Fitness Reboot: Finding Your Happy Fitness Point

October 23, 2013
prospect garden

In June 2009, during graduation weekend.

I peaked at age 22 in terms of physical fitness. I had begun my senior year of college knowing that I’ll never again have the same opportunities to focus on myself physically. I was determined to make the most out of these resources and push myself to the next level. I took free ballet classes from noon to 1:15, 4-6 times a week. 3 days a week I also had three-hour modern dance and choreography class. On days when I didn’t have modern dance, I cross trained by running and weight training at the gym (also free). And as if that wasn’t enough, walking everywhere around campus probably added at least a good hour of brisk walking to every day.

Throughout this time, I felt incredible about my body’s progress. I had never felt so deliciously fatigued yet weirdly energized around the clock. And, let’s be real, my thighs were so thin! I confess I felt an immense surge of pride in the J.Crew dressing room as I zipped up into size 2 jeans for the first time in my life. It was similar to the feeling of getting a paper with a big A+ written on it, except ten times better. And even though I started work 2 weeks after graduation, I really wanted to continue on this fitness streak. Without a gym membership or free dance classes, I started running outside regularly for the first time in my life. For the next few months, I was able to maintain my weight by virtue of not having many social or professional commitments.

Then, inevitably, things changed. I met my boyfriend, which meant I couldn’t eat small meals throughout the day. Working out on my own 5-6 days a week became a lot less important–not right away, of course, but definitely by the time my boyfriend and I got around to splitting a vegan chocolate cake while cuddling on the couch. (The moment he gave me the best bite with extra frosting was when I knew I loved him.). Then four months into my first job, I gave my two weeks’ notice; and the roller coaster ride that became my career trajectory came to take up way too much of my physical, mental, and emotional energy.

me at my sister's wedding

At my sister’s wedding in May 2013. I had gained some weight due to stress, but I still felt pretty and most importantly, happy for my sister.

Four and a half years later, I have gone from doing “vigorous activity” 18 hours a week to just 3-4 hours a week. Some days all I really do physically is the bit of walking I do between home, subway stations, and work. I work a minimum of 90 hours a week, which really doesn’t allow much room for physical fitness time. But while my professional life keeps me stressed and chained to my desk, it’s also a genuine source of pride and joy. Unlike my skinny 22-year-old self, my plumper 26-year-old self has almost zero complicated relationship with food. I eat when and what and how much I want, which is always vegan, usually healthy, sometimes decadent, and very often chocolate-y. I prefer to eat very light for breakfast and lunch because I like to be alert for work, and I make dinner a chance to unwind and enjoy delicious, usually homemade food with my boyfriend. And though I’m definitely a lot heavier than my old self, I can still zip into my old pants. (Kudos to Ralph Lauren for making the stretchiest, hardiest, and most resilient pair of skinny black pants).

Still, what I really want is for me to move the ticker somewhere in the middle between “Lean Mean Machine – Works Out Around the Clock” and “Happily Accepting of Body’s Flaws – In Total Comfort Zone.” I don’t aim to take up any unsustainable fitness regimes that don’t suit my current place in life, but I also don’t want to just coast along in my physical comfort zone. So I’m making a pact with you guys, my Peaceful Dumpling readers, to make these following changes to my current routine:

1. Add High Intensity Interval Training.

Yes, HIIT sounds so played out at this point, but as much and as often as I have read about it, do I really, honestly employ this method? Not a chance. To do it correctly, you really need to push yourself to maximum exertion for 20 seconds. If you can do it for longer, you’re not running/pedaling hard enough! I am going to challenge myself by taking HIIT more seriously.

2. Lift Weights.

I am still getting adjusted to the idea that Resistance Training, not hours of cardio, is the key to weight control. It goes against everything I learned between age 18-23ish, but exercise science does that to you, like a lying frenemy. Anyway, I still don’t have a gym membership, so I recently acquired a pair of dumbbells. It’s not much, but combined with body weight exercises, I can get plenty of muscle-forming strength training.

3. Take One Fitness Class a Week.

I’m going to take one yoga, spinning, body sculpt, or circuit training class a week. It will take some pre-planning to accomplish this, but I’m ready to return to working out with other people. It’s lonely exercising all by yourself!

4. Run in the Morning.

All throughout summer I was able to take advantage of the sun and work out after work. Now that days are shorter, I will get up earlier and get in my run before breakfast.

5. Eat Less Sugar.

All this isn’t going to make any difference unless I eat healthy, too. Although I’m not going to be restrictive about it, I think a little less sugar will help show the results of my workout boost.

What about you guys? Will you also reboot your fitness routine?

barre workout

October 2013 – working on reintroducing dance to my life.

 Also in Fitness: Total Body Toning Ballet Barre Workout

How to Exercise When You’re Short On Time

Cardio Torching Rowing Machine Workout


Photo: Juhea Kim

Juhea is the founder and editor of Peaceful Dumpling and the author of bestselling novel Beasts of a Little Land. Follow Juhea on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, @juhea_writes and Pinterest.


always stay inspired!