After barely working out in years, I committed to the Shape #MyPersonalBest circuit workout program for the month of January. Now, what used to feel like pure torture is the only way to make it through my day.
I've always had a love/hate relationship with working out. I love everything that comes after a great workout—that level of exhaustion that feels amazing because you know you earned it, the sense of mental clarity, and the feeling of accomplishment from knowing you did something beneficial for yourself.
But my hate list is just as long—if not longer. I hate squeezing my "girls" into a sports bra that always feels two sizes too small. I hate playing a game of "can I live with the smell of these dirty yoga pants for one more workout?" I hate all the effort that goes into the planning, from finding a class that fits my schedule to figuring out whether I should shower at the gym before my next appointment. I'm also the queen of ridiculous excuses—I actually used Michael Jackson's death as a reason to not work out.
But, with my 40th birthday looming, I've been more motivated than ever to get healthy and tackle my expanding dress size since the birth of my daughter two years ago. So, on January 1, in the spirit of Shape's new campaign, I committed to being #MyPersonalBest this year and kicked things off with Anna Victoria's 30-minute total-body circuit, with the goal of making it through all 30 days of the challenge. (Another thing I'm doing this year? Seeing a therapist for my fear of stepping on the scale.)
I'm not the hugest fan of at-home workouts. I hate having to move furniture, and as someone who works from home, I like the idea of getting out and being around other people at the gym. Nevertheless, I am a fan of a good workout video. I spent lots of time with Cindy Crawford, her trainer Radu, and the "Shape Your Body" workout in high school, and I got my ass kicked by Jillian Michaels and her "30 Day Shred" every day for a year leading up to my wedding. So on day one, I dusted off my yoga mat, found weights in our storage closet, and put on my workout gear. Then, I cried like a defiant child who wasn't ready for bed. I wasn't ready to carve out 30 minutes of my day to work out and then another 30 to decompress and shower. I didn't want to sweat, or be out of breath, or be pushed out of my comfort zone, both out of laziness and uncertainty. But I forced myself to push play and dutifully started the first circuit.
Before I knew it, my arms felt like jelly and we were on circuit two. And then I made it through to circuit three. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic—I was the king of the world! Except I had to do all three circuits two more times. Copying a move I learned from my 2-year-old, I dropped to the floor and flailed my arms and stomped my feet in protest. After I got that out of my system, I persevered and finished all three circuits three times as instructed. And after I caught my breath, drank what felt like a million ounces of water, and cooled off—I felt something I hadn't felt since the day I gave birth—pride in my body. I slept so soundly that night as the stress and anxiety that usually nudged me awake stayed dormant. l woke up the next morning loving the soreness in my thighs as I rolled out my yoga mat, ready to up the ante and join Anna Victoria again.
Confession: I wish I could tell you that I was diligent and worked out every day for all 30 days. But on average, I completed the circuits four times a week (Anna recommends at least three for the challenge)—and I celebrate that, considering I've barely worked out in recent years. Truth be told, I forgot what my body can do. I may have grown a human, but it turns out my body can also lift weights heavier than I ever anticipated, and it can keep going even when I'm sure I only have enough energy left to lie down on the floor and cry. The thing that always amazes me is how much energy I get from working out and how addicting it becomes—especially when I find myself able to lunge deeper, hold planks longer, and do "burpee jump turns" without wanting to vomit.
The circuits actually seriously changed my mornings and helped me get laser focused on my day—I was truly ready to take on the world once those endorphins started flowing. I got my work done without extra coffee breaks. Without feeling so weighed down with lethargy, I noticed that I became more efficient and happier to tackle whatever was thrown at me.
Yes, I'm human and I still give in to my excuses when I'm feeling down or tired. But I've realized that we all have time for whatever we make the space for in our lives. Now, when I'm tempted to self-sabotage and get sucked into an episode of Vanderpump Rules during the exact time I could be accomplishing a workout, I've learned to take a step back and remind myself of that amazing feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment I'll feel when it's all done. Most of the time, it really works.