This morning, I was woken by my pink alarm clock at 4am. I crawl out of bed and walk across the room to shut it off. Beside the alarm clock is the neatly folded outfit I laid out for this morning’s workout. I walked into my bathroom, it smelled like eucalyptus mint. I turned to the mirror, I went with my olive green matching sports bra and leggings set. On my way to the gym, I notice how empty the roads are. I haven’t worked out this early in a long time, but it was the only way I could fit it into my busy day. The gym isn’t as crowded but I’m not complaining. I hit legs and post my annual leg day picture. One of my close friends responded to my photo, ‘Do you ever take a day off or time for yourself?’. I smirk at this comment, she doesn’t get it. This is my favorite time to myself. However, I stop and think there was once a time I didn’t get it either. Two years ago, I would never be found at the gym, let alone before work. I think back to not necessarily how I got started, but to why I got started.
This time, it wasn’t a pink alarm clock that woke me up. It was the mid-afternoon sun that was shining into my room. I roll out of bed and the clock reads 4pm. I silently shrugged and walked to my bathroom, what college student went to class anyway? Ignoring the smell of vomit that filled the room and the shower curtain rod on the ground, I thought to myself, ‘what happened last night?’. I turn to the mirror and stop when I see the reflection of a person I no longer know. My eyes were swollen and last night's mascara was stained down my face. Maybe it was my failing grades, failing relationship, failing friendships or the failure to hold my liquor. I thought to myself, ‘Who am I?’. I decided I needed to make a change. Not necessarily a physical change, this was never about the number on the scale. I knew I needed to make a mindset change. I needed to cope with my emotions and current challenges without a bottle of tequila.
I turned towards the gym. Some of it was the former athlete in me, some of it was the social media influencers but most of it was the overwhelming thought of confronting my emotions. I figured my physical health would be easier to ‘fix’ than my mental health, so I might as well start there. I got dressed in blue leggings, a white tee-shirt and ratty shoes. I walked in the gym with nothing, not a plan, not even pre-workout. I started my apple watch because that's what all the influencers did, queued the saddest songs and began my workout. I let my messy emotions light a fire and fuel my workout. Suddenly, the people who hurt me helped me lift heavier and the guilt I carried from hurting others helped me run faster. Mid set, I turned towards the mirror and saw the sweat stains. Not my best look, but I didn’t care. For the first time in a month I was looking at myself in the mirror and didn’t see stained mascara. Although there were many people in the gym, all I saw was myself. In this moment, I created my own escape from both the past and the future. The mistakes I made didn’t define who I was or who I was going to be. Realization struck that I was only present in the moment and present with myself.
Driving back, I was shocked with the amount of energy I had because for a while I had felt so drained. I reflected on my workout but specifically the way it made me feel. I had gone to try and better my physical health because I thought my mental health was a lost cause. However this workout had brought me confidence, a sense of accomplishment and the smallest sliver of inner peace, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. For the first time in months, I processed and coped with my emotions upfront and challenged myself to become mentally stronger. This wasn’t an automatic fix of course, but this moment started my fitness journey and more importantly the difficult journey of self-growth.
The first step in my self-growth journey was to change my mindset. Instead of letting the pressures and challenges I was facing pull me down, I decided to push back. I challenged myself to stop making excuses and take control. Although the choice to start my journey began when I looked in a mirror, it wasn’t the appearance that influenced my decision.
I challenge you to look in a mirror. Look past the breakouts, bushy eyebrows and the nail polish you may not haven't taken off in weeks. At this moment, ask yourself how can you be better? You may not have stained mascara or a shower curtain rod on your bathroom floor, but there's always room to grow. After all, it is a journey for a reason. There is no destination.
"We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." - Oprah Winfrey