Most of my life I have been an active person. I love to hike and kayak, I have taken martial arts classes, and for several years I walked or biked to work about six months of the year. In 2005 Greg and I moved to a small town and I stopped doing many of these activities. At one point, I definitely turned into a couch potato.
Several years ago, when I had my annual physical, I had some disturbing results. My blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were all great, as expected. But one thing was very out of whack. I had done a lung capacity test, and the results were not good. Even though I was in my late thirties, my results indicated that my lung age was 51. What? I’ve never been a smoker, how could this be?
This news was particularly upsetting because my father has lung disease. Not only was he a heavy smoker for 35 years, but he was frequently exposed to asbestos in his workplace back in the fifties. Seeing my dad suffer with his much diminished lung capacity has been difficult. He is not able to do small things, like bring the recycling bin to the end of the driveway, without laboured breathing and breaking out into a sweat.
My doctor told me that inactivity was the main cause for my poor lung capacity. He recommended that I exercise regularly. You would think that would be the kick in the pants I needed to start living an active lifestyle again. In reality, life was pretty challenging for me at that time and I couldn’t find the energy to do it. This is ironic as the lack of energy would never be solved by remaining a couch potato. I did what I could, small things like taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator (my office is on the sixth floor) and going for walks a couple of times a week.
A couple of years ago I finally made the decision to join a gym. I joined because I wanted to feel better. I opted to participate in group exercise classes rather than workout with the machines. I wasn’t very good about going regularly, but going once a week was better than not going at all.
A couple of months ago, I finally made the commitment to myself to go three times a week. For the most part I’ve been able to do this and I feel pretty good about it.
Why do I work out regularly?
- For my health. Despite the fact that I’m skinny, thin, petite, being a couch potato is just not good for me. My lung capacity test results certainly demonstrated that being thin does not necessarily mean being healthy. Regular exercise helps combat several diseases, including heart disease and arthritis. My mother has arthritis. Seeing her suffering, arthritis is a disease I want to avoid. My father also has heart disease, which increases my risk, making it even more important for me to reduce the risk factors that are within my control, such as regular exercise.
- To have more energy. It can seem counterintuitive, but expending all that energy doing vigorous exercise actually improves my overall energy level. Even though I’m spending more time at the gym than I was last year, I’m actually able to get more done at home each week. This is due to my increased energy level.
- As an outlet for stress. My life is stressful. Heck, whose isn’t? Regular workouts help relieve my stress. It helps with the tension that I carry in my neck, shoulders and back (pretty common among those who work at a computer all day). It also helps mentally as there is something very satisfying about giving it your all during a 60 minute class and testing your limits.
- To feel stronger. Yes, I know that being able to do planks or push-ups from my toes doesn’t have a real world application. But feeling stronger makes me more confident. Having confidence is always a good thing.
- So that my muscles hurt less. When I was working out only once a week, the recovery time for my muscles was two to three days. I hated being sore for days after each workout. It decreased my motivation to workout. Working out three times a week has improved that. My muscles hurt a lot less after each workout.
- It gives me a reason to focus on me. During a workout, the focus is all me. I pay attention to my movements, to how my muscles feel and I focus on my breathing. While working out, I never think about my to-do list or to the challenges at work. It’s all about me for those 60 minutes.
- It makes me feel good. I’ve discovered that exercise can be fun. It also puts me in a good mood. At the end of a class, I feel really good and ready to take on a variety of challenges.
I workout for me. For how it makes me feel. For how it makes me healthier. For how it makes my life better. The bonus? If my life is better, it’s better for the people around me. So everyone wins. But I do it for myself. I can’t do it for anyone else.
Why do you workout?