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There is a tipping point every time I do hard cardio. Not a 10-minute-warm-up cardio session, but that workout you know is going to kick you right in the face and leave you feeling amazing, all at the same time.

Initially, I dread it. Yes. I love exercise and I still completely dread it. Pulling on my clothes, tying my shoes, I know what’s coming. I typically tip my head down in the locker room (secretly hoping to dodge long conversations because I need to hustle) while I get my mind right. I’ve got work to do.

Heart, this one is for you.

The first few minutes suck. I hurt.

Start easy. Adjust headphones. Decide on the music that best fits the mood. Turn it up.

Breathe. Adjust shorts. Re-tie shoes. Tilt, twist, lift. Okay I'm ready. Blah. Carry on, keep moving.


Okay, feeling a bit better now. Joints loosening, hello synovial fluid. Muscles warming. Breathing speeding. Supply and demand stabilizing. The familiar pattern of my gait requires no thought.

I often repeat silent cues to be present right now, pay attention, push. Push the limit of security, honor the limit of safety.


Push. WHOOSH. There it is! The tipping point. Hello friend. This loud music pumping in my ears and the rhythmic pace of my feet brings me to life. I can hardly wipe this silly smile off my face.

I could do this forever. Feeling like the best version of myself. Oh boy. Now I’m singing along. A lover of music, I know every word (or at least make up the ones I don’t know). I feel every beat. I catch an eye in the mirror in front of me and suddenly I’m aware. I must look ridiculous...mouthing all the words, smiling like a kid on Christmas Eve. Oh wow. Here we go. This is hard. I notice that I’ve stopped singing along. This is going to require all I’ve got. Let’s go.

Push. There is absolutely nothing about this that is easy. I am drenched. My heart is pounding. I don’t notice anything around me, but I feel everything. This is full blown effort. I force myself to avoid staring at the clock.


My senses are not sharp. All of my effort is directed at finishing this right now. Everything. My legs feel heavy and slow. My lungs are on fire. My competitive nature is strong. I will beat this.


I’ve been counting down, and there are only 60 seconds left before I rest. Not one second early, I silently repeat again and again. A goal I set for myself just a few years ago has stuck. My body wants to quit but there is no way I am giving up one second before the clock hits zero. 3....2....1.... 0:00. Done.

Freakin phenomenal.


I wonder if everyone feels like this? Probably not. More people should feel like this, I think. After I’ve cooled down I take out my headphones and gently return to reality. I wave to my friends I see all over the gym, why didn’t I see them earlier? We exchange looks, sharing the unspoken bond of support.

The beauty of unexpected relationships. I feel supported by people I haven't ever met, and by friends I've made who've been working right beside me.

It changes your perspective about who you are when you know what you are capable of. "This is hard, and I can do hard things" translates into every other area of life.

Both immediate and delayed gratification. Physical attributes are never the end goal. It just makes everything else easier. Here is what I get out of my experience with fitness: Health. Strength. Peace. Respect. Relationships. Joy. Confidence. Bravery. Patience. Courage. Persistence. Dedication.... and a WHOLE lot of love. I thank the front desk crew and walk out the door.

I’ll be back for more.


Prove it to yourself. Push.

My love to you,

About the Author

Dr. Monique Middlekauff is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). She has been a certified personal trainer with the NSCA, ACSM, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) for over 10 years.

She is a certified Higher Education Teaching Specialist (HETs) and has instructed courses ranging from introductory to graduate level including Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Exercise Physiology Lab, Resistance Training, Fitness Foundations, Aging and Exercise, and Skeletal Mechanics.

She is a former NCAA DI volleyball athlete and loves to exercise outdoors. Monique is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), and is an Exercise is Medicine Level 3 credentialed provider. Monique works for a major health system in Idaho.

Her goal is to pursue health and overall wellbeing through evidence-based practice. Physical wellness comes in many forms, and she seeks to celebrate where you are, and challenge you to be better!

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