Many people say, "I feel so energized after a workout," and "exercising makes me feel so good." Yeah, that's not me. Not me at all. The truth is, I feel like crap during and after exercising. It doesn't make me feel invigorated or energized at all. Actually, I usually feel like passing out or vomiting. I get out of breath, I cough and sometimes wheeze (a touch of exercise-induced asthma perhaps??) and I generally feel like I'm going to meet my demise right then and there. I know I sound dramatic, but it's true. This is why I don't like to exercise. In case you needed to hear this today, let me be the one to tell you that not everyone likes exercising, and not everyone feels good when they exercise.
Now that we have that established, the photo above is of me during a recent workout (click link). I was between sets of leg raises and my legs burned so badly that after completing my set I collapsed on the mat (resistance bands still around my legs). My trainer took this photo at my request. I was pissed because I had two more sets to go.
My favorite activity nowadays is walking outside in fresh air. Walking clears my head, calms my spirit, connects me to nature (cliche, but true), and centers me. Over the years I've had an up-and-down relationship with exercise. When I was in college I discovered step aerobics which was awesome because it helped me exercise out all the frustrations I had as a college student. Soon after I tried kickboxing- which I also loved because it made me feel fierce. Who doesn't love to feel fierce?
Around 1999 when I was preparing to compete in the Miss America Pageant as Miss Iowa 1999, I met with a fancy fitness trainer in Chicago (who I only saw once for a consultation because that's all we could afford). She took one look at my body and... well, let's just say that she wasn't too happy (to put it mildly). I had a lot of work to do and she put me on an exercise and eating regimen to help get me in shape for the pageant. I think it worked pretty well, but when I got the pageant I ate bacon and eggs every morning (i think it was stress eating) - not only that, but breakfast was always a buffet so I went back for seconds. I probably put some pounds back on before the competition. Either way, I got my rear on that Miss America stage and competed in the swimsuit competition simply feeling proud that I'd had the courage to be nearly naked in front of the American public. Also, as an Iowa girl I grew up on meat and potatoes (and corn), and getting in shape enough to feel confident to wear a bikini on stage was huge for me. (Below photo is of my Swimsuit competition at the Miss America Pageant).
I kept up many of the habits I was taught by my fancy Chicago fitness trainer throughout much of my adult life. About 5 years ago, though, I decided to hire a trainer. I broke off an engagement in 2018 (which was the BEST thing I could have ever done) and I came out of it wanting to feel stronger mentally and physically so I, 1) got myself back into therapy and 2) I got a trainer.
I found Shawn (my trainer) at a health conference we'd both spoken at a couple of years earlier. He was kind, patient, motivating, and knowledgeable- everything I needed. I paid him upfront and in full for a fitness package to make sure I wouldn't back out of my new commitment. The truth is, the only reason that I exercise in any formal way is because of him. I have no shame in saying that either. If you feel that you need the motivation to get exercising, don't hesitate to glean that motivation from others.
I'm telling you my story so that you know that you're not alone. Here are a few mantras that I allow myself to acknowledge. You can allow yourself to acknowledge these too. Please, repeat after me:
- getting motivated to exercise is not always easy
- going to a gym (aka meat market) doesn't always feel good
- exercise sometimes feels crappy
- but exercise is also good for our bodies and minds and incorporating consistent exercise into our lives will make us better for the future.
So, here are some tips that I use which might help you incorporate exercise more consistently into your life:
Do exercises that you love. Have dance parties in your living room, get on your exercise bike while watching your favorite tv shows, garden or mow the lawn. Get creative and make sure the physical activity you do is something you like. (I offer suggestions like this in my Daily Health Tips)
Enlist support. There's no shame in needing motivation. I need it and that's why I have a trainer. Maybe your support is your family, your work colleagues, or a running group or another group- that's ok and it's awesome, actually! (ps- I did a tv segment once about the group, Black Girls Run, and it's amazing- check it out!)
Set a schedule. And stick with it. Exercising once a week is okay as long as you're consistent
Find exercise everywhere. Take a walk around your block after getting home from work to get in a few extra steps, always take the stairs, park far away from stores, etc. to get extra steps
Just remember that you're not alone in this exercise journey. Set a plan, enlist support, and work towards consistency. And, if you ever feel like you're going to pass out or vomit during your workout, just think of me because I'm right there with ya.' (*wink*)
You got this!
Dr. Jen Caudle is a board-certified Family Physician, Associate Professor at Rowan University, tv health expert, and video creator. Sign up to receive Dr. Jen's Daily Health Tips to get daily emails (Mon-Fri) with health information you can use to live a healthier life. Follow her on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.