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One Year of Fitness

One of the biggest ironies of my life is that I was a Division I athlete. I actually have a varsity letter in a men’s sport no less. My dad always said that if he had to put his life-savings on the line, he would have said my sister (formally known as Sporty Sis if you’ve been reading the blog since the beginning) would have been a college athlete.

Of course, I was a coxswain, so it wasn’t like I was a bench-pressing, protein packing athlete. I was more the brain than the brawn in the boat. Competitive? Yes. Atheltic? Not at all.

I’ve tried every sport under the sun from synchronized swimming to softball, and nothing stuck until crew. I was too tiny to be a competitive rower, and when a spot opened up to cox the men’s team for my high school, I jumped at the chance and never looked back. I will say, I did almost 100% land training, aka running, during my short-lived career as an actual rower and that was probably the last time I was in shape. But I hated every single minute of it. I ran for hours in the Florida sun and never got used to it or enjoyed it whatsoever.

I’m going to keep this post as honest as possible, and I hope no one is offended or turned off. I don’t want to censor this for fear of judgment because it really is my journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m sure if everyone looked inwardly and was honest with themselves they might, too, realize their own insecurities and truths.

So…. despite the fact that I was a student-athlete, I have never really prioritized working out. Because it wasn’t something I enjoyed and because I was naturally small (my size is genetics), going to the gym never quite made my high priorities list. Other than one year in college where I gained ten pounds from a medication I was on, I’ve been the same weight since graduating high school.

Fitness Journey

Last October, I went to New Orleans and had such a great time basically doing a food tour of the city. I came back feeling horrible though. My everyday diet is pretty bland and standard, so I think the constant stream of rich food just put me over the edge. Back in Connecticut, I experienced a mixture of wanting to sit in a sauna and to run a marathon to sweat it all out.

Instead, I joined a gym. Someone had mentioned to me how insane Chelsea Piers was inside, so I originally signed up for a tour just to take a peek. My apartment has a great gym that I technically pay for in my rent, so I wasn’t entirely keen on spending money on a gym. I had been paying for yoga classes and realized, during the Chelsea Piers tour, that the cost of the monthly gym was the same as unlimited yoga classes at the studio I was going to at the time. With Chelsea Piers though, I could sign up for ALL kinds of classes, including yoga. I drank the Kool-Aid on the spot and signed up.

I think it’s also worth noting that I was trying to find ways to break up my day since working from home can get lonely and monotonous. My yoga classes were all scheduled for the post-work crowd, which wasn’t the most convenient for me. I wanted something with more flexible hours, including the middle of the day since I have that luxury.

In addition to all of that, I was going through a rough patch personally and was kind of grasping at straws in terms of pulling myself out of it. I had already increased my number of therapy sessions and done everything else that normally works, so I figured working out could be worth a shot. As cliché as it sounds, it worked. As Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”

Because the gym felt so new! and so exciting!, I wanted to try as many classes as possible. I shopped around and landed on one class that I absolutely LOVED. It is called “Intro to Strength Training,” and it’s the one class I’ve been doing consistently since I discovered it. I instantly fell in love with it too. Once I took one class, I started going every day it was on the schedule (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). A few of us have been doing it this whole time, and we’re friends now!

For the first five months, it was taught by an amazing trainer. She truly made it fun and manageable, and I could find myself growing stronger every week. Then she left to get her doctorate in Texas and, as happy I was for her, I was devastated to lose her as a trainer. I’ve discovered trainers are like hair stylists, once you find one that you like and trust you better hold onto them for dear life!!! A new trainer was slated into the schedule and, all of us girls agreed, he had big shoes to fill. (I believe I, jokingly, mentioned to him that he had one week to prove himself. HA!) Well, he is amazing!!!! The class difficulty increased dramatically, and I continued to grow even stronger more quickly.

It’s still an “intro” class although a few of us in the group are doing heavier weights and some modifications to make it more challenging. I’ve learned a lot from the gym, the class, my trainer, and even my own practice.

ONE // Just Do It

When I asked you guys on Instagram what you were most interested in hearing about my journey, the question that popped up the most was, “How do you stay motivated?” Here’s the thing, I wish there were a secret or a magic pill that would miraculously endow you with discipline and motivation. That doesn’t exist, and that’s why training is such a challenge. At the end of the day, you just have to do it.

There are things you can do to find motivation, but I think the main thing is that you have to ask yourself how badly you want it and why you want it. I’ve never had a huge problem with discipline when push comes to shove. (I do have days where I clear my schedule and do nothing, but I run a business, put up posts every single day for years, and when I put my mind to something, I don’t like to give up.)

I have friends that pay for a gym membership and never go. Maybe if the membership were free, I wouldn’t do it… but if I’m paying, I’m going.

If you’re struggling to find the motivation, ask yourself why. Is it that you don’t enjoy the classes? You need to be held personally/financially responsible? You feel like you don’t have time? Shop classes until you find one that really gets you excited. Join a gym with a friend (who is also motivated… friends can also be de-motivating if they’re the type to skip classes frequently!) or pay for a membership somewhere. Look at your schedule to see where you’re spending time that can be cut out, like deleting your Netflix account.

I love working out with my class so much that I have done my best to schedule my entire week around them. (I realize this is a luxury, but this could also be the same for a 7 pm post work class or 6 am class on your way to the office.)

If you want to work out, find a way to work out and set yourself up for success. It’s my opinion that if you really want to, you’ll find a way.

TWO // Diet

Whenever I post a dessert on social media, I almost always get a message from someone asking how I can eat that and still be thin. As I mentioned earlier, my size is genetics. My mom has always been a twig, and my dad wrestled in, like, the 100-pound class in high school. But I also only share desserts now and then, they’re not my whole diet. I am also a believer in the “everything in moderation” mindset. And I’ll only eat until I’m full or satisfied. I’ve never been someone who will eat the entire thing of ice cream just because it’s in front of me. I can do two bites and feel satisfied.

I tend to eat a lot of the same things over and over again. I do a lot of oatmeal, grilled chicken, salad mixes, eggs, salmon, and greens. Here’s what I ate in a week earlier this year. I find that when I work out, I crave healthier food, especially extra protein. My biggest weakness is potato chips because I want salt pretty much all day every day. (I’ve mentioned before but I need salt not to get dizzy whenever I stand up. When I work out, I drink more water than usual which means I need even more salt.)

THREE // Clothes

I also had a lot of questions about what I like to wear. In the beginning, I definitely found workout clothes a big motivating factor. I would look for cute things, and that would make me want to go to the gym. While I still like cute workout clothes, my workout drawer has gone from one to two over the past year because I wear them so often. It’s not so much “cute” workout things that I’m reaching for; I’m shopping for the things I like to wear to the gym. For pants, I really like these New Balance x J. Crew pants and these long tights. For tops, I like these tanks and a tight long-sleeved top from Athleta. (I can’t find the exact one online, but it’s a tighter version of this.) For shoes, I switch between these and my trusty Asics (which are the only shoes I run in). I definitely recommend getting professionally fitted for shoes if you’re going to be doing serious training– every foot is different, and your feet are really the foundation for everything.

FOUR // The Basics

The class I do is “Intro to Strength Training” and that can kind of cover a lot. I thought it would be only weight lifting, but it’s actually a mix. Every day is different. I’d describe it as a metabolic circuit training class. Sometimes the exercises seem so simple in the beginning but then by the fourth round of it, I’m basically crawling out the door. Some days we’re doing a ton of cardio, others balance. We might be lifting free weights or using kettlebells. I love the mix of everything because it keeps me on my toes and keeps it interesting. I never get bored.

One thing that was the biggest eyeopener for me was that the most basic moves are the ones that have the biggest impact. Right now there are so many classes selling trends. The basics are where it’s at though! Pushups, lunges, squats, bicep curls, pull-ups, etc. For the longest time, I thought that doing weight lifting would make me bulky and manly. I thought I had to do “toning” classes that strengthed and lengthened to maintain a feminine shape. Nope. Every body is different, but I’m not going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger from a few pushups.

I have done a few Barre classes, but I’m generally doing this strength training class filled with exercises that, a year ago, would have freaked me out for fear of turning into a manly body. I have actually strengthened, lengthened, and toned without having to take a class marketed towards only women. Try not to buy into that. Of course, those gyms and classes are great for finding a community, but you don’t have to be afraid of doing a little heavy lifting.

FOUR // The Changes I’ve Noticed

What have I noticed the most in myself?

Very simply, I feel stronger: physically and mentally.

NEVER in a million years would I have imagined that I would enjoy working out, but I genuinely do. I look forward to working out now and don’t feel good about myself or the day when I skip one.

I am still the same weight and the same size, but my body feels different. It took about six months before I started to feel and see the difference. I can feel the muscles in my stomach, and my arms, and my legs. I see glimpses of changes in photos. I think the biggest physical change has been my legs. I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my legs because there were just skinny and not very toned. I could NOT believe my eyes when I saw this photo because I saw a muscle in my leg I never thought was possible!

Even though the scale hasn’t changed and my pant size hasn’t changed, I went from 18% body fat in October of 2016 to 16% in September (the last time I used the machine). A pretty significant difference that shows a lot more than how I look on the outside.

Mentally, I know I’m a lot stronger than I ever imagined I could be. Now that I have a little bit of strength under my belt, I have been able to channel my competitiveness to push myself a little harder, lift a little heavier, run a little farther.

At the beginning of the year, I set some goals for 2017, including fitness. I wanted to do three classes a week and run a 5k. I’ve done at least three classes a week, and I ran TWO 5ks. (The tennis is a long story, but my instructor got a little creepy with me, and I had to stop lessons completely… I need to get back into it.) I think next year will hold more races and more fitness classes. I have a pretty great foundation right now, and I think I’m ready to take it to the next level, while still having fun with it of course! I try to stay pretty level-headed about it all.

Everyone starts somewhere

I know this was a long-winded post but I wanted to wrap up with one single message. ANYONE can start their fitness journey. It’s going to look different for everyone, but if I can do it, anyone can do it. I seriously hated working out and would avoid anything that would induce sweating. And look at me!

Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s easy to get discouraged if you jump into a class and feel intimidated by people who have been doing it for years. When I started, I was using the lightest weights for everything. I could hardly do a pushup. Many of the exercises were modified. Focus on your journey and growth.

The women in the class I take are all on different paths, and we have fun together while focusing on our individual goals.

PS I’d also be careful about following fitness accounts on social media. I’m sure there are some genuinely, authentically great ones, but I often find accounts that aren’t necessarily promoting a healthy lifestyle. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s so much more important to focus on YOU than trying to look like some ideal fitness model. (Which, oftentimes they are just models and not professional trainers!) I’ve definitely found myself scrolling through accounts thinking I needed to start doing two-a-days and find a spray-tanner. Your fitness journey is so much more than that!

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55 Comments

Jordyn

Carly you look so good and you are truly glowing with happiness! I think it is so amazing you have fallen in love with fitness, it truly makes a HUGE difference!

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Courtney

I love this post! I have also gotten consistently into fitness this year and it has been wonderful for my mental health.

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Stacey

Love love love this!! My fitness journey began on January 15th of this year and it truly does wonders for the mind! I love to lift heavy and I’m so proud of my journey. Yours is awesome! Keep it up!

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Regan

Thanks for sharing! Question – Are you still doing yoga at all? I personally have really enjoyed weight lifting but I feel like I need yoga to balance it all out. We’re all different and I just love hearing various experiences!

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Taylor

Thank you so much for sharing this Carly! I used to be so good about sticking to a gym routine and then really fell out of practice in 2017. I have been going again for the past month and really making it a priority. I am going to use this post as extra motivation and inspiration!

Taylor | http://www.livingtaylored.com

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M

Loved this post, Carly! I would love to see a follow up with some of your favorite workout routines.

I agree that most fitness Instas are not super helpful. There’s so much photoshop and so much dishonesty about the amount of almost obsessive macrocounting and workout out that goes into having the absolute perfect body. I only follow two: my former trainer @lynettemarieh She’s an angel, and she has an extremely balanced view of eating, exercising, and enjoying life, and @ladyfit, she’s very real and honest and mostly posts some really fun, challenging workouts that I enjoy recreating.

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Taylor Herrick

One of my best friends is currently a coxswain at Georgetown and we always joke about how who would ever know she would become a D1 athlete!

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Erin

YES CARLY! I love today’s post! I have always been big into fitness + nutrition (it’s what I studied in school) and I’m glad to see you’ve found some things you love.

I definitely agree about not following fitness accounts. Some of them can be so bad for your mental wellbeing.

And also? You ARE looking so fit + strong 💪🏼

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Shannon

You go girl! It sounds like the last year of fitness has been incredibly beneficial for you. I’ve been doing yoga religiously for the last 4 years. I’m now to the point where I want to incorporate another form of exercise into my routine. That is a goal for myself in 2018. Good luck continuing your fitness journey! Loved hearing the progress you made!

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Marcella

I’ve been waiting for this post!! Haha you inspire me. I traveled to NYC last week and I downloaded Headspace yesterday since I was feeling kind of anxious that week (I’m pretty sure it’s because I haven’t run in a while, but I also want to try it). I’m going to try it for a month and see how it goes!

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Christine S.

I absolutely love this post! You look so strong and happy. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. I’ve been working out regularly for a little more than two years now (lifting and running), and recently joined a gym that has a great class selection so I’m branching out into spinning and yoga too. It makes such a big difference in how you feel physically and mentally!

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emily

I lost 40 lbs this year! I started with the Tone It Up plan and now I’m doing the 21 Day Fix. But all that matters is that you’re STARTING! Start somewhere!!! It is NOT HARD to lose weight – we know it’s a formula: eat healthy, do the workouts, get some quality sleep, etc. If I can do it, ANYBODY can do it.

Find what works for you, give 100% of yourself to it, and enjoy the process. Since going through this, I am stronger mentally than I ever thought I was. It’s been an incredible transformation for me <3 Thanks for sharing!

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caroline

Thank you so much for sharing! I totally get what you mean about salt, I have Orthostatic Hypotension, so I always to keep salt in mind when I hydrate post workout too! I have loved seeing your progress this year!

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Jacqueline Barrett

I am the same way with salt. I have recently moved from NY and NH to FL and hydration is key. My nutritionist advised me to add a pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt to each of my water bottles and it helps improve my hydration. Thank you for this post!

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Kate

Do you drive into the city to go to the gym? That would be really tough for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Great post!

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Kelsey

“PS I’d also be careful about following fitness accounts on social media. I’m sure there are some genuinely, authentically great ones, but I often find accounts that aren’t necessarily promoting a healthy lifestyle. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s so much more important to focus on YOU than trying to look like some ideal fitness model. (Which, oftentimes they are just models and not professional trainers!) I’ve definitely found myself scrolling through accounts thinking I needed to start doing two-a-days and find a spray-tanner. Your fitness journey is so much more than that!”

THANK YOU FOR ADDING THIS. I so agree- I really struggled with this this past summer and once I stopped following those types of accounts, my mindset towards working out has been healthier.

It’s been inspiring and helpful to follow your fitness journey and to read this now! I started lifting as opposed to just running about a year and a half ago to get ready for my wedding, and it made such a difference- I had no idea! I really enjoy the gym now because I can do something difference every time, and I still get that cardio piece in, which I didn’t expect. Thanks for writing this post! I definitely resonatedwith what you said.

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Kristine

Absolutely LOVED this post and your honesty about it all! I’ve tried everything and found that I really love Bar Method and Running (even if it’s trendy to go to the hard core classes like Barry’s – it’s not for me!) I also like to treat myself to a massage once a month at my gym’s spa – feels like a healthy indulgence! 😉

I think my favorite part was the PS – IG is getting out of hand lately with fitness models doling out fitness and health advice without any credentials.

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Ella

Carly, this is easily my favorite post of yours recently. I’m also a committed non-exerciser, but I know that for my mental health, I need to get into the habit. My question is about motivation on days when you’re not physically or mentally feeling it – didn’t sleep well, have a headache, whatever. Do you still go to the gym and just keep things light (i.e. walking on the treadmill and stretching)?

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carly

I still go! The only time I’ve missed a class for non-scheduling issues was when I pulled my back and needed to rest! Otherwise, I go because I really do like it!

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Jenny

Yess Carly I love this post! I started my fitness journey this year as well, it was my New Year’s resolution. I STILL can’t believe I stuck with it throughout the entire year but I’m so proud of myself for doing it! It’s addictive once you start seeing results and feeling better and fitter.

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Angie

This is such a great post! Thank you for sharing your fitness journey. It’s always interesting to hear how other people became motivated and started their fitness journey. I’m a current rower and I’m interested to see how motivated I’ll be once I don’t have a coach encouraging me along the way.

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Emma

I am so happy for you-and thank you for sharing your journey with us! Enjoying fitness is the key to actually sticking with it-or at least that’s how it’s worked for me 🙂 I totally recognize the ridiculousness of the marketing/fear of bulking, but I love Bar Method. And anything that can get me to exercise 5 days/week is a winner, ha!

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Jessica

In January of this year I started working out at a gym but unfortunately, in the middle of July I had to leave out, because I didn’t have much time to go there.. hope to get back soon!

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Traci

Super random but I actually live in the same area as you and go to Chelsea Piers as well! It’s a great gym and they have so many awesome classes and trainers. I need to get back into the habit of going again (I’ve been doing workouts on my own after work)!

I totally agree that you need to find a class/exercise that you really love to stay motivated. It makes a big difference… and when it doesn’t, for me half the battle is just making myself get dressed and make the drive over. I feel better once I’m there. 🙂

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Emily

This is awesome! As a fellow Plant alumna and a group fitness and TRX instructor, I wanted to let you know how much I loved this post. Also, if you haven’t tried TRX, I highly recommend it!

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Page

Your class sounds amazing and like exactly what I want to get into. Do you know of any group classes like that in DC? Or how do you find that kind of class/community?

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Jenny Paxton

Page,
I live in DC and joined Gold’s Gym. They have a Body Pump class that sounds similar and I’ve been doing it regularly since 2008. I credit the strength training I do in that class to allow me to train for marathons injury free 🙂

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Alexandra

Great article and very motivating – 2018 here I come:)

I live in Canada and love going to Barre classes as well as Body Flow (Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi). Although many people think Barre is just for women, it is actually geared to both men and women and quite often the men instructors are the ones who push you the hardest, but are amazing! Just wanted to clarify in case any male friends wanted to go to Barre, but were too shy to brave the lineup of women waiting to get in 🙂 Keep up the great work!

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Lisette

I have never commented before but felt compelled to do so. This was such a great read Carly. It was real but also inspiring and I think I will post it on my wall. Merry Christmas!

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Rebecca

SO impressed with how dedicated you have been in your fitness journey! It’s definitely not easy, so a huge round of applause for your commitment and positivity throughout it all. Your progress looks fantastic + I’m sure that there will be even more incredible progress in the new year for you! 🙂

Rebecca
http://www.thebloomly.com

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Claire Noble

Hi Carley,
I’m not too dependent on technology but I was wondering if you are in your workout routine. Do you use anything like a fitbit or workout apps? Do you have a workout playlist you’d be willing to share in a post? Random, but Id love to know what you consider helpful!

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Katherine Thousand

I completely understand about the not looking like a man thing… my workout of choice is powerlifting. It’s what keeps me going back and staying excited about fitness, day after day. And I do NOT have anywhere near to a “manly” body! In fact, my body isn’t really even muscular looking unless over just worked out or I’m flexing. It’s sad that so many women avoid picking up weights for fear of turning into the hulk, because it just isn’t in our genetic makeup.

I also enjoyed your post about meals! I sometimes need the reminder that going back to the basics is NOT a bad thing! Lol

Merry Christmas 🙂

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2017 Favorites - Carly the Prepster

[…] definitely been a favorite of mine this year. I recounted my fitness journey earlier this month so you can read that in-depth post here! I think the things I’m most proud of for the year is just sticking with it and signing up […]

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