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10 Lessons I’ve Learned from Fitness

Fitness is a blessing – there’s no other way to put it.  Being physically, mentally, and spiritually fit enough to move, walk, run, ski, kayak, fish, climb mountains, and so many other activities that become almost religious experiences is something that should never be taken for granted.  And I’m so proud to have experienced even a small portion of that narrative.

Though I’ll be the first to admit that fitness has not always been a priority in my life.  I have had seasons of sitting on the couch for days on end without being willing to move. I’ve had years where I drank to excess and ate unhealthy foods thinking that it fulfilled my caloric intake for the day.  I’ve had months where I just didn’t see the need to change, becoming comfortable with lethargy and the feeling that something missing from my life was honestly better than dealing with the struggle of jumping outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve been through so many different seasons of life, and I’m sure that there are many more to come, but I’m only slowly coming to terms that working out, eating healthy, and an overall healthy lifestyle may be fun after all.

But that’s also why I’m so incredibly proud of the things I’ve accomplished in the past year.

Almost exactly one year ago, I knew that I needed a change. Something was missing from my life and I needed to push myself to get there.  And, putting it lightly… my fitness journey was tough.

My Fitness Journey

I’ve written many times about the fact that I dealt with depression, anxiety attacks, and many other extremely negative pieces of my life due to emotional stress in the past couple of years. I’m not ashamed of those pieces of my life, in fact I am proud of where they’re propelled me to be today.

And, if you’ve been a long-term reader, you know that I literally have the free Couch to 5k app to thank for helping me get started back towards fitness.

I’ve written more about that experience in this post, but what has been most fascinating to me is understanding what I’ve been able to learn about myself through this journey.  Even being new to the running / triathlon / fitness scene, the lessons that I’ve learned in training for my 5k, two triathlons, and now half marathon in the past year make this experience one that I’m incredibly proud of and thrilled to continue.

So let’s dive in to just a couple of these lessons to share just how important and instrumental I truly feel fitness can be in our lives.  There’s no telling where this journey might take me… I know and I’m proud to say that I’m just at the beginning.

10 Lessons I’ve Learned from Fitness

  1. The only one holding you back is you.

I learned pretty quickly that no one was going to push me out of bed in the mornings. Whether you’re single, in a loving relationship, or anything else in between, you and only you can push yourself to strap on those gym shoes, walk to your favorite workout spot, and get moving.

The good news is that I can say that this one gets easier with practice.  While I have to admit that there are very few days that I’ve been super pumped to get on the road to fit my miles in, I know the familiar feeling of pride once I’m done with my miles.  I know how I’ll feel after mile 5 when my mind starts to settle in.  I know how worth it each step truly is.  This familiar feeling is what pushes me to keep getting out of bed as the sun comes up to get to work – because I’m worth it.

  1. Trust the experts.

I can hardly put into words how thankful I am to those individuals and groups that were willing to help a beginner out.  From my dear friends that gave me to tips to avoid nipple chafing (TMI?) to the family that recommended my new favorite adidas running shoes, every suggestion has come from a place of love, support, and experience.  Without these loving, supportive members of my tribe, I would be lost.

If you’re new to anything – fitness, painting, working in the finance field, anything – trust those that have walked the path before you.  Learn from their experience and know that there is no dumb question.  Their assistance will save you hours, days, and months of pain.

  1. Never stop pushing yourself (unless you’re in pain.)

The first time I ran even four miles, I was in a mental state of… freaking out. Less than six months prior, I couldn’t even run one steady mile, nonetheless worry about pacing myself for a long run!

But it’s amazing what we can do if we get our minds in the game. We can achieve more than we even know – we can overcome more than we ever think is possible.

Though I’ve also learned to listen to myself and know when I’m in pain.  Twice throughout this half marathon training, I’ve had to somewhat dramatically adjust my training.  Once, I was in a complete mental funk due to overdoing my training schedule, and the second time I was diagnosed with Runner’s Knee.  Both experiences deserved an equal amount of attention and adjustment – those breaks and breathers are what’s kept me going this long.

Start to recognize the difference between listening to yourself honestly and making excuses.  Don’t push through pain, but don’t limit yourself with excuses.  Keep going.

  1. Age is a state of mind.

There are a lot of things in my life that are very different than when I was 15, 25, or even 30.  Where I live, who I bring into my inner circle, and how I choose to live my days are only the tip of the iceberg.

But what I’ve realized is that, while my body might change, and my capabilities might feel different, we have to have the willingness to adjust to get the job done and achieve our goals.

Life moves fast, and we’re constantly surrounded by change.  Train, accept it, and learn to adapt.  As long as we maintain our flexibility and willingness to change, we’ll always have the ability to succeed.

  1. Trust yourself.

While the words and actions of others have encouraged me to keep moving and keep pushing myself, I’ve learned that I am the one that knows myself better than anyone else.  Time journaling to understand my process and limits, time relaxing to breathe and contemplate, time pushing myself to keep getting out to bed to get those miles in, and times when I honestly just need to let my mind wander towards my hopes and dreams for the future are all pieces of the process that I’ve grown to love and respect.  But only I know my limits… and know how to push past them along the way.

  1. Trust the process.

I have no idea how to train for a half marathon. Not a clue.  But I’ve learned through my training for my first 5k and two triathlons that it somehow, magically gets done with preparation.

The truth is that most of us can get through a half marathon tomorrow if we wanted to.  It would hurt a lot mentally and physically, and we’d likely injure ourselves in one way or another, but we could get it done.

But ongoing training and adapting our minds, bodies, and spirits towards learning new skills, being comfortable with change, and stretching towards new capabilities allows us to grow.  Trust that slow, consistent learning is always better than not moving forward at all.  It is only when you trust the process that the end result you’ll be most proud of can become truly possible.

  1. Push through the fear.

Certain activities are totally rational fears.  Fear of trying something new, fear of failure, and fear of disappointment are only a few examples.

But, once you’ve had even the slightest taste of success… you start to recognize that pushing past that fear is completely worth the effort.

While we need to be comfortable listening to our limits and trusting our personal experiences, fear of the unknown should be no excuse for us staying stagnant in our way of living.  Push through the fear and you’ll love every second of your success.

  1. Consistency is key.

I am not a morning person.  I had years of my life when I would look forward to my 5:30AM classes and early morning training sessions, but ever since I left a typical 9-to-5 schedule, mornings are not my favorite time of day.

Though, in my experience, mornings have been the best time to get a run in because the Denver heat hasn’t set in, I have no meetings running over into my late workout times, and it helps me to wake up to start the day.

My lack of love for the mornings, combined with my ability to stay focused on consistent training has led to some interesting (to put it lightly) looks on the trail – crazy hair, completely mismatched apparel, and under-eye bags that are crying for mercy can all be seen on a regular basis.  But getting up every morning and pushing myself to get out the door, has also led to some of my proudest moments yet.

Find out what works for you in this season of your life, and push yourself to achieve.  With consistency and effort, there’s no telling where you could be at this time next year!

  1. It’s what you do when it gets really hard that counts.

There’s a big difference between pushing through pain and experiencing fatigue – pushing through pain is dumb (don’t do it!), but experiencing fatigue is completely realistic.

Sometimes training can feel incredibly difficult – whether that’s challenging yourself mentally, physically, or spiritually.  But understand that it’s those challenging times that make the success all the sweeter.

To help out a little bit, I have started to understand where I know I’m going to need a little “push” along the way.  Right around 7.5 miles, I struggle.  11 miles seems to be another hitch.

So when I surpass these thresholds, I’ve started to give myself some type of non-food related reward.  For example, after my long run this week, I rewarded myself with this totally amazing running tank, these shorts that make me swoon, and these headbands that top it all off. I plan to wear them when I run my official half marathon in coming weeks, and they’ll be just another gentle reminder that I am prepared and can achieve truly great things when I put my mind to the test.

  1. You’ll have good days and bad days. But it’s worth working through them all.

On some level, training for my most recent triathlon and my upcoming half marathon have been gentle reminders that life can be tough.  But there have also been quite a few training sessions where I have felt unstoppable!

We all have good days and bad, days when we don’t want to get off the couch, and days when we experience an unrelenting urge to keep pushing towards the finish line.  We have to get used to the idea that we’re going to feel different every single day.  But it’s not what we bring to the starting line that matters.

Little things matter – incremental improvement, getting out the door to get started, foam rolling your IT band after a long run (while trying not to cry.)  Come to your fitness program with whatever you have available each day and just get started.  The hard work will be worth it.

Bonus Learning – You Inspire Yourself When You Inspire Others

Did you know that by age 17, 51% of girls who participated in sport have quit because they do not have a sense that they belong, and they don’t see a future in sport. But participating in sport has many benefits, including teaching girls to be more confident and learn valuable leadership skills that help them later on in their lives.

A recent study conducted by the EY Women Athletes Business Network and ESPNW even showed that 94% of women executives in the C-suite played sport and 52% played at the university level or higher. Those are some important stats – we have to do whatever we can to help girls in sport stay involved and interested. And, luckily, there’s a lot that we can do to help!

adidas has a new initiative called “She Breaks Barriers” and it’s already inspired me to take steps to get involved.

Through this initiative, adidas has created a series of new partnerships with three areas of focus – to provide access, to remove stereotypes, and to address the inequality for female athletes at all levels and ages.

From partnering with Jen Walter, the first female NFL coach, to co-host girls’ flag football camps, to signing on to partner with Girls on the Run through 2021, to working with colleges to uncover ways to overcome barriers in sport, adidas is paving the way towards inspiring and supporting the next generation of female athletes.

Inspired by their work, we can each individually continue to inspire girls to get involved in sport. From volunteering to coach a Girls on the Run team, to donating girls’ sports apparel to your local area teams, you can make an impact. Not only will you be helping to keep girls involved in sports, but you’ll also be inspiring yourself to stay involved every step of the way.

Keep following my progress by checking out my training on Instagram.

This post was sponsored by the wonderful team at adidas, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Semi-Sweet Tooth and our sponsors!!

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