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How Making Exercise Nonnegotiable Changed My Life

I Stopped Waiting For the Time or Motivation to Exercise, and That Changed Everything

Rearview shot of a young woman stretching before a run outdoors

I love feeling my heart pound in my chest as I struggle to catch my breath during a hard workout, the shaky, tired legs after a long run and sore muscles from lifting heavy weights . . . but it hasn't always been that way.

Exercise and I have been in a turbulent relationship most of my life. I would go through periods of hitting the treadmill every day and then go weeks or months with dust collecting on my running shoes in the hallway closet. I would make excuses. I would wait until I felt motivated or saw the number on the scale steadily rising. I'd tell myself I would start exercising again next week when my busy schedule eased up a little, but I always struggled to find the time.

Then something changed.

I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. I became a mom and was juggling a career, kids, and a marriage. It was exhausting. I quickly realised that if I was going to not only survive, but thrive in this stage of my life, I was going to have to put in the work (and the sweat). I decided that in order to have energy, I was going to have to create energy by moving my body as often as my busy schedule allowed. I stopped waiting for the motivation to go to the gym and simply decided it was nonnegotiable.

These days, I make time to work out almost every day. This doesn't mean spending hours in the gym.

My goal is to move my body for at least 10 minutes a day. This can translate to a mile jog or a quick HIIT workout. I go for a walk or take a yoga class. I lift weights at least a couple times a week because being strong is the example I want to set for my kids. And I do all this even on days when I don't feel like it. (Which if I'm honest, is more days than not.) I schedule workout classes for first thing in the morning so I don't have time to change my mind, or I lace up my shoes and go for a jog when I'm crunched for time, reminding myself that if I don't get it in now, it won't happen. Don't think, just move.

A funny thing happens when exercise becomes a part of your daily life: it also mends your relationship with your body.
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That said, if I miss a couple days or even weeks because someone's sick or I'm feeling rundown, I no longer beat myself up about it. I look at the big picture, which for me is my overall health and energy, and I get back to moving my body when I can. I've found this balance of not waiting for motivation, and yet listening to my body when it needs a break, to be key in getting into a consistent routine. I had to mend my relationship with exercise.

A funny thing happens when exercise becomes a part of your daily life: it also mends your relationship with your body. There may be moments when I don't love the extra dimples on my thighs, but knowing those strong, muscular legs can run a 10K fills me with pride. I support the movement to unapologetically love your body, but I think it's equally as important to respect it, and working out regularly has helped me do just that. Particularly in light of my illness, which carries the high probability that I'll exclusively use a wheelchair one day, every workout has become a celebration of what my body is capable of.

So, every chance I get, I lace up my sneakers and tighten my ponytail. Whether I feel like it or not. I sweat, I curse, and when I'm done, I'm just so grateful for what my body can do.

Image Source: Getty / LaylaBird
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