Why Do You Workout?

I had a ball or bat in my hand ever since I was a little girl — thanks Daddy!

Little Amy Dad bball

By 7th grade, I became obsessed with basketball: the fast pace, the competition, the physicality. Yup totally makes sense for my five-foot tall self to dream of playing in the WNBA.

Amy and Dirk
This is for you Megan!

I eventually realized that wasn’t going to happen but it didn’t stop me from playing. I played on many competitive teams and trained, ran and lifted six days a week, multiple hours a day throughout middle school and high school. I loved it. I loved playing 6 games in 3 days, taking an ice bath in a random hotel as my mom and grandma ran to the ice machine with buckets. Call me crazy but it was awesome.

The craziness continued at Emerson College. NCAA basketball was hard, intense, stressful and made me hate running (that changed). I had a love/hate relationship with exercise in university. Don’t get me wrong, I loved playing basketball, but working out did not give me the joy that it used to.


In the off-season, I felt like I had to workout in order not to collapse come pre-season.

On weekends, I felt like I had to workout in order to compensate for the beer, Sun Chips and pizza I ate the night before.

During my weight loss, I felt like I had to workout in order to not gain the weight back.

Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy so why wasn’t I happy?

Exercise gives you endorphins

I obviously wasn’t doing something right.

In my final year of university, I began figuring it out: I was exercising for the wrong reasons. I was lifting for my coaches and teammates, not myself. I was running for my beer gut, not my mind. I was going on the elliptical for my Livestrong app, not my body.

At the time, a classmate of mine suggested I come for a workout at the gym he worked at. A boxing gym in South Boston. Another logical sport for my physique. Whatevs, I was game! I have always been in awe of Muhammad Ali and I too wanted to float like a butterfly and sting like a {little honey} bee. So I went. And yup, you guessed it: I loved it. But it was so much more than hitting the heavy bags, sprawling out and jumping rope; it was the “me” time. Every punch I threw, every push-up I did, every sprint I ran, was for no-one but me. I didn’t feel any pressure to perform or to look a certain way, I just did it.

Boxing selfie with rope

When I moved back to Toronto I was on a mission to find a boxing gym. I ended up buying some classes at one but have since only been a few times. I was at first annoyed, that I seemingly wasted money, but it taught me that it wasn’t about the boxing at all. Sure I love throwing on my gloves and pounding the bag, but boxing was merely the tool that provided  me with the confidence I needed.

Workout for you.

Just for You

[Image source]

I run because it makes me feel unstoppable. I practice yoga because it calms my body and mind. I do Crossfit because it makes me feel strong. I spin because, well, because I can’t run :)

Sure I like fitting into my clothes and eating all the peanut butter but working out gives me joy, confidence, health and strength. That’s why I do it. I workout for me.


Questions of the day…

Why do you workout?

Has your relationship with fitness changed? 


69 thoughts on “Why Do You Workout?

  1. Love what you said here! I used to workout solely to lose and then maintain weight but that soon started to suck all the fun out of it. I’m not going to lie, part of my motivation to workout is still because I like to eat foods like pizza and cupcakes and big dinners out at restaurants on a regular basis, but that’s not the only reason. I do it because it makes me feel good, releases stress, and keeps me healthy (and not just from a weight standpoint). And I think those are the more important reasons!

  2. Love the post, Amy! I think endorphins have a lot to do with it, we get addicted to the rush it gives us, and when we cannot get it, we go crazy!

    I really think I need to give yoga a try, to relax in the evenings and clear my mind. Sounds like it works for you!

    1. Thanks so much Tina. As you know, I have come to love yoga. It definitely forces me to relax and is a type of “workout” that is not as hard on your body. Would love to hear what you think if/when you try it out. Finding a good studio and instructor are key :)

  3. Love love love this Am! It’s amazing to hear you say all of this and it’s a message I hope more bloggers can start promoting. It’s not about how much or results but why. And if that why is because it feels good for you mentally and physically then only good things can come :)

  4. I think everyone should workout for themselves. Working out for you is a beautiful thing, but it can take awhile to realize that logic. “I workout to be skinny” “I workout to look like those celebs” “I workout because I’m so used to workout out that I don’t know what a day without working out would be like” —-I think that’s how people feel and I’m glad that I’m past that. Working out makes me feel good, and it doesn’t have to be an intense workout either.

  5. I love this post! My relationship has definitely changed. Running helped me recover from my eating disorder because I was doing it for me and not for weight loss… then it slowly got to where my self worth was based on my running times. So I’m taking a break from running and doing classes and strength training and I love every minute of it. For the first time exercise to me is about how awesome my body is and respecting it. Not being mean to it because it’s not fast enough!

    1. Ashley that is so awesome to hear! I think our relationship with exercise will continue to evolve and it is great that you recognized the need to change to do other classes and strength training. Those silly running times… why do we care so much about them?!

  6. I love your picture with Dirk!! I am a huge Mavs fan! :) But I do love this post. I have grown up playing sports my whole life, so I have always been involved with fitness. But now I workout to stay healthy and because it makes me happy. I love the energy it gives me! This mindset didn’t come naturally. Like with you, it came with time.

    1. He was so nice! You are so right about the energy boost that comes with exercise; I especially like starting my day because I feel totally charged up.

  7. You met Dirk Nowitzki? How cool is that!!!
    I workout because I love to feel the burn and I love how I can see me being able to accomplish something. I used to work out for weightloss but now I work out for feeling great about myself! I am playing soccer and I am practicing for socail reasons too. It’s amways so much fun with the girls :-) Best reson ever!

    1. Yes! The NBA teams practiced at my college when they were playing the Celtics. I love that you mentioned your team-mates… it’s so wonderful to have a support system.

  8. Love love love. So true. I definitely felt like I lost the love for exercise when I was swimming (or running for my team). It became something I needed to do rather than wanted to, which was a new experience for me as a girl who literally lived and breathed sports since I could walk. Also, I didn’t realize until a few days ago that you went to school in Boston! This makes me a little sad since I’ll be moving back there at the end of the year (hopefully) and I just missed you by a year! So if you ever come back to visit, we can hang out :)

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Amy! There was a time where I was working out purely for loosing weight, but as I’ve grown older, the reason why I workout now is for stress relief and for my mental well-being more than anything. Working out is my sanity and is my release from a crazy day at work. I crave that sweat and I crave that release.

  10. I was that kid that was never amazing at one specific sport but I played almost all of them. My parents had me in hockey, lacrosse, softball, soccer, etc. I loved it! I think that’s why I am always looking for a new rec sports team to join! I may not be great at them but I love every second of play time.

  11. AHHHHH!!! DIRK!!!!! I’m so jealous! I met him once and was completely tongue-tied because I was so starstruck … I couldn’t even get out a sentence! OK … now that my squeal of excitement is over, I’ll get to the point, because I adore this post. I’ve also exercised for many different reasons (to lose weight, to become a better dancer, to impress my then-boyfriend-now-husband, to “let myself indulge” in foods later), and like you experienced, none of those reasons brought me satisfaction. Now, I exercise because it’s the one time in my day that I can be truly selfish and give my body what it craves. It sets me up for a more energetic and productive day, gives me self-confidence, makes me appreciate my body and my health, and helps me put things into perspective. Wonderful post!

    1. Haha you are too cute! I’ll tell you my wholeeee Mavs story eventually… it’s a good one :) I love how I can relate to your fitness journey as well. It certainly takes time to get to a healthy place with exercise, and of course there is always room for improvement.

  12. Clearly I don’t watch basketball, because people are freaking out about that picture and I don’t have the slightest idea who that guy is, except for the fact that he could give “World’s Tallest Man” a run for his money :-p
    But as for the rest of the post, I definitely started off working out for the same reasons as you – as a means to lose weight, to burn calories, to be able to ‘indulge’ without worrying about weight gain…and it never made me happy. Now, I work out because it’s my ‘me-time’, it gets me out of the apartment on a regular basis (the only downsides of working at home…cabin fever and lack of interaction), gives me self confidence, I love the endorphin rush, and I love how powerful or badass I feel when I’m deadlifting a weight that weighs more than I do or punching the bag so hard in my boxing class that I’m giving some of the guys a run for their money. Loved this post!

    1. He’s over 7 feet tall! I lovedddd giving the guys a run for their money too. I remember doing sprints and I would run as fast as I could to try to beat them all… only beat some, but hey!

  13. I have been really grappling with this question lately! I hated sports when I was a kid and only got into fitness following my undergrad. I started with yoga and from there it lead to spinning and gravity strength training which I loved! It began as a way to lose weight and then it was just enjoyable. Vancouver really kick-started my regular running… I think I’ve just been in a bit of workout rut but I’ve really been questioning WHY I do it! I’ve come to the conclusion that while the aesthetic benefits are great… it is really more for more sanity, stress release, mood bust, and just feeling good about myself.

    1. I complete agree. I think it’s totally human nature and “normal” to like the aesthetic benefits but knowing that is not the sole reason for the activity, then that’s what’s truly special.

  14. My relationship with fitness has definitely changed over the years. I was always really active, but somewhere along the way, my love of movement went from a joy of doing it for the sake of doing it, to doing it to burn calories. It was somewhere along that point that I started to hate it, and it took a 2 year hiatus for me to properly heal my body and mind from the aftermath of overexercising and undereating. Now I’m back in a place where I’m moving to feel good instead of focusing on any numbers, and I’ve gotta say that it feels good to finally be back in that kind of place :)

  15. I love reading about your journey! As far as my personal journey goes, the fact that I workout…EVER is a miracle considering where I used to be. I always say that I was just lazy, but I think in all actuality I was exhausted. I took 21 credits of classes, I worked 8 hrs a week, and I did about 10 hours a week of activities. And that doesn’t even count the probably 15-20 hours a week I spent doing homework. I would fall into bed at 1AM so tired that the thought of waking up and going to the gym the next morning literally felt impossible. I think my life in general is healthier now, and my relationship with working out has followed suit.

    1. I love reading about your journeys too! After hearing your schedule (oh my gosh when did you sleep?!) I am definitely going to go with exhaustion.

  16. I’m loving all of the workout focused posts today!! I used to workout because I thought I would gain weight if I didn’t. Now I workout because it makes me feel good and gets rid of morning puffiness if I eat too much salt the day before ;) Your journey is great and now I’m super pumped to go to a spin class tonight because I WANT TO!

  17. This was a great post! I can imagine being an NCAA athlete had a lot of added stress to that which most women feel, especially in college, so that must have made it even more difficult. My relationship with fitness has gone through a lot of changes–from obsessive to complete abstinence, but I feel like I’m now in a really good place with it. I love how I feel alive during my workouts and afterwards I feel physically and mentally powerful and confident. That’s what I love the most about it–what it’s done for my mind!

    1. Thank you Alex :) I think we all go through lots of changes in life, and fitness is another one of those journeys. I’m so glad that you feel in a good place right now too — the confidence and mental boosts are awesome aren’t they?

  18. DIRK!!! :)
    Amy, as a past CIS athlete, this is so similar to my fitness journey and realizations. As a kid/teenager, sports were my life as well (soccer & basketball). My summers in college were spent training for the upcoming soccer season, and I remember feeling utter dread somedays as I headed out for some hill runs or to follow our weight training program. I was doing it because I HAD to, not because I wanted to. It’s so nice to now partake in exercise because I choose the activities and do so at leisure, not because I’m going to have to ensure a conditioning test or a timed run.

      1. I was very interested in your perspective on this too because I know the level you competed at. It’s good to know that I am not alone, scratch that, WE are not alone :)

  19. Oh I love this! It’s so hard to finally realize why you workout, and letting go of all the other reasons is so refreshing. I am so proud of you for working out for YOU these days and no one else. I am sure it has to be hard after doing sports for so long, but I also know it is more worthwhile when it’s just what you want to do :)

  20. These blogger vibes…me, you, Davida all writing about similar topics on the same day!

    Its fantastic to see how you now embrace workouts and do it for YOU. Being part of a competitive team, its understandable having to have to do x amount of workouts to be in tip top shape, but bravo for now seeing the good in it and testing new waters!

  21. I feel ya, college basketball burnt me out from basketball. And can I say twins! I swear the first workout I did after college was I boxed for about 4 months until I got a concussion lol

    -Elise @ 9toFit.com

    1. Concussion?! Eek! I never punched anyone, just bags. But yes, twins. I love it. Hoping to make a trip to da Bean soon… I’ll keep you posted :)

  22. I hated exercise with a passion growing up. Now I exercise as a stress release and to make me less crazy. I also do it for the feeling of accomplishment I get when I do something that I never thought I could.

    I love hearing your story and how your opinions of exercise and how you approached it over time changed for you.

  23. Great post girly. It’s so true. I’ve noticed people start working out for vanity and keep doing it after they have lost the weight for their sanity! It becomes a part of them, but it is definitely important to find something you like! PS I love how you Canadians say ‘university’. So chic! :)

  24. I love this SO MUCH! I was just commenting on Davida’s post that I think my competitive/overachieving nature can take over so that working out becomes something I try to do more and more of just to… to… to prove how much I can do? to see how far I can push myself? to impress people with how intense I am? I don’t even know. What I do know is I’m happiest when I focus on doing workouts that make me happy because I feel like doing them. Just like you said, working out for ME, not for whatever reason my crazy neuroses are giving me. It’s just a matter of keeping my crazy in check, which I luckily have lots of practice with.

  25. Amazing story Amy!! It’s so important to remember to workout for yourself! So many things in life will not come to fruition unless you’re doing it for yourself…weight loss, quitting a habit, leading a healthy lifestyle…. Great reminder :)

  26. I definitely have better workouts when I’m working out for me, not for that voice I have in my head guilting me into working out. Whenever I skip cardio after weights because I don’t want to do it, or whenever I do a 30 minute HIIT workout instead of a long 60 minute spin class, I try to tell myself that I will work harder doing weights if I’m not dreading a cardio workout after. I will work harder in those 30 minutes than I would in that spin class when I’m dreading it dragging for an hour. It’s super hard to figure out sometimes if I’m working out for me or that dumb ED voice but I’m working on getting better at figuring that out.

  27. I love this so much! As always, we’re on the same page. Right now I actually feel like I’m working out for all the wrong reasons (pretty much the same ones you listed). I’ve always wanted to try CrossFit for that exact reason — the focus is about YOU, how much you can lift, improving, achieving new PRs. It’s not about “OMG I JUST ATE PIZZA TONIGHT I HAVE TO GO BURN IT OFF TOMORROW BUT IT HAS TO BE FIRST THING IN THE MORNING FASTED BC THEN I’LL REALLY BURNING IT OFF” ……….. The struggle hahaha

    1. It’s definitely a struggle but it gets easier and better with time and the more you commit to speaking nicely to yourself :) we can be our own harshest critic and often forget to tell ourselves how awesome we are!

  28. I guess I work out for two main reasons: One, I feel crappy if I don’t. I have a little of pent up energy that just makes me awful to be around if I don’t get it out with a run or yoga or even a hike.

    I guess the other not so healthy reason is because I don’t want to gain weight. I’m so terrified missing a run means I’ll be five pounds heavier in the morning. I know that doesn’t happen, but it feels like it will. I’m trying to teach myself it doesn’t work that way!

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