In the past couple of years two major changes took place in my life. First, I left my academic life behind — and with it — the flexible schedule which allowed me to go for a run in the middle of the day. Second, I turned thirty and realised that unlike in my teenage years it’s not okay to gulp down whatever and whenever I felt like.
While five years ago I used to box 4, sometimes 5 times a week and run on the weekends, 3 years ago I was running marathons, 1.30 years ago I would come back from work home to my boyfriend, too tired and unmotivated to do any sports. First my sport activities were limited to running on the weekends (I cannot run outside when it is dark because I am super clumsy and trip a lot 🙂 ). However, autumn in the Netherlands mean almost constant rain, wind, and overall gloom, which meant not even every weekend.
I was getting out of shape. If I had to run after the tram, I’d occasionally find myself being out of breath. So, last year January I bought a treadmill. I am fortunate enough to live in an apartment that has space for a whole treadmill (and that space is strategically positioned opposite the TV) and to be able to afford one. This is a prime example of how though money does not increase our happiness if you have enough to cover your basic needs, it can definitely be exchanged for goods and services, which can result in a permanent long-term boost in our well-being.
Fast forward a few months. I started a new job last spring and one of the perks of the job is the on-location fitness center. What I am most grateful for, however, are the group lessons they offer. I have discovered the comfort of going to a boot camp or a body pump class during your lunch break.
So, for a few months now I have been consistently attending such classes 4 days of my working week, and on the weekend I do my cardio/running. I have to say this has been one of the best things I could do for my body, health and ultimately, happiness. First of all, I have never had so many muscles! When I was preparing for a marathon, I was at my leanest but now I am definitely at my toughest. There is something so empowering in being in great shape and in being strong. Effects on my figure aside, I have noticed that I am in general craving healthier food, so my diet has naturally improved as well. Sleep also comes easily these days, and I had periods of my life when it used to be an enormous problem. Of course, we all know that exercise also helps to reduce stress, and that it does beautifully for me.
But such rigorous exercise does something more as well. Today when I was walking to the gym to go to my class, I noticed I was so happy and eager to go, I was almost hopping and jumping with excitement like a child. It’s not only the numerous physical benefits that motivate me but rather the mental ones: it’s this mixture of reward for doing something good for yourself, entangled with challenging yourself and seeing improvement; it’s having this luxury to disregard everything and everyone for a while in the middle of the day and just be quiet with yourself. It’s a treat and the best thing I have done for myself in a while.