Kimiko Young is a good friend of Healthy Hospo as well as a globe-trotting, happiness seeker and exercise champion. She recently embarked on a remarkable fitness challenge to change her mental and physical health for the better. Here she bares all about her journey that led to the challenge and what happened once she decided to exercise every day in a beautiful and inspiring story of struggle, sweat and determination.
I recently completed a self-imposed 365 Days of Fitness challenge and since I’ve had a few friends ask me some questions about the process and journey so I decided to write a bit about it. Also, here is a more sciencey look at what happens to you when you work out, even just 5 minutes a day.
At the bottom of the post are the numbers/data of the year, which was fun to put together….
Soooo. I had a failed attempt at 365 a few years ago. It was based on a magazine’s ‘10 minutes a day for 100 days’ challenge. I’ve been working out since I started running with my dad at age 9 but also I was in pretty bad shape so I adjusted to 20 minutes a day (which frequently turned into 30/45 or an hour) and made it past the 100 (which was great) to 208. Then I fell into a depression and didn’t see the inside of a gym for two years and gained 35 pounds. Horrible and totally normal.
A few things were happening. I had moved across the pond and it took about 6 months to find stable housing. I’ve never been very good with uncertainty and that was a very difficult time for me. Once I settled into an apartment I figured things would turn around but I wasn’t having much ‘real’ fun in life. At all. But boy was I trying… out every night looking for the party, drinking and taking drugs. I was exhausted most of the time, ordering delivery twice a day and hungover most of the time.
At some point, I reached my personal limit and couldn’t stand myself anymore. I quit drinking and going out for six months around the same time I started working out again most recently. One of the things I desperately need to work on in life is being able to be in social environments sober. I’m incredibly ill at ease in groups when I am not drinking and of course, I’m not an ‘I’ll just have two drinks’ kind of gal. At that time just staying home was the best of the options.
For some reasons at the same time I also stopped taking my anti-depressants. I think I just felt flat. So I quit drinking and stopped the meds. I think I was hoping to have more emotions on both sides of the spectrum.
Let me say that medication has saved my life more than once. It was the only way I would have made it through my twenties. Several times the cost of medication put me at suicide’s door. So I will always be grateful for the existence of these life-saving drugs.
On the other hand, when I became so ill I had to stop working in 2007/2008 the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was suffering from a slew of neurological problems that made it impossible for me to complete simple tasks and I was having pain and tremors throughout my body. They tested me for MS (a process that is terrifying as a few of my friends know far too well ❤️) and they could not diagnose me as having it. Lo and behold, a psychiatrist got to the bottom of the problem when he asked me how long I had been taking Wellbutrin. 17 years, with few interruptions. The side effects of taking Wellbutrin long term include the whole range of my symptoms.
Since then, because I don’t want to get too deep into my (other) illness, I have taken a number of other medications. One of them made me so incredibly ill I couldn’t stop shaking and I was covered with bruises. You get committed to finding a medication that will alleviate the pain of depression, you know? I finally settled in with Zoloft and it evened me out for the years between 2014 and 2017. Interestingly enough, being even felt flat. I didn’t feel like I was living. And after a time that became super depressing too. Ah, Life. So tricky!
So. Somehow or another it all came to a head. Drinking, taking drugs, taking antidepressants, putting on so much weight. If you look at it, what was I doing to make my life better? Even from a wide angle, I didn’t have much to be positive about. Besides Naren and my amazing support network of friends and family, but I was isolating myself from them.
I’m not sure exactly why I decided to stop taking the meds but I think what I said at the time was that I wanted to get back to baseline. Ground level Kimiko. I have been taking antidepressants since age 18. I consider myself a very good gauge of where I am with my moods and I have made the decision to stop taking medication many times over the years. That’s my ‘system’. There will come a time I have to go back and I would NEVER tell someone else they should do what I do. You do you, yeah? So. I quit taking the Zoloft (I highly DO NOT recommend you go cold turkey on antidepressants. I suffered a variety of withdrawal symptoms that made me mighty short-tempered (and I am sorry to those who were on the receiving end of that). I can absolutely attest to the severity of those symptoms because when they went away it was as if a rainbow appeared before my eyes and the hills WERE alive with the sound of music. So, as they would never say ‘Talk to a physician and see if NOT taking antidepressants may be right for you.’)
I have always loved working out. Always. So for me, it was a bit like coming home. The day I joined I worked out for 20 minutes. And by ‘worked out’ I mean walked on the treadmill. I had been Extremely sedentary leading up to that day. I was ordering delivery sometimes two times a day. It was bad. So, I got my 20 minutes in and that was the start of my plan to lose weight. Most people need rest days but I’m not the most active person. I don’t have a job to get to or kids to run after. Working out every day seems to keep me balanced, or more so. I also feel a lot more joy, in general. Some days when I am down I can feel depression lifting off of me (right around minute 20 of cardio.) For me, it makes sense to do something every day. Ain’t got nothing else to do, right?
Following that first day, I worked out between 3 (the first couple of months) and 6 days a week (leading up to the beginning of the 365-day challenge, 6 months in). I focused on doing the things I really enjoyed. Running was no fun so I walked on an incline. I used to think of myself as a runner, I even ran a marathon in my twenties. But the reality is, I just don’t enjoy it these days. It’s so effective in burning calories but I practically hate it so I don’t do it (or rarely). I’ll have workouts that are a real drag, but I change my pace or switch my activity, or I give up and cut my losses. It doesn’t happen very often because I try to choose an activity I’m in the mood for. Some days the only thing that gets me jazzed is an hour walk to a resto I enjoy. And that counts. There was a day last summer I did an hour fast paced walk to try a new pizza place and I arrived to find they were closed without notice. Where was my reward? I don’t recommend doing reward workouts very often but sometimes they are really great. And sometimes there’s no pizza.
The thing is, I quickly rediscovered/remembered how much working out made me feel good. That it made me happy. Actually happy. The first few weeks and months absolutely sucked. I wasn’t taking the weight off as I would have liked. Well. No shit. Being in your forties is awesome but what’s not awesome is how hard it is to lose weight and how much less you get to eat if you want to maintain a healthy weight. Let’s not even discuss skinny. Really. Who cares about skinny? I stopped caring about that and I am so much happier. To be honest, I feel like a strong woman. I have muscles and I have fat. I may never be joyous over seeing myself naked, but I think ‘neutral’ is a good place for now. And to be honest, who appreciates their youthful body? I never did. I appreciate this one so much more and I work for it.
I’ve had injuries to deal with along the way (the weight and being sedentary for so long). I had to start stretching and that has put a stop to almost all of my issues. Evidently, it’s elementary. I stretch at the end of every workout. I tend to consider it part of my workout, as motivation. I can feel the difference when I miss a day.
Getting back into the routine has changed my life in so many ways. I see a future and I am excited about it. I want to spread joy and positivity to everyone. Literally everyone.
365 days of fitness, no days off
471 hours of training
159,000 active calories
Shortest workout: 20 minutes (brisk walking)
Longest: 5h45 minutes (35k walk)
Average calories burned per workout: 337
Walking. Running, Cycling, Elliptical, Weight training, Dancing, Hiking, Yoga, Rowing
France, USA, England, Hungary, Sweden, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Morocco
25 + cities, 4 pairs of shoes, 3 sets of headphones, 17 + gyms & 15 + hotel fitness centres
For more inspiration Follow Kimiko on Instagram here