Amber Long

How Exercise Saved My Life, Not Once, but Twice

Growing up, I always wanted to find myself in a career to help people. In my young age, I thought working for the medical industry was a way to help others but as I got older, I learned, healing comes from the inside out. I have this innate desire to make people feel good or have a better life and when I found myself a young mom at age 21, I realized it had to start with me.

Being in good health can feel like a long, isolated road. Regular exercise always takes the backburner when things are busy. We put it off, day after day in lieu of things we deem ‘more important’.

Riddle me this, what is more important that being in good health?

If there is no you, there is nothing.

As a certified Pharmacy Technician since 1995, I have never worked a day in a pharmacy. I have been an advocate more than 20 years for preventative medicine: regular exercise, proper diet and natural stress-relief. Healing comes from the inside out and I learned firsthand with two babies under two, a husband who worked all day and night and a bundle of postpartum depression I couldn’t shake.

When I was young, we didn’t title things like we do today. Being depressed was simply considered “having the blues” and someone was expected to snap out of it. Like it was a choice. If you force yourself to smile, you will he happy. This isn’t always the case.

At age 23, I found myself pregnant with my second baby (by choice) and was looking at my eating habits carefully after Baby #1. I had gained 88 lbs with my daughter, blooming from 120 lbs to 208 lbs at one of my final weigh-ins at the doctor’s. I swore when I planned Baby #2 that things would be different, this time around.

Maybe this isn’t for everyone but after my daughter was born, I found a new love- an hour to myself, three times a week, I joined a gym. Once I found out I was pregnant, I chose to keep my workout routine intact, if I could, with some modifications, naturally.

I think it was about 5 months in when I stopped the step classes and took to the streets with my stroller, bottle of water and started trekking all over town. I did my squats and pushed and pulled up and down hills, I stretched all the time.

Aside from my son being born in a snap, as opposed to my daughter, I had only gained 44 lbs and I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans a week after he was born. I felt like a toned racehorse who gave birth at home like a real gladiator and I owe it to keeping in shape and a delicious diet made up mostly of plant foods.

Even though my body was showing very little wear and tear, my mind and emotions were a torrential mess. I could keep it together to take care of my kids but I was sad, so sad, when it seemed I should have had it all. I wanted to give up, I was forlorn, I wanted to run away, although I never did or would. I had postpartum depression.

The doctor told me for any medications to help, it is important to exercise. That regular exercise would promote healthier brain chemistry and help the medications I was given to work more efficiently. This is when I turned to my new-found love again, the gym.

Yes, I cleaned up my diet even more, yes I slept and called friends when I was down, but the one thing I really fell into full-force was my working out. Immediately, I started to feel better. I was back to my pre-pregnancy size, I was full of energy, the kids were having fun in the daycare without me, I got over the guilt of leaving them for short periods and went all in, for me.

Fast forward a year, I am on a stage doing my first fitness competition. I’m off antidepressants and have never been happier, healthier, nor felt more attractive. There I was, mother of two, 24 and smiling from ear to ear in a bikini. Something I never even dreamt of 12 months prior when I started a committed exercise plan.

It’s funny how we can be shown blatant truth but us funny humans always resort back to what is easiest and as life would have it, a couple years ago, I found myself in school, raising kids, being a touring musician and trying to run a small business.

You can bet your bottom dollar I wasn’t working out every day. You can bet I hadn’t worked out in years!

Yes, my once taught and trim self was losing the fight with gravity and all the distractions in the world kept me from spending time with myself, on myself. March 2015, I got really bad news about my health. Some tests came back with some unpleasant results and I needed to have surgery. This was not something I was ready for.

My entire 30s, I blasted though, still being thin from my enthusiastic 20s and kept up the momentum, never taking a break, never changing my oil. Until my body said, “NOPE!” and knocked me back into its own reality, the one where I am not 21 anymore.

For over a year, I went back and forth to the doctor’s and tried seemingly everything I could to regain my clean bill of health. I had two more small surgeries where I had to be put to sleep, I quit drinking, my diet became organic, I was the queen of juicing and smoothie-making, literally I became a saint. But a sitting saint.

By the time I got the third set of bad results, I was at my wits end. Wracking my brain on how I could cure myself naturally versus the Big Pharma was, I had to admit the only thing missing from my wellness plan was a regular exercise routine. It had saved my life once before, this could be the key to fixing things now.

For nine months, I immersed myself in a regular exercise routine, between going to the gym, doing yoga, assigning specific time to meditate, taking to the outdoors any chance I got, biking, you name it, I became obviously more active.

Immediately, my muscles responded and perked up. As if they were so happy I had been reunited with the weights. I sweat so bad in hot yoga, I think I gained five years to my life, I put the same amount of effort into getting well this time as I had when my babies depended on it.

In my self-talk, I said if I could be vigilant for 9 months while carrying a child, I had to give myself the same kind of time and commitment so my kids who are alive now continue to have a healthy mom. So nine months it was.

After nine months, I found myself at the dreaded doctor’s again. I hadn’t mentioned much to her about what I was trying to accomplish in finding the perfect place of homeostasis for my body. I also didn’t believe that someone who trusts Big Pharma to cure people would understand how important natural wellness is to me.

At this last check up, the doctor looks at me and says, “You’re clear.”

Those words. Those words I had been waiting to hear for so long! I kept myself contained when inside I was screaming, “Oxygenated cells are healthy cells! It’s the exercise!” And I believe, even to this day that it was the readdiction of my old beloved habits. In nine months, I grew a healthier me!

In life, we are never fully in the clear of any illness that can strike. Murphy’s Law would suggest it usually comes when we least expect it, or fast. Illness, or dis-ease, is the outwards expression that something is wrong on the inside. For me, I don’t need to read any studies about the benefits of regular exercise. I KNOW them. I am living proof of what happens on the other side of dis-ease.

Cultivating a regular exercise routine is not a Band-Aid solution, it is a cure. It saved my life, not once, but twice. I made me fall in love with life and myself again and taught me that our bodies are powerful and if we treat them right, they’ll treat us right, into our Golden Years and beyond.


Posted by Lorne Marr.
Lorne Marr is a Toronto-based fitness enthusiast and lifelong advocate of healthy living. He is on a journey to discover the best methods of training and nutrition for athletes and weekend warriors over 45. Connect with Lorne on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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