When I was a scrawny school child, my dad would take us to McDonalds every Friday where I would order a supersized Big Mac meal with an extra Big Mac on the side. My relatives would always point out how skinny I was and I apparently looked like my dad whom we call him “sparerib dad” (you have to say it in Chinese, pai-gwut ba, because it makes more sense and it’s funnier). This made me assume that I’d be “skinny” for life. My dad was the fittest person I know, ran, biked and swam miles and miles daily (he’s getting to 60 and STILL does this), ate like a beast and was lean his entire life. He was not buff but he has amazing endurance and is strong— while we were playing at the park, he would be doing pull ups. I thought I would always stay small too but no, I did not get those skinny genes. UGH, DAD. So instead of passing on skinny genes to me, he passed on bad eyesight and hayfever. Sigh.
So why did I start working out? It started one spring afternoon years ago when my boyfriend and I decided to go biking around his Vancouver neighbourhood. If you know Vancouver, you know how hilly it is and if you know biking, even the smallest hills can cause an unfit person to gasp for air. This was my first time on a bike in years and I was mortified! Not even a block and I was a sweaty mess and had trouble breathing! When I was younger, I played sports, ran track and LOVED biking (I was even part of a hardcore bike bicycle gang) but I got lazier and lazier as I got older and it was then, I decided that I had to get back in shape and lose the extra baggage which came from art school and my first “grown-up job” which spoiled us with pounds of free food and beer.
I’ve had a gym membership since I was 16 but I never went consistently and even after my revelation, I still didn’t do it right. I did what most girls do: go to the gym and do my thing on the elliptical, eat a lot after. Or skipped meals. Then binged. Repeat.
Knowledge is Motivation
One day, I realized I didn’t know shit about fitness because there was suppose to be results! I clicked on the “health” section of a forum I visited daily and there, I began educating myself… soon my resources grew larger and larger as I got hold of tons of fitness blogs and other free resources online— I had no excuse to fail. I learned about the science of losing weight, how simple it really is and the HEALTHY way of doing it. I learned that being strong is better than being skinny. I learned about all the healthy and delicious foods and why cutting out processed foods was so important.
And most importantly, I learned that this was a LIFESTYLE.
It was all right there in front of me all along! I slowly committed by going to the gym at least twice a week. Sure, I was still the elliptical queen but I threw in some weight-lifting and core work. Soon, I committed to going at least 3 times a week, then 4, and it even went up to 6-7 times at one point. I found myself in the weights section with the guys most of the time or alone in the gym early in the morning or late at night because I was so committed. I focused on the intensity of my workouts to make the most of my time at the gym, learning different types of exercises and experimenting with different foods. Of course, my focus was weight-loss so I was counting calories at that time.
3 months after it all started, I lost 20lbs— I was at my goal weight!! It could’ve been a lot faster but I wasn’t in a hurry and I wanted to take it slow. I still believe long-term weight loss is aiming to lose 1-2lbs/week because that’s the only way you can do it realistically without feeling deprived. I also did it the right way— with proper diet and exercise and none of that starving and binging torture.
But I didn’t stop there because I was addicted to this lifestyle.
I stopped worrying about counting calories and my weight and started to focus on mainly strength and intensity because I wanted muscles, speed and endurance. Along the way, I discovered that as long as I kept up my workouts, I could eat everything I want and still be in my “happy place.” I lost my excess weight by eating what I want but under my daily calorie requirement and with lots of intense exercise. I never did and never will get into “dieting” because I would NEVER deprive myself of my favorite foods …although what also helped was that my taste buds changed a lot during that period.
When I look back to that period, I was actually EXTREMELY healthy; I ate real foods everyday, never skipped a meal and although I did indulge in things like a lot of ethnic foods occasionally, I rarely had cravings for sweets, especially bubble tea (which I use to drink almost everyday), I was happy, always energized, my sleep got better and I never felt deprived.
Today, I’ve come a LONG way from that embarrassing bike ride we went on years ago. I even finished a 240km bike ride in 2010 effortlessly without even being sore and since then, I’ve logged hundreds of miles on my bike. This summer, I will be riding 122km with 1700m of elevation in the Whistler Gran Fondo! Cycling has changed and fulfilled my life in so many ways. I look forward to riding and exploring new routes with my boyfriend who also loves cycling, I look forward to every single hill and busting up with all that I’ve got, I look forward to the feeling of my heart wanting to explode after a hard sprint or climb, I look forward to the thrill of descending at freakishly fast speeds down a mountain. Cycling will always have a place in my life and that is why it is so close to my heart.
At the gym, I’m still focusing on strength and intensity. I set goals for myself and have achieved many like doing , my first pull-up, my first 5 miles, linking 60 double-unders, doing 100 burpees in sub-5 minutes… The amazing thing is that I STILL look forward to every single workout even when I know I’d want to kill myself while doing it.
Food-wise, we have a really good relationship. I never feel deprived, I eat whatever I want with barely any guilt, I can easily maintain my weight which I’ve been doing for the past 3 years and I love and cherish my body. Don’t get me wrong— I have to work hard to maintain my weight and I lose and gain weight really quickly. If I were to stop exercising, I’d gain body fat like no tomorrow but once I start, I can get real happy about my body quickly too.
I’ve never been healthier nor happier.
It’s been over 3.5 years and I’m still at that happy place. I strongly believe that knowledge is motivation because that was what got me to where I am today and is partly what is making me stay so committed. The two main factors that drove me were results and knowledge. I’m still reading tons of fitness blogs as part of my daily morning routine and seeing results as I experiment with new fitness methods and continue to eat clean.
What about you? Why did you start working out? …or why do you want to start working out?