Strong is the new skinny
Let me be 100% truthful about something. I hate exercise. Even before I was fat, I would avoid it at all costs - everything from faking sick on Field Day in fourth grade to "spraining my ankle" every year in middle and high school right around the time we had to the run the mile. I was never athletic. I didn't do sports, except for one season when I did crew, but I was the coxswain, which basically meant all I had to do was sit in the back of the shell and yell at people (that I could do!) Exercise always made me feel vulnerable, weak, and ashamed of my body. So, yeah, I hated it.
At least I did until two weeks ago, when I took my first SoulCycle class.
OK, OK, it wasn't my first. My friend dragged me there once 5 years ago, and between not being able to catch my breath, sweating like a gorilla, feeling like the biggest, most out of place person in the room, and wondering how people with vaginas actually did this for more than 5 minutes at a time - I hated that too.
But two weeks ago was different. I was recently told by my doctor at my one-year post-surgical check up that I was at a healthy weight and didn't need to lose any more ("healthy weight" is also not something I'd heard in YEARS.) He also told me that most people who have a similar surgery to the one I had lose 16-17 BMI points in a year - and I'd lost 25. And apparently they want to feature me in a health magazine? I'm still getting details on that, but regardless, that appointment sure did a lot for my ego - and reinforced that these small lifestyle changes I've made have really had a big impact. But more importantly than my body changes, I feel amazing - strong, full of energy, and best of all, confident for one of the first times I can remember in years.
Perhaps it was this over-confidence that made me decide to sign up for the beginner 3-pack at SoulCycle at my friend's suggestion (after a serious amount of "hell no's.") Whatever it was, 2 weeks ago, I stepped cautiously into the W. 77th Street SoulCycle studio wearing significantly less attractive workout gear than the Lululemon and Alo clad Amazon women laughing and sipping filtered electrolyte water around the sign-in desk. I made my way through this sea of tight, trendy bodies to the exceptionally perky receptionist and mumbled, "Size 6.5 shoes please," to which she responded, "That's a size 39!" and handed them over. A few minutes later after I stumbled into the darkly lit, grapefruit scented studio, a different yet equally perky woman helped me set up my bike (which I had selected alllll the way in the back row, because obviously) and clip into it. Since I had no idea how to clip out, I realized there was no backing down now.
45 minutes of heart-thumping bass drops, blacklight, sprints with closed eyes, inspirational yelling, weird choreography, and using 3 lbs weights to imaginarily punch all the things getting in the way of everything I wanted in my life later, I emerged, red-faced, covered from head to toe in sweat, grinning my head off and wondering when I could do it again. I immediately went home and signed up for a 10 pack of classes.
I'd officially joined the cult.
I don't know if it's the tribe mentality, the dark studio, singing breathlessly along while "climbing hills" to a glorious blend of 80s club mixes and Taylor Swift, the complete lack of judgment (seriously), the motivational words the instructors yell out like "This journey is for you alone!" and "Ride to become the best version of yourself!", or simply the crazy endorphin rush I get after the final stretch, but I'm majorly, totally, butt crazy in love with SoulCycle. Am I good at it? No. Can I always match the rhythm? No. Do I look like a graceful gazelle doing tap-backs and push-ups on the bar? No. Have I yet figured out how to unclip both my feet and not just my right one? Also no. And yet...I love it.
Oddly enough, finding a form of exercise that I actually, legitimately enjoy has spurred me on in finding other fitness classes that might give me the same adrenaline high. Suddenly I've found myself reading fitness blogs, signing up for barre classes and yoga classes on ClassPass, and wondering if I would actually die if I tried Fhitting Room, while still trying to figure out how I can afford to hit up SoulCycle multiple times a week.
I finished my tenth ride yesterday and as I took the selfie above (still panting, I might add), I couldn't believe the person in the mirror. It had nothing to do with what I looked like (bright red plus some really attractive crotch sweat), but I was happy. Accomplished. Strong. Motivated. I felt what I've literally never in my life felt about any form of exercise - that it wasn't just a chore or worse, something that made me feel bad about myself - but that it was fun.
(Also, as an added perk, while I haven't lost a single pound in the 2 weeks since I started exercising 6 days a week, I have lost .5" off my waist, and an inch each off my hips, thighs, and calves, which suggests maybe I'm actually building some muscle, an otherwise completely foreign concept to my body until now.)
I don't know how long this high will last. I know I need to figure out a workout routine that's more balanced (and easier on my bank account!) but for now, I'm just so excited to have found a form of exercise that I genuinely love and feel great about that I'm giving it all I've got.
What exercise and fitness tips can you share with me as I continue on this journey? Would love to hear from you!