Figuring Out Your 20s: Exercise, Fitness Culture

Seattle — The TikTok algorithm has picked up on my moments of fixation when all I want to do is work out and eat healthy. There’s always a new challenge or workout I’m stumbling upon that health and fitness culture has become exhausting. 

Health and fitness are fun when there’s no pressure on what it should look like. When it feels like a chore, I lose the desire for upkeeping a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve always had a varying relationship with exercise. Elementary and middle school physical education classes and my mom’s home-cooked meals were enough to maintain my health. I dealt with the known “freshman 15” in my sophomore year of college. I was a broke college student surviving on my campus meal plan and fast food runs while my only exercise was walking to class. It was inevitable.

During my senior year of college, I struggled to be consistent in the gym and cook healthier meals. I was always under the assumption that exercise was linked to achieving body goals, so much of my fitness routine was completing as many Chloe Ting workouts as I could for an hourglass figure.

Something shifted when I moved to Seattle and started my adult life. There was always a gym or exercise studio wherever I went, sometimes at least five gyms or studios in the same plaza. I experimented with cycling, HIIT, and [solidcore] classes to understand what I liked and prioritize exercise. I loved the freedom of not placing pressure on myself and having fun with exercise. 

I still have fitness goals I want to achieve, but I’m giving myself grace with my method. I’ve had to, unfortunately, learn why I need to reject the approach of doing as many crunches until my stomach cramps. Instead, I’m focusing on shifting my diet to consume less sugar, dairy, and gluten and taking my doctor’s advice to implement 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening training. 

Social media fitness culture is focused on gains and transformation. Although motivating, it can quickly become distressing if you’re hyper-fixated. I am incredibly content with my complicated fitness journey and never getting it “right.” 

I’m choosing to reject the notion that how you look indicates your health and embracing my desire and effort to be consistent, eat right, and not set unnecessary pressures and limits on myself.

Tracy Noze is a Seattle-based journalist.

Edited by Nykeya Woods