One of the things I’ve realized helped me remain motivated to exercise was progress; to see how far I’ve come since first deciding that I wanted to be more fit.
It’s really crazy just how much difficulty I experienced trying to get started. I always knew the phrase, “no pain, no gain” but as someone who wasn’t accustomed to experiencing pain, the struggle was just too real.
Twenty-five Thousand Push-ups – A serious lack of strength was the first problem I ran into when I finally decided I wanted to be more fit to help others. Since I was more focused on how I could help physically (moving or carrying things), strength was my main and only goal for quite some time. The problem with this though was that it seemed like to build strength I first had to have strength; kind of like how many internships seem to work. I couldn’t lift any of the available dumbbells, bench presses were out of the question as I couldn’t even move the bar, and I could barely manage a proper push-up. Frustrating, to say the least. Not only was fitness already something I had to change my habits and schedule to incorporate, but my body was also making it extremely difficult for me to even start.
So how was I to start? I figured out that I could at least do several knee push-ups, i.e. girl push-ups, so that’s what I started with. I suppose this was where being light-weight was to my advantage. As I got used to it, I transitioned to normal push-ups which actually became my only exercise for over a year. It was just very convenient since I could do it practically anywhere and at any time. I also thought it was a great exercise to stick with because I felt that if/when I developed muscles more weight would be added to my push-ups thus giving me an exercise that naturally increased in difficulty as I got stronger. Now is that really how it works, probably not, but that was my mindset. When I got to a point where I was able to do 20 push-ups in a row I found this program called “hundred pushups” and made that my new goal. The program scheduled three sessions a week, with each session varying in the number of sets and reps, for 7 weeks, with the goal of getting you from doing a single push-up to 100 consecutive push-ups. Truth be told, I never reached 100 because I reset the program several times (couldn’t keep up), and when I got to college I went to the gym instead of doing push-ups. The highest I ever got was 75 consecutive push-ups and 280 push-ups during a single session; a total of 26,819 push-ups logged. Obviously, quantity of push-ups is not a great indicator of overall fitness, but still something I’m extremely proud of just because it shows how far I’ve come.
A Hundred Miles and Counting – Next up after strength was cardio. As my fitness improved, I became more and more interested in physical activities so naturally that meant I needed to work on cardio so I didn’t die from running for half a minute. Let me tell you, running was a thousand times more frustrating and awkward than having to do knee push-ups. For those of you who have ever had the misfortune of deciding to improve your fitness after a couple decades of inactivity, you’ll probably know what I mean when I say running made by body itch as if I was bitten all over by mosquitoes while suffering from chicken pox. No exaggeration. Damn I can’t even begin to explain just how irritating (pun-intended) the whole experience with trying to start running was. After only a couple minutes of sprinting, if I could even last that long before running out of breath, my body would spazz out on me and start itching like crazy. It was as if every fiber of my being was telling me to stop the madness and to just go back to being a couch potato. I never talked to my family or a doctor about it, but instead just did what everyone else did when they had questions; I Google’d the symptoms. It turns out it was pretty common among those starting out and that it was just because my body wasn’t used to the increased blood circulation. So I became more understanding of it, but it still didn’t change the fact that I had to stop running because it was physically unbearable how itchy I got.
The itchiness made me stop trying to exercise altogether several times, but fitness was something I really wanted so I kept trying again and again to see if it would go away. I eventually realized that I could walk for much longer than I could run before my body started itching so that’s what I did instead. I walked for as long as I could last and each time I made it a point to try and continue for half a minute or so after my body started freaking out. As time went on, I was able to last longer and longer. Eventually I started adding in super short jogs to my walks, half a minute max. I got to a point where I knew how long I could jog before my body started itching so I just stopped before then and continued walking. Eventually that improved and I just kept upping the intensity and well, the rest is history. It wasn’t until this past March that I really committed to cardio, but so far I’ve kept up with it just about every week, minus finals week. Managed to go from 20’/mile to a record of 8’30″/mile, with a total of 120 miles logged. Still terrible time from the standard 5′ to 6′ that I hear people generally run, but as with the push-ups, lots of personal progress. And it makes me happy because now I can walk with my friends who live off campus without my legs feeling like they’re going to collapse haha.