What I Learned After I Finally (Finally!) Started Working Out

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a pretty strange year. While I don’t ever stick to my New Year’s resolutions (because, like, who does?), back in September, on the night of my 27th birthday — and fresh off a bad breakup, a job change, and a move back to Philadelphia — I decided to write down a list of goals I wanted to accomplish to get my feels in check (I repeat: It’s been a strange year) and my priorities in order.

On that list I included some pretty basic things: open a savings account (check), move out of my parents’ house before January 1st (check), stop texting my ex (seriously, stop), finally learn how to drive (hey, there’s always 2017) and quit moping around and start working out …

Within a month, I took my first-ever yoga class, did some crazy cardio butt-and-legs workout in the middle of a park — in public, where actual people could see me — took a personal-training session that quite literally kicked my ass, and signed up for a legit gym membership. One of the most important things on my 27th-birthday-goals list was to find an activity that could not only give me something to do other than spending money on bougie cocktails I couldn’t afford, but was also going to give me an outlet to clear my head and tone my lanky AF body.

Three months later, after I finally (finally!) started working out at age 27, here are a few things I have learned:

1. Happy hour does not need to happen every day. Not that thought of a daily happy hour isn’t enticing, but because it directly interferes with my Tuesday/Thursday 5:30 p.m. Pilates class — and I’ve learned that makes me feel a million times better than a margarita-fueled hangover from happy hour does. The craziest part of this? On the days I have skipped out for an after-work drink, I feel actual guilt. Is there anything more shame-inducing than the “Are you sure you want to un-enroll from this class?” prompt? No, there is not.

2. I can do things by myself (and actually enjoy them!!). Hooray for this revelation about 25 years too late. Confession: I am plagued with social anxiety. Like, I purposely show up five minutes later than I tell my friends to meet so I don’t have to wait alone in a crowded restaurant. The thought of walking into my first class in a bright, mirrored room for the first time with 20 other strangers who were all a) in waaaay better shape than me (not that important) and b) in waaaaay cuter workout clothes (definitely important) was extremely overwhelming. Surprisingly, I got over my fear before the first 60 minutes were up. I realized everyone was there for a reason ­—and judging me wasn’t it.

3. Shocker: Eating well feels good. While I’ve always considered myself to be a balanced eater, since I started exercising, I’ve noticed that I actually WANT to make more of an effort to be healthier. I’ve said goodbye to my morning croissants and will have a cup of organic oatmeal instead. A daily lunch of kale and quinoa may sound boring, but it doesn’t make me feel like I’m gonna fall into a food-coma afterwards. Admittedly, I ate a handful of french fries yesterday (thank you co-workers who left them at the communal table), but I could not remember the last time I had indulged because, subconsciously, I’ve been giving more thought to what I put into my body and realizing that I actually enjoy eating better. I’m no longer just being healthy because it’s what adults are “supposed to do.”

4. This last one is not a total shocker, but it was a revelation for me: Working out regularly makes you feel better — in so many ways. Obviously, any human who has exercised in their life will say this, but now I actually believe it. I’m less anxious, a little more confident, and I can feel noticeable changes in the way my body looks and feels. I can even arrive at the bar first and not get sent into a deep panic about where the F my friend is. I have a long way to go before I can be considered an expert in fitness, but I’m proud that I decided to make this change for myself and I’m excited to see where it goes.


Bridget Naughton is a 27-year-old woman living in Philadelphia and figuring out life, one grueling butts-and-guts class at a time. 

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