I thought I’d take a break from blogging about the usual stuff and instead post about something else that’s really important to me: exercise.
It’s kind of funny because one thing everyone always told me was that once you have kids, it becomes very difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine.
To which I replied: Mmmaayhh.
I didn’t buy it. Back in my heyday, it wasn’t uncommon to hit the gym for 60-90 minutes a day, six days a week. I felt like I was taking a step backward if I didn’t make it at least five.
Exercise was my life. I’d schedule everything else around my workouts. Sometimes on weekends I’d even do cardio in the morning and then lift in the afternoon. I’d meet up with my best friends at our favorite bar and we’d spend hours discussing our current routines with each other and bragging about hitting a new one-rep max on the lift of choice.
It’s pretty interesting in hindsight to see just how big of an impact exercise had on my life. It really made me who I am today. I spent most of my teens and the first few years of my twenties kind of lost. I had absolutely no self-esteem, I hated the way I looked. I felt so bad about myself that whenever I’d walk past a group of girls laughing on campus, I assumed they were laughing at me.
I was twenty-two when I first started running. I was also a half-pack a day cigarette smoker with hair half-way down my back. I’m sure it made a great spectacle to my neighbor the first time she saw me put in a pony tail and run out the front door of our apartment building, only to return not five minutes later pale, panting, and drenched in sweat. I think I cut my hair about two weeks later and quit smoking (which was surprisingly easy to do, btw) shortly after that.
I didn’t try anything else outside of running for a few months after that, but eventually built up the courage to try out the campus gym once it got too cold outside to run.
After spending a few more months doing indoor laps, I cautiously took the next step and joined the circuit room. This was my first real experience with weights. The way the circuit worked was a full-body routine where you lift on one station for thirty seconds, and then rest for twenty. The stations were set up to rotate between lifting and cardio. It totaled up to twelve lifting machines and eleven cardio stations. The whole circuit lasted around twenty minutes. I did this three times a week for a year, and ran or swam on the off-days.
Then one day, I walked into the other weight room. The “grown-ups weight room.” I quickly picked up a few routines I liked and then I spent a couple of years reading Muscle and Fitness and trying all sorts of new routines and training splits. Through it all, I continued to grow more muscle, more confidence. It was great. I wouldn’t say I made any real friends at the gym, but I did become one of the “regulars.” You know, one of those guys who is there almost everyday. That guy you can make smalltalk with on the cardio machines and know you can trust for a spot on the bench.
At my best, I had gained over thirty pounds and kept my body fat around 12%. I always got a laugh out of the fact that BMI practically had me listed as obese. (On a side note, BMI is a terrible way to measure health for healthy people.)
Anyhow, when I turned 25 I realized something. It happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice it at first. Somewhere between 23 and 25, for the first time in my life, I actually liked myself. I felt like I had fixed everything about me that I didn’t like.
Exercise chased it all away. The shy, quiet, skinny wimp, with no self-esteem and a negative attitude died and the person I had become took his place. I found myself unafraid. Before then, I never realized how afraid I really was. I didn’t like to meet new people; I just assumed they wouldn’t like me. I didn’t like to be around crowds; I just assumed I’d be on the outside looking in. That sort of thing.
So fast forward a decade or so, here I am with a great wife and four awesome kids. And now, just like everyone always told me, it’s impossible to maintain a respectable exercise routine once you have kids.
But that’s okay. Exercise came into my life when I needed it most. It can back off a little now until my kids get older. In the meantime, I’m doing my best to get on the treadmill when I can, go on walks during work, and even pick up a dumbbell every now and then. And I’m still getting a pretty decent workout at physical therapy.
And now you’re saying “This is a writing blog. What does that have to do with writing?”
Let me answer that the quick way. Before I discovered exercise, I was…incomplete. After fixing all that, and figuring out that it was okay to like myself, I was able to start pursing the more important things. Things like family. Like writing.
And that is the whole point of this post. Since I use this blog to share writing tips with new writers, don’t try writing if you’re incomplete. Fix that first. Take care of yourself first. Have a clear head and then start working on building that writing career you’ve always wanted.
So thanks for reading and letting me share this somewhat unorthodox (for me) post and if you’ve got any stories about changing your life for the better, feel free to share them in the comments section.