Updated: Feb 25
When you look into the mirror what do you see? Are your thoughts full of judgment and hate? Do you get sad? There were many times that I would glance at myself in the mirror and just think the most hateful and negative thoughts. Looking back on it now makes me incredibly sad, but so thankful I never gave up the fight to live with happiness. I write and talk a lot about self-love. I know for 2019 and 2020 self-love was the new it girl. Everyone was talking about it and sharing their tips and tricks on how you can start loving yourself. But did they even love themselves? I would see a great pic of someone smiling and smelling a flower, their post would be amazing and I would think; now this is a person that truly loves and accepts themselves. I would navigate over to their IG page and realize every photo was a selfie. Not of them doing something really kind, cool, adventurous, with their spouse or friends. Their entire page was solely a collage of selfies and depthless posts. We have become a society where we need people to love us in order for us to feel valued or worthy. I have to admit that I am guilty of this as well. For so many years I have looked to others for validation.
Learning that my self worth is only defined by me has been one of the most challenging and complex self discoveries. It’s pretty damn freeing if I say so myself! I have already written about self-love and acceptance. I’ve written about how you can change your negative thought patterns. I’ve never written about how exercise can change the way you see, think and feel about your body and yourself.
What's the first thing you think of when you hear exercise? I know in our culture exercise has been demonized by the diet industry. Exercise can now only be associated with weight loss and nothing else. That's what ended up happening to me. I was sober but I had not yet recovered (this is a term we use in the recovery world for when we haven’t worked through what led us to addiction and we are merely abstaining from said drug) when I began exercising. I did not have someone around me monitoring my relationship with the gym and food. Let’s face it, we are addicts and it's pretty dang easy for us to get hooked on something whether it's drugs, alcohol, food or working out. I don’t want this to deter you from exercising. I want exercise to become a valuable tool in your toolkit. I want you to have as many positive and beneficial tools to encourage you and support you during your recovery.
I’ve never gone to the gym and left feeling upset or angry. I always leave feeling accomplished and proud of myself. Routine was huge for me in the beginning and I think you will find that creating a routine for yourself will help you tremendously during the early stages of your recovery. Creating your routine isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It's all about finding out what works best for you.
Get yourself a daily planner!
Look at your week and pencil/pen in the days and times you work or go to school. I love using colored pens, it makes each task stand out and it's fun! Now that you have all of your mandatory daily activities written down your RTF (Recovery Through Fitness) times will start to stand out. Pick out your favorite colored pen and write in a 30 minute time block on the four days that you have the most time. You are probably thinking that you should work out everyday, but I want you to remember, we can't trade one substance for another. This is recovery. This is not a substitute for your former addiction. Exercise is something that I want you to build a love for, so that you can see yourself doing the rest of your life. Slow and steady wins the race.
Now that you have planned out the days you are going to exercise it's time to plan out what that exercise looks like. It's important in the beginning to have all your workouts planned. It won't always be this way, but for now your RTF has to be dialed in. Each 30 minute time block is as important as going to work or eating. This is your time to focus solely on yourself and your recovery.
I don’t know what your home situation is or your financial situation, but there is one place that I know is free to exercise- OUTSIDE! There’s nothing better than the warm sun on your face. There is scientific evidence proving that being in nature boosts your endorphins, so getting outside as often as possible will greatly benefit your recovery.
I am not a doctor! Nurse! Or Therapist! I am a personal trainer who let her credentials expire some time ago. Exercise at your own level and if you have access to a medical professional please have a physical done before starting any new exercise routine. - Medical Disclaimer, I do not take any responsibility for any injuries you may obtain while beginning your exercise journey. P.S. I don’t think you will have any injuries ;)
If you have never done any exercise other than what you may have done in school please be easy on yourself. Let’s start slow by simply taking a 30 minute walk. When I go for walks I love heading over to one of our many parks and walking in the shade under the towering Oak and Pine trees. If I wear headphones I leave one bud out so that I always have a sense of my surroundings. Wherever you choose to take your walk, make it somewhere you feel safe and most importantly it brings joy to your heart.
Walk at a pace that brings your heart rate up enough that it’s still easy to hold a conversation. Remember, we are building up your baseline and there will be plenty of time in the future to power walk, jog, run and sprint! Back when I was a personal trainer at a gym I loved the clients who had never exercised before. I had a clean slate to start with and the best time to teach the foundations of bodyweight exercises.
Below are a few of the major bodyweight exercises that are great for beginners. I will have links to videos for each exercise.
Body weight squat- The squat in my opinion is one of the best exercises out there. Not only are you working glutes and legs but you are also firing up your core. When performing the squat you want to make sure that you contract your core for stability. Imagine blowing out all the air in your lungs. Place one hand on your stomach, take in a deep breath and then slowly begin to exhale. You will feel your stomach begin to shrink in almost like your bellybutton is trying to reach your spine. Now, hold it there and practice this until you can keep your bellybutton pulled in while simultaneously breathing. It takes some time but once you nail this you will see so much improvement in your posture and this small move helps to protects your back from injury.
Pushups- A total body exercise that will have your arms shaking! Throughout all these exercises I want you to remember to keep your core tight. Pull your bellybutton towards your spine and squeeze. The pushup can be modified to make it easier or harder. In the image you see a man doing a low wall pushup. Having his body at a high angle takes some of the weight off. The wall pushup is a great beginner exercise. If you don't have a wall you can use a bench, chair, couch, bed, counter, car hood and so much more. Get creative and see how many places you can perform the incline pushup! There are so many variations for beginner push ups so don't get discouraged if you can't do the standard in the beginning.
Lunges- There are a variety of lunges out there all to target a specific area of the legs and glutes, but lets start with the standard walking lunge. As with the squat you are going to want to keep your core tight, bellybutton pulled in! When performing this exercise imagine there is a string at the top of your head keeping your head high and level. You don't want to be looking up and you don't want to be looking down. We always want to keep our spine in its neutral position. Allow your gaze to land roughly 4ft in front of you. Walking lunges aren't about how fast you can perform them it's about controlling each step, slowly lowering down until your leg is at a 90 degree angle (don't allow your knee to go past your toes) and squeeze your glute as you lift back up pushing off your back leg.
Plank- Similar to the pushup but with this exercise you want to hold the top position. Just like the other exercises you want to pull your bellybutton towards your spine. Keep your core tight! At first glance this might look easy but I assure you this is a tough one. Start with just 15 seconds as you build up to more time. https://youtu.be/ASdvN_XEI_c
All of these exercises can be performed anywhere without any equipment. Combining all of them together will give you a full body workout that will leave you feeling proud and accomplished.
Warm up- 5 rounds jumping jacks
25 jacks with 30 second rest
Light jog for 5 minutes
Stairs! go up and down at a steady pace for 5 minutes
(the warm up is meant to get your blood flowing, heart rate up and your muscles primed for the actual workout)
The first number is the amount of sets you will do and the second number is the amount of reps you will do.
Body weight squats
5 x 20
4 x 20 seconds
(hold your plank for 20 seconds and if you need to start with less time start with what feels comfortable to you)
10 x 4 (each leg if doing stationary lunges) If you are doing walking lunges count 5 steps then turn and take 5 steps back. Do for a total of 3x
Depending on where you are at you will have to determine the number of reps you can complete. You don't want it to be to easy, but not so difficult you cant complete all the reps you have chosen for yourself. For example if I'm trying to find out how many pushups I can do and at number 8 I just can't do anymore, then I would set my reps at 8 push-ups. It would look like this: 3 x 8.
Between each different exercise rest for 2 minutes and between sets rest for 1 minute.
For the fitness enthusiast this might seem to easy and that's ok! add more reps or additional sets. For my newbies out there, we all start from the beginning. You will build strength and stamina over time. The most important thing to remember when first starting an exercise routine is, consistency always wins. Set up your exercise days and don't workout more than you have planned. The goal is to build a lasting habit, not something you do for a month and quit. I promise after your first exercise session you will feel incredible and damn right you should. You are putting yourself first, in a healthy way.
I have been sober for 15 years and the number one thing that has been consistent throughout this time is my exercise routine. Life is full of many unknowns, ups and downs. We have no control of our outside world, but what we do have control over is what we do with our own lives. Build yourself a solid exercise plan and watch your life change in so many positive ways. Taking care of our bodies is much more than how it looks. It's about how we feel and move.
I want to be very real with you all for a second. We as addicts know the horrible things we have put our bodies through. The trashy food we feed ourselves or the many days we go without eating. The times we forgot about taking a shower or brushing our teeth. Let's face it, we neglected every aspect of ourselves because we felt we weren't worth it. I want you to know that you are worthy of everything life has to offer. I know it might be hard to see at this point in time, but if you just put one foot in front of the other, and take it one day at a time, you will begin to see just how awesome you are.
I am excited for your journey and I am always just a short message away. Please never hesitate to reach out and if you want more exercise plans, leave a comment below and depending on how many comments I get I might make a detailed FREE e-book. Also, getting outside and into nature will really help to ground you. Spend sometime outside sitting in the grass or under a tree. Close your eyes and just listen to all the sounds. Take some deep breaths and appreciate our beautiful world. We Do Recover!