I have never been the most athletic person. The only marathons I’ve ever participated in have involved reading books or watching screens for hours on end. Give me a choice, and I’d always choose a story over playing outside (much to my sister’s chagrin). As a kid, I didn’t try sports until middle school; my resume includes a couple of seasons of basketball at the Y, a little bit of soccer, and one brief foray into softball. In high school, I moved to martial arts, which is where I not only earned my black belt, but also got my first teaching experience and participated in a world championship weapons competition.
That was a long time ago.
In graduate school, I flirted with the gym on and off. I don’t think it was until my third year of grad school that I really got consistent, but in the second half of grad school, working out became an almost-daily activity. I completed The New Rules of Lifting for Women, Couch to 5K, and generally spent an hour each day working out to stay in shape.
By the time I finished my PhD in 2011, I was in the best physical shape of my life. And then I started teaching full time.
I’d like to think it would have happened in any job, but as a first-year teacher, I had no time to work out. I made it to my gym maybe once or twice a week; in contrast, I made liberal use of the frozen yogurt dispenser at work (where faculty also get free lunches that tend to be amazing). By the end of the first year, I was no longer in such good shape. Pregnancy in my second year of teaching, followed by – well, motherhood – only made things worse. I tried to get back to the gym from time to time, especially before my son turned 1, but basically failed at staying in shape.
A couple of weeks ago, Lynn wrote about the goals she had this year as she turned 40, and this post is in a related vein. I also turned 40 this year, although I have to admit I didn’t make such awesome goals as she did. I did, however, decide it was time to make a change: as the new year started last January, I promised myself I would move every day.
I truly started small: for the first couple of weeks, I got up around 5 am, turned on a 5-minute app with yoga moves, did 5 minutes of breathing, and walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I told myself I’d just do 20 minutes of moving, and that worked. Within a month, I’d gotten to 30 minutes, and in mid-February, I decided it was time to try Couch to 5K again. By April, I’d hit my target goal of running for 30 minutes (on the treadmill), although I can tell you right now I wasn’t hitting a 5K in that time.
When I started, I didn’t set weight loss goals; I knew I wanted to lose about 30-35 pounds, but I’ve struggled in the past and didn’t want to set myself up for frustration and failure – I wanted to focus on moving. With that in mind, I didn’t weigh myself. I didn’t measure. I didn’t track calories. I just focused on my movement goal.
In May, I decided it was time to start paying attention to some of those things. On the last day of school, I took my measurements and weighed myself, and I’ve done this every Friday since. And, as October comes to a close – and the first trimester of school ends next week – I’m excited to say that I’ve continued to meet my goal of moving each day, with very, very rare exceptions for illness.
Things took a great change for the better in May, in a way that really helped me build on my successes and keep me going: I got a Peloton bike.
I’d seen the Peloton a bit; the ads were popping up on TV, I saw references to it on Twitter, but that was all I knew. My husband started talking about getting a bike, but settled for subscribing to their digital app. Two weeks later, he talked me into trying a workout on the app (using our treadmill). That was the moment I realized that my movement goal was really…well, it wasn’t nothing. But I could do better.
We got our Peloton bike secondhand that same month – we hadn’t intended to invest at that time, but when we had the opportunity, we took it, and it was one of the best decisions this year. In the past 5 months, having the bike and the Peloton digital membership has been a huge asset for me.
Having instructors on demand really, really changed my fitness approach. I take instruction well: if someone on screen tells me to increase the resistance on the bike, I do it. They tell me to push harder? Absolutely! On top of that, our Peloton membership is almost a third of what our health club membership was, and we were no longer using the health club due to life changes that had happened in the prior year. On top of that, now I’ve got variety: access to yoga workouts, strength training, biking, treadmill – and even the biggest gamechanger of all: outdoor training.
I never ran outside before this summer. As in, never. This summer, my husband convinced me to try Peloton’s outdoor audio training so I could get used to running outside before we took a trip to NYC (he wanted to go running in Central Park. In JULY. Did I mention I’ve never been very athletic? July is perfect for seeing Broadway shows, not sweating outside.)
Well. My “never” ended last July. Not only did I run in Central Park, but I’ve also run in coastal Oregon, and I’m putting in about 3 outdoor runs a week now (consistently so since August). Today I even ran in a light hazy rain, in temperatures below 40 degrees. Not only can I run a 5K now, I have started running them 2-3 times a week. (Okay, as of last week, but still. It counts.)
With only 2 months left in the year, I feel good about having done so much with my goal this year. Maintaining my workouts during the school year has been hard (I get up around 4:45am to make it work), but definitely work it. I’ve also seen good benefits; in addition to working out regularly, I’m eating better (and yes, I track calories because it helps me be more mindful of my food habits). I’ve also lost about 25 pounds in the past 5 months, which was unexpected and thrilling to see.
My goal now is long term: once I finish out this year, I just want to keep going. I want to be fit in my 40s and stop having the back-and-forth and up-and-down with fitness that characterized not only my 20s and 30s, but also my earlier years. I haven’t figured out whether that will ever include running a marathon, but I’ll take that idea one step at a time. I’d love to hear how you tackle your own fitness goals, especially when it can be so hard to make time.