“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what make life meaningful.”
I’m a few days shy of my 36th birthday, and I am in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in.
My fitness journey started about three years ago, when my sister persuaded me to join a Pilates class (I asked her if I could go with one evening to observe – the instructor made me participate, in the dress I was wearing that day). As challenging as it was initially, I got into it quicker than I thought I would. About a year or so after I joined Pilates, my colleague invited me to come try a fitness class that he conducts at our school, two evenings a week. By this time, I was wanting to add another form of exercise to my week.
Pilates was hard. Powerbox was on a whole other level for me. During my second week, I was the only person able to make it to training that evening and half way through the hour, I was flat on my back, lungs burning and ready to puke (I don’t call him Hitler for nothing). But I went back. As insane as the training was, as uncoordinated as I felt, I went back. Every week. And here I still am, more than two years later (slightly more coordinated).
A few months ago, Hitler says to me, “Are you doing the 100 Day challenge with me?” The challenge is to exercise for at least 45 minutes a day, for 100 consecutive days. Now, Hitler is a professional athlete who basically trains every single day, and I’m thinking, “dude, this is your life, and will probably be a walk in the park for you” but I say okay, and we agree to start after Ramadhaan. We never spoke about it again. But once the thought was planted, it wouldn’t leave me, and on 4 July, I started.
My body and I have gone through a monumental struggle with each other for a very long time. After the novelty of starting this challenge wore off, getting through it became that much harder. There were periods where I didn’t see the results I hoped for. Usually, sickness, injury and fatigue are valid reasons to give workouts a miss – I couldn’t do that. I had to figure out ways to work around those obstacles. There were many moments where I asked myself why I was doing this.
By far, the most difficult thing to do, was to work through the days when I had zero motivation. It’s taken me two years to manage a half push-up. I literally want to cry every time we do an exercise that has weight-bearing through my wrists – because I know I’m not going to last as long as everyone else in class. Fitness is such a thing these days – literally everyone is into something – and there are people who just make it look so easy. It’s ridiculously easy to become despondent.
What pulled me out of that negative head space was the will to stick it out for once in my life. To not measure my progress against someone else’s yardstick. To be consistent, no matter how difficult it was.
I get complimented a lot on the physical effects it’s had…but it wasn’t really about that (people cannot seem to understand that those kinds of compliments do not motivate me). I started exercising regularly to get rid of work frustrations and negative energy, to help with my moods. I got addicted to how I felt after every workout – physically tired but strong, and mentally and emotionally refreshed. I started sleeping better. I became more even-tempered at work (a colleague even remarked on it once – “Mariam! You are very different these days. What are you doing??”). I developed a lot more energy, so that I could fulfill all of my obligations and still do things that I enjoy.
With this particular challenge, I started doing things I thought I’d never be able to do (like running, for example. Yep, I’m running. Not fast, but I’m running). Losing weight was extra.
On 11 October, I completed my 100th day. There was no fanfare or over-the-top hoorah. There was simply an “I’m proud of you” from two people who’ve been my champions throughout, and a quiet sense of accomplishment (on my side)…a fitting celebration for the completion of this challenge.