I truly hate running. I've tried every fitness class my city offers — and living in one of the fittest cities in the country means I have a lot of options. And at-home workouts? The living room in my tiny San Francisco apartment is about as wide as my wingspan. I don't work out, but I am still the healthiest and most fit I've been in my adult life.
I know that fitness means something different for everyone, and I am not saying that working out is something people shouldn't be doing, either because they want to, because they need to, or both. But when it pertains to my own fitness regime, I can knock it, because I sure as hell have tried it all.
Growing up, I was active and athletic. I participated in an array of sports — from basketball, track, dance, and gymnastics to swimming, diving, and horseback riding. I was also an active nanny for years, and anyone who has kids or works with them knows that keeping up with two toddlers is more work than running a marathon. I loved it all and never once thought of what I was doing as a workout or as something that I had to push myself to do. Then my focus shifted significantly. No longer was I a high schooler with time to spare and a metabolism the speed of light — I was a determined college student dedicated equally to my GPA and happy hour, and then I was a postgrad professional looking for a job. When was I supposed to be squeezing in a trip to the gym, especially considering the fact that getting myself there was like pulling teeth?
Still, I tried everything to stay healthy and in shape. I bought fitness videos and watched countless online workouts for people who hate working out, for people who live in small apartments, for people who don't know body balls from barbells. I signed up for individual classes at yoga, barre, and cycling studios, experimented with different gyms, took boxing lessons, and even tried my hand at aerial silks (which were by far my favorite!). Still, nothing quite did it for me. I skipped classes, made excuses, and ultimately felt worse about myself because I simply couldn't muster the motivation everyone around me seemingly had for fitness.
What I realized about myself is this: I hate exercise that feels like effort. For me to get a good workout, the results need to be incidental, not intentional, which is why fitness activities that aren't focused on the workout aspect, but more on the fun, appeal to me most. So I stopped working out. I implemented a few simple things into my daily routine — simple being the operative word here — and I have never felt healthier, more in shape, and happier since letting go of other people's idea of what fitness should be and instead doing what really works best for me. Here's how I did it.
I stay constantly active and on my feet.
I am never, ever idle. Seriously, it's to the point where I risk running into people (and poles) daily because I read while walking through the city. I am constantly on the move, even at work. I get up and down several times an hour and take my laptop to places in the office that allow me to stand (standing desk is next on the list). On the weekends, I make sure to allow myself some downtime with Netflix or a good book, but I don't waste beautiful, sunny California Saturdays sitting on the couch.
I walk everywhere I can.
I am lucky to live in a place where walking is not only possible but also very practical. I honestly think this is the key to staying in shape for me. I walk everywhere. I have a Fitbit, but my biggest thing about having one is to not let myself dwell on the nitpicky parts of the device. I don't log every calorie I eat, and I don't use it to lose weight. I just love challenging myself every day, and having it on my wrist reminds me to take the stairs instead of the escalator and to not waver at the sight of a San Francisco hill but conquer it so that I'm rewarded with an amazing view when I make it to the top. Just this weekend I caught up with my mom on the phone while walking the three miles from my house to Target (totally worth the trek!), then hopped on a bus on the way back home since I had bags. Two birds, one stone.
I eat healthy.
I have a very healthy diet. I eat what I think is probably most similar to a Paleo diet — but I don't diet. I just try to stick to things that are natural, clean, and not overly prepared, like vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat. I also don't overeat, mainly because I can't stand feeling sickeningly full, so I am a huge proponent of multiple small meals throughout the day. It makes the workday go by faster when you get to snack on something every couple of hours, anyway! Sweets aren't my thing, but I swear by a rare steak every now and then and a postwork glass of red wine. I avoid mixed alcoholic drinks because, to be honest, I can't stand the sugar, and I drink my coffee black unless I opt for green tea instead.
I make fitness fun.
I've stopped pushing myself to go to classes and join a gym, but instead I save my energy for activities that I can get really excited about. I ski, I swim, I dance, and I ride horses any chance I can get. I'm planning my next biking trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, and my last hike took me on a five-hour adventure through a redwood forest in Northern California. I make fitness fun for myself, and in doing so, I've learned to love my version of a "workout" so much that I am more in shape than I've ever been in my adult life. I am climbing toward my 30s feeling incredibly fit, and what's more, I've finally found a way to stay healthy without hating it.