Where to start with fitness?

A couple weeks ago I was sitting with one of my co-workers eating lunch. She was talking about wanting to lose weight and how she was doing a couple different diets and trying to go to the gym more often. I teach a free fitness class (in my classroom) to other teachers after school on Thursday afternoons so I said to her excitedly, “Hey, would you like to come to my class? I’d love to have you! It’s just one day a week, it’s only 30 minutes and we have a really good time.” She responded,

“Oh, I’m not fit enough to actually workout.” I had no idea how to respond to that so I took a huge bite and sat there chewing, totally perplexed until it was time to go pick-up my students from recess.

“Not fit enough to workout.” I thought about that sentence for over a week. As I thought about it, it started to make an enormous amount of sense. Fear of failure and shame are powerful motivators. Most people will do just about anything to avoid feeling either shame or failure. Showing up to a fitness class where a person might not be able “keep-up” is a huge risk. It’s an even bigger risk if that person is already feeling some level of shame for not being at whatever health/fitness/weight level they idealize. Shame makes us hide to stay safe. When I think about it that way, my co-worker’s comment not only makes total sense but also reveals a sweet, vulnerable place in her heart with which I imagine many other people can identify.

With that understanding, the next question is, “well then where do you start?” How do you “get fit enough” to workout? If I’d been able to proses all that on the spot I probably would have responded to my co-worker by asking, “what do you love to do? What gets you up and moving just because you love to do it? What if you started there?”


As I think about my own journey towards having joy fuel my workouts rather than body image or some culturally driven notion of “health”, I see that I started out doing only things I loved! Then, slowly, I grew to enjoy a wider and wider variety of workouts until now it doesn’t matter much what I actually go do. I get that same little kid ready to go play excitement about going for a run or going to the gym or taking a class or playing frisbee with my husband. They key for me though (and I think the answer to my co-workers statement) is to start with something you love, not something you view as torture and build from there!

Joy is a state of your heart. So start with something that brings your heart life! Maybe it’s a long walk twice a week with a friend. Maybe it’s taking your kids to the playground and climbing around with them. Maybe it’s getting on your bike and exploring a part of your neighborhood you’ve never seen before. It doesn’t have to look like a workout to be a workout! It just has to get you moving. And if you move enough, consistently enough, your “fitness level” will change. And as it changes, more options for how to get moving will open up to you because they will no longer be scary; because you’ll be “fit enough to workout.” The main thing is you just have to start. And, from my own experience, if you’re going to start and keep going, start with something you really enjoy!

This is an invitation this week, this month, maybe even this whole year, to shake yourself out of the box of what the fitness industry offers us as “workouts” and just move! Laugh! Play! Keep playing! And see what happens. Leave a comment with what you discover! I’d LOVE to hear how you let joy move you!

:) Hally

Here are a couple of my favorite suggestions to get moving in fun, creative ways.

  • Join a masters swim team (you do not have to really even be able to swim to do this. There will be everyone from pro-triathletes to 95-year old guys puttering along and people who have never swum before in their life. Swimmers are wonderful people and doing it together is a game changer)
  • Hike, hike, hike, hike. Did you know that walking up a 15% incline at 3mph burns as many calories as running 8-minute miles? It does. My husband and I have tested it on treadmills!
  • Walk! Pick a street in your neighborhood you haven’t really seen yet and go walk for 20 minutes to an hour at a good pace. You’re actually just exploring and enjoying other people’s landscaping and burning some calories in the process.
  • Sign up for a ballroom dance class. One of the women who mentors me decided to get back in shape from being very overweight. She signed up for every dance class she could. She even took the free line dancing classes at the local country western bar. She lost a ton of weight and is a mean dancer now. She’d never danced before.
  • Find a podcast series you really enjoy or a good book on tape. Then go walk, ride your bike, walk on a treadmill, elliptical, whatever… for the length of one podcast or a couple chapters several times a week. I actually do this often and I get so excited to hear the next episode I forget it’s actually a workout. It just story time and I happen to be moving. (My recent favorite is the Presidential podcast by the Washington Post—44 episodes talking about the history and life of every present up to the present day. Could sound lame but I challenge you to listen to the first one and see if you don’t get hooked!-- https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/presidential-podcast/ )

 If you have another idea please leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear how you let joy move you!


Hally PaulsonComment