Fit(ish): My Fitness Journey
Ball was life for me until I graduated college two years ago. Working out was never an issue for me because it was a part of my day-to-day routine. I ate whatever I wanted to and didn’t understand the importance of fueling your body correctly. That quickly changed when I stopped playing sports and started working full-time. While I didn’t feel obligated to exercise because I was no longer competing anymore, my body craved the high-intensity basketball workouts that it was used to.
I was not prepared for life after college athletics. I didn't have mandatory workouts, I didn't have to make sure I was in shape to run incline quarters on the treadmill and I didn't have to struggle to make a six-minute and thirty second mile. I had to find enjoyable ways to stay active and realize why doing so is important. In the past two years, I’ve grappled a lot with fitness and finding out how it fits into my life outside of sports. Here are the top 5 things that I've learned in the process:
1) Find What Works for You
The fitness craze has taken the world by storm from boutique fitness classes to specialty gyms. Taking the time to find out which type of workout works best for you is important. Are you trying to build muscle and tone? Are you working on flexibility? Do you like faster paced classes? These are the type of things that you should take into consideration because if you're forcing it, the results you're seeking won’t be there and you're less likely to find enjoyment. For example, yoga classes that have a slower flow aren’t my favorite. But I do however, enjoy hot Vinyasa classes that have a faster flow. Similarly, I like cycling classes, but I prefer boot camp style classes like Barry’s Bootcamp. Finding what works for you takes time and can only happen if you start somewhere. So, take that free class and if you don’t like it, try something new. Don’t give up on fitness altogether because of one experience that you didn’t like.
2) Listen to Your Body
Listen to your body because I promise you it will always tell you what it needs. If you need rest, take a rest day. If you’re feeling sore, foam roll and stretch. I know this seems simple, but it is something that I had to learn. In college athletics there is this culture of if something literally isn’t broken or torn, then you get treatment and suck it up. I have to remind myself sometimes that I’m older and I've been prone to injuries in the past, so I definitely cut back when needed. For me, this also applies to the food I eat. When I started eating better and really paying attention to the food that I consume, my body reacted in a very positive way. However, when I go months without doing so I feel completely different. What it really comes down to is finding balance and what that means for you.
3) Balance is Important
Confession: I worked out this week for the first time in about five months. Am I happy about that? Not really, but balance is something I struggle with and it’s something that I’m continually working on. What balance means for me, may not be what balance means for you (and vice versa). If working out only two days a week is that perfect number for you, workout two days a week. If you need to workout five times a week, workout five times a week. Long story short, if I want to eat pizza then I’m going to eat it. But, I’m also going to do so in moderation, and make sure I’m incorporating healthier meals throughout the week. Sometimes that means having both fries and a salad in the same meal. But, hey balance is important, right?
4) Go at Your Own Pace
Everyone doesn't have the same fitness abilities. It’s important to go at a pace comfortable for you instead of focusing on what the next person is doing. Pushing and challenging yourself is important, but it becomes a problem when you start doing more than you can handle at the given moment. I’m used to being able to lift a certain amount of weight, but when I don’t workout for months at a time, I have to remind myself to start off a little lighter. I can then work my way up from there once my muscle memory gets back into action. There have been moments when I tweaked a muscle or two because I was trying to outpace myself. It’s safe to say that I’ve learned my lesson.
5) What is Your Why
Discover what fitness means to you and it makes incorporating it in your everyday life much easier. For me, fitness was always there because I was either forced to do it through sports and because it was something that I enjoyed. But, it has since become more for me. People tell me that I look “in shape” and “I don’t have to workout.” Let’s debunk that myth. Working out is necessary for me because what’s in shape to one person, may not be what I think is in shape for myself. But on top of that, it continues to help me grow mentally and physically stronger, which is helpful to me in other areas of my life. I didn’t realize this until I stopped working out regularly and kept wondering why I felt terrible a lot.
In all, I don’t exercise every day (unless walking up the subway stairs counts) and I don’t even workout every week. I try to pay attention to the food that I’m putting in my body (and that I stay hydrated because the thirst is real). A one-size-fits-all solution to how you should achieve balance does not exist. Listen to your body because it will tell you what it needs and go at your own pace. No one has it all figured out and they call it a journey for a reason.