So, my fitness journey has always felt more like a tumble into wonderland, mainly because fitness has never been a huge part of my life. I was always one of those girls who complained about being fat in high school, but was never active and always relied on changing my diet. I was always the manager of a sports team – never a competitor. In college, I would barely go to the gym – instead of gaining the dreaded “freshman fifteen,” I gained sixty pounds. By the time I graduated, I was about 200 pounds, totally overweight, and completely in denial about being overweight. I had always hated exercise, so even trying to go to the gym was a struggle.
I had always hated exercise, so even trying to go to the gym was a struggle. My lack of self-confidence didn’t help – especially at the gym, where I would be surrounded by these tiny girls exercising in their tiny sports bras. I didn’t want people looking at me, the fat girl who was attempting to work out.
It wasn’t until months after college that I even started my fitness journey. My friend was doing her yoga teacher training and needed guinea pigs as students – so I became her first student. Then, there was a deal on Groupon for classes at my local yoga studio (Stanton Street Yoga) – so I took both events as a sign that I should start doing yoga. I fell in love with yoga – I became a calmer person, and I started losing weight. I had a semi-regular practice and could finally touch my toes again – I had become happier and I thought I was totally fit again.
Then, I went to the Bahamas for a wedding. I was the only one whose swimsuit didn’t fit – sure, I hadn’t worn it since high school but I believed that doing all that yoga would’ve put me back into shape. Then, my mother made me change from a tight tank into a looser tee – and everybody thought that I looked better. It wasn’t until I took the below picture (where I changed back into the tank on the boat) that I realized I needed to do more than just yoga – I needed to change my diet and exercise more. I had never been more unhappy with my body until a week after I posted that picture.
So I started doing yoga challenges on Instagram, but never actually finishing any – just annoying my friends along the way. For years, I had a semi-regular yoga practice but would only stick with Level One classes. But I had hit a fitness plateau – I wasn’t really losing any more weight and my body wasn’t finding yoga challenging anymore. Finally, in 2015, one of my best friends challenged me to go spinning with her and had me buy a Gilt City deal for a local spin studio.
I had never spun before. I hadn’t even been on an actual bicycle since elementary school. I had no idea what to expect – but my friend said I’d love it, so I tried it. After my first class, I couldn’t sit or move my legs properly for the rest of the week. I didn’t even want to go back because my body had hurt so badly. But I had bought ten classes from the Gilt City, so I forced myself to go back again, and again, and again. And by my tenth class, I had fallen in love with spin – with Cyc Fitness to be specific. I loved it so much that I bought a monthly membership for the studio closest to my apartment. Spinning made me stronger and leaner – and my constant yoga practice kept my body aligned and flexible. Combining the two exercises made my body stronger, and I suddenly soared past my plateau and dropping more weight.
It was after I started spinning that I really fell in love with the fitness industry. My yoga community was great, but I only became friends with the teachers… and one other student. I felt like yoga was more of an individual practice, where I learned how to calm my mind, and bend so that I wouldn’t break. Strengthening my yoga practice strengthened my connection to my body – I could feel where I needed to adjust rather than depend on a mirror or on my teacher. I felt calmer and my breath automatically connected to my flow.
Spin felt more like a fitness community, where conversations revolved around how hard the class was, how to improve your form on the bike, and what other classes you were taking. I learned about making playlists and finding music that made me want to move – I even started unconsciously dancing in my seat on the bus on my commute to work. I made new friends and strengthened old bonds during spin classes because nothing strengthens a friendship more than seeing your friends dripping sweat. I slowly fell further into the world of fitness: a world where people cross-trained and taught at multiple studios and loved eating salads and drinking smoothies, things I had never done before. It was at spin where I realized that fitness wasn’t all about losing weight – it was also about strengthening my body. Losing weight was just a great perk.
My exercise classes slowly became my priority in life – I would wake up early to go to a class, then go to work, then finish the day with another class. I started eating healthier and controlling my portions. I had slowly fallen in love with exercise, and I was feeling fitter than ever. I even started liking the way I looked again – so much that I found the confidence to finally wear my first bikini EVER last summer. (Granted, it was only in the hotel pool… but progress! This year’s goal is to be confident enough to wear crop tops and forgo a regular top altogether in public group classes… Let’s see how that goes.)
I know that even a few years in, I’m only just beginning my fitness journey. But I’m excited to see what happens next – and I’m excited to share my thoughts and lessons learned along the way. I hope I inspire others to start their fitness journey the way my friends and teachers inspire me. But mainly, I hope that people learn what I’ve learned through this journey – that being fit really just means being the best version of yourself possible – body, mind, and soul. (And losing some fat and gaining some muscle along the way is just an extra perk.)