Being the decider

I refer to as my tipping point. Others, their epiphany. Still others, their ah-ha moment. That moment when we decide that our health is important and it is time to take the steps necessary to take better care of ourselves.

This week has brought several posts on Facebook, other blogs, forums I follow about that moment in life when we have to decide between the cookie and how much insulin we want to be using, or the couch and the walk around the block. Or both. I have heard it from others for everything from quitting smoking or drugs or alcohol to living outside their means (way too much for one lifetime) or leaving an abusive relationship.

Change, especially lifestyle change, is hard. Anyone who has successfully made that leap and stayed/maintained that course knows how difficult it is at first. Since I am still in the very embryonic change of regular exercise, I am always hesitant to offer much by way of advice. Except choose to do it, every single day, until you don’t have to think about it and make the conscious choice every single day. Not sure when that happens precisely; I believe it’s a “your mileage may vary” situation. Sometimes it feels automatic to me now, but there are days when the alarm goes off and I lie there and have to run through a list of reasons why getting up, dressed, and to the gym is in my best interests.

Whatever the tipping point that makes us decide to try another way to live our lives, the results are rarely glamorous or easy. The people whose stories I read always sound happy to have made the choice, but the actual road to their personal wellville was rather mundane and boring. Or maybe I just think that because my path seems so mundane and boring?

While I can pinpoint the actual day and if I go back and count the actual session that catapulted me into becoming an exercise consistency junkie advocate, my reaction to a very, very mild tough love statement from J was probably a bit extreme. After 3 months of weekly appointments and very minimal effort to practice or get my sad self into the gym between sessions, he said he would like to see me at least twice more between that Thursday and our next meeting the following Thursday. It was mild, delivered without judgment or anything else. In my head, it was the most scathing thing he could have possibly said to me ever. I was a slacker. I was wasting his time. I was going to get fired. OMG – he was going to FIRE me and I would never, ever be able to show my face in any gym in the chain. I would be blacklisted. I would be banned. I might as well die right then and there.

Yes, negative girl did have a flair for the overly dramatic.

The effect was surprising to me and everyone else I know. I got serious about getting to the gym, told myself I had to go every single day for 30 days and then it would be a habit. It was hard at first – getting up at 5:30 (when I was used to getting up at 7), then 5, then 4:30, then 4, even 3:45 for awhile – all so I would have enough time to get through the List of the day. The effect was unexpected. After about 2 weeks of daily visits, I started feeling antsy about the Lists and blowing up J’s phone every day with questions or tearful meltdowns because I was not getting it. I asked for a second session one week, liked it so much I asked if I could continue that way. While I think he was a bit skeptical at first – the daily gym habit was still very new behavior – he found a second spot for me. And the magic truly began to happen.

When I look back, it was heady, exciting times. I made progress so much more quickly. I made mistakes, I adopted a few bad habits with form J had to train me away from, but suddenly I was not only learning the new material more quickly I was actually improving, getting better with it, and the weights were slowly increasing. My confidence grew, and I began to really look forward to my gym time. M was so pleased to see me getting up every morning without complaint and the overall transition from tired and stressed 24/7 to getting adequate rest and much more balanced in my work/life balance.

In reality, it is and was a lot of hard work and letting go of some things I truly enjoyed in order to have that tenuous balance. Some of my friends are no longer close to me – they don’t call or want to hang out. It is akin to a regular drinker becoming a non-drinker, and my boundaries have changed as a consequence of my pursuit of better health. I go to bed at an earlier hour to try and get my baseline amount of sleep, so going out during the week is more limited. For a long while weekends have been sort of challenging to schedule social events because of M’s running schedule, but now with my prioritizing exercise and the gym, I suppose some of my friends began to feel less important than taking care of myself. It was never my intention that it happen that way, but between work and exercise and other stuff in a pretty normal working woman’s life, I have found myself making different and sometimes more difficult choices in how to spend my time.

The hard work is paying off. I feel better, inside and outside. It is easier for me to feel deserving of compliments and less and less like the imposter gym person and more like a woman who prioritizes her health. While I am still a few months shy of 2 years, I will say that the weight that has not dropped from the scale remains a lesser concern, but I’m sidling up to the point of getting more serious and invested in healthier eating options. Of course, I have been dawdling here in the semi-serious state for a year now, so perhaps my sidling is more a very slow sideways shuffle. M, having been sidelined from high mileage running for nearly 6 months now, is finding that curbing his eating impulses are soon to become a reality once again. So maybe that will be the catalyst that makes me do more in that realm. Or perhaps this 27 day fat loss program I’m beta testing will have more impact. We shall see.

But for today, these are the happiest of days. I feel really good in my own skin, and I like the peace that comes from pursuing my daily Lists. Not every day is a successful, all sets, all reps, good form, good amount of weight moved to and fro days of course. But my gratitude at being capable of getting up, getting out, doing something is very real. Watching friends get injured and have to give up on their goals and aspirations is not easy and most definitely a path I want to avoid if at all possible. So I go slowly and am grateful for the inch-by-inch forward progress.

Forward progress, no matter how fast or how tiny, is something to celebrate every day. In my ability, body has to learn to do new things and accept its limitations. In my attitude toward those new things and potential limitations, I am the decider, and I choose all the good things that come from this grand adventure. The story is rather boring and routine if one is seeking fast and easy results, but that is quite all right. Me, better health – no longer any debate that I am worth all this effort and hard work. I didn’t always feel that way; in and of itself, that progress of my sense of self-worth is priceless.

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