Until I got to college, I never saw a reason to drag myself to the gym. When you think about it, I danced pretty much all the time, and I stretched and improvised by myself at home, on top of gym class at school. The way I saw it, there was no reason to go lift weights do some crunches, or (dare I say) run on the treadmill. When I got to college, that changed completely.

The first time I walked my short legs through campus to get to the gym, I had few expectations for myself. I anticipated staying for about twenty minutes, starting on the treadmill and maybe moving to a stationary bike. I thought I was going to give up on myself before I even walked into the building. Most exercise that isn’t dancing drains me out and discourages me from exercising again. Naturally, jumping on the elliptical and loving it surprised me.

I frequently head to the treadmill or elliptical when I have something on my mind that I want to get away from, or inversely, something I would rather escape to. Once my headphones hit my ear and the music turns on, nothing can bring me back to reality. Some days, I need Beyoncé to make me feel like a boss. Other days, I need My Favorite Things to bring me back to the warm hugs and lullabies of my childhood. And when nothing else suffices, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons usually does a good job of accompanying me on my journey. I face the big picture window and move my feet towards the beautiful sky I see through the glass.

I feel the need to take better care of my body as a result of my time at the gym. After a good run on the treadmill or set of sit-ups, I want to fill my body with good food that keeps me feeling energized long after I leave the gym. This usually means my favorite lunch, spinach and shredded carrots, with a hard-boiled egg here and there. Fueling my body with nutrients and natural food keeps my body moving, and able to get me wherever I need to go.

Spending time at the gym has taught me how to take care of myself, not just physically. When things get too emotionally straining, I can always rely on the assisted chin/dip machine, or the stationary bike to be there for me. I trust that a getaway waits for me in the Sports Center at any time I need to leave my personal reality. After my workouts, I am exhausted. Exhausted, but very strong.

And that same strength gives me the means I need to conquer whatever is to come next.