Exercising with a Friend Makes Exercising Happen

Almost a year ago, my friend Brigitte tagged me in a project for International Women’s Day (March 8).  The project was to tag a female friend and to teach each other your passions (you can read about that here).  In my case it’s perfume.  In Brigitte’s case, it’s functional fitness, and I was totally at the right place at the right time when she asked if I’d be interested.  I have always been a big walker.  Getting in the 10,000 Fitbit steps a day was never really much of a challenge, but I knew that I should be doing some weight training for my aging bones, and I knew that I should be giving my heart more of a challenge than my brisk walks were giving me, and I knew that for all of those 10,000 steps a day, I was not really fit.  Now, I can say with confidence that I feel fit.  I feel strong.  I feel amazing.

For almost a year, Brigitte and I have been working out together anywhere between one and three times a week.  It’s a very loose arrangement.  Whenever she can fit in a workout during the week, she sends me a text and asks me if I want to join her.  And whenever I can, I say, “Hell, yes.”   Brigitte is not only a great teacher, she’s great company, so unless I have a scheduling conflict, I never say no.  I used to never say no because without her prompting I could not motivate myself to do weights, kettlebells or any of the myriad exercise videos she offered me.

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She has a lot of videos!

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Now, I am much better at getting in 4 or 5 workouts a week, alone and with her.  Now, I never say no because I’m hooked!  Working out with a friend turns out to have been the secret to exercise success for me.

At the beginning, Brigitte took me through all the introductory steps of weight lifting, boxing and working out with kettlebells.  The first time we did kettlebells, it took three days before I could comfortably sit on the toilet again.  My hamstrings probably thought the Hamstring Apocalypse had arrived and it was all over for them.  The first few weeks with weights were so eye-opening in terms of the relative weaknesses in different parts of my body, the unevenness between right and left.  The first few months were about discovering muscles in places I did not know I had places.

I realized that there are few things in life that make me more cranky than sore muscles.  I had never identified that before.  I had never really noticed it, but sore muscles irked me all out of reasonable proportion.  (I may not have noticed, not having had much occasion to make said muscles sore in the first place.)  I know that in order to grow and develop muscles, you have to break them down before you can build them up, but knowing this still gave me no pleasure at all in the post-workout days of pain.  I still take no pleasure in the post-workout days of pain, but I am a lot less cranky and a lot more proud of what that soreness is giving me.  I feel the firmness of the muscles in my arms when I cross them.  (I have muscles!  In my arms!  They help me when I have to throw axes!)  My back is stronger than it’s ever been.  I can hold good posture with much less effort.  I feel fit.  I feel strong.  I feel amazing.

This is not a Cinderella story.  There is no dramatic transformation.  There are no startling before and after photos.  My weight has stayed more or less the same.  Working out with Brigitte has not cured me of my love of Miss Vickie’s.  One thing all of this amazing exercise has shown me is that food really is 80% of the weight loss equation, and though I’ve got the 20% exercise covered now, well, I still have not given up Miss Vickie’s.  I look very much as I did almost a year ago.  And I am mostly very happy to say that that’s the case.  Cinderella stories are so very alluring, but, possibly, not enduring, and, possibly, not very realistic.  We are none of us immune to that allure, and of course a part of me would love the dramatic before and after photos.  But the bigger and better part of me knows that as far as working hard at working out goes, I have nothing to reproach myself for, and you would not believe how amazing that makes me feel.  No more guilt about not doing enough to prevent osteoporosis.  No more guilt about not sweating enough.  No more guilt about not working enough in spite of 10,000 steps.  I just feel fit, strong and amazing.  And none of that would be possible without her friendship.  Thank you, Brigitte!

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