How I Finally Started Exercising for Real (and Love It Now!)

A true story from a reluctant middle-aged convert

Photo by Cris Saur

Exercising sucks.

Not only do you look like an uncoordinated mess; you are truly miserable while doing it.

You know it’s good for you, but it’s so easy to blow it off.

Besides, who has the time? Waking up any earlier is a deal breaker — sleep is part of self-care, right?

Working out after a long day at the office is too much trouble. Who wants to schlep their gym bag on the bus or subway?

Besides, you just remembered that your knee’s been acting up lately, so… next week.

You’ve successfully avoided another week of exercise. Woohoo!

But, wait. Why do you feel so rotten about yourself? Is that shame you’re feeling?

Why is it so hard to meld the person you want to be with the person you are right now?

The only times I’ve accomplished a goal or quit a bad habit are when I found really good reasons to do so. It doesn’t matter what you read or hear: facts, logic, science — none of it matters.

The only thing that matters is that you’re doing something because you really want to do it. When you’ve finally found the one reason that stops your excuses in their tracks, you’re unstoppable.

That’s what happened to me when I finally realized exercising was a matter of life and death.

How I Became Disenchanted with Exercise

One morning, I was listening to Shawn Stevenson’s podcast, The Model Health Show (episode #105), where he was speaking with health and fitness expert, Chalene Johnson, about finding your “Soulmate Workout.” In short, she believes most people have not found a form of exercise that they truly love.

Exercise that keeps you coming back for more. That’s crazy talk.

If you’re like me, you’ve never been in love with exercise. However, I’ve been wanting to start working out again, but knew, the only way to really make it stick was to figure out why I had such negative feelings toward it.

The sharpest and most enduring memories I have are from my days of field hockey, which spanned middle school and high school. My field hockey coach was a beast.

She had us running more miles than the cross country team. She had us doing suicides, drills, scrimmages, and then some more running to polish things off. It was brutal.

After several years of this rigor, I found myself dreading practice. I can clearly recall the stress and anxiety I felt, which started around sixth-period, only three more classes left until practice… it was terrible.

Once I finished high school, I vowed to never run again. I guess you could say I was slightly traumatized.

I’ve since run many more miles and done many other forms of exercise, but always accompanied with the feeling of dread. Negative association is pretty powerful stuff, but once you’ve pinpointed the source — recognize it for what it is, a useless memory.

Now that I understand my source of pain, I can build a new relationship with exercise where I’m the one calling the shots.

Don’t let terrible experiences hold you back from living the life you want. Get out of your rut and forge a different path, with a better understanding of yourself.

The Harrowing Realization That Got My Butt Into Gear

As middle age has been encroaching, I’ve been telling myself, for the past five years, that I need to start exercising. Why? Because each year, I only get fatter, while my muscles slowly atrophy.

Meanwhile, I see friends and loved ones being prescribed drugs for one ailment, only to end up with another ailment and/or side-effects, which are then countered with more drugs, and thus begins the slippery slope of pharmaceutical dependency.

For me, that’s a hard pill to swallow. That’s not living, that’s a slow painful death. I DO NOT WANT THAT LIFE.

I am financially stable and able-bodied, which means I need to take responsibility for my health and stop being so damn lazy.

The idea of becoming dependent on others, or pills, for my physical well-being is both frightening and motivating. This was the wake-up call I needed­ — my one reason.

I blocked out time on my calendar for exercise and considered it set in stone. No more wishy-washy, flakey, whiney excuses. Sometimes, your adult self needs to step in and speak up for your future self.

Boredom: A.K.A. My Nemesis

One hiccup I discovered on my exercise journey is that I’m uncoordinated. Any type of class instruction is way over my head. By the time I’ve figured out how to move my right arm with my left leg, the class is halfway through the next move.

This meant, I’d been relegated to a hamster wheel or whatever cardio machine was available. It’s fine, really. I could sweat and pant to my own rhythm without the humiliation.

Once, I even hired a trainer for a few months. She taught me core-strengthening and free-weight exercises that were simple enough for me to do on my own. Yet, none of that stuck.

The problem was that I had a very limited number of workout routines and cardio exercises to work with, so I got bored. This led to periods of yo-yo exercising, where I was never excited and mostly resentful.

Then I just stopped — for years. Why do something you hate?

But… stopping is quitting. How could you quit on yourself?

Again, I feebly attempted to regularly exercise, but this time, in my home. No more germ-infested gyms. I found some free workouts on YouTube and trudged onward.

It was going okay, but that familiar feeling of boredom started to creep in. Sure, I had my one good reason to keep exercising, but I needed a new strategy.

How I Finally Kicked Boredom to the Wayside and Embraced Exercise

Finally, I got my big break. My wireless carrier was offering a free 90-day trial for an on-demand workout service, The Daily Burn.* F.R.E.E. I literally, had nothing to lose.

Right off the bat, I found a 23-minute workout with a trainer (Dara––my She-Ra)that I can actually follow. She alone, has over 100 videos to choose from and the site itself has 1000s of workouts that are added to on a daily basis. Jackpot!

All the reasons why I hated exercise (boredom, incoordination, limited workouts) were resolved and served up to me in a sleek website. I’m not suggesting this is everyone’s solution.

I’m suggesting you look for solutions by trying new things. Products and services are constantly improving and evolving, we should too.

Did I mention the moves were not too complicated and that I can workout in as little as 10-minutes? No more slogging through hour-long workouts. Welcome to the world of high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.).

Now, I can randomly select a workout and press play. I’m always surprised and kept on my toes. I didn’t know the element of surprise would keep me engaged and challenged.

As humans, we only grow when we’re challenged and I’m finally doing that through exercise.

Photo by Elena Koycheva

Health is a Long-term Investment

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve lost 20 pounds or that I’m three sizes smaller. The big win is that I’m exercising on a regular basis and loving it. Did I just say that?

The little wins, e.g., strength, flexibility, self-confidence, add up to big gains over time. Think of yourself as a long-term investment, like a bond, rather than a short-term profit.

I know, Federal bonds are boring. They can take years, decades, to become worth something. Whereas, a risky stock investment could yield quick profits, but they’re volatile and unreliable in the long run.

Don’t short-change your health for vain, quick results. Aren’t you tired of fast, temporary weight losses that typically result in gaining back more pounds than you lost? That’s a short-sighted solution that only focuses on weight and not health.

A healthy, long-term strategy is to change one thing at a time, whether it be diet or exercise. Do what you can at a pace that’s right for you.

Yes, food does determine 75–85% of your health¹, but it can’t improve your posture or strengthen your joints, like exercise can. You need exercise to fill in the gap.

I could exercise more or eat less, but I know that’s not sustainable for me in the long run. My future self does not want to be obligated to my impatient younger self.

When your goal is a strong, healthy body, you’re less likely to sabotage yourself or beat yourself up for minor missteps. Get out of the dieter’s mindset and focus on long-term health, not weight.

Take Control of Your Life Story

When I think about the long game, it allows me to zoom out and see my life as a movie. And because this is your movie, you get to determine the ending.

SPOILER ALERT: You already know the one ending and it’s bad.

A hunched over version of you, using a walker (the one with the tennis balls), and a special tote bag to carry your plastic case full of colorful pills.

Life is a struggle because you spend all your savings on doctor’s appointments and prescription drugs. You’re pretty much waiting to die.

That sounds incredibly depressing. Instead, why not take an active role in your movie and end it with a healthy you who is happy to be alive?

How? By making good choices today that lay the groundwork for your future self. Your health is always a work in progress, but at some point, you can’t make up for all the harm done.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. You have the power and ability to control your life story, just start with 10-minutes of exercise and see what happens.

It’ll be hard in the beginning, but you’ll make progress. You’ll never regret exercising.

You may still curse it and feel resentful, but deep down inside you’ll feel proud. Go on, make yourself proud!


*I am not an affiliate or advertiser of The Daily Burn, I just like their services.

[1] Gottfried M.D., Sara. The Hormone Reset Diet: Heal Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days (p. 119). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.