Growing up I truly did not believe I had an athletic bone in my body. Participation in sports was not praised in my household, particularly by my father, who seemed to have a personal vendetta against any and all jocks, particularly those of the football-playing variety. The very unkind words coming from a fellow third grader (who shall remain nameless) during a game of gym class volleyball didn’t help either. Oh, and did I mention the utter embarrassment of being the last one to finish the mile “run” (I walked) forced upon us by the President’s Fitness Challenge during my sophomore year of high school? Completed while everyone who had already finished looked down upon me from the bleachers? As such, I never was very interested in joining any organized sports or getting physical in any way, save riding my bike around the neighborhood or a horse around the corral at the local barn.

That all changed in adulthood, and it started with wanting to lose weight. (OF COURSE it started with wanting to lose weight.) During my junior year in college my roommates all got on a health kick and started hitting the university gym, so I tagged along. I never went super frequently, but I did start to feel more comfortable with moving my body, so after graduation when I realized I wanted to lose a few candy-bar-and-pineapple-upside-down-cake induced pounds, I started taking exercise seriously.

I don’t know what happened, but somehow along the way I realized that I actually liked exercise. I actually liked physical activity! I didn’t completely suck at it! Walks and hikes were at the top of my list, but I also found I enjoyed kickboxing and step aerobics videos, among others. At 22 I found out that I really liked snowshoeing, which was a free perk of working at the ski lodge in Vermont where I spent the winter. I hiked a ton in the area, snow shoes or not, and my love for that brand of physical activity grew
even more when I spent the next summer in Montana.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties I was happily working out nearly every day, and ready to take on a new challenge: running. I’ve always said my body was made for snuggling, so running was never something I felt I was built for (see paragraph one). The first time I ran the entire 2.6 mile loop around the lake by my house I was absolutely elated. I was doing it! Something I never thought I could do! Flash to the summer of 2006 and the end of a serious relationship. I decided to take on something I never, ever thought I’d do: I was going to run a half marathon.

I had no idea what I was doing. None. I went online to find a training program, which I modified and hung on my refrigerator. I ran wearing an old pair of sneakers and often in baggy sweatpants. I owned no fancy gear whatsoever. I had no idea about how to hydrate or fuel for long runs. I did all of my practice runs on soft dirt paths even though the entire course of the half marathon I’d signed up for was on pavement. I did zero speed work. But you know what? I did it. I ran that half marathon. I ran it and I chafed really badly because my equipment was all wrong, but I finished, in just over two hours and twenty minutes. I ate chocolate chip pancakes to celebrate.

It didn’t stop there. No, I didn’t become a running machine, because my body really is more suited to snuggling than running, but I continued to do some running, some weight lifting, lots of walking and hiking, some yoga, some barre workouts, and whatever else sounded good to me. The year I turned 30 I trained for and completed a second half marathon, this time shaving about ten minutes off of my time, and wearing pants and a shirt (and a bra, ha!) actually designed for the sport.

In the years since, exercise has continued to be a source of happiness for me. I find inspiration, connection to nature and spirit, and of course increased health and well-being in all of my physical activities. At one point I even became a certified personal trainer, but found that being inside a gym trying to sell exercise was not my thing. Instead, being outside seems to be the best way for me to enjoy physical activity, and it’s something I don’t plan on ever giving up.

In fact, I’m trying to pass it on. My current exercise regimen? Loading my seven-week-old into her Moby Wrap and taking her up and down the hills of our neighborhood. I tell her about the bunnies and deer and turkeys and flowers we see, even though most of the time she’s asleep during these jaunts. She gets fresh air, I get a killer workout (you try slogging a ten-pound baby up a mountain), and we get to hang out together. I’m hoping she’ll see from a very young age that exercise is wonderful, and not something to be afraid of. It doesn’t matter if you can’t run fast or serve a volleyball to save your life. All that matters is finding a way to move that suits you and supports you, no matter who’s looking.

Author's Bio: 

Jen Picicci is a certified life coach, certified intuitive eating counselor, and holds a Master’s degree in Health Education. She helps women give up dieting, overcome binge and emotional eating, and improve their body image. She’s also a new mom, seasoned cat petter, and lover of nature and brownies. To learn more and get your free copy of her guide Never Diet Again, visit her website at []. She can also be found on Facebook [], Twitter [], and Instagram [].