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Blog: Find Your ‘Why’ for Exercising

*Editor’s Note: Hottytoddy.com is introducing a new wellness blog by Oxford attorney Amy Pietrowski. In the monthly columns, she will write about health, overall wellness, and how her stint in the Marines shaped who she is today.

Most people start exercising because they want to lose weight, improve their heart health or take better care of themselves. I started because I was forced to — as an 18-year-old recruit in the U.S. Marine Corps.

I was one of only 2,200 women serving in the Marines at the time. I was full of fear as I joined the Marines and dreaded the physical activity of boot camp. I wasn’t an athletic person, and exercising felt like the most difficult thing I had ever done.

At Parris Island, my platoon would run circles around the slowest person to keep them in the group. At first, the slowest person was me. I felt like I would die. It was the side stitches and gasping for breath that almost forced me to give up.

But I kept pushing. Why? Because, for me, all the hopes and dreams I had for the future hung on overcoming the challenge of becoming a Marine. If I failed, it seemed like all the doubts and fears in my life would swallow me up. But if I could succeed, I could do anything.

Finding the “why” can be a powerful way to get started exercising — and to keep yourself going when it gets hard.

We all know that exercise helps us keep extra weight off, improves our mental health, and lowers our heart-disease risk. But one out of every four women gets no exercise at all. When we get busy with classes or work or family, it’s easy to put our wellness on the back burner.

The good news is, when we don’t give up, the results soon add to our momentum. Many years after my time in boot camp, running is still the way I release stress and calm my mind and body. It’s better than alcohol, better than shopping, better than any hobby. It makes me wonder why I didn’t start exercising sooner (only without the drill sergeant).

The payoff didn’t happen overnight. It took serious commitment, and remembering my “why,” before I saw the effects. I felt strong on the inside and the outside — stronger even than my fears. I might have been the slowest runner at first, but in time, the running got easier and I got faster.

Since that time, exercise has been the only constant through decades of change — getting married, raising kids, going through divorce, losing loved ones, changing careers, and building a law practice. Like the trail, life has its twists and turns, and sometimes you want to give up on the last mile. That’s when simply putting one foot in front of the other keeps you moving forward.

You don’t need a drill instructor to find your own “why.” When it comes to taking care of your mind and body, focus on what’s at stake for you. Then find something you enjoy, and commit to a few minutes at a time. Those minutes will turn into an hour.

Soon the results of simply, truly feeling better will become their own motivation. You’ll get there in your own time, your own way — without the Marine recruits running circles around you.

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Amy Pietrowski is an Oxford-based attorney at Pietrowski Law Practice, working primarily in DUI Defense, Criminal Defense and Family Law. She can be reached at pietrowski@lawyer.com. View her complete bio here.

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