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The joy of exercise

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When I was little, I had very weak legs; It must have been some sort of minor ill-development. It caused me to be very easily tired when walking, and I had trouble running: I was always the slowest in class all through elementary school.

The motif carried on through high school, with PE being one of my worst classes. I could barely run 500 metres, which was little wonder, since at 69kg I was easily considered to be overweight.

Things started to take a turn during my last year in highschool, just after my 17th birthday. Could be because the boys started to interest me more actively; could be because the realisation of me being fat and not fit finally kicked in for good. So I started periodic diets and sought to improve my nutrition. I gradually stopped eating red meat since then. I also started to walk more, which improved my stamina by quite a bit.

By the time I was 22, I was already some 5kg down and in relatively better shape. And then I did another important turn. I started Tae Kwon Do in September 2004. Along with it I went on a restrictive diet (too restrictive, in retrospect: some 1000kcal or less a day), until I reached 58kg and was leaner than I had ever been. It was not just the kilos that were sliding off; it was that my whole body changed. I became gradually stronger, and even when I'd periodically put on more weight, I'd never look as plump as I would before.

What was more important, I came to love the exercise. I have been looking forward to each training, and even when it's tougher -- exhausting -- than usual, I simply relish at trying harder even as my dobok is fully drenched in sweat.

Since then it's been simply steps forward. I educated myself extensively in what healthy nutrition really is. Now I never, ever, drink soft drinks, can tell and avoid saturated fats like the devil, my processed sugar intake is very low, and fruit and vegetables are the spine of my everday nutrition. In the meantime, I made even more efforts to increase my fitness. At some point I started incorporating running to further improved my stamina. I soon could run 5-6km. A knee injury this summer set me back a bit, but absolutely did not make me drop it; I'm more careful, a little more conservative with exercise, but still try to do my best.

And the best part is the sheer euphoria that comes from exercising. I have the feel that this is the right thing; our bodies were made to -move-, each bone and muscle has evolved for this purpose, and when I run and use my body for Tae Kwon Do techniques, gradually gaining in strength, balance, precision and stamina is simply put, fulfilling. And in this the body joins the mind.

Sometimes I still remember the days when I was little and resented exercise.
I regret having lost my most active years of puberty in such inactivity. Yet still I am glad to see my body respond and grow stronger -- and my aspirations grow bolder -- even now.
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