Through The Looking Glass: Sweating Out Exercise Anxiety

This is not me.

I recently decided to start losing weight. I’m on the upper end of the BMI chart for my height, but technically not overweight. I’m also a naturally curvy lady — big hips, big butt, big chest. I know I’m never going to be the skinniest person, it’s just not my body type. But I want to get to a place where I am happy looking at myself in the mirror.

And see, there’s the thing. I’ve never been happy looking at myself in the mirror. I walk down the street or bike to work and see women who I think look fantastic, but are considerably heavier than I am. Even when I see girls who are comparable to me in size, I think they look great. But no matter what stage of the process I am in, I can’t get down with my own body. Indeed, as a high schooler, I weighed close to 100 pounds (I’m 5’3), and I still thought I was overweight. Even though the tag in my waistband said 2, in the mirror I was the same little fat girl I was in the fifth grade.

That’s really it, isn’t it. Fifth grade. PE class. We had to run the mile. I couldn’t run the mile, so I walked it. I was pretty overweight. When I finally made my way back inside about 20 minutes later, the last person to enter the gym, everyone was sitting there waiting for me. We then went down in alphabetical order, shouting our times out. Mine was by far—by far—the longest. I didn’t have any friends in fifth grade anyway, but if I had, I doubt they would have continued to hang out with me after that.

As a result of this one day in PE class, as I discovered years later, I have severe running anxiety. I have an exboyfriend who loved to run, absolutely adored it. He had knee issues and had to stop, but if he could have, he would have been out running every day. We would go to track meets together. He had inspirational quotes about running up in his room. And it made me feel terrible.

So I started finding different ways to exercise. Going to the gym doesn’t work for me—I can’t stand to have other people see me flailing around like an idiot—so I work out on a mat in my room. It’s actually been going pretty well.

But yesterday, as I was on my mat trying to do v-sits, I started to get frustrated because I couldn’t see the change that was happening. I wasn’t feeling better; I was feeling discouraged. I was feeling impossible. I wanted to give up. And I did, briefly. But then I stood up and did jumping jacks—something I knew I could do. And doing that led me through the rest of my workout.

Exercising and losing weight isn’t like it looks on the sneaker commercials. There is no pill you can take or machine you can buy that will make you feel better about yourself. I’ve been pushing hard to get by by finding motivation outside myself, but in that moment yesterday when I stood up and kept going, I finally started to feel something like accomplishment.

That’s not to say that getting up and continuing was the magical formula that broke me out of my discouragement and made me feel whole again. The point is that it’s not easy. It doesn’t come magically. It’s a process, a constant struggle. For me, my hurdle is exercise, health, and weight loss. For you, maybe it’s writing, or reading, or dancing, or singing, or drawing. But I’ve found that internal motivation is what pushes me through. And maybe that’ll help you, too.


7 thoughts on “Through The Looking Glass: Sweating Out Exercise Anxiety

  1. Lyzi, this is awesome. Thank you for sharing this rather personal story with readers. I think everyone has horror P.E. stories, what an awful class. I was underweight throughout junior high but could never run the mile in under nine minutes. I was the last to finish as well. P.E. is a humiliating experience, and I’m sorry it turned you off to running for life. As I’ve said before, you’re a proactive person, so hopefully you’ll reach your goal very soon. 🙂

  2. Lyzi, I was that girl in PE also. I remember feeling so inadequate because running even the first quarter of the mile was so difficult and it seemed no one else was walking. I even pushed myself to painful shin splints because I was so embarrassed.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to repost this on my blog. Also, I have a post coming up tomorrow about attempting to do physical activities I’m scared of if you’re interested in checking it out.

    I think it’s really great that you’re driven to workout and keep yourself healthy. Even if you’re in a healthy BMI range (and regardless of how you look) exercise is important for everyone whether you aim to lose weight or not. Keep up the hard work!

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