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My fitness journey: From couch potato to wellness warrior

Have you ever fought what felt like a losing battle with exercise and overeating? That was me, from adolescence until age 41. And then something happened that finally changed everything.

I had struggled most of my life with yo-yo dieting, and had trouble sticking with exercise. As a kid, I wasn’t the athletic type and dreaded gym class.

Over the years, my weight fluctuated by almost 100 pounds. I was classified as obese for my height. More importantly, I just wasn’t feeling my best. I was stiff and sore a lot, and often lacked energy, though medical tests came back normal.

But this time, I went on to successfully stick with exercising and improving my eating. I changed my body. And I did this while working full-time at a sedentary job and raising my family.

Now, I’m certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, health coach and senior fitness specialist. I became a fitness professional after this personal transformation inspired me to make a career pivot.

Enough was enough

It all changed because one day I had enough. I was truly sick and tired of feeling sick and tired! I felt old before my time. I wondered, “If I feel like this now, what’s it going to be like for me in 10 or 20 years?”

Feeling defeated with weight loss, I decided I was done with strict dieting, done with losing only to gain it all back. But I figured if nothing else, I needed to get my body moving to try to alleviate the stiffness.

I found a barely used treadmill for sale for $100 – a price too good to pass up – and thought, “Walking: I can do that!”

This time around, I decided to start small with exercise. I started walking on it for 15 minutes at a scheduled time every day. Why 15 minutes? Because I knew I could do that without making excuses.

The next week I did 16 minutes a day. Each week I added another daily minute or two. Gradually, I increased speed as well as time.

By adding a little bit each week, I worked up to an hour of exercise per day. But this was radically different than in the past. Back then, I thought exercising meant you had to do an entire hour-long workout video. The problem was, I wasn’t yet conditioned for that, so it felt overwhelmingly hard. No wonder I gave up all those years. I didn’t realize that it’s alright to start small and to work your way up to more.

My initial efforts were small and doable this time. But – and this is critically important – I was faithful in doing it every day so that it became a habit.

The turning point

I wasn’t losing weight the first few months, but I didn’t give up like I had every other time in the past.

I realized I had started feeling better. My legs were getting stronger. I didn’t feel stiff and sore when I got up from my desk like I used to. I had more energy, and was even more cheerful. I was truly getting better, physically and emotionally. So I said, “Well, if I don’t lose weight then so be it. But I’m not giving up.”

I didn’t want to go back to feeling sick and tired all the time.

That was the turning point. I made exercise about my health and quality of life, instead of just the scale. Everything finally clicked for me.

All the effort I’d been putting into exercise made me want to eat better, too. I started with small changes – no more drastic dieting. I added healthy habits over time by focusing on just one new thing each week. Things like having smaller portions, taking my lunch instead of grabbing fast-food, and choosing more natural foods and fewer processed.

Thanks to exercise and good nutrition, I became energetic instead of lethargic, happier instead of stressed, stronger instead of sore. Not overnight, but it happened. A year later, I was no longer the same person I had been. I was hooked on healthy living. Fifteen years later, I still am.

That’s not to say that every day is perfect or I never get off track or overeat. I’ve let go of perfection and instead strive for balance. I’ve made exercise and nutrition a regular part of my life, and when I stumble, I don’t give up. I don’t want to go back to how I used to be, and that is powerful motivation to keep going.

A life changed

The bottom line is, when you are healthy and feel good, it benefits every area of your life. You can have the full, active life you want, and be there for your family and friends. When you feel great, when you have your health, you can do anything.

I learned that a healthy lifestyle isn’t about the scale: it’s about wellness of body, mind and spirit. It’s also a lifelong journey of learning, changing strategy when needed and overcoming challenges.

My life was completely changed for the better, and I was so grateful for this that I felt a calling and a new purpose. Now it’s my mission to help others live their best life, too.

It’s not too late to turn over a new leaf. You’re never too old to become your best you, and live your best life now. You just have to be willing to try again, with a fresh approach. Take that small, wobbly first step – and keep going.

My tips for success

  • Define your “why.” How will life be better as a healthier, more active you? Write it down and post it somewhere.
  • Start small and keep it doable.
  • Focus on just one healthy habit change at a time. 
  • Find an exercise you enjoy doing, or at least an exercise you don’t hate.
  • Set a specific time to exercise, and put it in your calendar with an alert.
  • Be patient. Transformation takes time.
  • Stay persistent. When you get off track, don’t beat yourself up about it; simply get back on. 
  • Don’t focus on the scale as your sole measure of progress.
  • Contact a professional for help if you don’t want to do it alone.

Join me for exercise classes! I’m leading two free, live online classes sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) Raleigh location – Chair Fit and Wellness in Motion. Visit my website to sign up for my exercise class or more information.

authors photo
Michelle Rogers
Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at www.michellerogers.fitness and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

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