Exercise Really Sucks

The cheery robotic voice on my phone chirps and lets me know that it’s time to move on to the next set of repetitions, this time one minute of slow burpees. Rather than start clumsily trying to push my hips back without falling over or futilely trying to do a plank without sticking my butt in the air, I instead lie on the ground and whine for about 17 seconds before halfheartedly trying to mimic the incredibly fit woman on the screen. The next exercise pops up on the screen,

“25 push-ups – ready? Begin.”

I optimistically begin trying to do full push-ups. I push myself up, wobble precariously, and then collapse on the floor. Okay, so that’s not going to happen. I decide instead to do the modification on my knees, but after about 6, I’m already struggling. After hitting the halfway point, I resign myself to completing the rest of the push-ups against the wall, telling myself that at least I am trying and that it’s probably been about 9 months since I last did a push-up so I can’t expect to be in the same place I was at the beginning of 2018.

Working out is frustrating. I know that there are so many articles on line that tell you how beneficial exercise is to your body. It helps you feel less anxious. It helps you have more energy. It even lowers your risk of heart disease. But, they almost all gloss over the fact that it’s hard. You’re grunting, sometimes screaming unkind things to strangers who can’t hear you because it’s a YouTube video, and so incredibly soaked sweat that it looks like someone just dumped water on you for the ice bucket challenge. More often than not, I wake up in the morning, and I don’t want to exercise. I want to stay in bed and watch Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos on Instagram or get the latest news updates from my Twitter feed. My bed is comfy, my body is tired, and my muscles are sore.

If it was simply based on how I felt or whether or not the scale went down that particular week, I probably would not be posting many sweaty Instagram stories with my horrifying, no-makeup, splotchy red face, still breathing heavy because bicycle crunches are torture to my flabby abs. But I continue to get up most mornings and get something in. Some days, I feel like superwoman as I notice my legs getting stronger and I’m able to increase my weight on particular sets of exercises. Other days, I am on the struggle bus for the entire 30 to 45 minutes, my body not responding to my brain’s signals of how to contort my body like the instructor is telling me to for this particular exercise, and I feel the tears mingling with the sweat because I keep feeling like I’m a failure. I’m not some mystical unicorn because I exercise 4-6 times a week; I’ve just learned a hard truth that you have to accept if you really want to make this a reality:

You just gotta get up and do it. 

All you might be able to do is 10 minutes around the block a few times before you’re completely out of breath and sitting on the curb, waiting for death to take you. I started in a very similar place; walking was the exercise that got me moving because I tried and failed too many times with Bob Harper screaming at me via the DVD player. I made it bearable with audio books and podcasts to distract me from my heavy breathing. I couldn’t and still really can’t afford a gym membership, so I make due with free apps and YouTube videos that get me dancing or doing Russian twists, jumping jacks, and squats in my tiny living room. And one day, I got up, got dressed in my workout clothes, and started up a kickboxing cardio workout with Fitness Blender and realized that I didn’t bargain with myself on whether or not I was going to get out of bed or try to convince myself of the ten different reasons why I didn’t need to exercise that morning. I had finally built up the discipline, and it had become a habit. That’s probably why some people in my life think it comes easy to me, but like most things in life, you gotta work extremely hard for what seems like forever before it starts looking easy.

But it still sucks many days, and there are times where if you were one of the fifteen flies on my wall, you’d hear me screeching for 15 minutes straight because I don’t want to do another dang curtsy lunge. But I know it also changed my life for the better, so I put on my big-girl, workout leggings and my “Strong Feels Good” tank top, and I do those bear crawls, those awful wall sits, and if I’m feeling especially crazy brave, the insane, leg-destroying jump squats.

I do it so I can prove to myself that I can do this whole exercise thing that I convinced myself for years that I was just not the type. So that I can be healthier and do the things I’ve always wanted to do but was too big or out of shape to participate in. So that I can show myself that I’m worth the time out of my day to take care of my body and mind, even if I’m sometimes lying on the floor, red faced and unable to lift my arms normally for the rest of the day.  Exercise sucks, but I’ll never stop working out.

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