days where you. just. don't. want. to.)
The balancing act. Like most people, I want to be thin (or sleek, or slender, or svelt - whatever word you put to it, you have some "ideal"). Also like most people, I like food. Sometimes these things seem to compete with each other, especially as you get older and your metabolism slows down. Exercise helps with the balance. I don't mean that I tally up calories burned against calories consumed. But I do maintain a general sense of what my body needs versus what "extras" it can afford, and exercise necessarily factors into this. It's just practicality, not over-obsessive calorie counting.
Lifestyle. On top of the numerous health benefits which I'm sure I don't need to enumerate, I also maintain a certain fitness threshold sufficient to do the less-frequent but maybe more-athletic things that I enjoy without too much pain, like playing on a recreational soccer team or going on a really long hike on the weekend or participating in a trail race with a friend. If the choice is between doing the weekend warrior thing and suffering the consequences (like soreness, aches, and possible injuries), or avoiding these things by putting in a little maintenance work every day, I'm happy to choose the latter.
Accomplishment. But I actually think my main motivation for my daily work out is a more immediate reward: personal victory. Think about it. Every work out is an opportunity for me to challenge myself and succeed. Those italics are on very much on purpose. I'm a stay-at-home mother of three young kids and I home school two of them. These are jobs that come with a lot of un-looked for, unwanted, and very often overwhelming challenges. Changing a poosplosion while another kid has a melt down. Going head to head with a defiant child. Dealing with whining. Cleaning up the same room. one. hundred. times. a. day. Checking off only 2 of 10 items on the to-do list. Which mom doesn't climb into bed at night and think over the dozens of times that day that she failed, even just a little? She lost her temper; she shouted; she threw a stuffed animal in frustration; she didn't smile when she could have or didn't hug when it was needed; she hid in the bathroom; she sneaked into the kitchen and scarfed down half a bar of chocolate; she pretended not to hear the crying upstairs; she didn't get around to organizing that upstairs closet again. I could go on. I have bad days that are replete with frustrations and failures. I have plenty of good days, too, but even those aren't without challenges. A workout, though, is a self-imposed, self-created challenge. I have so much control over it. I choose to work out, I choose to push. I push as hard as I can and then maybe I find I can push a little harder. I can smash that work out, and then when I'm done I have succeeded. My body feels good (all those endorphins!) Or it feels totally crushed, but that's OK because I got through it. Win. I tested my body and I tested my character and I can take that little boost and channel it into the rest of my day. I might not be able to cater and control the rest of the challenges that come at me, but I can control the way I push through them.
I realize that not everyone has the same personal challenges and so that last bit might seem exaggerated or unnecessary to another person. That's fine! It can absolutely be true for me and not for someone else. It's why I stick to my workouts. (It's why if my husband comes home from work and sees that I'm overwhelmed, he literally hands me my sneakers and pushes me out the door.) But even if someone already has a clear motivation for working out - like losing weight or training for a race or just getting fit and strong - I still think it's important for them to view their workout like an opportunity for success and not as an onerous discipline. Yes, the "push" will look different for everyone. When I use words like "smash", well, I tend to be a tense, forceful person so that's what I let out in my workouts. But the formula is the same: challenge, push, succeed. Success generates success, so this will cycle and become a habit! And even if the challenges get harder, the pushing gets easier.