Somewhere between the end of high school and beginning of college, I became obsessed with exercising. I’m not sure if I was fully aware of the obsession at the time, but exercising daily made me feel like I had more control of my life as I left the comfort of home to experience life on a big campus. I went to the gym every day, I ran around campus, and I walked to all of my classes (the bus would’ve been a better choice in the middle of winter).
After college, the obsession lingered. I had surgery on my shoulder and was back on the treadmill four days later. I passed up after-work happy hours because I felt like I couldn’t miss my 6 pm Zumba class. I trained for, and ran, two half marathons, even though my shins were on fire and my ankles constantly needed to be iced. Something that was supposed to help my body was actually hurting it.
This continued until one cold morning in 2014 when I saw those two pink lines on an early results pregnancy test. That same morning, I was signed up to run a Christmas 5k with my family. During this run, I felt different. I was in tune with every part of my body. The parts that ached, the parts that didn’t, and everything in between. It wasn’t just about me anymore — all I wanted was a healthy baby.
Throughout my pregnancy, my views on exercise changed. When my shins ached after running too much, I stopped. When the impact of Zumba started hurting my growing belly, I switched to strength training instead. I started focusing on all of the things that made me feel good, and I stayed away from things that didn’t. Most importantly, if I felt tired or rundown, I rested.
After the birth of my daughter, and two years later, my son, exercise no longer controls me. I look back on all those years when it played such a huge part of my life, and realize that it took up a lot of space in my schedule for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted to wear a different jean size. I wanted to weigh less. I tried to make up for the junk food that I ate. It was, essentially, a punishment.
Now, exercise energizes me. It’s my time to be alone with my thoughts and — let’s be honest, I have two small children — my body. I don’t do it because I need to be the fastest or the thinnest person out there, but I do it because it makes me feel strong. And if I’m up all night with a teething baby or feeling emotionally drained from a day full of toddler tantrums, I don’t feel guilty skipping a day, or three. I’m not going to gain five pounds or lose all of my muscle just because I give myself a break.
Often times, my daughter will work out with me, and I will stop and watch her. Her tiny body morphs into a Pilates pose or attempts to do a few squats, and she excitedly screams at me, “I’m doing it, Mommy!,” so very proud of herself.
I wish that we could all feel this way about ourselves. Not because we ate an extra cookie after dinner, or because we have a little bit of loose skin after having babies, but because we are strong and capable, and want to be healthy for our families.
Just as I watch my daughter, she also watches me. “You’re doing it, Mommy!,” my daughter cheers me on as she watches me hold an elbow plank. Yes. Yes, I am. This time, for the right reasons.