The Weight is Over: Workouts Aren’t Optional

I have just one medication I have to take, and it’s for my thyroid. I’ll probably have to take it for the rest of my life. It’s not optional. I take it every day, no matter what.

That’s how my workouts have become at Align Private Training. They’re not optional. They’re part of my lifestyle. I would no more miss my four-day-a-week workouts than I would skip brushing my teeth or taking my thyroid medication each day.

I wasn’t always like that. Before, exercise was something I fit into my life when all the planets, timing and even the weather lined up perfectly. Because exercise wasn’t a priority, it was the first thing to go (gladly) if something else conflicted in the least with that time slot. My “something else” excuses were pretty flimsy. I overslept. I was tired. I was stressed. I was running late, so why bother – maybe I’ll go tomorrow, or the next day, or next week. But most of all, my biggest reason for not exercising in the past was that I just didn’t feel like it.

One thing I’ve learned – and am still learning – is that feelings can be trouble-makers for me. I had a lifetime of conditioning where I used food to soothe myself when I was feeling stressed or sad or uncomfortable.

It was an extremely foreign experience for me to start working out with Matthew Lister at Align 16 months ago. As much as I liked Matthew and the other Align people, and as much as I loved the results I was seeing, I did not exactly look forward to my workouts. They were physically difficult. They still are. Sure enough, over the weeks and months I became stronger and more fit, but just about the time I mastered something, Matthew moved the bar higher to the next level of exertion. Just when I was congratulating myself for doing 65 pound dead lifts, Matthew moved me to 85 pounds, and then 100, which blows my mind.

As an aside, I recently had to purchase a 25-pound sack of powdered sugar (another wedding). A few years ago, I remember asking a clerk at that same store to lift the sack onto my cart. This week, I picked up the bag as if it was no big deal – because it wasn’t. It was actually easy.

Doni needs some new photos to show her progress, so this one with a tiny sample wedding cake will have to do for now.

Doni needs some new photos to show her progress, so this one taken last week with a tiny sample wedding cake will have to do for now.

Back to feelings. I have this crackpot theory that a lot of addictions – whether food, drugs or alcohol – are linked to an intolerance of discomfort. The lower the threshold for emotional discomfort, the higher the likelihood of self-medication to dull the “pain”.

Enter workouts, like planks, step-ups, wall-sits, push-ups and crunches. They don’t “feel” good – sometimes to the point where I would say that they “hurt” – a word I put in quotes because really, it’s not exactly pain (because that would be a bad thing), but extreme fatigue, or the burn of a muscle being taxed. But I know those uncomfortable exercises are good for me, so I do them.

The thing is, despite the success I’ve had at Align, I’m still at a place where the reason I keep showing up is not so much that I’m super disciplined (I’m not), but because I know that if I don’t go, I’ll receive a worried text from someone at Align asking if something’s wrong, because surely, the only thing that would keep me from my workouts would be an emergency.

It’s about accountability. Yes, I’m accountable to myself, but I’m also accountable to my Align peeps, and they’re accountable to me, too.

Just today Erin – my Monday, Wednesday independent-day workout buddy – and I agreed that there are many days we don’t look forward to working out. We said we’d each rather stay home and sleep in, but we don’t, because we know that the other is counting on the other to be there. So we show up. We go through the paces. We sometimes complain. We often compliment each other when we’ve completed something especially difficult. We urge each other to hang in there. But mostly, there’s not a whole lot of conversation because we’re concentrating on just being able to breathe and accomplish each set of instructions.

And then when it’s over, we’re so relieved, and so proud of ourselves, and ultimately, we’re so glad we went. But we’re also happy it’s over, too.

And then we do it again the next day. Whether we feel like it or not.  And that feels good.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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23 Responses

  1. I am nodding my head in agreement. I love my solo runs – but a few weeks ago when my son was in town he got me very excited about push ups – an exercise I had been neglecting.  Part of his last job was conditioning his dance team on a daily basis – so he’s great at the “C’mon, one more – you can do it” cheerleading.  And it felt great.

    Joe’s back down south, but I heard his voice in my ear last weekend when I ran (mostly walked) a grueling trail race. He wouldn’t let me give up – and I know HE dances full-out, even after hours of classes. So the camaraderie works for me — even at a  distance.

  2. Eleanor says:

    Hi Doni, this article is a great start to my day. Before I go to work out, I sometimes feel a little annoyed, like I’m the only person in the world who has to do this – till I get there and it seems like the whole world is working out!! It helps to know you have some of the same feelings, being as you are the star of the workout universe. LOVE the picture with the cake, not sure I’d even recognize you. You look positively elfin! (a good thing!) Oh, and so happy, too!

  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    Way to go, Doni and Erin.  The world is run by those who show up, and you’re showing up.

  4. A. Jacoby says:

    Doing this “Align thing” is so far out of my wheel-house I don’t even KNOW how  feel about it. I just GO! Not because I like it, even though there’s a very well-hidden part of me that does; it’s not because I’m being forced to go; it’s not because I, the instant reward aficionado, sees immediate results. But all of those elements fit in there somewhere.  And you are so right. It’s knowing that someone, or several someones, notice when I’m not there. And here’s another thing. when someone notices, it’s not like there is shame attached to it, but more of a “are you alright?” kind of thing. I’m an old lady and I live alone so it is significant to me that someone notices my  absence. I certainly don’t understand WHY or HOW it works, I only know that I’m in the 64th week of the rest of my life.

    • LOL, AJ I remember a time about a month or so ago when I got a text from Matthew who hadn’t heard from you, and he was worried because he knew you were traveling back from a trip. So he contacted me, and I contacted Jan, and texted you, and you – you were right where you were supposed to be, and all was well, but I was struck by the sweetness of the connection of caring. It makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?

  5. Erin says:

    I don’t really know the stats on how many people get up early truly excited to get to the gym and put themselves through a hard workout it’s probably a very LOW percentage but I believe if you surround yourself with like minded people who have the same goals it makes it that much more worth it, I think it’s all about Comfort and atmosphere, the people that can make you smile and laugh because you know they’re pushing themselves just as hard as you are, it makes me happy on a daily basis to see you Doni We have accomplished a lot together and I can’t leave out Diane you have pushed me just as hard, I’m sure we never thought we would be in each other’s lives but for me I feel like I have a new family and that’s a great feeling, our group is a Crazy combo of great people and we welcome everyone to join us in the ultimate goal of Health and Happiness, thank you Matthew for my new Healthy family

    • Diane B Hill says:

      Well said Erin.  You are so right in every word you say  WE ARE A FAMILY.  We all have each others backs, good bad or indifferent. Great moods, tired moods, cranky moods….lol   We get it all, but one thing  do know for sure I wouldn’t trade any of my Align family for anyone!! Love you guys!!!  Lets keep forging forward!!!!   Good job today too!!!!!


      • Love you, too, Diane! (My comment got out of order. Sorry.) I think you’re right about us seeing each other in all various stages of our authentic selves. Maybe because it’s early, and we’re not fully awake, or maybe it’s something to do with the bond that forms when working out that strenuously with others.

    • Erin L., you made me laugh at your guess about the no-doubt low percentage of people who are truly excited to get up early and get their butts handed to them on a platter.

      But I think you are also absolutely correct about the positive results that come from being part of a team, and yes, it is like family. We’re a motley group, and I love us!

      Thanks for being there for me. I know I would slack off if I weren’t working out with you.


  6. Michelle says:

    I call it morning misery and as I age it is slow misery. This morning I went jogging at 3:30 am because I’d been up since 1:50. Figured if I wasn’t sleeping I may as well go and get it out of the way. I told myself long ago-no fear!  No fear of alone, criminals, bears, rain, wind, cold or heat. Just go. I feel good later because I went. If not, I’ll feel rotten.

    • Michelle, I know you’re dedicated, and brave, but I worry about you going out that early for a run by yourself. I live just a few blocks from Jazzercise and I drive in the dark when I attend the 5:45 a.m. class. Maybe I’m more of a chicken than you. But be careful!

  7. denise says:

    In 1984 when I had made the final commitmen to do regular exercise, I had to set my alarm on a table far across the room from the bed. So once I was up, it was get the clothes on, shoes and get out that door.

    Took a few weeks of just dragging the body out the door. Then it was amazing that the mind did follow. Now my mind drags my poor body!

    I am completely addicted to moving my body every day, I hate missing any time.


    You look completely transformed, Doni.

    • What a great way to force yourself up for exercise! And that’s a good way of putting it: The body went, and the mind followed, and now it’s the other way around. (btw, I wish everyone could see your adorable new hair style. You look awesome yourself!)


  8. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    A retired teacher I know suffered a heart attack two years ago.  She has changed her eating habits and now works out every day.  She’s healthier and happier than she’s ever been  She said something that made so much sense to me.  “Working out is my job now.”   she explained.   “I would have never skipped work because I wanted to sleep in.”   I like Denise’s idea about playing the alarm across the room from the bed.  I’m newly retired and my hand can, while I am still asleep turn that noisy machine off!  Great article Doni.

  9. Ginny says:

    The Virginia Slim ad use to be, “You have come a long way, Baby!”

    That ad fits you, Doni. So proud of what you have achieved.

    L&GB g

  10. kerr, david says:

    What do you do when you feel hunger?  I like to break down behavior into its smallest parts.

  11. Laura McHaney says:

    Although i’m a newbie to Align I already feel the vibe of friendship in the gym.  Donnie, you are an inspiration and the reason I came to Align (I read one of your articles on ANC) and I’m so glad I did.  Although I won’t be there this summer Matthew and Tina have already said they would set me up with a program so I can maintain my healthy habits, diminish my pain and when I return in the fall,  show them my summer results!  These are good peoples!

  12. Laura, I look forward to meeting you, and seeing you in the fall. Keep it up until then. You’ve got this!

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