I have always loved moving, though I never did it in any structured form until the pandemic happened and the word ‘lockdown’ became part of our everyday vocabulary. I’ve tried all sorts of movement. For some years, I was into hiking and camping both for leisure and volunteer work. I also had my fill of local travel that had me trekking to chilly waterfalls and swimming in gorgeous beaches, among other adventures. At some point, I was a cardio queen hitting up all the group classes (if I’m not already running) and making sure I hit at least 10k steps a day.
There’s something so fulfilling about moving, whether it’s a quiet afternoon walk or a demanding full-body workout. I take it as a way to honor the body and recognize its purpose and potential. Of course, as we go through different chapters in our lives, our preference for movement changes. As for me, I’ve gone from cardio-heavy and high-intensity exercises to steady-state cardio and strength training workouts.
In the middle of March 2020, when lockdowns began in Manila, I had no choice but to transfer my fitness activities indoors. Outdoor exercises and gym visits weren’t an option then, so I went to YouTube and searched for follow-along workouts that fit my preference. I also started investing in workout equipment little by little, first purchasing a mat, a pair of 10-pound dumbbells, a set of resistance bands, a jump rope, and an ab roller. Eventually, I added more items and upgraded my old ones; I got myself a pair of training gloves, a thicker and more durable mat, a yoga block, stronger resistance bands, and heavier pairs of dumbbells (including adjustable ones).
My early venture into strength training wasn’t without its misses. Suddenly locked indoors and without guidance from any coach or trainer from the gym, I had to wade through waves and waves of information (and misinformation) online. I tried out several fitness YouTubers until I found a couple that aligned with my goals and values. You see, by this time, I was already done chasing after unrealistic beauty standards and listening to pseudoscience. I had already started the grueling work of challenging diet culture and had committed myself to unlearning my disordered eating habits and unhealthy fitness practices (overtraining and viewing exercise as punishment, for example). It wasn’t about the aesthetic anymore; it was about listening to the science and finding real joy in movement. It was, above all else, about allowing my body to be what it is meant to be at its best.
I’m now close to two years of indoor strength training. I am by no means on an elite level, but I have challenged myself in ways that surprised me and I have grown considerably stronger physically and mentally. Currently, I’m on my fifth 10-week program with a phenomenal online trainer named Caroline Girvan (creator of the EPIC training programs). Just writing that makes me feel so accomplished and proud. Though the journey is far from over. In fact, I see no finish line because for me, this is, cliche as it may sound, a way of life. I intend to keep moving for as long as my body allows, and I am resolute in building a strong and balanced body and mind.
Since getting into strength training, I have increased my weights/resistance, developed bigger, firmer glutes and stronger legs, and created more definition on my back and arms. My body composition definitely changed. Sure, it was at first disconcerting to see my thighs growing bigger and the numbers on the scale rising higher. It was discouraging to continue after realizing none of my pants fit loosely anymore. But this was exactly one of the bigger challenges I had to face: to ditch the scale and let go of the aesthetics. Now, I have learned to accept my body’s uniqueness and what it is meant to be, free from the dictations and demands of diet culture and society.
The physical changes are just a few of the benefits of my training. I still sometimes am blown away by my everyday, non-scale victories, like easily carrying bags of groceries or gallons of water into the house, successfully hauling around furniture during moving/shopping day, or accomplishing chores in record time with still a lot of energy to spare. In addition, the mental health benefits are immeasurable: better moods, increased focus, consistent motivation, and improved mental toughness. You can’t put a price on these rewards that undoubtedly add genuine value and joy to life. It goes without saying, all the hard work, sweat, tears, and soreness are worth it.
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