The Turning Point
Throughout my life, I was never what you would consider a “fit” girl. I never joined a sports team. I only once joined a sports club. During school days, I relied on P.E. classes and walking for exercise. During holidays, I almost never exercised.
I grew to be a bit chubby during some parts of my life. I was never confident with my body. I thought I was too big, considering how I am a bit taller than the average Indonesian woman already. Moreover, everyone from my mom’s family is small. So whenever I visit her relatives, they always comment on how bongsor, big, I am. Once an old woman in my mom’s village even said that I should get married soon, even though I was only 13, because I was so big compared to my peers.
In UWC, we follow the IB curriculum, which does not have a mandatory P.E. class. All it requires is that you take one club that is “Activity” related. However not all the clubs listed as “Activity” are rigorous enough to make you sweat. In my case, I took Dragon Boat and Balinese Dance, both of which are low-intensity activities. And I only took these for two semesters. Besides these, I almost never exercised.
What can I say? The IB is so demanding that it leaves little room for other things. School is always my priority. So for someone who is not used to exercising, and does not prioritize it, it means there will be no exercise. So in terms of my health, UWC was both hell and heaven. Hell because I wasn’t exercising, so my body was not the healthiest. Heaven, because I didn’t like exercising, so not being required to exercise was great.
However, at least I was walking (sometimes running) from class to class.
Then, something happened. It is amazing how impactful someone’s words might be for you, even though they might never realize its impact. The life-changing moment for me came during one groggy morning of Biology class. I usually come early, because I have breakfast early and then go immediately to class, so I have a little bit of time to chat with my teacher.
My teacher asked, “Sophia, what kind of exercise do you like?”
“I… don’t really exercise,” I answered sheepishly.
He stared. “What? But… you’re not gonna be young forever.”
Those words stayed with me the whole day, and perhaps even the whole month. Each time I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized that sunspots were beginning to sprout on my cheeks. I saw my future self, with a skin that is no longer smooth, but loose with wrinkles.
Those words stayed with me as it dawned on me that eventually there will be a consequence to my lazy lifestyle. I remembered my grandfather, who must always be reminded that I am his son’s daughter each time I visit. I remembered my Biology teacher, who is also beginning to show signs of forgetfulness. I do not want to be a burden for others when I am old. I do not want to have old-age illnesses.
Those words echoed in my mind during the first weeks of quarantine, when I still had online classes. I realized since I would be home-bound, I could no longer rely on walking for exercise. I decided that I must not be complacent.
How It Began
In February, I began with yoga, because that was the easiest form of exercise, and one I was already familiar with. Moreover, it’s easy to do at home. However, I forgot how regularly I did yoga that month.
Then in March, I began 30 Days of Yoga with Adrienne. Gradually, I added more intense yoga, such as Yoga for Weight Loss, to the days where the “30 Days” yoga was slow-paced. I alternated between a rest day and an intense day, where the rest day consists of only a slow-paced, calm yoga.
The next month, in April, I decided to challenge myself even more. I created this routine:
+ 20-40 minutes of yoga (either high-intensity or calm, depending on my mood)
Day 2 (rest day) – 20-40 minutes of yoga (either high intensity or calm)
I repeated this structure throughout the whole month, alternating between Day 1 and Day 2.
Then, since May was Ramadhan, I decided to take it back a notch. I had to be gentler with my routine because I would be fasting. I started using the Nike Training Club app on my phone, which created an exercise plan for me throughout the month. Each week I did 3-4 endurance or strength workouts. Each workout varied from between 10 to 45 minutes. Every day, I also did yoga. That month, I did the Revolution – 31 Day Yoga challenge with Adrienne.
Now it is June. At first I tried to follow an “Intermediate” level workout plan on NTC, with 4-5 workouts per week, including running. Each workout varied between 30-45 minutes. However, after the third exercise day, I realized that it was much too hard. So I changed my plan to this, starting on June 8th – July 31st:
- NTC Start Up Plan (4 weeks, 4-5 workouts/week including running, 15-45 mins each) –> started June 8th
- Workout for Women: Intro to Fitness (6 weeks, 5 workouts/week, 7 mins/workout)
- 30 Day Arms Challenge starting in July
- Last two weeks of July: Workout 3x/week with the three-video set above
- Throughout June, do yoga daily following the TRUE – 30 Day Yoga journey.
Next month, I am planning on returning to my April schedule, this time adding workouts from both the apps NTC and Workout for Women. This app is great because it includes music in the workouts. Also, there are many plans that are dedicated for women, such as “Booty Bootcamp” and “Curvy and Sexy.” The app also has a calendar function that shows your exercise streak to keep you accountable and a BMI calculator.
How You Can Begin Too
Reflecting upon these past months in quarantine, I can gladly say that I’m proud of myself. In the beginning, I never imagined that I would be strong enough to do the types of exercises I am doing now. I am proud of the accomplishment I feel each time my body is dripping with sweat and my face burning red. I am proud when I look in the mirror. I’d have to say that this is the best part. In fact, one definite change has been that my weight decreased by 10 kg. My self-esteem has soared to heights it has never seen!
Besides this, my mood and energy have greatly increased. Whereas before exercising I was often lethargic and melancholic, now I feel happier and more peaceful. Besides this, exercise is great for concentration. If you still have online classes, tests, or work, just a little bit of exercise can go a long way. It’ll help release stress and frustration, clearing up your mind for more challenges. Don’t take my word for this. A lot of research has proven these benefits of exercise, as explained in this TED talk.
So, for those of you reading this wanting to begin your own exercise routine, here are some of my tips:
- First, the most important thing is to be consistent. It doesn’t matter if you start out with an easy exercise like yoga (as I did) or if you only do five minutes of jumping jacks per day, the most important thing is that you do it regularly.
- Start out slow. If you are extremely unathletic like I was, I recommend looking up low-intensity exercises, or exercises for beginners. You can also look at the apps I mentioned above because they have some beginner exercises. Or you can start out with easy-breezy hatha yoga.
- Gradually increase both the intensity and quantity of your exercise. But do so only when the routine exercise you were doing before is beginning to feel easy. When you begin to do high-intensity exercises, make sure to alternate these days with rest days, while still being consistent throughout the week.
- Know your body. If at any time while exercising, you feel sore or out of breath, it is important to take a break and get a drink of water or stretch. However, promise to yourself that you will come back later to try again. Because exercising isn’t about perfection, but progress! Even the fact that you showed up for yourself to get active is a huge accomplishment! Lastly, if you wake up in the morning and your muscles are sore, it is better to take a rest that day.
- Always warm-up and cool down. This is important to make sure that you don’t injure yourself.
- Find a way to keep yourself accountable. Whether this is by joining a 30-Day Challenge, creating a workout schedule, having a workout buddy, or by keeping a calendar and giving yourself a star for each day you exercise, you need to find some way to make sure you will be consistent.
- Drink plenty of water. After all your sweating, make sure you rehydrate! If you like soda, try to replace that with juice or water.
- Watch what you eat. The most important thing is to not overeat. While it’s not necessary to cut yourself from your favorite foods like brownies or some chips, you need to make sure that you are also eating healthy food. Eat lots of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, proteins, and whole grains in the right proportions. Also, limit how much processed food (especially fast food) you eat. What you eat is just as important as your exercise, and contributes much more to weight loss, if that is your goal.
- Get enough sleep! Sleep is the third part of the holy trinity of healthy living. Besides eating right and exercising, you need to get enough sleep so that you don’t overeat, aren’t stressed, can concentrate better, remember better, and are happier in general. There are so many benefits of a good night’s sleep.
- Do what you love and have fun! If you feel happy while you are exercising, you are more likely to come back and stick to it. If you like swimming, then swim! If you like dancing, then dance! If you like to jump on a trampoline, then jump! Any movement is better than nothing. 🙂
That’s all from me. I hope this helped or inspired you to become healthier during quarantine, and hopefully, for the rest of your life. Good luck, stay safe, and stay healthy!