When I recently began working out and eating clean, my primary goals were appearance-related. I also had secondary goals that were more related to my health and overall well-being, but like many people, the real reason I started was appearance. But I’m now a full three months into my new health and fitness routine, and I’m starting to find a lot of additional, unexpected benefits from being fitter and healthier. Of course, I’d read on fitness websites and articles about all about these benefits, but somehow it didn’t really click until I just went ahead and did it. It’s one of those changes for the better, where you don’t realize things could be better until they are. Sort of like not realizing you need glasses, and then putting a pair on your face and going, “Well, I guess I needed glasses.”
I turned 28 recently and up until this point, I think I was coasting my skinny butt along on a fast metabolism, youth, and some leftover healthiness credits from the first 18 years of my life. While I never really ‘trained’ or participated in any sort of organized sport, I hiked and climbed and biked a lot and had the luxury of relatively healthy home-cooked meals when I lived with my parents.
However, as a college student and then a graduate student, my overall health began to decline. Slowly decline, but still decline. I’ve known since I finished grad school that I should really get myself in gear and start being concerned about my fitness and health, so finally, about three months ago, I dedicated myself to eating clean (well, about 80% clean) and working out three-to-four times per week, for at least an hour (mostly weight lifting and some shorter, really intense periods of cardio). I saw some physical changes begin in the first month or so; my chicken legs in particular gained some muscle, and I feel like I ‘toned up’ all over a little bit. I also used those first few weeks to re-condition my body to regular exercise, figure out my training routine and diet, and continue to muster up the mental discipline to carry the whole thing on long-term.
At some point after the second month mark, I started noticing marked differences in a lot of other areas. The steep hill outside the house where I lived suddenly didn’t seem like the nuisance it used to be — in fact, I kind of enjoyed the feeling of my body carrying me up it with ease, where before I would have ended up short on breath at the top. Going to the grocery store to bring back food wasn’t as much of a chore; getting up and walking somewhere became less of a hassle (I live in Boston and don’t own a car); even just sitting in my office chair became better! I’ve gained more energy, felt more sociable, and just generally felt better about myself, my life, and my body.
About halfway into the third month, I moved into a new apartment, which was when I really realized what a difference being in better shape was making in my life. I took a few days off from working out before moving, expecting the move to absolutely kick my butt, and it really wasn’t bad at all. I still ended up exhausted at the end, but my muscles were only a tiny bit sore, and I could lift way more weight than I expected to be able to. Functional applications of exercise are great, and make you realize that there are all sorts of other benefits to being fit, besides just improving your appearance. I honestly can’t think of anything else I’ve done in recent memory that has had such a positive impact on my life!