I used to think of exercise as something dull, something we do to lose weight that takes a lot of effort and sometimes feels like torture. I would get into the habit of going to the gym before work or doing atrocious body weight circuits at 6am. This went on for for a couple of months until, one day, my zombie eyes would just close again after snoozing the early morning alarm. I wouldn't set it until I felt desperate to lose weight again.
Then, one day I decided to try climbing out and it changed my life. As soon as I stepped onto the rock and the adrenaline kicked in, I was hooked. I wasn't working out - I was just having fun!
My discovery of climbing also encouraged me to try out other sports; sports that I enjoyed as a kid and new ones that were completely new to me. Nowadays I regularly climb, cycle, hike and play softball, and I never shy away from giving a new form of exercise a go.
Now I work out for six reasons...
1. To have fun
Once I realised sports can be a lot of fun, I decided I'd only practice those that I truly enjoy. No more 6am circuits, no more running when I didn't feel like it, no more masochistic abs, bum and thighs classes at the gym.
If the thought of going to the gym makes you feel like hiding under the duvet, don't do it. I'm sure we all enjoy some sort of exercise; we just need to find out which one it is.
2. To get out of my comfort zone
Every time I try a new sport out or push myself to climb a harder grade or a scary looking route, I am pushing my limits and stepping out of my comfort zone. I can't tell you how good it feels, even when I fail. I constantly prove to myself that I am brave and that I can do anything I want. It's immensely liberating.
Challenging yourself is the only way to reach an achievement. When you realise that you're accomplishing new goals every other workout, you start feeling good about yourself and your confidence improves. It's an upward cycle - the more you do, the more you push yourself, the more you find out what you can achieve.
3. To explore new places
I love the outdoors. Spending time immersed in the nature fills me with energy and joy. This is probably part of what initially drew me to climbing, cycling and hiking - they're all sports that can be practiced outside.
Through sports you can travel to some amazing places - mountaintops, remote lakes, sea cliffs, forests and waterfalls. Once you realise where exercising can take you, you won't look back.
4. To de-stress
When I climb I don't think about anything but moving my body and analysing the rock. It's as if nothing else in the world existed - I need complete focus to get to the top of a route and avoid falling. It's very empowering, as I leave behind all the problems and thoughts of my daily life.
There is no better way to de-stress than exercise. Whether you play a team sport or go do some yoga, you'll focus on your muscles and breathing, and for that hour or so you'll forget about your troubles.
5. To meet new people
While hiking, climbing and playing softball I've met some amazing people. Some of them I've never seen again, as we crossed paths in a mountain hut or they live far away, but it was lovely to meet them.
Sports are a great way to meet new people who will encourage you, challenge you to keep your fitness up and sometimes become friends. Whether you want to join a running club, a volleyball team or a mountaineering club, you'll have a chance to bump into new people.
6. To get to know myself better
By trying out new sports, I have discovered new parts of my personality - I am adventurous, determined, strong and brave. I would have never thought of myself like this before, but now I've proved to myself time and time again that I am all of these things, and I've carried that into my everyday life.
Some people travel all around the world in an attempt to find themselves, but trying new sports is a simple and inexpensive way to get to know yourself and find out what you're capable of.
Of course, keeping healthy is a very important and welcomed outcome of exercise, but if that is all that pushes you to work out, you're destined to give up on it sooner or later. By discovering a sport that you find fun, you'll stop obsessing with your weight and stay healthy without even thinking about it.