Friday, October 23, 2009

Finding Your Muse (Exercise Muse, that is!)

By Kirsten Scott

I am a reluctant exerciser. However, I am also exceedingly vain AND have a horrible sweet tooth, so I have a long history of torturing myself with everything from aerobics to running to biking. Over the years I have been a dedicated gym rat, spending hours in agony on machines to make myself sweat and, hopefully, lose some pounds. I even went through a period in college where I was what you might call an exercise bulimic. I would work out for two hours at a time, just so I could binge in the cafeteria later.

But it never really worked. I never really lost any pounds. I have always been a good, healthy weight, but have never been THIN the way I always aspired to be. And let's be honest here -- health had nothing to do with my exercise behavior. It was all about looks.

Now I don't want to sound overly dramatic. I do like sitting on the exercise bike or the feeling you get after going for a run, when the endorphins are kicking around and you know you've done something good for your body. I've always liked being strong, and knowing I could go hike up a mountain if I wanted, or go for a long bike ride with my family. And there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you set a goal and then reach it --like when I finished my first triathlon. But deep down, I dreaded my sessions at the gym. I had to work hard to distract myself the whole time I was exercising because it was such a miserable experience.

Then I tried yoga.

It started in December 2008. I'd been feeling particularly puny in my upper body, since I don't lift weights and don't have babies to lug around anymore. I'd seen a few videos that showed women with these gorgeous arms doing yoga, and I wondered if that might happen to me, too, if I did yoga.

(See? Vain. I'm telling you, it's true.)

I started small. I did ten-minute videos I found for free on Web sites and iTunes. I moved up slowly. From ten to twenty, twenty to thirty. I found more Web sites I liked. I downloaded podcasts. And you know what? I loved it. For the first time in my life, I didn't hate exercising.
I had found my muse.

I am still completely in love with my yoga practice. I don't have the time to go to yoga studios, and I love the flexibility of being able to do 20- or 30-minute classes whenever and wherever I want, so I mostly do podcasts and videos I have downloaded on my computer. I bring my yoga mat with me whenever I travel. I do my yoga early in the morning, late at night, and sometimes sitting in my office chair at work. I do it because it feels GOOD. Something I'd never associated with exercise before. I feel beautiful when I stand in tree pose, strong when I move from high to low push up. I learned to do a headstand. I learned to breathe. For the short time each day I'm on the mat I tune out all the things I'm worried about, all the stress and tension and I FLOW.

And here's the amazing thing -- I didn't lose weight, but I did drop inches. Almost an inch and an half from my waist, same from my hips. My arms don't look like Michelle Obama's, but I've got TRICEPS now. I never had those before. I dropped a full pant size.

Crazy, huh? It was only when I stopped torturing myself that I actually saw some results.

I've basically stopped running and doing the other forms of workouts I used to dread. I do yoga and walk. I discovered my pace in the gym is something radically different from what I was trying to force it to be, and I'm so much happier now. I am at peace with my body and worry much more about my health, flexibility, and strength than the numbers on the scale.

So what about you? Have you found your exercise muse? If you haven't, I urge you to keep trying different things until you do. Try a dance class. Go hiking. Do some karate. Investigate pilates. We aren't all made for treadmills and elliptical machines. I have a feeling if you find your muse you won't have to struggle to motivate yourself. You'll want to do it. You'll look forward to it. It will be the reward, not the punishment. And that's what we should all be seeking.

Kirsten writes adult romance and young adult fantasy. Her first novel, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in August 2010. You can find her blogging with the Romance Bandits on the first Saturday of the month.

Progress (Trish):

I've been getting my 10,000 steps in every day this week prior to today (in the 7,000s today). I had a high-calorie day yesterday, but I did 1 1/2 hours of yard work that included using various implements (including a hand saw) to cut the large, woody weeds out from between the line of trees separating our yard from our neighbor's. It brought me up to 5 1/2 hours of yard work this week. I didn't do any today because I've been working to get ready for a speaking engagement this weekend. Calories are better today, but the steps are less because of all the computer time. The weight has been yo-yoing within a couple of pounds, so I've lost between 11 and 13 pounds, depending on the day. I'm going to be away the next three days, but next week I'm going to get back to the yard work and add in some walking, weights and sit-ups. Still several pounds to go by Thanksgiving if I want to meet my ambitious goal of having lost 20 pounds total by then.


Michelle Butler on October 23, 2009 at 9:38 AM said...

I have heard that yoga can make you strong, and it's something you can practice your whole life. Thanks for sharing your story about how you found exercise that you really enjoy. I think it's important and something I work on, but a reminder is always good. :)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on October 23, 2009 at 10:34 AM said...

I've heard so many good things about yoga, but I haven't gotten into it. I feel so incredibly clumsy and awkward even trying it. As I've mentioned before, my feed-my-muse exercise is going out hiking in some naturally beautiful spot.

Kirsten on October 23, 2009 at 1:56 PM said...

Thanks Michelle! You're way ahead of me if you've already found things you enjoy. It took me decades to figure that out! LOL.

Kirsten on October 23, 2009 at 1:58 PM said...

Hi Trish -- I have to say, it really helped that I did it at home, by myself, for months before I tried doing it in public. I'm as clumsy as they come. But I think yoga is helping that. :-)

Theresa Ragan on October 24, 2009 at 11:23 AM said...

Kirsten, love your post. I think I will give yoga a try at home. Great idea. I've tried a couple of classes and it was intimidating. I do go to the gym and I like it but I don't think I love it. I don't like spending 3 hours of my day including driving to get in a good work out. I think I'll give yoga a try. I am vain, too, and I want to look my best, but I also like to eat candy! :)

Trish, I saw a new pic of you somewhere. You look great!!! It was just your face, but I could see that you've lost weight! Good job!

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