Silhouette of a woman stretching at sunrise with the sun in the background
The fitness journey often focuses on the end result.

Today, the phrase “fitness journey” is commonly a buzz word for “how you gave up bad unhealthy living to make yourself look and feel your best.” 

You see countless stories in social media and on blogs that reflect this. They all start with a person wanting to get healthy, who then acts on that drive. The story usually catalogues the bumps along the way, and then ends with the final, transformative result. But is that the right way to think about our relationship with building fitness?

The Fitness Destination Fallacy

Female athlete sits on the floor, smiling, holding a kettlebell.
Why don’t more fitness journeys focus on people who were already grateful for their bodies, but wanted to improve?

These stories always follow this one, singular structure. They always begin with the premise that the starting point was “bad”. And that we are only successful when we achieve some dramatic physical transformation.

I never see a story that says something like “I really liked my body before, but I wanted to make it better” or “I appreciated my life before, but I realized there were ways to feel better.” This focus on achieving “fitness” implies that any physical state before that point is no good.

Learning the Wrong Lessons

My fitness journey started after high school. I had been an athlete my entire life to that point. I stretched myself thin, though. Soccer, gymnastics, track, and martial arts formed a core focus for me. 

Female athlete performs a weighted squat with a bar bell.

When I started college, I was so burned out that I quit everything altogether. I focused on academic extracurriculars instead of club sports. And I behaved like your stereotypical college student. I avoided both the gym and healthy eating habits.

I remember stepping on a scale later that first year and involuntarily my jaw dropped. I had gained over 60 pounds! I was at the doctors, and my usually stellar check up ended up with a pamphlet about unhealthy BMIs. 

I hated my body, I hated my impulse control, I hated myself to the core for letting my athletic body go so quickly. I didn’t want to see myself let alone have anyone else see me in public.

Becoming Grateful

Mixed gender yoga class.
A good yoga practice teaches people to be grateful for their bodies, and develop at their own pace.

One of my best friends at the time dragged me along to yoga class. It was my first time. She made me go for two weeks, but it didn’t take long for me to become hooked. 

I learned to appreciate the way my body bent. In class, breathing and twisting and holding poses, I finally felt like my body had been there my whole life to support me, to carry me. 

My friend helped me to see the good parts of myself and to be thankful that I have legs that can carry me. I am grateful to this day for that. He let me see what a little self-care can do.

A Lifelong Fitness Journey

Woman in purple tank top performs a seated trunk twist.
A positive, grateful approach to fitness is the first step to a lifelong fitness journey.

I realize now, after all this time; you can’t hate yourself healthy. I hated myself for a long time.  All I had to do, though, was forgive myself, and it changed my mindset. Change your mindset, and your life will follow. When started being grateful for what I had, I went from a ramen eating, sedentary, body-ashamed college girl to a whole-food loving yoga teacher. 

Anyone can do this. You can do this. Change by starting with tiny goals that evolve, over time, into big goals. Let your journey follow wherever your motivation leads you. Just remember to appreciate the journey. 

So, the next time you say, “I need to start now!” start with your mindset. Appreciate how far you’ve come and look forward to the future.

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