“Hot by Pride”: How Curling is Improving My Life On and Off the Ice

I was talking to a user on Reddit on life goals for fitness and healthy living, and what keeps us motivated. This is a bit of a read, and it is incredibly personal, but what started out as me typing out a comment to motivate a friend turned into a realization – halfway through typing it – that a lot of my own motivation comes from the time I spend on and off the ice with my club mates. You all make me want to be a better Me, and by sharing this, I wanted you to know exactly how. Thank you.

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(The following is comment I sent him – with a few edits here and there for clarification.)

There’s so many avenues to get active. If you’re having a hard time eating healthy and running, there’s nothing wrong with starting the one before layering on the other.

I personally like to think of it in phases that are building up toward my main goal: “Hot by Pride,” which started as a New Year’s Resolution. (My friends and I continue to motivate each other with the hash tag #Resolute, because that’s what we are in our goals to self-improvement.)

I told myself that for this Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, I want to feel confident enough with myself that, if we get a hot day, I’d be comfortable taking my shirt off (and maybe even turn a head or two).

Because… y’know… vanity.

But I knew that unless I did something, that was never going to happen. Also, since I knew trying to do too much at once often leads to failure because that drastic of a lifestyle change can be emotionally stressful, I broke my goals down into Phases. (Note: the following is just an example of what I did. Feel free to make your own and rock it out!)

Phase 1: Quit Smoking

This was the Big One. The Primary Goal, as it were. If nothing else, I wanted to quit smoking and quit for good. So I switched to vaping electronic cigarettes (eCigs). But since I know my brain all too well, not only did I start vaping at a low nicotine level, I only vaped tobacco flavors. Yes, part of the fun of vaping is the whole new world of flavor options available to you, but vaping nicotine was something I wanted to eventually stop, so I made a point to never associate nicotine with a fun flavor. I wanted the “fun” flavors to be my reward for good behavior, so I made sure that I only bought them in “nic-free” varieties. That way, if I never needed a nicotine fix to curb a craving, it would HAVE to be in tobacco flavor. I mean, honestly, who wants to associate Apple Brown Betty with regret?

Eventually, after a month of vaping, on February 1, I weened myself down to nothing but nic-free eCigs. I stuck with that for a few weeks because oral fixation is a real thing, and in the absence of cigarettes or a boyfriend, food is next best option. That, and I didn’t want to replace one oral vice with another.

Once I got the nicotine out of my system, I slowly but surely stopped vaping. As of March 1, I’ve been vape free. (STILL SMOKE-FREE SINCE JANUARY FIRST! WHOO-HOO!!!)

Phase 2: Get Active

After years of watching the Olympic sport of r/Curling, especially after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, I finally told myself, “I’m going to try that sport.” And you know what? I fell in love with it. I’ve been an avid curler for over one year now. I blog and podcast about the sport for my club’s website and am even forming a team to make a run for Arena Nationals this summer (which is rather precarious timing to hold a winter sporting event, but I digress…)

And to be honest, a part of what prompted this whole over-arcing goal wasn’t completely just to get “Hot by Pride.” A lot of it has to do with being a better athlete for my team.

Why? Because a big part of this sport is the sweeping. Sweeping stones in this ridiculously awesome sport of ours requires a lot of core strength (to balance as you walk on the ice), stamina (vigorously sweeping one stone can last for 20-25 seconds straight, up to nearly fifty or so times in two-hour game), and arm strength (you don’t gently dust the ice with your broom, you polish with a solid SCRUB – like you’re cleaning a boat deck).

A lot of people want to work out, but they have nothing to work out for. And really, why would you? Why would anyone put in so much effort if they’re not going to get anything tangible out of it? I mean, let’s be real: No one needs big, rippling muscles if their day-to-day life doesn’t require heavy lifting. So find some sort of “heavy lifting” that you’re passionate about that requires you to put in the effort of working out and see where it takes you!

Whether it’s running a marathon, joining a marching band, picking up a sport – it doesn’t matter. What got me moving and motivated was finding something that made “working out” a means to a specific end, not a means unto itself. As I’ve been telling my curling club mates: “I don’t want to get Jersey Shore Swole, I want to get Canadian Curler Cut.” Yeah, admittedly there is some vanity in there, but the main motivator is being better at the game I love playing.

“Uh… dude? You admitted you had already been active in curling for a year. How is that Phase 2?”

You’re right. Perhaps, if I’m being clear, I should have labelled Phase 2 as “Get Even More Active.” So here’s where that motivation turned into a fitness goal: I downloaded a simple app called “Just 6 Weeks” that’s designed to use body-resistance exercises to build strength (push-ups, sit-ups, dips, and squats).

I’ve only been doing this app for three weeks now, but I am already seeing – and, more importantly, FEELING – a subtle difference. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to see the beginnings of – dare I say it? – bicep muscles on my arms. They may be baby biceps, but dammit, they are all mine. Not only do I see progress, but I’ve noticed that I feel progress in my game on the ice. It might sound crazy, but noticing this is giving me even further motivation to keep going.

However – for me and my brain – what really helps is knowing that needing to quit smoking is already completely behind me. Instead of focusing on both how badly I want a cigarette AND having to go work out on TOP of that, I now only spend the mental energy on ONE of these thoughts because I already took care of the other. There’s no longer this big mental mountain to climb. Instead, it seems more just like a road to journey down. That brings me to what eventually lies ahead on the horizon…

Phase 3: Lose Some Weight

The problem with quitting smoking is that your metabolism changes. That, combined with an oral fixation that manifests itself in eating more of… anything (as much as I tried to avoid it), often causes weight gain. And gain some weight I did.

I haven’t started in on Phase 3 just yet.

My goal is that if I’ve finished the “Just 6 Weeks” app on time, I’ll be set and ready to go with more aerobic exercise come May. That gives me roughly two months to do more cardiovascular exercises (like ridding my bike!) in the nice weather months ahead to shed those extra pounds. Hopefully, doing so will reveal a toned physique hiding underneath the fluff just in time for – you guessed it – Chicago’s Gay Pride! 😀

Okay, okay…

So it’s not the most perfect plan on the planet. I’m sure there are better ones out there. But this plan is mine, and so far it seems to be working for me.

And that’s my point: It has to be personal to you or it probably won’t work. You have to treat your efforts of a healthier lifestyle as the means to an end and, as such, you have to know what your end is. If you really want great motivation, make sure it’s something you are passionate about. Once you have that, it’s easy to break things down into smaller goals to achieve on a longer journey. Three months in, I’m still going strong.

And if I can do this after thirty years of sedentary lifestyle, I know you can. You don’t have to become a model, just become a better You. You got this, yo. 😀

-Eric 🙂

(Eric Reithel is a resident blogger and plogger for Windy City Curling. He’s never going to grace a magazine cover as an underwear model, but that’s okay. And probably for the best. If you want to make plans to go to Chicago’s Gay Pride with him, hit him up on Twitter @TheCraftyCurler.)

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