An Ode to Fitness

I could take a page from Meg Kep and her fellow fit friends. I could take a page from Meg Kep and her fellow fit friends.

Oh, fitness. My best friend and worst enemy all at once. I’ve never been super into fitness or working out, whatever the kids are calling it these days. But after watching my metabolism slow down as I got older and noticing how much more difficult my time in the saddle was becoming, I decided that something needed to change.

I wrote a few weeks ago about timing and how ensuring that I had my life in order before I could focus on getting back on track with my riding. Well, my personal health and fitness emerged as an important goal to jump start during this whole, lengthy process.

I’ve never been an overweight person, nor have I ever been a stick figure. The best shape of my life came a few years ago when I was working off some board at the barn cleaning stalls. Without even noticing, I dropped several pounds and had to buy new clothes because the old ones didn’t fit. That was the best – working out when I didn’t even think about it! I know it goes without saying that shoveling manure and pushing wheelbarrows is among the best workout there is.

That said, I have a bad back. I was diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age and have struggled with chronic back pain ever since. It’s only gotten worse with age (doesn’t everything? Except wine. Wine gets better with age.), and I’ve come to accept the fact that I am not able to do much in the way of manual labor without causing myself harm.

A big part of my back pain, however, also comes from having poor posture and weak posterior muscles to support my spine. So, a big part of my motivation to get back in shape was to help prevent my back pain from hindering me further.

I’ve discovered that I tend to bite off more than I can chew and attempt to change my entire life at one time. Soon enough, I can’t keep up with all of the change and eventually revert back to old habits for the sake of convenience and confusion. So this time around, I resolved to make small changes over time, creating new habits before moving on to the next goal.

That approach has seemed to work. With my fitness goals, I purchased some sessions with a personal trainer at my gym in order to get a plan in place for the first few weeks of training. I got myself onto a schedule and have been able to stick with it. Once I began to enjoy the feeling of sweating from the exertion and the endorphins that seemed to immediately fill my body, I was hooked. Once I was hooked, I knew I would be ok.

That’s the thing about fitness. You have to make a conscious effort to make it enjoyable. Not everyone can make do with running on a treadmill or lifting weights. Some people find more fulfillment in yoga or fitness classes. Others find exercising outdoors to be the best. Not everyone has to follow the same plan. I enjoy going to the gym, turning my music up to an unhealthy volume, and sweating it out for an hour or more.

Once you can find what makes it enjoyable, then you don’t worry about “making it through” your workouts. You wake up in the morning wanting to get right to work. You enjoy your time working out because it’s no longer a chore, it’s a habit. Creating good habits are key to success in any endeavor.

Don’t overwhelm yourself and bite off more than you can chew. Start slowly, and build from there once you are comfortable with the first step. I slowly began to cut out soda and fast food from my diet. I began eating smaller meals throughout the day and learned to enjoy natural foods and not processed crap. I will never be a clean eater, per se, but I will resolve to put healthy fuel in my body in order to get the most out of my fitness program.

I’m happy that I’m taking steps to further myself. I can’t help but think about the benefits I will see when I do get back in the saddle – not gasping for breath after three laps of trotting and shamefully taking more walk breaks than normal is my first goal. From there, I’ll build up. Slowly but surely, I’ll get there.

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