My last kiss with my first love took place after a love affair lasting a quarter of a century.
In other words, I quit smoking and had my last cigarette five years ago, ending a habit I’d begun 25 years prior.
A cigarette was my best, most loyal friend in life, my trusted confidante, my constant companion.
The journey begins
I’d tried to quit smoking for about a year before the (pardon the pun) ‘drop dead date,’ for good reason. I was over 35, taking the pill, beginning to spot fine lines around my lips. If I had been honest with myself, my late-night, overpowering phlegm attacks should have scared me and given me reason to consider that my misspent youth should have heard ‘last call’ for the last time.
I remained abstinent for a year; not so much as a puff, not so much as a whiff of secondhand smoke. It was excruciating detaching from that first love. But an unpleasant side effect made me reconsider what was so terrible about that relationship. That’s the day I discovered I couldn’t snap my fat pants.
Standing sideways, regarding myself in the full-length mirror, I broke out into heaving sobs at my first real look at rolls of blubber spilling out over the waistline of the pants I’d bought a year prior, pants purchased deliberately several sizes too big as an ironic statement, acquiescing to a trend.
My tears weren’t about empirical data on the scale, per se. I don’t think anyone who knew me then would have described me as ‘fat,’-well, maybe one person, but I love his sour-patch kid personality, so I let most of what he says roll off my back. In this case, it was my own negative self-talk bouncing off the folds under my bra, over the bumps in my waistline and sliding down the ski slope of my big butt. It wasn’t about how I looked. It was about how I felt about myself.
Immediately I threw on some flip-flops, grabbed my wallet, and jetted out the door to get a pack of cigarettes.
But I’ll never regret stopping myself and acting on Plan B, instead.
The hard way
I abandoned those flip-flops in favor of a beat-up pair of Nikes and headed out the door up Clark Street, walking to work as fast as my jiggling thighs would take me. I walked all the way to the Loop, five and a half miles, mind racing the whole way, desperately trying to figure the easy way out, overwhelmed knowing the easy way would only make matters worse.
Every step of that five-mile walk was taken 365 times before those pants snapped again without Herculean effort. It wasn’t just exercise; I limited my white carbs and started eating more fruits and veggies. But the first fifteen pounds were definitely reduced through the sheer force of my body being moved for long-term cardio intervals.
Jillian Michaels entered my DVD life and for a year, in addition to the walking, and I began to huff and puff in my living room, sobbing with frustration at my inability to perform even one push-up, even on my knees, forcing myself to try despite repeated failure, day after day, week after week. I started to improve only slightly, and then I’d have weeks where every day I could do a little more. Then dips would occur and I’d be exhausted, or unable to do something I’d done with relative ease the day before. I was determined to bend over without a muffin top. Those home workouts were murder. I tortured myself with shame, with obsessive weighing, with punishing, naked mirror time. I begged a God I don’t believe in for mercy that others couldn’t hear my silent screams, concealed by a cheerful disposition and a bright smile.
It got easier because it was rewarding
Those of you who know me now know this effort was not in vain. I joined LVAC two years into this process as a gift to myself for my 40th birthday. By that point, 15 pounds thinner and fit enough to try Body Pump , MaxForce Kickboxing, TurboKick® and Spinning®, more pounds melted off and more ripples appeared on my arms and abs. Sarah Ruhl, Richard Cordova, Paul Rykiel, Fran Beckmann, and other instructors started to notice and encourage me. I silenced enough of my own inner negativity to courageously get certified and audition as a Group Exercise Instructor. Now, I teach four popular Spinning® classes that many people lovingly refer to as The House Of Pain.
I share this journey here and in my classes because it’s important that you know I’m one of you. I’ve got a great, fit body now, but if I’d started the journey with this as my goal, I would not have succeeded. I could probably stand a little therapy given how much I’ve divulged about the true nature of my inner critic, but the truth is it served me well in this particular case. I felt more at ease with the process after joining LVAC and felt supported by other people going through the same process. But the truth is that I had to dig deep, find the strength, put on my big girl pants (literally and figuratively), and move my body consistently and repeatedly to earn my results. Sticking with it afterward literally changed my life for the better.
Why continue doing the hard work
Some of the mental process is the same today, though my goals are different. My objective now is to be fit for life and a positive example to others working for the same outcome. In order to do that, I make my diet and exercise routine a priority. Sure, I have occasional French fries and cheesecake, but rarely, and in small portions so I don’t feel deprived. Do I miss things like pizza and mac & cheese? Absolutely! But I don’t miss looking at myself in the mirror and crying. Is it grueling to get up multiple times a week at 4 a.m.? Of course it is! But I never tire of people saying how great my arms look. So many of you have shared that you are inspired by my story, and that, literally, is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I touched on my misspent youth in the beginning of this post and, it’s true . I’ve not always made the best decisions in my life, and there are a lot of mistakes I regret. But looking out at a Spinning® studio filled with people working well beyond their self-perceived limits, because I’m encouraging them to do so, and hearing that my motivation makes them want to go further makes me realize that I’ve done a few things right, too.
My blog posts are going to be about the very real struggle we all face to get motivated to work out, to stay motivated when working out, and to keep focused on what’s important: being fit, healthy, and happy.
So, ask yourself, what did you do today to stick with your goals especially when it was hard or frustrating? And then give yourself a big high-five. Okayyy!?
By Kimberly Michaelson