The Power of Exercise

I have never, ever loved to workout. There is no exercise that I have ever really enjoyed doing over the years. I have read, for years, about the power of exercise and mental health, but I never made that a priority.

Before I had my first child, this was not really a problem for me. I was not so focused on being healthy as I was skinny. And, up until my first pregnancy, I was skinny without much effort. 

Once I got pregnant and gained weight, I really struggled with loving my body. Suddenly, I was chubby. I had stretch marks. I was embarrassed of the way I looked. I will admit, there are times when I actually hate the body that I have. It is not my ideal–I am short, weight likes to stick to my arms and my thighs, my face is too round, my hair is too curly…you get the picture. Some days, it just feels very unfair.

Throughout therapy, I have struggled with finding ways to love myself while not really loving my body. Can you do such a thing? I mean, I love my brain–in spite of its tendencies to overthink things and my struggle with depression and anxiety. But my body? Not so much…

When my anxiety reached its peak this spring, I lost my appetite. Quickly, my body shed ten extra pounds that it had been holding onto for years, because I could not get myself to eat. To my surprise, this weight did not immediately jump back on when I got my appetite back–and I began to like the way I looked–a slimmer version of me, even though I was ashamed of how I got there. It seemed like some kind of silver lining.

I began walking, both as a method of self care and in a battle to keep those pounds off. Everyday, I’d hit the streets, and walk three to four miles. My mind would sometimes welcome this and, other times, it would use it as an excuse to overthink about anything and everything.

As the summer has progressed, I have begun to push myself harder. Why not try jogging a little? (Before, I would have laughed–my legs are too short for jogging, I would joke!). So I started jogging and walking. This felt good! So a few weeks ago, I challenged myself to try to run a whole mile, without stopping (something I haven’t done since junior high!). To my surprise–and pride–I not only managed to do this, I managed to run a 9 minute mile! (What!?)

This morning, as I was out on another jog, I found myself having a typical argument with myself, at the start of my run. If you are a runner, maybe you feel the same way…the first mile is the hardest. I questioned my strength, my ability, my reasons, my existence.

And then, I powered through. I felt my body ease into its stride, my breath came more easily, and I simply marveled at my own strength. I thought, “I am winning.”

I am doing something I never thought I could do.

Do I love it while I am doing it? No…not so much.

BUT, I love the way I feel when I am finished. I feel proud. I feel stronger. I feel like I have achieved so much more than I thought I could–something very reminiscent of my therapy journey.

I still don’t love the way my body looks. It is jiggly. I have stretch marks. It is imperfect.

…but it is strong, and I am able to find ways to make it even stronger. THAT, is what I marvel in.

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