Ah, exercise. It is still pretty insane to me that I have gone from my primary form of exercise being walking to the fridge to get more food to running so much around my apartment complex that I frequently have members of the maintenance staff make comments about it. I know that some people may prefer to just watch what they eat in order to lose weight. And actually, right at the present moment, that is what I am having to do since I have pneumonia and would probably pass out if I tried to run anywhere. But generally, I believe a combination of exercise and watching what you eat is best for losing weight.
I’ve heard from many people who get discouraged by how out of shape they are when they start. They feel like the little amount of exercise they are able to physically accomplish is not enough. Well, I’m here to say that anything you can do exercise-wise is going to help you lose weight. When I first started at well over 300 lbs, it was all I could manage to slowly do 15 minutes on the elliptical. And that felt like torture. I mean, when walking up stairs is a challenge, you can’t expect to be running marathons your first week. But I still lost large amounts of weight even doing just that little bit.
I’ve gone through several different stages (for lack of a better word) of exercise. Starting out, I went to the gym a lot on the elliptical. It was easy on my knees and burned a lot of calories. That lasted a long time. Then I decided to start doing some strength training. This sadly did not last very long, as I am apparently addicted to cardio. But it did make for some very disturbing facial expressions.
Then I decided to give running a try. And here is where I found my long-lost exercise soul mate. If running were a person, we would be taking long walks on the beach together and eating spaghetti like in Lady and the Tramp. I warn you, I’m going to sound like I drank the Kool-Aid or something here, but I just love running. This is somewhat ironic because I used to hate running with an equal passion. I dreaded the mile run at school. I dreaded running laps at soccer practice. I’m not going to lie. Running was pretty terrible when I first started out this time too. But one day as I frantically tried to gulp in enough oxygen and contemplated just falling over on the concrete, I finally experienced that runner’s high. Yes, it exists. I know, I had my doubts too. I thought maybe it was just a delusion of super athletes who had downed one too many protein shakes. But once I had that feeling myself, I was hooked.
I am not a fast runner. I don’t have a natural runner’s build. I’m short and muscular, really more of a gymnast’s build (though sadly, I am actually terrible at gymnastics, as my “cartwheel” consisted of me bending down and kind of turning around in a circle). My legs are the furthest things from slim and delicate. While I like to picture myself looking like a graceful gazelle running through the wilds of Africa, I know I really look more like a rhino running wild-eyed away from a lion. But that’s okay. My running time is exactly that: my time. I don’t have to worry about how I look or anything else when I run. Which is a really good thing since I tend to keep wearing the same workout shirts, as in the ones I wore at 100+ lbs heavier, until they wear out or literally fall off my body. It’s not a good look unless you like the whole ’80’s off the shoulder thing.
So I’ve been running now seriously for a little over a year. In the course of that year, I hit a huge plateau in my weight loss. I continually increased my mileage running, and saw little or no results on the scale or measurement-wise. Let me tell you, if you wake up at 4:30 in the morning to go outside and run 8 or more miles, you want to see some kind of results. I am not naturally a morning person, but I have become one out of necessity. So I decided to incorporate my old friend strength training into my work-outs. I knew from previous experience that I wasn’t going to sacrifice any of my cardio for strength training, so what I did was just add in a couple strength training circuits to my runs every morning. My apartment complex has a one mile fitness trail with different stations throughout. Unfortunately, the stations are all primarily stretching, so I had to invent my own. So now every morning, I start off doing sit-ups, leg raises, push-ups, modified pull-ups (because I’m too much a weenie to do the real ones yet), jumping jacks, this weird ab exercise I call the crab because that’s what it looks like, and burpees (the devil!). Then I run 6 miles, and do another mile circuit of the strength training. Eight miles in all. It sounds like a lot, especially when I’m dragging myself out of bed at that ungodly hour, but I’ve never once regretted it. What I do slightly regret (although not much because it also makes me feel pretty badass) is the not-so-beautiful appearance of my feet now. Because I have some crazy calluses that I refuse to get rid of because I need them. Worth it though!
You’re welcome for those gross images. So adding in that strength training has changed my body more than I thought possible at this late stage. I still haven’t lost a crazy amount of weight or anything, but the inches are flying off. I even had somebody at the gym who has only been there since May comment on how much weight I looked like I had lost just in those 4 months. This meant a lot to me because it’s been a pretty long time since I felt like people could really see any visible difference in how I looked. Even I am able to see how much my body has changed this summer, and I am always the last one to see any difference in how I look. I know I’m late to the whole strength training party, but better late than never!