Confessions of an Evil Gym Bunny

I do not believe in New Year’s Resolutions, and thank goodness it seems like not many people in this town do either. The great onslaught of new gym-goers with crashing blood sugar have not appeared in the post-holiday season. Or maybe they have traditional jobs keeping them away during my 8:30-10:30 time slot.

Whatever the reason, you’ll hear no complaints here. While the media constantly reports on obesity and I think people benefit from physical activity, I prefer not to fight over the 12 bikes in Spinning class and 13 stations in circuit training.

But I’d fight if I had to. After all, exercise is one of the only things keeping me out of the funny farm at this point. We have been waiting for company paperwork critical to house-buying plans in Edmonton for two months. We have had to deal with at least a half dozen people in a half dozen locations in this bureaucratic nightmare. All for one f*&%ing letter.

So yes, I need my spinning. And my circuit training. And my pump n’ flex (which is no girly weight-lifting class, by the way. Doug couldn’t walk for several days afterward). And my yoga. These are the things that allow me to burn off my ‘crazy’ energy so I don’t lash out at people in the grocery store line whose only fault is they haven’t memorized produce ID #’s (bananas are 4011! 4011!!!).

But then I hear my yoga instructor’s voice in my head “inhale gently,” and my spinning teacher’s voice “push it out” and I remember that the woman holding the bananas with two squalling toddlers is probably at the end of her rope too. And being in Wyoming she’s probably got a gun in her diaper bag. So I hold my tongue and just chant my ancient mantra quietly on the inhale and exhale: chill…out…chill…out…chill…out

And patiently await my next mind-saving butt kicking.

Not a resolution

If you’ve looked at the newsstands lately you probably noticed that just about every women’s magazine (and quite a few men’s) feature New Year’s Resolutions. “Half her size!” One of them exclaims. “This is the year you reach your goals!” Another promises.

I personally don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. In my experience, guilt-fuelled vows made after a night of too much drinking (and a month of too much eating, spending, etc) often aren’t backed up with much commitment. But maybe that’s why it’s the people who celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s on January 1st who make resolutions. We are all in serious need of detox by then.

When I was 18 years old I took a yoga class. I had just gotten over a horrible case of mononucleosis and I was weak, stiff, and feeling completely non-physical. So I took this gentle yoga class at the local recreation centre to try and ease myself back into the land of the living. At the end of every class, our instructor would take us through guided meditation. She would ask us to focus on our breath and try and clear our minds. This was tricky for me -my mind is always going a mile-a-minute – and the first time I got really frustrated with myself.

Then she said something revolutionary: every time you stop focusing on your breathing and find thoughts cluttering up your mind, acknowledge it, and then return to meditation. No guilt. No failure. Just awareness, forgiveness, and re-committal.
A week ago I found my thoughts wandering and my breathing shallow, in a sense. I wasn’t being as mindful of my health as I had promised to myself. Instead of getting angry, feeling guilty, or giving up and giving in to the all-you-can-eat IHOP gorgefest (it exists!) I sat with my awareness. Then I bought a rec centre membership, went to a couple of fitness classes this week, and began tracking my nutrition more closely.

One of the reasons I think so many people give up on New Year’s Resolutions – or any commitment to themselves – is that the second they slip-up they feel guilty. They think they’ve failed. As that yoga instructor would remind us, we’re only human and we’re bound to get off-course on our road to enlightenment, healthy living, or any other type of goal. Instead of beating ourselves up about it, why not accept the moment and resume our journey?

One year later

Last December I woke up one day and realized I was out of shape, out of excuses, and out of patience with myself. So I decided to do something about it. I already knew the basics of being healthy: eat a balanced diet and get off your butt. I still did a ton of research, signed up for some online accountability aids ( and came up with a strategy.

Here is a photo essay of my journey back to health and well-being.

Spring 2007 in Vancouver. I was still in grad school and in terrible shape physically, emotionally, and mentally. I wasn’t happy about things, but I wasn’t committed yet to changing my lifestyle.

July 2007 north of Vancouver. After crying on my first hike that year, I started to walk more so I wouldn’t be so unfit. Not making all the necessary changes yet or setting any concrete goals.

January 2008. A few weeks after I really committed to changing my lifestyle Doug and I headed to the beach in St. Lucia for our belated honeymoon. I had been working out religiously, tracking my food, and I was down about three pounds.

July 2008: By this time my lifestyle changes were set in stone. I had stopped tracking all my food and drink because I had internalized it (“stop eating when you’re full.” “Are you really hungry or is it something else?” “Eat 4-5 veggies and 3 fruits a day” “Drink lots of water”). I had snowshoed throughout the extended winter, done circuit training to increase my strength, and once the snow melted I started walking. Then I began a walk-to-run program so that by October’s CIBC Run for the Cure, I’d be able to complete 5km. I was down 25 pounds (my initial goal).
October 2008: I had just completed the 5km run without difficulty and was holding strong to my new habits, even though life threw plenty of obstacles in my way. Down 35 pounds.

(if you go to this website you can create a virtual model of yourself at your current weight and your goal weight. Plus you can try on clothes, etc).

This is “me” now – down 40 pounds and still going. I have my new workout buddy, Riker, who makes sure I get out for at least 1 hour of walking a day. I’ve also promised him that I’ll get a bike this spring and that I’ll take him along on hikes and camping trips. I’m also doing pilates which helps with flexibility and strength.

Most of all, I’m taking care of myself. I eat good food that fuels me, I don’t drink too much, and I get lots of rest. I even take my multi-vitamin, which should make my parents happy! 🙂

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.