Exercise Changed Every Part of My Life: A Fitness Diary
Exercise Changed Every Part of My Life: A Fitness Diary
In this series, we're interviewing people whose live were transformed through exercise. Sheila Durey found that cardio and yoga were essential in helping her regain her strenght and power through the intensity of a divorce. These days, exercise has woven strength, purpose and community into every aspect of her life.
Where were you at physically/mentally before you started exercising (weight, attitude, health conditions)?
Before returning to fitness, I was moderately overweight, carrying an extra 15-20 pounds, and feeling very lethargic. I had poor eating habits, and went for long periods of time without eating, then over-indulging as a result and often eating out of boredom. I also had poor body image and my self-talk was negative. I was retreating from the world and becoming reclusive. I also noticed I was quite puffy and had chronic headaches.
What was your motivation for getting in better shape?
It started with the encouragement of a very physically active friend: a casual invitation to the local YMCA to try a spin class. Although I barely completed the class, I felt a sense of satisfaction and pride in having made it through. I knew I would go again: it was now a personal challenge. At the time I was also starting to practice yoga. Then, my marriage ended within months of this new transition, and after a tremendous emotional struggle, and extreme weight loss, I knew exercise was a valuable outlet and a way to regain healthy weight.
Have you been fit in the past?
As a youth I was very active in school sports and track and field but, by age nineteen, I had lost all interest. Exercise was replaced by socializing, and working a full-time job so I could live independently. In my early twenties, I lived on the west coast and bought myself a mountain bike. I once again discovered the joy and benefits of being very active. I rode everyday, as a source of transportation and recreation.
What fitness program-if any-did you pursue? Do you have a trainer/guru you follow?
In the beginning I continued with attending yoga classes twice a week, and spin classes at the YMCA two to three times a week as well. I slowly started to acquire fitness videos for home workouts and purchased weights and a yoga mat. I asked other busy moms that worked out at home what videos they really liked. I was very open about my newfound enthusiasm and my desire to utilize exercise as a positive outlet for stress, and grieving.
I started with videos from Jari Love, Jillian Michaels and Exhale, Core Fusion. I learned a lot of basic compound exercises and started to really enjoy the strength training. I finally felt confident enough to try a strength class at the YMCA.
Throughout the past couple of years at the gym, I have accessed different trainers in either a group setting or individually for short sessions, to learn proper technique in power lifting and kettle bells. All worth the extra money and instruction.
Do you have a gym you regularly attend?
I have been a member at the YMCA for seven years now but still explore and attend classes outside of the gym, offered either privately or through city programs. My yoga practice has continued and is held at a local leisure center. In the last few months, to try and avoid boredom, and to open myself up to a different social setting and gym atmosphere, I have purchased a punch pass for another highly reputable gym called Level 10 in Regina. I have enjoyed the new environment and variety, however, I will maintain my membership and attendance at the YMCA. I have developed such a lovely community of friends and like-minded fitness enthusiasts.
Do you have workout friends or do you go it alone?
I certainly enjoy the energy and accountability that comes from working out with others. I see it as a way to challenge myself further and keep the commitment on those days when a good book and the couch look way better than carting myself to the gym. I never regret having a workout, but I have regretted staying on the couch.
I do not have a difficult time going it alone, though. I like running alone, and doing tabata drills and swinging my kettle bells at home. I have a wind down routine at night, just doing some mat work in my room before settling into bed.
Where have you seen the most transformation in your body?
The most physical transformation in my body has been my shoulder and arms. Not only has my strength improved in my arms, but also their physical appearance. I am genetically predisposed to having nice muscle definition, but this is where it is most obvious.
Where have you been surprised to see the most transformation?
My overall core strength and agility has been a pleasant surprise to me. With a strong core, anything is possible! I believe it is the foundation to which all else can follow. Good core allows good and proper form in all exercises and will diminish the risk of injury.
What has your biggest frustration been?
My biggest frustration comes from the yo-yo response my body exhibits with subtle weight gain to my upper thighs and buttocks. Although my glutes and legs are strong, there seems to be the slowest advances in their physical appearance. I like to have variety in my activities, such as plyometrics, HIIT, power lifting, calisthenics, running, cycling, inline skating, jumping rope, focused mat work and versa climber. I see the responses in my body quickly, with the exception of my glutes.
How often do you exercise? What does your weekly routine look like?
I exercise six days a week. I sometimes struggle to take a rest day. It is such a positive outlet for me. I make sure and stretch post-activity, and eat properly, as well as have hot Epsom salt baths and access physical therapy when required.
My routine looks like the following with the odd exception:
Monday, yoga, Tuesday, group workout at YMCA we do HIIT and Tababta drills.
Wednesday, core training with spin class, and now I will start to swim for twenty minutes. This is a new endeavour. Thursdays is with the group again doing more HIIT and tabata training. Fridays I attend a class at Level 10 with 45 minutes cardio, then either 45 minutes tabata drills or circuit training. Saturdays, I alternate between a kettle bell class or another spin/circuit class. Sundays is a power lifting class. Not much running in the winter. Once spring arrives and the snow has left, I usually diminish the frequency of weight training to about twice a week and run about four to five days a week.
Is there one motion or exercise where you consistently feel “yeah”, I’m rocking it?
I know this may sound funny, but I love burpees. My form has progressively improved and I feel so confident doing them. My kettle bell work is also a real joy, with moves such as snatches and renegade rows.
Do you think you will be able to keep it up?
I know my body cannot tolerate the consistent intensity of any one routine for too long. I listen to my body and honour its complaints. Living in an environment with extreme seasonal climates, allows me to change it up every few months.
My intentions are to always be active and open to new challenges and activities, always exploring and discovering what I like and letting go of activities that I do not enjoy or feel over tax my body. This is most definitely a lifestyle for me. Exercise is my happy pill.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Becoming active over the past years has been a slow progress and a constant exploration of what and how it feels for me physically, mentally and emotionally.
Fitness has changed the way I live every facet of my life. I feel better, I have more energy, I sleep better, and most of all, I feel more capable of handling all the little challenges life throws our way.
I am not a slave to my schedule, I honour how I am feeling, and if I need another rest day I take it, I have a nice collection of equipment at home that I have slowly accumulated to allow me to make the most of any situation. Life can derail the best -laid plans.
What advice do you have for couch potatoes looking to get motivated?
Trust in your abilities. Start slow, maybe the gym is not your first place, maybe home videos, maybe a friends basement, YouTube is a wonderful source of information and activities. Talk to fit people you know: they would likely love to answer any questions for you.
Be kind to yourself, say only encouraging things, and be forgiving when you have those days where it just feels so hard to workout. If you get through those days the reward is that you feel great. If you find something you really like, then really commit to it. If, over time, you start to get bored, maybe you can explore other activities, maybe team sports call to you, maybe you will always enjoy the privacy of your own home and make “friends” with the trainer on a video. There is no wrong way to get started. Your body will respond to far less activity at the start, twice a week, and go from there. Eat to fuel your body and get adequate rest, your body and spirit will reward you for it.