07/19/2014 09:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

8 Ways Fitness Changed My Life

We hear it all the time: Exercise is good for your health. At every single doctor's appointment, in magazines, on blogs. Jillian Michaels yells it to us through the TV. We get it.

But guess what. Jillian Michaels has reason to yell. Regular fitness keeps your visits to the doctor down. I learned that, plus a whole host of other benefits, by completely changing my lifestyle three years ago. I had no idea what kind of world I was getting into when I changed my lifestyle to a more fit and healthy one, but I'm thankful I did.

Here are eight ways fitness changed my life for the better.


1. It helped me kick bad habits.
Four years ago, I was sitting first class on the Hot Mess Express. I was going through a lot in my life and my answer to all of this was to reach for another glass of wine/beer/liquor/what-have-you. I would come home from work, pour myself a tall one and binge on True Blood. I curbed the habit by running with my bundle-of-energy dog to get him to calm down. Running is challenging enough, but running and drinking is just a bad idea. So instead, I'd come home, lace up and go running with my dog. When I got back, the run and companionship felt so great that I didn't feel the need to pour myself a drink. This was just the beginning. Over time, I made this a habit. I would come home, get into workout gear, push myself and grab for water instead of vodka.

2. My competition is myself.
We live in a society where we constantly compare ourselves to others. What I love about fitness, however, is that your competition is yourself. You always want to do better than you did the last time. And the feeling you get when you defeat your past self? It's pretty great. Sure, there will be times when I look at another person's body or performance and want what they have. But the key thing to keep in mind is they are at an entirely different level of fitness than I am. The only way to get to that point is to keep pushing myself, making my last PR my opponent.

3. My best ideas are a result of a good workout.
I have had more "A-HA!" moments while out on a run than anywhere else. There is something about endurance training and spending those minutes with yourself to really get the ideas flowing.

4. I crave better foods.
Just like how I no longer craved alcohol at the end of every day, when I started exercising more, I began to crave healthier foods. Items I previously hated soon became diet staples. I started realizing the food/body relationship and the importance fruits and vegetables are to fuel me. I saw a difference when I ate these foods, too. I felt less sluggish, now preferring a well-rounded meal to junk food.

5. I'm more motivated.
There's something about reaching small goals that motivates you in other areas in your life as well. The more goals I make through fitness, the more goals I want to make in other areas of my life. Fitness helps improve my career, my relationships and my overall outlook on life.

6. I'm capable.
I used to be a huge wimp. Like, never-won-at-arm-wrestling, hung-pathetically-from-the-pull-up-bar wimp. The more I work on getting stronger, the more I can do physically. I can now change the water cooler with ease, whereas before, I couldn't even lift the water jug. When someone asks if I can help them move something, I am no longer embarrassed by how little I am able to help them. It's a great feeling going from being a total wimp to someone who is actually capable.

7. I have more confidence.
The confidence I get from exercise is not just vanity. Sure, I like how I look and enjoy making progress, but my the confidence I get runs deeper than that. The better I get at running, the heavier weights I can lift and the further I can push my body reminds me of how to better tackle other challenges outside of my workouts. Knowing I can reach my fitness goals gives me an I-can-do-anything attitude that is much needed when I feel down.

8. I look good.
At least I think so, and that's what matters most.