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Fitness + Mental Health

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I have lost about 20 pounds since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

My friends are often asking me how I managed to lose weight or remain dedicated to my fitness goals without access to gyms.

As we grow, it becomes a natural progression for us to stop taking care of our physical health. We leave home-cooked meals filled with our parents essential nutrition and substitute it with quick, ready-to-order fast food. We no longer depend on our parents to encourage us to play outside or sign us up for a sports team. We start to attend bars or clubs weekly simply because that’s the “adult” thing to do. We see doing physical activity as a chore or a burden.

As kids, we were thrown into doing fitness because it was part of the school curriculum no real reason why it’s essential to school. I don’t recall ever being thought about the mental health benefits of exercising during P.E.  I always viewed the push for fitness as a way to exhaust the energy from children. And a way to have them interact with other kids while the parent simply sits on the bench doing their own thing.

I think that’s when the lack of motivation to work out starts with, as kids. It stops being something we do because eventually, our parents no longer have a say in how we spend our time. And, our parents or school system are not forcing us to do it, then why would we continue doing it?

I have asthma, which means that physical activities have always been a bit of a problem for me, so the thought of being outside and playing sports wasn’t something that was high on my list.

However, I did enjoy spending time with my friends. This camaraderie made the shortness of breath worth it.

When the time came for my mother to stop having a say in how I spent my time, I still signed up for sports because I wanted to spend time with friends.

As adults, various factors start to pile up in our lives. We either go to college or start entering the workforce. A few people, like myself, start doing both.

My life was consumed with a shortage of time. The bus commute took an hour from my apartment to work. The 8-to-10 hour work shift followed by the returning hour-long commute.

I would get to my apartment to make a quick meal before making the 15-minute commute to the local community college to attend my night classes.

If I missed the bus, I would have to walk or run the 2 miles it took to get to class from my apartment.

It would be about 10ish when I would get home to relax.

Working out was not a thing on my to-do list.

As the years progressed, time management became better but working out was not something I included on my list of things.

Typically, we only start looking into our health when something drastic happens. For me, it was when I could no longer fit into my pants.

I remember going shopping for new clothes and being discouraged by the $69.99 price tag on a new pair of jeans.

I started to work out simply because I did not want to buy new clothes. It wasn’t because I wanted that beach body. I didn’t want to impress the opposite sex.

I just wanted to save money and continue fitting into my clothes.

When I did research on weight loss, the most frequent thing I read about was eating habits.

I was a picky eater as a kid. My mother taught me how to cook when I was very young because she did not like making a separate meal for me. This led to me cooking my own food on days my family would eat food I did not like.

We lacked the financial means to eat out, so I never understood the desire to eat out.

When it came down to my eating habits, it was simply an issue with portion control, and mitigating rice, bread, and alcohol.

As an adult, I continued cooking all my favorite dishes, but I no longer ate to make my belly full. I simply ate to get the feeling of hunger removed.

Sure, I wanted to eat more, but not eating another plate meant that I would have leftovers, which meant that I would have food for later. Which meant that I had free time since I would not have to cook for dinner.

But the biggest issue for me was alcohol. I was worried about the temptations of Seattle. My friends, coworkers, romantic relationships, all involved alcohol. I often joke that you have to partake in at least one of the following to live in Seattle: smoking weed, drinking beer, or hiking. It seems like everyone partakes in one or all of those activities. Fortunately, increased my intake of cannabis usage and hikes to substitute for the lack of alcohol-related activities.

By removing alcohol, I coincidently increased my fitness intake since I was hiking 2 or 3 times a week. Like most people, hiking has the effect of rejuvenating my spirits. I love exploring and seeing different things so that always excited me. Sadly, I had an issue with how I was performing during hikes. My stamina was terrible, so I started to run regularly to increase it.

The thing I noticed about running was that it gave me an opportunity to explore my neighborhood, the parks in the city, and see things that I would not notice by driving. I stopped using headphones while I ran because I wanted my attention focused on the sounds of the birds, the people, the cars, and the various music festivals and farmers markets I discovered by running.

Running had this meditative effect on me. I found that I would not have anxiety throughout the day if I ran in the morning. I felt good about myself doing daily runs.

I simply loved how I felt about myself, which made it easier to continue my fitness routine. It led to me getting a gym membership, which then helped me listen to my body. The more muscle I built, the more my body told me to stretch different parts of my body. This is where I am now in my fitness journey: becoming more flexible.

The motivation to work out was simply because I did not want to buy new pants. I no longer have those pants since they are too loose. I continue to have the motivation to work out because it helps me explore the world around me while mitigating my anxiety. It makes me feel more connected to my body, making it easier to know what it needs instead of what I want to feed it.

To many, working out is for looking good. I do it to feel good, explore the world around me, understand my body, and ease my mind.

-Louie Martinez

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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