My fitness journey has had many stages and has finally involved to what I would call a functional and intuitive approach. Let’s start from the beginning:
When I was a teenager I played softball, competitively and for my high school. I participated in strength and conditioning in off seasons, but never really enjoyed it. I would do cardio at home on my own or even Beach Body’s Insanity DVD. During this time, I was out partying and eating fast food on the weekends. However, I thought I was “being healthy”. It wasn’t until Tyler and I started dating in 2012 right before I started college that I enjoyed exercising.
Stage 1: NEWBIE
Tyler brought me to a gym when we first started dating. He taught me the foundations of lifting weights and proper form. He was a great teacher and I was a HORRIBLE trainee. I didn’t take it seriously, I would even laugh when he would correct my form. Over time we developed a routine and I started to enjoy going to the gym. I fell in love with lifting weights because it made me feel strong. It taught me dedication and allowed me to set goals. I loved seeing results from my hard work. This also gave Tyler and I something to bond over, it became our thing and we called each other our “swolemates”.
Stage 2: IIFYM
I started working at the gym we attended and I got lost in the culture and the old-school vibe. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a huge bodybuilding gym and I learned about If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM). Although I never entertained the idea of competing, I thought this was the holy grail to health and fitness. I felt like I unlocked the secret to how to be fit- counting macros. It worked for me for few years or so but I started to get burnt out. My life was dictated by tracking numbers and constantly thinking about my next meal and how I could fit in pizza and ice cream. I was mostly lifting weights and minimal cardio for 5-6 days per week. I would go through phases of “bulking and cutting”. I enjoyed this at the time and did end up getting very strong for my body. ( IIFYM is a great tool and works well for some people, it just did not work out long term for me and my goals).
Around this time, I was still in college and taking nutrition courses. I was learning more about individual nutrients, learning how to cook for myself and diving deeper into nutrition outside of class as well.
Stage 3: Intro to Paleo
In January 2017, I did my first Whole 30. I wanted to try something new and different than I had done before. This opened me up to a whole new world that I never knew existed. I started following The Balanced Bites Podcast by Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe (highly recommend!). I found other people in this paleo-world and they were talking about health in a way that I had never heard before. It was a lifestyle not a diet, eating foods in their most natural state. I read topics on hormones, bone broth, adrenals, sleep, gluten, birth control, skin care, gut health, autoimmunity, saturated fats, coconut oil… all things related to wellness to contribute to a health which could be individualized. THIS MADE PERFECT SENSE! I started researching more and adopting many of the paleo principles.
After the 30 days, my meals continued to be mostly paleo. Sometimes it was stricter than others but I ate in a way that made my body feel good. I did not track macros except for occasionally to spot check myself. I started incorporating more cardio like jump roping into my weight lifting workouts and I loved it! I was still going to the gym about 5-6 days per week. I even felt stronger during my lifting sessions. This was working great for me throughout summer 2017 and then it brought me into the next phase of my journey.
Stage 4: Balanced, Functional and Intuitive Exercise
In August 2017, I started my dietetic internship and was deep into wedding planning. This brought about new changes, constant changing work environments and different goals. I wanted to be fit in other areas besides weight training. To this date, most of my meals are paleo based, this is what works best for my body.
As for working out, I have learned more about yoga, stretching, HIIT cardio, and mindfulness. I now workout 3-4 days in the gym doing a combination of weight lifting and steady state cardio or jump roping. The other days I am not in the gym, I leave open for whatever activity I am feeling up to. This may be a run, an at home kettlebell workout, HIIT, yoga, a light walk or hike. Some days it may be nothing at all, I’ve learned to listen to my body and know when I need rest. But, I also know when I am just being lazy, and there is a difference. I have found that the less time I dedicate to being in the gym, the better I feel overall and I am more excited for the next time I get in the gym!
I feel more confident than I ever have and I am in the gym less than ever. My body is appreciating the different forms of movement and I don’t feel restricted in my activity! This is what is working for me currently, but that doesn’t mean this will work forever. I’m sure as a new season of life comes, something else may work better. I like to say that the best eating pattern and style is the one that you can stick to, and the same goes for exercise.
One thing remains constant during all stages of my journey, weight lifting is my number one love, and I know it always will be. It feels good to feel strong!
Take away point: Find what makes you feel strong, confident + happy and trust the process!
Disclaimer: This is my personal journey and opinion and the contents in this article should not be used as medical advice or treatment.