Most folks who knew me 10 years ago, and who I haven’t seen since, would probably unhinge a jaw if they knew me now.
I’m not the same person I was back then.
In those days, the word “exercise” wasn’t in my vocabulary, and by all accounts, I was much like everyone else I knew: Busy with college. Lazy on the weekends. On a first-name basis with the nice lady in the McDonald’s drive through. Familiar with sweat, but only because I grew up enduring the sweltering Middle Georgia summers.
“I couldn’t even have imagined it,” Mom said. “My little girl who would cry if she got dirt under her fingernails now likes to ride mountain bikes and camp.”
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Mom said that a few years ago, and it’s something I’ve not forgotten. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come and how much my life has changed.
It would take more words than this column can accommodate to detail how that shift in priorities happened. The important thing is that it did. Essentially, I woke up one morning unhappy with my reflection and wanted to do something about it. Along came a bicycle, and the rest is history.
Now, I’m in that crazy small percentage of the population who exercises every day. I swim, run, ride my bike, lift weights and occasionally — after a beer or two — like to do “Dance Dance Revolution” in my living room.
Running is a way to spend time with my girlfriends. Cycling is an activity my husband and I enjoy together. I exercise to look good on the outside and to feel good on the inside. Sometimes I train for races and events. And sometimes I do it just so I won’t feel guilty about eating another slice of chocolate cake.
I heard a saying once, “There’s a skinny girl inside me, but usually I can shut her up with cookies.”
These days I exercise so much that my inner skinny girl has got to be in chocolate-chip cookie overload. I still don’t eat with reckless abandon, even though I do exercise like mad. Those days of all-you-can-eat buffets were gone when I became a certified personal trainer.
Now that I am working with people and helping them achieve their fitness and health-related goals, I feel the pressure to lead by example. So, I count my calories and make time for exercise, just like everyone else.
Finding that time is difficult for everyone. I work as a Telegraph editor and as a personal trainer and still find time to work out. One of my best girlfriends works a full-time job, is in the depths of grad school, handles the day-to-day of a two-person and two-cat household, and still finds the time to train for marathons. If she can find the time to make exercise a priority, so can most everyone else.
The key is actually recognizing that your health needs to improve, and making the time for the small steps that will get you there.
My own journey from couch potato to personal trainer and soon-to-be Ironman triathlete took me a decade. Changing your life won’t happen overnight. That’s something I tell my clients on a daily basis. So many people are in a hurry to lose weight, to fit into smaller jeans, but some things take time. The key to ending the swing of dieting and pigging out, dieting and pigging out, is to make changes you can live with — forever. Little changes, made gradually, equal life changes.
I could quote a bevy of statistics about how people who exercise more and eat a balanced diet are at a lesser risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But I think most people know that. People know they should do better, they just haven’t found the impetus to begin.
Some of us here at the newspaper have recognized the need for a community wake-up call. We’re trying to do more to call attention to Middle Georgia’s bulging waistline, and arm readers with the tools they need to get started on a path to a healthier life.
Take a look in the mirror. Are you happy with what you see? What will it take to flip that switch in your brain? Are you ready to take the first steps?
Here’s a challenge for you; maybe it will be your own personal wake-up call. Stand up. Right now. No, seriously, put the coffee down and stand up. Take five minutes to march or jog in place and read this column again. From the beginning. Out loud. Are you winded? Out of breath? That’s not good. Those five minutes may have been the ones to change your life.
Renee Martinez Corwine is a Telegraph editor and a certified personal trainer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.