100311_how_i_learned_to_love_exercise_lara_yoga_2.jpgNike really nailed it with their 22-year old slogan "Just Do It." Consciously or not, it's the mantra of anyone who's ever wanted to take on something challenging for the first time. In my case, it's triathlon, ballroom dancing, and committing to a weekend with my rambunctious toddler-nephews (not necessarily in that order). I am making it happen, and before the year is out, I hope I've done all three.


There's something to be said, though, about taking on physical activity. The nerdy-me that dominated my personality until my 20s was great for getting into the best schools and reaping academic awards. But it boxed me into beliefs that I wasn't built to do any physical activity-that my hand-eye coordination was such a mess it could make Freddie Roach resign, or that my legs would never be strong enough to see me through a 5-K. I'm glad I proved myself wrong. How did I do it?

I took baby steps. I didn't wake up one morning and say, "Today I will be a jock." I did what was physically possible for me to do my first day at the gym 17 years ago. Five minutes of light, warm-up jogging on the treadmill felt like five hours. I had to slow the speed down to a walk. Each of my skinny arms could only handle a 2.5-lb dumbbell (that's about the weight of a kilo of sugar) when I did bicep curls. But I kept at it.

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Having a trainer helped. I wish I could remember the name of every trainer that stepped in to correct my form when lifting weights, or encouraged me when they saw my constipated-looking face as I struggled to do one more chin-up. Taking on any new activity is no time to be embarrassed about asking for help. I wasn't afraid to ask an expert, and welcomed any tips they had to offer.

100311_how_i_learned_to_love_exercise_lara_yoga_1.jpgI stopped comparing myself to others. The times I felt bad doing my workout were when I would compare myself to others. My goal at gym then was to get toned arms and legs, and I would surreptitiously eye the women who were bench-pressing their weight, or who flawlessly executed the kick-ball change and pas de bourrées at the Jazzercise classes. At yoga class, I envied the women who flowed like melted butter from sun salutation into downward-facing dog, while I heaved myself like a rolling rock from one pose to the next. Yoga though, taught me to erase all judgment of others and myself, and honor what my body could do at the moment.


I thanked myself. There were times I asked "Why the $@#& am I getting up at 6AM to go to yoga or gym when I can sleep in?" Yes, it was a struggle peeling myself off my nice comfy bed when the sun was barely out. But once I sat up, I thanked myself that I even woke up. On the treadmill, I was grateful I still had the use of both legs, arms that helped me keep balance, and a brain that functioned well enough to understand instructions. Working out, doing yoga, running, made me appreciate the body I took for granted.

I ate chocolate! It wasn't all blood, sweat, and tears (well, lots of sweat, yes!). I rewarded myself with treats like chocolate or a glass of ice-cold beer (yes, beer! I love my beer!). Women's Health cover girl for March Judy Ann Santos put it perfectly when she shared this: "Hindi ako nagi-guilty kumain kasi alam kong mas matinding workout ang gagawin ko the following day. Masaya ako sa pag-workout ko!"


Studies show that exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the hormones that act like the body's natural painkillers and induce a general feeling of wellbeing. It's a wonderful state to be in that got me through the most stressful of days at work. The "endorphin rush" from exercise is what gets my workout groove on. It's a state worth waking up and living for.

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