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My Early Years of Fitness

When I first started working out around the age of 23, I have to admit I had no idea what I was doing! I was so excited to get started that I just sort of plunged into it, without really considering if I was doing it correctly or not. In retrospect, I probably should have approached fitness being a bit more educated about proper technique and safety. When you’re young though, the body is a lot more forgiving, and fortunately I never really seriously injured myself in those early years. Luckily I had a good amount of body awareness, so I just kind of instinctively knew how to move cautiously while exercising. I watched the other women at the gym to learn proper form, and I also got fitness books from the library (there was no internet in the 80s!) to learn the standard weight training exercises.

Finding happiness at the gym

young woman doing exercises with dumbbells in fitness center
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

For the first 5 years of my fitness journey, I was a member of a women-only gym. I learned a lot about exercise in my time there, and it formed a really good foundation for my lifelong fitness habits. In addition to being a well-equipped gym (including a jacuzzi and steam sauna!?), the fact that it was only for women was a huge bonus. It was nice to be able to walk around the gym and workout without having men stare, or having to dodge unwanted attention. Because it was all women there was such a sense of comradery. I finally felt like I fit in and “belonged”, for the first time in my life. I look back on those years with fondness, remembering how much I enjoyed going to that gym, and the friends I made there.

Cardio queen

woman jumping on concrete bench
Photo by Istvan Szabo on

Throughout my 20’s and 30’s, I was primarily focused on cardio. It was the 1980s when I began my fitness journey, and cardio was the craze at that time, and also well into the 1990s. All the “experts”, and society as a whole, pushed doing as much cardio as possible! I trained in the weight room, but back then my main motivation was more about how I looked. I wasn’t really focused on becoming stronger.

Some years later, I ended up getting a membership to a large chain gym. I worked out there (at various locations) for many years. I never did feel quite as comfortable there, as I had at the women-only gym. However, I had a few favorite fitness instructors, and I became a regular at their classes. There was also a large variety of weight training equipment at that gym, and I began to spend a lot more time in the weight room, in addition to the cardio classes I was taking.

Becoming obsessive

During those years (decades!), I really put a lot of physical demands on my body. Fitness became the most important thing in my life and the main part of my identity. A 2-hour workout was the norm for me then, and I would often go longer than that. Or I might do a 2-hour workout at the gym, then do a 1-hour walk later. It is obvious to me now that this was excessive! But back then, I didn’t see it that way.

I’ll just mention here that during the years from around my mid-20s to 40s, I unfortunately developed a very dysfunctional relationship with food and exercise, which turned into an eating disorder. I go into more detail regarding this aspect of my life journey in other posts. For now, I will just say that it was an extremely difficult time in my life. It took many years of deliberate work and a lot of asking for help, but I did make it through to the other side!

A healthier outlook

woman surrounded by sunflowers
Photo by Andre Furtado on

Fitness was, and still is today, a huge part of my life. Exercising is as normal to me as brushing my teeth. It’s just something I always do! It’s a part of my normal life routine, and I loved it back in those early days as much as I do now, almost 35 years later.

The difference between then and now, is that today I have a much healthier mindset regarding my food and exercise. Back then, my focus was more on proving to myself how far I could push my body to the limit! Today, I think more about what I can do each day to benefit myself.

Here’s a good question to ask ourselves as we navigate our day: “is this hurting me, or helping me”? This one simple question is often enough to quickly get my priorities straight!

Balance is key

I’ve found that the way I approach my fitness and food, carries over into all the other areas of my life. When the way I exercise and eat is balanced, my life in general seems to balance out. For so many years, I lived in one extreme or another. It feels good to take the middle road! When I have a more balanced outlook on things, I feel calmer. This calmness in turn leads to an ability to think more clearly and make better decisions for myself.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts/questions in the comments section below. ?

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