I wake up every morning wondering when I will be able to exercise during the day. It is a part of my daily life, and it has to be.

I don’t go to the gym to lose weight. I don’t go to the gym to lose the cellulite on my thighs, the extra pounds on my hips, or to tighten my behind. All of that is just an added bonus.

I work out because when I am exercising, I feel incredible. Exercising is empowering. On my way to the gym, I feel strong and healthy. At the gym, I feel unstoppable. After the gym, I feel relieved, relaxed, content, fit, energized.

I work out because it is good for me. It relieves stress. It gets my heart rate up. It lowers my cholesterol. It trains my muscles and stretches my body. It makes me sweat, and releases toxins from my body.

But most importantly, I work out because I have a condition that restricts me. I’m constantly in intense pain, I take medicine every day, and I cater my diet and my life in order to manage my condition. Every day I face an obstacle—my pain trying to tell me I should be in bed, heating pad in hand, Advil by my nightstand. But instead, exercise is my drug. As I sprint, I feel my body pushing its limits and achieving its potential. As I pedal hard, I see what I am capable of. As I complete a set of push-ups, I know that nothing—not even a chronic pain condition which causes my body to malfunction on a daily basis—can stop me. My body may not be able to function completely properly, but I am able to sprint faster, pedal harder, and work my body more than I knew I could before my diagnosis. I push myself to move in any way I can, because I am capable of anything I put my mind to. My disease does not stop me; it motivates me.

Women aren’t necessarily at the gym wearing Lululemon leggings, Nike DryFit shirts, and minimalist running shoes exclusively as a means of losing weight. Exercising makes us feel extraordinary, and provides an outlet for the day’s struggles.

So quit looking at me at the gym, thinking, “That woman is trying to lose weight and keep a slim figure.” Because that’s false. I don’t work out to maintain a certain shape to impress those around me. I work out to prove to myself I am physically capable of doing anything I want. I work out because I can, and with what my body is incapable of doing, I strive to show myself everything I can do.

Hannah Ephraim is a Boston-born college student who may be found writing/reading poetry, exploring the outdoors, exercising, or eating gluten-free cookies and dark chocolate. She loves bonding over music with her two older brothers, laughing with her friends and family, and the band The National.

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