I always thought that making and keeping a commitment to fitness takes years. Not a day, not a week, not even three months – years! I could not be any more wrong. It took two weeks! But let me start from the very beginning…
In high school I hated physical education class and barely attended it. It was a really bad idea because I failed a running test. Instead of running, I walked most of the track and botched the test miserably. My PE teacher called my mother and told her that if I don’t shape up and run or at least attempt to run, I won’t be allowed to take graduation exams (the school system in my country is different from the school system in the US).
At sixteen I was not fit to run. I smoked like a chimney! What running are you talking about? But I had to buckle down and attempt to run. It was imperative to pass the running test and take the graduation exams. A great future laid in front of me and the only obstacle in achieving this future was passing the running test. The physical part of the test, the track, the PE teacher and his stop watch was a nightmare that is impossible to forget. I’ll leave it at that. Lesson One – quit smoking.
Years later, I was in the US attending college. By then I quit smoking and attempted a few work out sessions at the gym with my friends. My best friend used to run on a treadmill, watch TV and tell me about her love life. All at the same time. She was a multitasker. I barely could breath while briskly walking on the treadmill next to her. The whole experience was pretty overwhelming: her fit body, iron lungs and constant talking. I stopped working out. Lesson Two – choose carefully with whom you exercise.
Six years and twenty extra pounds later I started thinking about signing up for a gym. But I made a big mistake. I overestimated cardio, hoping to shred twenty pounds in ten days, and pounded endless miles on the treadmill. Don’t misunderstand me. Cardio is a good exercise that makes your heart stronger. My misconception was that cardio was supposed to burn all the extra fat I acquired during my years in college fast and efficiently. When it didn’t happen, I gave up, accusing genetics of all my weight problems. Lesson Three– cardio is not a solution to your problems.
Then the unexpected happened. My husband started to work out three times a week. He was lifting weights and doing a very little cardio. I suspiciously watched him lose weight, build some substantial muscle and change his body in a surprising way. His transformation inspired me, and I signed up for the gym again. Yes, third time! This time I started lifting weights and since then I never looked back. It took exactly two weeks to see changes in my weight and my body. I finally made a long-term commitment that I was afraid to make for years. Lesson Four – find the right exercise and stick to it.
As a result, I became stronger, smarter and indeed I live better.
Stronger: it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, old or young, don’t be afraid of weights. You simply need to adjust weights, lunges, squats, repetitions to your level and capabilities. You will notice your body getting stronger, leaner, healthier. You will not need to spend long boring hours laboriously pumping away on some treadmill or elliptical. Weight training builds muscle mass and increases your metabolism. What else do you need?
Smarter: my food choices improved significantly and I am eating much healthier. Once I started eating healthy, I found that I no longer crave junk food (oh well… I still do but very rarely). I believe that healthy diet starts with choices we make at the grocery store. Try not to shop hungry to avoid impulse purchases. Try to plan meals for the entire week, so you know what you are shopping for. Please don’t over eat. American portions (I blame my extra 20 lbs on it) are much bigger than European portions. Portion control is essential.
Better: exercise will improve your life. You will make healthier and smarter choices, reduce stress, get adequate sleep and build a stronger immune system. Oh, and don’t forget – you will look better too!