How I Learned To Love Working Out


By Jillian Stacia

When I was in high school, I absolutely hated exercise. I loved playing sports. Playing soccer, shooting baskets, going swimming? Those were all fine and dandy. But exercising for the sake of exercising? No thank you.

I forced myself to go to the gym for the same reason many of us started working out: I wanted to lose weight. I was unhappy with my body and was convinced that if I grinded out an hour on the elliptical every day, I’d lose a few pounds. I was in it for the weight loss, plain and simple. I was envious of those girls who were “naturally skinny” and “didn’t need to work out”. Every day, I forced myself back on the treadmill, angry and resentful that I needed to exercise in order to look good. It didn’t seem fair.

To keep up my motivation, I taped pictures of super models on my bedroom wall, right next to pictures of me looking “gross” in a bathing suit. Always a fan of the vision board, I wrote in big bold letters: “I will lose 10 pounds by May” and “6 Pack Abs!” and “You have to sweat like a pig to look like a fox!

I didn’t try to make exercise more enjoyable, because the point wasn’t to enjoy exercise; the point was to lose weight. Exercise was just the quickest way to get there. I never thought about weight lifting, because it didn’t burn as much calories as cardio. Why would I want to gain muscle when it was buried under flab? I never considered yoga or Pilates because I had no interest in rolling around on a mat. I could do that at home. My plan was simple: endure cardio related torture as often as possible and lose weight accordingly.

And it worked. I dropped the weight. Until I gained it back. And then I exercised like crazy and dropped the weight again. And then I gained it back again, plus 5 pounds for good measure.

That’s what people don’t understand about dieting and exercising to lose weight: it works until it doesn’t. You can power your way through workout after workout and lose weight. It is indeed possible. But you’ll never get to enjoy exercise with that perspective. You’ll most likely make yourself miserable. And you’re incredibly likely to gain it all back once you stop.

I only fell in love with exercising once I stopped treating it like a transactional activity. I knew I couldn’t appreciate working out if I was only measuring it by physical results. I stopped coming at it from an attitude of desperation and negativity. And it made all the difference.

I began to ask myself the question “Would I still work out if I wasn’t able to lose any more weight? Is there value in exercise if it doesn’t result in weight loss?”

The answer, of course, is a clear and painfully obvious yes. But if you’re like me and have spent years critiquing your body and using exercise as a tool to change it, it can take a while to come to that realization.  I began to look at exercise from a whole new light. I experimented with different routines. I paid attention to how my body felt before, during, and after a workout. I took time off and didn’t feel guilty about it. I began to approach fitness with a sense of curiosity and openness.

And after a while, I discovered that the answer was yes –  I would keep working out, even if I never lost another pound. Because, once I stopped obsessing about my weight, I realized that exercising actually made me feel more energized. I noticed how it made me think clearer, how it boosted my creativity. It made me happier and reduced my anxiety. And it made me feel totally badass and strong when I finished a hard workout.

I also made a point to stop doing things I actively dislike. I hate running, so I walk and hike instead. I do Pilates. I go to a weekly exercise class. I started playing soccer again. I’ve incorporated exercises that I actually look forward to doing and don’t make me feel like I’m in some sort of torture situation.

Because of this shift in attitude, my entire outlook on fitness and exercise has changed. It’s not just another item on my to do list, it’s a choice I’m actively making. It’s not a sad repercussion that comes from having a curvy body, it’s a sign of respect and discipline and strength. And yeah, sometimes it’s still a slog, but it’s never as hard and oppressive as it used to be. It’s not a punishment, it’s a loving choice. It’s a way to take care of myself.

Flipping my perspective on exercise was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my mental, emotional, and physical health. If you’re in a similar position, I highly recommend taking weight loss off the table and seeing what else exercise has to offer. I promise, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a contributing writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}