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 anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. 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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