Make it non-negotiable

Today is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. People who have met me via social media and in real life, know I make #templebuilding a priority. The days I get up and exercise in the morning are the days I’m off to a fabulous start. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

I’m a self-described athlete. I ran and biked like most kids in my neighborhood growing up. I was a gymnast in elementary school.  A cheerleader in middle school. I danced (band auxiliary) and sprinted (varsity track) in high school.

I engaged in fewer structured activities in college, although I danced (partied) several hours a week which definitely counts for something. After college I had an on again, off again love affair with local gyms.  I stocked up on exercise DVDs for the off again moments. Even as an elementary school teacher, I woke up early enough to exercise, chant, drive 30 minutes and still get to work by 7 a.m. I prioritized prayer, sleep, laughter, water and movement. They kept me in good spirits and good health.

When I became a full time doctoral student in 2007, things changed. I found myself a recluse when class wasn’t in session. All the time I read and wrote papers, thought about theory, drank coffee and ate McDonald’s. Seriously. All the time.

Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.
Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.

A few months in, the side effects from that “food” and the disgust from Super Size Me, spurred me to choose healthier meals.

(Sidebar: I didn’t eat fast food for a year after that, and with the exception of two iced coffees in 2007, I’ve never consumed McDonald’s again). I was no longer exercising, because who had the time? But I knew my body was ready to move again.

Despite my desire to exercise, it was a struggle at first.  I had to force myself to stop reading or writing to go for a walk or a short run. I argued with myself – one more page, or one more paragraph. Then another. I’d panic as I watched the setting sun, realizing it was now or never.  I’d throw on some fitness gear and get moving.

That happened many times, until:

  • I realized I always felt better after exercise, and
  • I scheduled it. I made it non-negotiable.

The very first time I put an exercise appointment on my calendar, my dissertation advisor wanted a meeting. I had to break it to her, “No, I’m not available at that time. I’m exercising then.” She, a woman very much into self-care, supported me and offered several other times even with her busy schedule. I understood then, to the degree I was serious about taking care of myself, I could figure out the rest.

And so I set my exercise schedule daily. I incorporated strength training, swim lessons, and running, all depending on my class and homework schedule. I treated exercise like any other important appointment. I was definitely going to attend, so I had to plan the rest of my day around it.

Over time it has become less of an appointment and more of a way of life. Sometimes this means running on treadmills when I’d rather be outside. Sometimes it means a 15-minute high intensity interval workout instead an hour of strength or cardio. Sometimes it means evening workouts although I definitely prefer sunrise exercise.

The point is, I’ve made it a part of my regular routine. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Happy temple building!

7 Replies to “Make it non-negotiable”

  1. This is really great! Thank you for sharing. Law school was devastating for my body/health. And of course doing activities also used to be another challenge for my fitness….but you are right, you have to make it priority. My schedule is still forming as a mom but im determined to create a healthy lifestyle to model to naima and for myself! Thank you for the reminder and inspiration. Beautiful!

  2. Congrats on your discipline and progress, LB! Over the last two years or so, I’ve been sticking to a stricter workout sked as well. It’s helped tremendously, along with two other big changes for me:

    1) Logging what I do in a high degree of detail using my smartphone. This helps me to track and quantify actual progress in various exercises. No matter what sort of workout you do, progress over time is very important if you really want to effect any sort of physical transformation.

    2) Prioritizing strength training first, using a few compound key movements. Previously, I’d focused on running, which I still enjoy sometimes. But I must say, after a year of focusing more on squats, deadlifts, bench, and overhead press, I won’t go back to prioritizing the cardio first. I find the strength stuff helps with the cardio, but not the other way about.

    Anyway, just my two cents. If you could do a few posts with a “strength” category or tag, akin to the jogging tag, I think that would be great, especially coming from a female blogger. Strikes me that women get warned away from weights quite a bit for utterly BS reasons. Just don’t do steroids and you won’t ever end up looking like Vera De Milo, which is really the worst case everyone seems worried about (C:

    1. Great comments, Peter. Thank you. That picture exists, in part because I wanted to show other women what I had been doing for several weeks with strength training. At the time, I posted in on FB with a caption like, “Do I look like a man to you?” #cheeky

      I think you’re right, people (women) fear strength, which is too bad for many reasons. Right now I’m favoring running over weights because of weather (and I sorely miss outdoors now that I no longer live in Florida), but that balance will shift along with the weather soon enough. I’ll go back and tag a couple of posts as you’ve suggested, and I’ll also finish writing one I started a few weeks ago about reasons I like weight lifting. lol.

      Thanks for the nudge, and thanks for the shares.

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