Last month marked the one year anniversary of my gym membership. I have logged approximately ninety work outs, which is... less than stellar. I mean, that's what? Exercising one out of every four days, on average? But don't worry, I have all sorts of excuses: the hernia surgery last October, two weeks after I GOT the gym membership; various illnesses, mine and the kids, since any sickness on their part prohibits me from going during the day and utilizing the childcare; THE HOLIDAYS; a few bad weather/icy road scenarios, I'm sure; and of course the pregnancy/miscarriage during August and September, during which months I think I logged in maybe four or five workouts TOTAL.
I am still quite proud of myself, though. I did it. I no longer think of myself as a non-exerciser, or someone who doesn't have muscle and in fact CAN'T build muscle, or can't be in good cardiovascular shape because of my poor KNEE, wah! (Though if it weren't for exercise bikes and elliptical machines, that might be true. I have pretty much abandoned running, even though it's much more fun than machines, because of knee pain.)
I've lost between five and ten pounds this year, but weight loss wasn't the primary goal here. What is noteworthy is the huge increase in endurance and stamina, and the significantly more toned muscles. My upper body and waist are a little more defined, my arms a little more shapely. Even my legs, while nothing even approaching thin, are at least somewhat firm now. Most importantly to me, my legs FEEL much stronger. My knee, which always used to feel weak and wobbly and cause me to walk gingerly whenever I was on uneven ground or stairs, feels fine now. It may someday give out again, of course, if I do something stupid or turn too sharply, but in general I feel a lot more confident running around, playing with my kids, and generally acting my age instead of like a little old woman.
The biggest benefit of exercise, though, in my experience, has been quality of life and mood improvement. I always feel more productive if I've gotten to the gym, and it's a good way to get out of the house and do something with the kids other than shop (expensive!) or errands (boring!) especially if the weather is not condusive to playing outside. I have more energy the rest of the day, I'm more inclined to eat healthfully before and after I work out, and I just generally feel more positive.
I contribute a lot of my emotional recovery from this last pregnancy loss to the fact that I tried to get back to exercise as quickly as possible, knowing that the last time I miscarried, exercise was what really helped me feel better. And it worked. I'm not exactly walking on air, but I'm not depressed right now, as opposed to the last time when I would say I was definitely battling it. Most days I feel okay, mostly happy, and even hopeful. I have certainly felt FRUSTRATED occasionally with the way things were dragging on, but I never felt like I didn't even want to get out of bed in the morning or that there was no hope of our ever having more babies or anything like that.
So I know this is a barfy fitness post (term credit: Tess) but it's been on my mind the last few days, and it's something I wanted to express to anyone out there who may be battling some melancholy or even just a negative self-image. Exercise is not magic: it's not going to turn that frown upside or anything, and it's not a cure-all for every problem. Also, if you don't change your eating habits much (which I have NOT) it's probably not going to cause the pounds to shed miraculously. But you WILL be healthier and stronger, and you will at least feel better. That I can guarantee.