Many people start the challenging journey to become fit and active, but why is it that so many times this journey ends prematurely? A lot of authors focus on the importance of making it a habit and there are different theories about the “21 or 66 days”. You can find many examples of “Beginner’s guide to Exercise” and “Sample Workouts for Beginners” in bookstores and on the internet. If you are anything like me, these did not work for you, and you are still looking for your solution. I am hoping by sharing my story, will help you to find your “Why?” to either start exercising or continue and not quit. You are much stronger than you have ever imagined, and I want to help you to discover this strong person inside yourself.
Before 2014, I was probably a person that you would have disliked. I had no idea what it felt like to be unfit because I started competing in cross-country and athletics at the age of 6 and never stopped. I was so oblivious to how fortunate I was to be healthy and fit; I had no clue what people go through when they start exercising. But the only constant in life is change, it creeps in, sometimes slowly and other times fast.
The year I turned 30, my symptoms were mild, I felt dizzy because of tachycardia from time to time. Being typically me, there was always a very good explanation for my symptoms which, at first, did not stop me from exercising. Unfortunately, my heart problem progressively worsened, and it resulted in me losing consciousness almost daily. My expectations changed from working out at least once a day to struggling to walk to my car. To prevent losing consciousness in front of our children, I had to constantly rely on my husband for help. Daily activities became a struggle. I forgot what “normal” functioning felt like.
My obsession went from analyzing my weekly training to analyzing where I can and can’t go in order to minimize my risk of losing consciousness in situations that could be harmful. I kept on fighting to try and hold on to the person I used to be, but she was slipping away. I was completely lost because the identity I built around being fit and strong was gone. When I looked in the mirror, I did not know the person staring back at me.
After spending months going to different doctors and specialists my heart problem was identified by a brilliant Specialist Cardiologist. The suggested surgery was not successful, but there was another option – medication. I jumped at this option, as this was the last resort. The doctor did warn me that it was going to take time and I need to be patient. It is so easy to listen to these words, to apply them is the real challenge.
Seven days after starting my medication, I went for my first walk/run in a very long time. It started well because the first 100 meters from our house was down-hill and the effect of adrenaline never cease to amaze me. It was as if everything got their color back as I was slowly running towards the stream that flows past our home. I could hear the birds singing and water flowing over the rocks. It felt like I was flying with my new feathered friends! I felt invincible. After about 4 minutes everything went grey again. The extreme pain in my chest forced me to an immediate halt. As I fell on my knees I started crying and screaming at the same time. I could not believe what was happening. I looked on my GPS watch and saw I only ran 400 m. It felt like I ran 40 km at max speed as my heart was trying to climb out of my chest, muscles aching, and my lungs were on fire. I thought screaming a bit more might help me get rid of my frustration and disappointment but as I was screaming, I chocked on a very odd-looking bug that took the opportunity to fly into my mouth. Well, that was the last time I screamed while being in nature and sadly it was also the last time the odd-looking bug tried to stop noise pollution made by a frustrated and hysteric human.
I knew the time had come to redefine my “Why?” for wanting to be fit because it was not fun like it used to be! I considered traveling back in time; stopping myself every time I enthusiastically explained to an unfit person how wonderful and exciting it is to exercise and they should join me for a slow short run sometime. I then understood the “if looks could kill” expression I mostly got as a reply to my (only now well understood) naïve comments.
In the search for my “Why?” for fitness, I considered applying many theories but most of these were focused on the long-term results that were so far away and unrealistic in my opinion. The books and articles I found were mostly focused on people that are already fit. Getting into the habit of training honestly did not appeal to me at that time. It was not motivating me to get off my buttocks and go exercise, it actually made me feel worse about myself and who I have become. My justification for not exercising outweigh my undiscovered “Why?” and everyday it did, it became easier NOT to exercise.
After watching another inspirational video on YouTube about getting fit, I paused before setting my alarm clock. A million reasons “why not to get up earlier for a run” disguised in red and white armor, sharp swords in hand and zero tolerance were running towards me while shouting “stop her!”. This time I decided to fight instead of flight.
It took about 7 min to wrestle myself out of bed that morning and the run was not easy at all, it was suffering not running. I wanted to stop because my heart changed into a hummingbird, someone obviously spilled super glue where I was running, and my asthma pump was not helping me to breath normal. Everything was grey! I started asking myself why I am doing this. I stopped to sit on a rock next to the stream because it was impossible talking to myself while running, that is obviously reserved for fit people only. As I was listening to the water flowing downstream, I saw our children’s happy faces in front of me. I love watching our children play, they have the most gorgeous contagious laughter. I thought about all the things that makes them happy and gives them self-confidence because that makes me happy and content. Suddenly anxiety tried to overwhelm me, changing their happy faces and laughter to uncertainty and fear. At first, I did not understand where this came from, then I realized that if I fail to overcome this “obstacle” it has a direct effect on their self-confidence and willpower. How are they supposed to be bold and fearless if I can’t show them how? If I can’t overcome an “obstacle” because it is too difficult, how can I expect this from them? How can they look up to someone that quits when it gets tough?
I looked at my reflection in the water, stood up and pointed my finger at myself saying: “NO! You will not allow this! I want to be a person our children can look up to and respect. I want to live by example and show them anything is possible when they put their minds to it. I want to show them how important it is NOT to give up, even if the pain and suffering is unbearable. I want to motivate them to be the best they can be. They deserve a mother that is strong and determined! I want to be that person for them, more than anything!”
When I arrived home, I looked in the mirror and saw a person that I did not know gazing back at me. I saw “Her”, a warrior much stronger than I was. She was standing tall and proud. Her armor very carefully and well-designed. Shamelessly she was holding her highly detailed sword, a bright light reflecting on the Star of David creating an aura of gold around her. On her chest plate the engraving: “Focus on Here and Now”. She looked ready for battle. She had wisdom in her eyes that looked straight into my soul. I could see the hunger for success in her smile. That day I met my “Why?” for wanting to be fit! Every time I make the decision to exercise, I meet “Her” in the mirror, and we become one.
Now it is your turn to find your “Why?” for fitness. There is a reason you are reading this today. You can only control what you do here and now. Make the decision now and celebrate your victory today. I believe you can do it!