15 Weird, Amazing Things You Didn’t Realize Happen To You When You Exercise

The other day, I stumbled upon an old-ish (well, old in Internet terms anyway, which is to say that it was published about three weeks ago) interview with Lena Dunham. This interview was interesting to me because it didn’t focus on what pieces about Lena Dunham usually hone in on (Girls, Lenny, her latest vaguely-if-innocuously controversial statement or action) and it wasn’t in any of the publications that usually feature her (The Cut, Hollywood Reporter, whatever conservative blog is pissed off at her at the moment). Rather, it was on Dunham’s new fondness for exercise–running, specifically–and it was in ESPN Magazine.

I loved it, and not just because I love Lena Dunham and I love running. It’s a great interview because A) it doesn’t veer into the realm of hyper-condescension that it could have slid into very easily simply because Dunham doesn’t have what many would consider to be a typical “runner’s body” (even Lena Dunham runs, why can’t you?), and because B) both Dunham and her interviewer, Allison Glock, have really great things to say about exercising and the body in general. You can (and should) read the whole thing here, but it got me thinking. What else happens to you when you start to work out–not to look a certain way, necessarily, but just to feel good? Here are some Cold Hard Facts on the subject, as well as my own personal observations:


1. You could lose weight:
Well, yeah. Exercising burns calories, so you might find that you start to lose some weight when you exercise, particularly if you’ve never exercised before.


2. Or, you might gain weight:
A lot of people also find that they gain weight when they start exercising, too. Some people who do CrossFit say that they actually go up two or three dress sizes–happily. So don’t freak out about gaining or losing weight! This old platitude still holds true–if you feel good, you’ll look good, too.


3. You might just look the same:
Personally, my body didn’t really change when I started working out. Like, at all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


4. You’ll probably be hungry all the time…
Shocker: Burning calories makes you want to eat more calories. Exciting stuff!


5. But you’ll find that you start to crave healthy (ish) food:
After, say, a long run, you’ll want some solid protein. Not a bag of chips. (But you’ll still eat chips every now and then, obviously, because why deprive yourself?)


6. You’ll sleep like the sleepiest baby in the world:
sleepy baby
This is to say that you will sleep very, very well. Studies have shown that people who get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week have better, more restful sleep.


7. Your skin will improve:
Bet you thought that your skin would break out from exercising, right? Wrong! As long as you’re showering after your workout, the increased blood and oxygen flow that goes to your face will help nourish your skin cells, giving you a healthy, sensual glow. (I’m sorry. I don’t know why I just said “sensual.”)


8. You’ll sweat more:
Like, just in general. It’s okay, though–fit people sweat sooner in workouts to make their workout more efficient. So just use it as a message to the world that yes, the rumors are true–you are indeed getting more fit.


9. You’ll have better sex:
If sex is something that you’re into, exercise will help with that. It increases libido in women and enhances orgasms and lubrication. Are you like “yas kween” or are you like “YAAASS KWEEEN”?


10. Your taste in music will change:
Maybe you’ll become addicted to the soft new-age synth that plays during your yoga class. Or you’ll get really into the dance-pop remixes you hear in spin class. Or, like, you’ll (mistakenly) start to think that you know everything about hip-hop because you listen to the “Rap Bangers For Running” Spotify playlist constantly. Whatever the case, all of your music choices will begin to sound exactly like what you listen to at the gym.


11. As will your clothing preferences:

If you haven’t noticed workout clothes are kind of having a “moment” right now. With all of the cute yoga pants and runsies that you have to choose from, combined with your workout schedule, you’ll want to start wearing workout clothes all the time. Embrace it.


12. Your period will get lighter and easier to manage:
Don’t be scared to hit up a Pilates class if you’re on your period–regular, moderate exercise can decrease the length (and crampiness) of your period. Be careful though–excessive exercise can make your period stop altogether, which isn’t healthy.


13. You’ll become the super-peppy person in your friend group who always suggests “fun” activities like group 5Ks or spin classes:
Whatever. Your friends might resent you, but every squad needs at least one of this person.


14. You might (literally) run into Taylor Swift in a park:

Taylor Swift likes to run in parks and, if you can run fast enough to catch up with her, she’ll probably deign to take a picture with you. True story!


15. You’ll like your body for what it does, not just for what it looks like:

Not usually one to post a paparazzi shot but this fills me with pride. Basically my whole life I have hated running and run like a wounded baby Pterodactyl. It was embarrassing and honestly I did not trust myself to escape a burning building or even move briskly towards a buffet. @jennikonner is directing the season finale of Girls and decided that as Hannah evolved so would her run, so she got me a training session with Matt Wilpers from Mile High Run Club. Within an hour I had a different relationship to this formerly torturous activity. I felt strong, swift and proud. I'm not about to embrace that triathlon life but it's a true joy to continue getting more connected to my body and its powers. (Extra motivation provided by @manrepeller for @outdoorvoices.) #moveforyourmind

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

This is the most important one of all, I think. Just to bring it back to Lena, here’s what she said in the ESPN interview: “I also think when we do exercise, when we really own and understand our bodies and claim our physicality, our superficial quibbles with our bodies lessen because we realize what our bodies can do for us. My relationship to eating, my relationship to critiquing my own shape, all of that has changed since I’ve started viewing my body much more as a tool to do my work.”

Do you exercise? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!

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