Confessions of a Sedentary

Yes, that’s me. At least that’s the box I used to always check on those medical forms you are occasionally required to fill out in medical offices when asked about your activity level.

Given that, you can imagine my concern when the Global management team began talking about implementing a fitness program, and especially when I was tasked with putting together a suitable plan for our staff. When we signed on with Innovative Fitness for a 90 Day Fitness Challenge, I felt compelled to participate as part of the leadership team, but to be honest, it filled me with a sense of dread. I anticipated repeating all my past failures.

I was a bookworm when I was a kid, and preferred spending time in libraries rather than on the playing field. As I approached junior high and high school, I became focused on academics, and getting good grades was more important to me than physical activity. High school gym class was a nightmare. I was clumsy, unskilled, awkward, and embarassed by my limitations as compared to my classmates. Thus began my “hate affair” with exercise.

After high school I went on with my life, and since physical activity had never been part of it, I had convinced myself I just wasn’t the exercise type. Every couple of years I’d feel guilty about not exercising and would take out a gym membership or sign up for a class, throw myself into it headlong, and then give up a few weeks in. And, I hated everything about it. I hated gearing myself up for getting to the gym, hated the feeling of exertion while I was there, and generally did not feel those wonderful endorphins everyone always talks about when you’re finished, that make you feel like it was all worth it.

Global implemented the Innovative Fitness 90 Day Challenge in January of this year. It required participants to commit to three structured physical activities per week. In addition to that, I had previously signed up with a personal trainer at the gym, taking me from 0 days of activity to 5 per week. The first two weeks were torture. I experienced all those familiar feelings and failings of my past efforts. After the second week I felt ready to give up. A physiotherapist friend encouraged me to push through. She told me week 3 was always the hardest, and if I could get through that, I’d feel differently about it. I didn’t believe her, but carried on anyway. During week 4, I found I disliked the experience slightly less than usual. This may not seem like a big deal to those who are regularly physically active, but for me, it was a monumental shift.

Then I came down with the flu. For two days I was in bed and couldn’t exercise. Fair enough. The third day, I talked myself into needing an extra day to get my energy back and cancelled my gym appintment. The fourth day I was convinced I needed some extra sleep to catch up. But I woke up on the 5th day to a strange feeling. My muscles and joints were achy and sore. I had pains in funny places. I laid in bed trying to figure out what was going on, when I realized that I missed moving! I looked outside. No rain. Gone was my last excuse. So I threw on my runners and headed out for my walk, in the dark of the morning.

That day, instead of being obsessed about how much I didn’t want to be walking, I noticed the sun rise. I noticed the birds singing. I noticed that there was a quickness in my step, and that I was struggling with the effort less than I had a week or two ago. I also noticed that I wasn’t hating it. I looked at my stopwatch as I approached my house and saw that I had put in my obligatory walk time. Then I did something completely crazy and entirely new. I kept walking. I pushed myself for another 10 minutes, just because I could. And something else has happened, quite unintentionally.  I am somehow eating less cookies and more almonds, less chips and more fruit.

At the mid-way point, has the 90 Day Challenge changed my life forever? It may be too soon to tell. I don’t like to look too far ahead because that’s when I get myself into trouble. Taking on too much and then quitting, rather than taking it one step at a time and appreciating the incremental achievements, no matter how small. But not hating – and, I daresay, inching towards enjoying – my morning walks is a milestone for me. At the moment, if I were to fill out one of those medical forms, I could honestly check off the box that says “moderately active”, and that feels pretty good. It’s enough for now.

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