Throughout the course of my fitness journey, I've been through a lot of phases. I was never particularly athletic and didn't play any sports in high school, so at 16, I signed up for my first gym membership to stay active. At the time, I was under the impression that lifting weights would make me bulky (thank god this myth has since been debunked), thus I was convinced running was the perfect workout.
So I ran. Throughout my last two years of high school and well into college, I would spend hours at a time on the treadmill — running, walking briskly at a steep incline, and successfully working up a sweat. But despite aggressively running three to five times a week, I still wasn't in great shape. I subsisted on a stereotypical college-student diet of fast food and wine coolers, and I was slowly gaining weight. By my senior year, running had taken a toll on my body and caused me to develop painful shin splints and weak knees. I didn't have a choice but to severely cut back on the amount of time spent pounding the pavement (or the treadmill, in my case).
This was around 2010, right when the Zumba craze was in full swing. Since I couldn't run, I decided to dance (and, let me just say, not well). It was fun, but I still wasn't seeing major improvements in my fitness level. I wasn't getting stronger. When I moved to Los Angeles at 24, I then became obsessed with hiking. I would climb to find a commanding view of the city almost every morning, and I remember thinking, Who needs a gym membership when you have the outdoors?
It wasn't until I combined these workouts into my weekly routine that I finally realized my fitness ambitions.
A few years later saw the rise of the women's lifting movement. The internet was teeming with stories from personal trainers, celebrities, and fitness influencers, all claiming that strength training had completely transformed their bodies, without adding bulk. And thus began my obsession with lifting weights. I took classes and, for the first time in my life, walked right past the treadmill to make my way to the weight bench. I was finally getting stronger, but I found the delayed onset soreness debilitating at times, and it prevented me from working out more than once or twice a week.
Oh, and let me not forget my brief yoga-only period, when I believed a hot Vinyasa flow was the only exercise I needed to get in the best shape of my life, especially since it didn't make my muscles burn.
Well, at 31, I can happily say that I have finally cracked the code to what works for my body, and not because I have found the king of all exercises. When examining the ghosts of my fitness past, I realized that each phase had its advantages. Hiking improved my endurance, lifting made me stronger, and yoga did wonders for my balance, flexibility, and mindfulness. It wasn't until I combined all of them into my weekly routine that I finally realized my fitness ambitions.
After a strenuous day on the weight bench, a slow flow yoga class feels like medicine for my sore muscles. When the weather is beautiful, I skip the gym and hike the side of a mountain instead. Paying homage to my Zumba days, I still take the occasional exercise class for fun, like kickboxing or burlesque. I even started running again — just a little less aggressively this time.