Exercise seems to have this horrible stigma. People just see exercising as more of an obligation rather than part of their ideal lifestyle, which is totally understandable. I used to feel the same way, but with time and practice, I found that I truly love working out every single day. Here’s why and here’s how.
When I was in eighth grade, I was at my absolute heaviest or highest in weight and my lowest in self-esteem. My peers knew me as the artist of the grade, so they would ask me to draw pictures of them, and I did because I had nothing better to do and I hoped that they would accept me. I would be praised for about five minutes or so, bask in my glory, and then lose it all when they would take my picture only to throw away after class and start the vicious cycle again. My presence reeked of unhappiness and it really showed everywhere I went. Once my dad suggested that I start taking care of myself, I used the treadmill religiously while watching animes and Korean dramas. Yes, I was such a quirky kid!
But here’s the major part about my relationship with exercise. During this time I was also looking at a lot of fitspiration photos, quotes, Tumblr accounts, videos, websites, transformation stories, and I was so inspired by their motives that I kept them in the back of my mind to prove to myself that I was capable of something more, and to prove to others around me that I wasn’t always going to be “fat”, that I would overcome my weaknesses. I hated myself so much that I exercised like a nun prays. I practically married the gym by freshman year. Eventually, I discovered people like Blogilates, Tone It Up, Jillian Michaels and Christine Bullock who provided workout videos that I could do at home, so that I didn’t need to go to the gym. In fact, it was a lot easier for me and I didn’t eve need any equipment for most of them! But either way, I worked out every single day–preferably in the morning–knowing that skipping a day was skipping an opportunity to progress one step, three steps or eight steps forward into my journey to confidence.
But now that I’ve lost the weight and created this persona that’s centered on being healthy and all, my relationship with working out has obviously changed a lot. Now, I work out for intrinsic and extrinsic motivations–intrinsic being that I personally love exercise, and extrinsic because of the endorphin rush and the health benefits besides weight loss–and positive and negative reinforcement–positive meaning that I gain lots of beneficial energy afterwards, and negative meaning that I remove a lot of toxins and stress from my body. What’s different now is that I work out because I love myself, whereas five years ago, I did it as negative reinforcement to lose weight because I hated my body and I knew that I had the power to change it. My routine is still 6-7 days a week, 45-70 minutes a day, but I begin my workout with the mindset that I embrace what I can do, and I am grateful that I have the time and the capacity to workout when I know others don’t.
You may be wondering: how can you stop seeing exercise as an obligation or a chore? I see so many loved ones and even acquaintances who want to work out more, and that is so wonderful. It always makes me happy when I hear people wanting to make healthier choices. On the other hand, they say it in this tone that’s so self-degrading, as if they think they’re lazy, out of shape and unmotivated. Plus, they either workout so irregularly and sporadically, or they don’t workout at all. Exercise takes on the form of punishment.
Here’s the definition of punishment: it is a learning method that is meant to remove or eliminate a certain behavior by either removing a positive stimulus or adding a burdensome stimulus towards a subject. You know how when you speed on the freeway and you get a ticket? That is punishment because someone is taking money away (negative punishment = removing a rewarding stimulus). What happens when you procrastinate on exercising? You feel horrible and insecure (positive punishment = adding an unpleasant stimuli). I’m sure that girls with terrible body dysmorphia and eating disorders also see exercise this way; exercise to burn off the calories, to melt off the fat and to shed the pounds away. But that is so dangerous because exercise becomes an obsession.
So, what I want you to do is to find a type of workout you enjoy. Exercise is such a diverse field of activity so it’s hard to not love at least one form of it. A few to name are swimming, bodybuilding, running, hiking, Pilates, yoga, boxing, soccer, Crossfit, Zumba, jiu-jitsu, and much much more! You have to find a sense of intrinsic motivation in working out. You have to love it and you have to be happy after doing it, otherwise you’re more likely going to abandon it in a matter of months, or even weeks.
Don’t go to the gym if you don’t have one, don’t go outside to run if it’s cold. You can do so many workouts at home: just place a towel on the floor and do some HIIT, Pilates or yoga! If you have weights, definitely use that when you want to, or a jump rope, soccer ball, or even a hula hoop to get you started. Regardless of whether or not you workout in the gym, at home or outside in a park, you’re moving your body and it won’t be able to tell the difference.
Make sure that you listen to your body throughout the whole session. You should be pushing yourself, but not to the point where you start to feel pain in your bones, your joints, or anywhere else suspicious. Work your way upward and if it becomes too easy, take it to the next level! You shouldn’t work one part of your body every single day, either. Abs one day, arms the next, legs the day afterwards, you get the idea.
The last and probably one of the most important factors is that you do NOT have to spend an hour or more exercising to get in a good workout. I’ve experienced super tough workouts that are half an hour long or less. When I run up the stairs, I’m already sweating and panting like a madman in fifteen minutes. It only takes me twenty minutes to sweat when I’m jump roping. It is better to use high intensity interval training, or very high intense workouts in a shorter amount of time. You can actually get in a better workout than if you were to spend hours doing boring ol’ cardio. I highly recommend looking up HIIT workouts on YouTube or even programs that contain super effective workouts that only take up 30-45 minutes a day, such as Blogilates, Tone it Up, Kayla Itsines, FitnessBlender and Christine Bullock.
That is pretty much all I have to say on why I love working out! I know that it may seem like a chore or a form of punishment, but it should be the total opposite. You can learn to love exercising simply by choosing a type of workout you love and incorporating it more into your daily routine. I promise you that you will feel so much better and you’ll notice a difference in your energy, your sleep, your skin, and your overall well-being. Know the extreme cliche that says, “The only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do”? Keep that in mind and you’ll be surprised now many times that’s true.
Why do you love working out? What are your favorite ways to exercise?