Health & Balance: How I went from couch to fitness

Anyone who meets me after my college days may be surprised to know that there once was a good 40lb difference between my heaviest (college) and lightest (current) days. Over the past years, I’ve finally established a stable balance in terms of my fitness, health, and life. But the journey wasn’t easy – I have come a long way from the days of midnight ramen, 2AM Checker’s runs, 5AM visits to Waffle House — with no more exercise than walking from class to class on campus.

Part of me still wishes that I had the skinny genes and can eat whatever I want and gain a pound extra. But I’ve come to realize that fitness isn’t measured by numbers and pants sizes — it’s about being happy and healthy in your body. I’m very thankful to have had the experience of seeing my hard work pay off, and that continues to motivates me today. Fitness journeys are personal, but now that I’ve made it to the other side of the balance (and scale), I’m happy to share my two cents on my fitness transformation!

It’s not who you are that holds you back; it’s who you think you’re not. 

The hardest part was taking that first leap from snacking in bed to actually purchasing a pair of gym shoes.  It’s not that I didn’t want to work out, but that I wanted to wait until I was at least fit enough to not look bad in the gym. I didn’t think I had it in me to go from zero to 60. So I waited. And after my 4th consecutive New Year’s Resolution failed, I knew I needed to do something different, something bold. 

At that time, one of my closest friends had just finished the Insanity Workout and came out of it a different man — lean, strong, and confident. For anyone unfamiliar, this is a 60-day high-intensity workout where you follow the instructor in daily 40-minute workout videos — “the hardest workout ever put on DVD,” as they say.  When I jokingly said that maybe I should try, he casually brushed it off saying something along the lines of, “I don’t think you’ll be able to handle it.”

Excuse me? I had been fine about doubting myself, but for whatever reason, hearing him question my ability was the exact push and challenge I needed to make the change.

Build a fail-proof structure that sets yourself to succeed. 

After I was determined to take on the Insanity program, I got myself set up with proper gears, protein shakes, meal plans, and a big calendar to keep myself accountable. I calculated exactly how much time I would need to workout and shower, and precisely when I would be doing that each day. I then worked my activities around it, saying no to plans that would compromise the integrity of my 2-month plan.

Breakthrough happens when you dare to do the impossible — day by day.

If you’ve managed to get yourself to the gym or to your first workout – great. But we all know that it doesn’t stop there. Fitness is a continuous process, one that requires you to be your word, day after day.

The structure of the Insanity program is that you follow a structured plan and work out about 45 minutes a day, 6 days a week. Each workout session starts with a 9-minute warm up, then short bursts of high-intensity reps. When I first started, I couldn’t even make it through the warm-up without pausing. I was that out of shape. And by the end of the first day, my legs were like noodles.

However, I felt a growing hunger for strength and proving myself for what I was capable of accomplishing — anything. Each day was a breakthrough in of itself, as I pushed my physical and mental limits over and over again. And before I knew it, I was a week in, then 2 weeks, then a month – without missing a day.

The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle. 

Especially in the early days when results were slow to show, giving up was a constant temptation. I haven’t made that much investment, it’s fine to quit. Or, no one else would know you failed…it’s okay. Or, just try something else easier. 

I battled against that until I hit my first major milestone: one day, I realized I had just made it through the 9-minute warm-up without pause. To me, that was a huge measurable success – I was growing in my strength and agility.

I knew I couldn’t stop there.

So, I kept the same mindset throughout the ensuing days and weeks, tracking for specific progress goals that, when met, was enough to push me through another day.

Breathe. Take pride and revel in your accomplishments. 

Meeting your fitness goals, however small you may think they are to others, is a huge deal. I realized the importance of taking the time to bask in your accomplishments later in my fitness journey. Taking stock of where you are and how far you’ve come is not only a reminder but also a testament of just how capable and powerful you are. For me, it celebrating the momentous changes refueled me to keep going and gave me the confidence to tackle more difficult challenges.

Sometimes, you lose yourself amidst the chaos of it all. Between counting the number of burpees a minute and measuring yourself on the scale, it’s easy to forget why you started the journey in the first place. This is also when it’s good to step back, breathe, and look back on the incredible progress you’ve made so far. Don’t sell yourself short — what you have done is amazing and so are you.

Now let’s do this. 

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