98. How I Clicked with Fitness

98. How I Clicked with Fitness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

How I Clicked
with Fitness

You don’t have to run on a treadmill.
Find something you enjoy and just do it.
 ~David Snowdon

My sixth grade class was tested under the watchful eye of our physical education teacher as she held a clipboard and clicked a stopwatch. One of my classmates kneeled on my feet and held my ankles, while I rested on a mat, my knees bent like peaks. Click. Go! I led with the right elbow, then the left elbow, wobbling. Sit-ups counted only when both elbows touched both knees. My counting partner shouted out my score.

Click. On to push-ups. Click. Running. Click. Chin-ups. Several months later, our teacher presented some of my classmates a certificate signed by President Reagan and a round blue patch stitched with a gold eagle, the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. I never earned one. At eleven years old, I rationalized that this was okay because another set of test scores determined that I was reading at the high school level.

I didn’t strive to be fit in high school either. By then, report cards were my interest. Physical fitness wasn’t going to get me into college. If it was, my school would have offered it with an advanced placement (AP) option and my parents would have asked every night at dinner how I was doing in P.E.

In college, I avoided my grandmother and my aunt. They had started greeting me by commenting on how much weight I had gained, then bragging about how they never weighed more than 95 pounds. If I appeared hurt by their comments, they’d laugh and say that they were just making conversation. Over full plates at a holiday dinner, I confirmed that every woman in my family had a story about when Grandma told her she was fat. Today, when I thumb through old yearbooks and photos, my younger self doesn’t look as bad as she felt.

After graduating from college, I traveled throughout Europe and Japan for my career, and by the time I was in my 30s, I stood 5’3” and weighed 200 pounds. With the guidance of the Weight Watchers program, I learned good eating habits such as portion control and smarter food choices. However, I took it a bit too far and lost 60 pounds in seven months. When Grandma saw me that spring, she gasped and couldn’t say anything kind, so instead, she recalled when my behind was so big, it was “out to here.”

Six years later, I regained 30 pounds during a stressful three-year work project. I worked at the office 70 hours a week, instead of working out, and my portion sizes grew, even though my choices weren’t bad. I knew I could lose the weight again when the project ended earlier this year and without changing my diet or stepping into the gym, lost 15 pounds in three months. I can’t explain this. Maybe the stress actually weighed 15 pounds? But soon enough, I reached a plateau and knew I would have to start working out, something I never enjoyed.

So I searched through WebMD for a new perspective. Many articles emphasized that heart disease was the biggest killer of women in the U.S. Forget dieting. I decided to watch my eating but really focus on getting my heart pumping. Exercise would no longer be tied to losing weight. Being fit and heart-healthy had become my new goal.

I looked up the Presidential Fitness Award program from grade school. Maybe their fitness tests could guide me or benchmark my progress? Presidentschallenge.org explained that the program had been expanded to include adults and seniors. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award program encourages adults to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Click. Steps registered on a pedometer counted towards exercise credit. Click. If I exercised five days a week sometime in the next six to eight weeks, I would earn a certificate signed by President Obama and a blue square patch. The words next to the blue star read, “Sign me up!”

My apartment complex had just renovated its gym and I decided to return to the elliptical machine. These new machines were different, even equipped with a plug for my iPod and individual television screens. While working out, I tuned into The Food Network for the first time in years and learned that it was fun to watch Paula Deen fry food.

The log at presidentschallenge.org helped me plan and track my exercise. I began going to the gym regularly. I liked the fact that there was an online record of my efforts after I worked out. After 36 workouts, I earned the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

For me, working out had always been about right and wrong—right and wrong food, sizes, weight, and appearance. With the help of the presidentschallenge.org website, fitness is now an investment in my heart, in my future.

~Sherilyn Lee

More stories from our partners