Where we started

I started working out just about a year ago. My first day at my previous job was September 12, 2022, and I got my YMCA membership sometime within a week of that date. In that year I’ve lost around 15 pounds, gained muscle, and increased my running ability significantly. It’s been the longest stretch of consistently exercising I’ve done since high school, and it’s now firmly become a habit. My week doesn’t feel complete without my workouts!

Initial workout plan

2 times/week: run 5 minutes (~4 mph), walk 5 minutes, weightlifting (typically a beginner’s weightlifting video on YouTube, around 15 minutes)

Current workout plan

Monday: speed 1 mile run (5.2 mph); weightlifting (back and legs)

Wednesday: Weightlifting (biceps, triceps, chest). Currently benching max 55 pounds, curl max 30 pounds).

Friday: Long run at a slower pace (3 miles)

Things I’ve learned

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that atomic habit changes really do work! My approach to working out was taken pretty much exactly from Atomic Habits, and the proof is in the pudding. I was thinking about it the other day: when I started, I was able to run for about 5 minutes without stopping. I can now run for about 25 to 30 minutes without stopping. That’s a 5 to 6x improvement in just a year! The increases in ability came at a sometimes frustratingly slow pace, but making those small changes kept me from injuring myself and kept me on an upward trajectory.

Exercise has proven to be a helpful metaphor for other difficult things in my life. I started going to therapy this year as well, and it often came up as a useful image in my conversations with my therapist. In therapy, I’ve learned that the way we progress in our lives is by leaning on previous challenges we’ve survived. Those memories help us when newer, bigger challenges inevitably arise. Exercise maps onto this perfectly. Every Friday on my long run, when I’d get to a point where I felt like stopping, I’d remember: I did this exact run last week, and it didn’t kill me. I’m in a period of my life where lots of changes are coming quickly. I’m grateful that I have many memories of other challenges that I’ve overcome to help me face these new mountains.

If you’re thinking about starting an exercise habit, please do it (with appropriate healthcare provider consent of course)! There’s nothing but upside to exercise. It’s an investment in your future that will pay dividends today. And as you can see from my journey, you can start with minimal effort!