Over the past few years, health and fitness have become a huge part of my life. Although I was never overweight, I am now at a size where I am more confident in my own skin. Exercise for me is more than just an active way to keep my body looking good but it is also a way for me to keep my mind in the right place too. Endorphins are a part of my daily chemical routine and I can't live without them. They keep me happy and relieve my stress when I am at my absolute worst emotionally. I could crave worse things. My day could be going wrong in every other part of my life but if I had a good sweaty hard workout then I achieved something that day.

In some sense, working out and getting fitter has done a lot more for me than just improving my body and my mood. It has taught me a lot about myself and some valuable life lessons.

Lesson #1: If you truly want something, you will put in the hard work and stop at nothing until you are successful.

I needed to see physical change in my body. I needed to see my thighs get more toned and my stomach get a little flatter. I needed to see this so I could comfortably wear a bikini around friends or go online and not get jealous of every girl on Instagram. I put in the hard work to make this change. I only had one piece of chocolate instead of two and worked out everyday even when all I wanted to do was stay in bed. This hard-working attitude is something that has carried over into other parts of my life.

Lesson #2: "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."

This has never been more true. Determination is a necessary component of a strong character. There have been so many times when I have wanted to quit on a run or put the weights down and walk away. But a workout is most successful right at that moment when you push past that barrier and do something you have never done before. Often you find you are more capable than you think and your body can do more than your mind usually allows it to. When I don't feel like working out, usually all I have to do is make a start like putting on workout clothes or getting in the car in order to motivate my body and mind into exercising. As long as I don't throw the towel in and give up, I will be successful.

Lesson #3: Focusing on the little things does not make you too controlling, being committed to something does not make you obsessive, and being motivated by something you dislike doesn't make you weak or vain.

When I first started working out, I focused on the workout as a whole. I had to spend time on the treadmill and then I would move to strength training. Slowly I have learned to focus on the little things; each component of my workout, each rep, or each step. I find if I do that I am more in tune with what my body is doing and how I am feeling. Often I am able to push harder. Some people might say I am obsessed with going to the gym or eating healthy. Maybe I am. I am obsessed with that post-exercise high and committed to getting that feeling everyday. I know that working out and eating right makes me feel my best so that's the way I am committed to living. Third, yes I started exercising because I didn't like the way my body looked. But now as I have made changes aesthetically I can shift my focus to other goals like increasing my maximum deadlift weight or running faster miles. Motivation is what gets you started but passion is what makes you continue.

I watched a YouTube video today about body image. The speaker talked about "how horrible it feels to be insecure." Honestly, I had never thought about it that way until now but she is completely right. Two years ago, I never took my shorts off at a pool party and never wanted to be photographed from certain angles. I couldn't love my body. Being insecure is so disheartening and makes you feel almost worthless. But it was my biggest motivation to change and I am so glad I did. I can proudly say now I have never felt better. I am excited about the progress I am making in my fitness at the gym. I'm happier, more confident, and I'm starting to love the skin I am in just a little bit more. I'm not perfect and I haven't got the whole self-love, health, and fitness thing 100% down yet. But I am on my way and I'm happier than I've ever been.