Day 26: Why should we work out?

runnerI work out almost everyday.  Right now I’m training for my second half marathon, and so I’m running 3-4 times a week, pushing myself with both speed and distance.  On top of that, I do yoga at a studio once a week, and with myself another 2-3 times a week to stretch out.

Why do I run?  There is a sense of accomplishment, strength, but most importantly- serenity.  It’s me-time.  It’s clarity.  My body and mind come together and work as one and it makes me so happy.  All the adrenaline and endorphins get to my head and put me on a nice natural happy running high.  It’s one of the best feelings, while simultaneously being one of the most challenging.   Running is more than a physical activity, it’s mental stability.

Why do I do yoga? Same reasons.  A few years ago, I experienced insomnia due to high stress and anxiety.  I yogastarted yoga because it was supposed to help lower anxiety and bring me a sense of calm.  It did.  Needless to say, I became hooked.  In fact, I began sleeping well after I started yoga.  I felt stronger, calmer, happier and less stressed.  I still feel this way after yoga!

However, I recently started adding to my exercises by including interval training, first by starting Jillian Michael’s “30 day shred” challenge.  Everyday I took 20 minutes (on top of the running and yoga) to do weights, abs and short cardio intervals.  She really kicked my ass.  After that, I just started doing her 20-30 minute workouts, targeting abs and strengthening.

When I run and when I do yoga, there is a focus on both mental and physical health.  It’s this basic idea that we are moving and working out to benefit ourselves, rather than “look good”.  This is the message I’ve been trying to focus on during my practice: less focus on what it does to our body (being thinner) and more focus on being healthy- and let the body shape sort itself out.  However, that’s not the focus with Jillian.  Sometimes I feel a focus on strength, as in just feeling strong (which is an incredibly powerful feeling) but there is a focus on doing these videos specifically to make our bodies look better, without regard to health or mental benefits.  She constantly screams at you in the videos, reminding you that you are doing this workout in order to get a “beach body” or to fit into “those jeans”.  “Think of going jean shopping”, she yells at you.  It’s meant to be motivating, and not quit the most challenging moments.  BUT, it’s always made me think: should this be the reason we work out?   Simply to see a smaller number on my jean pants?

This morning I read this article, about a girl who had the same thought dawn on her during one of her workouts.  As her instructor yelled her motivating, “Picture how you’ll look in that dress”-,she thought to herself,  is that why I’m working out? Is this the message I want to pass down to my daughter?  Her answer was “No”.  For her, just like to me, being fit and working out is something much more than that.  It’s about commitment, strength, health, mental stability, and provides a different perspective on the world.  She then made a list of 10 reasons she wants to pass on to her daughter on why we should work out, rather than focusing on the body itself.

I just want to point out one of her reasons that I liked the best- #8.  She writes, “If you feel beautiful, you look beautiful.”  Looking beautiful starts on the inside.  And being fit and strong feels beautiful.” 

I think this is important, especially in light of my post yesterday.  (But of course in light of the entire goal of this blog)  The way we feel should come from within.  My body, while important, is the outside shell of who I really am.  I want to treat it right, I want to be fit and healthy but I don’t want it to define how I feel.  Yesterday I allowed my confidence in myself to wean as I got caught up on the purely physical aspects of my body.  Today, thanks to my determination yesterday to fight past that, I feel so much better and happier. I’ve been succeeding (I know, it’s only one day, but still) in my new challenge to not stare and my body in the mirror and I’m feeling freed from that pressure.

Today I want to love my health.  I am in shape, and I appreciate my commitment and enthusiasm by living a healthy lifestyle.  I hope that I am an inspiration to others as well. My roommate said to me something so lovely a few weeks ago- she said that my commitment to running had inspired her to run as well.  Now we run together in races and sometimes at night.  It’s a fun activity that we share that promotes well being and health and I’m so happy and *proud* that I had that affect on someone else.




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