I’ve always had a complicated relationship with fitness. As a teenager, I pretty much went out of my way to do anything but exercise.
Throughout college and grad school, I continued the tumultuous relationship with working out. I fasted, I yo-yo dieted, I ran for two miles every day for a week—only to drop off for months at a time. I consistently felt like a failure, and I was discouraged. I didn’t like the person I saw in the mirror. And, I didn’t like the person inside—sluggish, racked with low-self-esteem, and disappointment.
I failed every workout and healthy eating routine every single time. Why? Because I had subconsciously decided that I couldn’t do it. That I wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be able to finish the workout. I self-sabotaged and succeeded in failure each and every time. I was caught in a cycle of never being strong enough, pretty enough, good enough, smart enough.
Then, I hit a wall. I was tired of feeling tired. I was tired of telling myself that I just didn’t have the knack for this kind of lifestyle or a new sport. It was time to reset my life’s settings for my physical health and mental well-being.
I didn’t need to remind myself of the major advantages to working out: cardio health, better sleep, less stress, better cognitive function, and stronger memory. I knew these were all things I should want from working out—on top of a better physique.
I failed every workout or healthy eating routine every single time. Why? Because I had subconsciously decided that I couldn’t do it.
But I needed a workout that was exciting, a little challenging, and something new. So when an exercise buddy told me about HIIT—high intensity interval training—I was intrigued. HIIT is a series of cardio and strength moves which alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity. For example, you might have 30 seconds of burpees (killer!) and then 60 seconds of kettle bells.
High intensity interval training. It’s short phrase that packs a big, daunting punch. Could I do it? Did I want to? Yes, I could and I did! I gulped and pulled the trigger with my debit card: I signed up for a ten pack of HIIT classes.
I didn’t know it then, but my self-confidence would be the biggest gift I’d give myself.
My First Class
The HIIT studio (I went to Athleta’s studio in NYC) was minimal and clean: all you need is a yoga mat, some small weights (I chose 5 lbs), and water—um, lots of water. You will get super thirsty as you zip and zag from one rep to the next. Take advantage of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors in your local spots: You’ll want to focus on your form with each movement. Usually, I avoid watching myself in the mirrors (low self-esteem, yay!) but this time I just focused on what my body was doing and it was doing a whole lot.
My first HIIT class was on a Saturday morning (yep, I signed up for a 9 a.m. torture sesh), and I was prepared to hate it. But I knew the drill: running around, panting, red skin, a chest burning with fire. I’ll be honest: the first class (even the first three!) weren’t the easiest. I didn’t fly through all of the moves with ease and grace. I had to take my time and study my form in the mirror. I definitely did not cycle through 25 burpees in under a minute.
And then, something unexpected happened right in the middle. I fell in love with my HIIT class. I loved the high energy, the racing music, and the constantly-shifting exercises. I wasn’t bored by repetitive movement (because there’s none of that!) and I was using all the different parts of my body.
Time whizzed by. I did have some low points in the class: feeling winded because of asthma and not being able to do all of the moves. It was actually a life-changing experience. I tried to take on as much as my body could handle without feeling light-headed or completely out of breath.
Instead, I felt strong as I moved through crunches, squats, stretches, starfish jumps, and kettle bell lifts. I felt a sense of pride when my instructor said my squat form was “ah-mazing.” That was me, I did it. And just me alone. Oh, and did I mention that workouts like this HIIT class can burn up to 700 calories? It’s no joke.
I fell in love with my HIIT class. I loved the high energy, the racing music, and the constantly-shifting exercises.
I left the class a smiling, sweaty mess. I did it—I beat my own odds and I felt completely fabulous. I was so convinced that I’d drop out of the class early or stop frequently to take breaks and I didn’t do any of that. I stayed true to the workout course and saw it through. Then, my body showed me what it’s really capable of.
I can do all of that and more. I’m a workout warrior now.
Beyond My First Class
I’ve been working out with HIIT for over 60 days now (!). I certainly feel a little trimmer and my overall stress is reduced. Oh, and I fall asleep in a mere minute at night. But my self-confidence regarding my own body and my self of personal strength and power is what really motivates me —and what changed my life. I now look at my body with a sense of pride. I don’t look dramatically different, but I’m stronger and faster. I love myself and what I can do.
Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat
Instead of looking at my life and my body as a series of cant’s, I look at myself as a vessel for opportunity. I can be a badass. I can change my life with just a simple workout. I’m ready to keep on my HIIT journey like a real champion.
Who knows—maybe I’ll break into weight-lifting, too! I’ll see you at the next gym class, fellow warriors. I did it, and you can too.