Once 2019 rolled around, I already knew it was going to be a big year. My fiancé and I were planning our wedding, moving to a different city and state (and moving out of Manhattan, which is... an ordeal), and I was quitting my job to start an entirely new career. Between all of that and the typical stressors of day-to-day life, I was prepared for the year to be a bit chaotic. I told myself sticking to a regular exercise routine would help me deal with the stress. I thought I would go to the gym multiple times a week or make it to my favorite spin class, despite how busy I was. Instead, I found myself half-way through 2019 having not worked out more than once or twice.
Part of me was disappointed in myself, and the other part was overwhelmed at the idea of getting back into exercise. I’d gone through it all before. I’d bought the expensive workout plans to motivate me and written down a schedule of just how many miles I should cycle in order to be “successful.” I had done all of the same things at the start of 2019; I thought then that holding myself to an all-or-nothing schedule was the secret to success. In reality, though, it made me feel more shame when I wasn’t exercising and more pressure to be perfect when I was. I told myself for the first few months of getting back into exercise, I, for once in my life, wouldn’t go for the most expensive, flashy, intense plan I could find. Instead, I would find something manageable, flexible, and affordable. A little research led me to the Couch To 5K app.
It was three dollars and provided guided workouts that told you when to walk, run, and jog. When I started using it, I quickly found my favorite aspect of it was that it recorded every run’s pace and distance. Within a couple weeks, I could see myself improving—running for faster and longer. For the first time, how I felt was the only thing motivating me to exercise consistently. I wasn’t motivated (or trying to motivate myself) by some giant chart of milestones or a gym membership taking a huge chunk out of my bank account. I wasn’t weighing myself, either, or categorizing my workouts as good or bad based on how much weight they made me lose. I was recognizing the physical and mental changes in myself, and appreciating them. It was a tiny change, but it felt revolutionary.
Within a couple months, I had completed dozens of workouts and improved my mile pace by a few minutes. I still wasn’t fast or running every single day of the week. Hell, I wasn’t even planning to run a real 5K anytime soon. But I knew I could run. I knew I could get faster and stronger. And I knew putting on a pair of sneakers and getting outside was all it took for me to feel a little less anxious at the end of any given day—that if I needed it, the option was always there. It was the first time I realized that this is how you make exercise (of any form) sustainable. You don’t do it because of a financial commitment or a number on the scale you’re convinced will make you happy. You do it because it makes you feel good. For so many years, I thought exercise was more complicated than that. But it’s not. It’s as simple as it gets, really and all it took to teach me that was a little app that cost less than a coffee.