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How Weight Lifting And Daily Exercise Led To Discovery


December 1, 2022, I changed my life. But it took a full year to see.

I know the date because I embarked on a new workout program that required a training session each day until Christmas, a workout advent calendar. The premise? If you can work out during the year's busiest season, you can continue the rest of the year. Plus, each workout was short, twenty minutes.

I have done workout programs from Jane Fonda to Shaun T. I've spun, danced, walked, and even run a 10K. I've started and stopped.

On December 1, 2022, it was time to start again. A sedentary pandemic had me feeling achy, bloated, tired, and old. I wasn't dreaming of abs of steel at my age. My motivation was just to move every day until Christmas. Even if I didn't feel better by Christmas Day, I'd still have prioritized my health during a season when I always eat too much and sleep too little.

My mindset was important here for what happened later. In this time period, I decided I wouldn't allow myself a day off. I wouldn't negotiate with myself.

woman lifting weights

So, I trudged down to the basement and did my YouTube workout. Every day. It wasn't pretty. My attempt at a single push-up was a nightmare. I looked nothing like the instructor. My lunges were a joke. My knee was nowhere near the floor. I could get my knee to a yoga block. So, I did that. It was better than nothing, right? The instructor held twenty-pound dumbbells on her shoulders for her squats. I could barely lower my body weight down, much less lift it up again. But I gave myself a gift that first day. I released myself from worrying about being bad at it. I did what I could. My only rule was to try every day.

Over a year later, I'm the strongest I've ever been. I have a hard time even writing that. It seems pretend.

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There was no magic or master motivation. There is no bathing suit to fit into. It is just me lifting a little more some days and other days, a little less. Every day, I try. Every once in a while, I amaze myself when the attempt yields success. One day I tried removing the yoga block to touch my knee to the floor during a lunge, and I could do it!

I've discovered that strength, like age and time, creeps up on you. I can't control aging, but I was shocked to learn I can control my strength and I can use my time, or it can use me. Here's what else I've learned by doing 225 lifting sessions over the last year.

You feel bad at first. You're bad at it, weak. You don't feel inept when you start walking or cycling because you already know how to walk or pedal. But when you're new at lifting weights, it's awkward and foreign. Moving your body in new ways doesn't feel cool or smooth. You shake. The next day, the next three days, you think, why did I make myself feel worse? But feeling bad gets better. Muscle soreness abates the next time you lift. You start to like feeling sore, knowing that you did something to earn it.

woman lifting weights

You feel stronger faster than you expect. Two weeks into weight lifting, I noticed improvements in walking upstairs or carrying the laundry. I wasn't making that sound when I stood up after watching my shows.

This led me to think about lifting as functional fitness. I used to envision weight lifting as the purview of athletes and bikini models. It seemed a waste of time for my non-bikini model life. But I learned that weight lifting for less than thirty minutes a day made the other twenty-three hours and my sleep easier. No bikini required.

Hard lifting made life easier. Adjust your readers and read that again.

We're conditioned to think that with age comes decline. You used to be thin, you used to be fast, you used to be blonde, you used to be….

With strength training, I've discovered, joyfully, that I can get better and ascend instead of decline. Consistent weight training has shown me that at age 54, I'm stronger than I was at 24 or 34.

Expecting to achieve results in a month or two is immature. True change comes from daily practice over years. Years. This is maturity.

The other day, I picked up a 50-pound dumbbell and did twenty squats. Squats that, a year ago, I could barely do with no weight. When I was done, I cried. But it wasn't because I felt bad.