My body is the most expensive thing I own

A fit physique is the ultimate status symbol.

No money can buy it, you cannot inherit it, you cannot steal it, you cannot borrow it. You cannot hold on to it without constant work. It shows patience, passion, and discipline. It is true wealth.

I am, right now, as fit as I’ve ever been.

After a childhood and teenage years of gymnastics and cheerleading, I spent my twenties in yoga and running 5K’s at least 3x per week.

The first six months of my MBA program are one of the only times in my life I’ve been “unfit,” and had 10lbs to show for it. Fed up with how I felt and looked, I got back into yoga, completed the BeachBody Insanity Program and finally went back to lifting heavy at the gym.

When it comes to health and fitness, I am the 1%. Everything about it is a luxury. I feel good almost all the time. Not only do I feel awake, alert, and productive, specific pains like a chronic shoulder injury or the common cold are kept at bay by my active routine. I sleep well and wake up easily.

At 29, I look more or less the same as I did at 19. For women, liking the way you look in everything from sweatpants to bikinis is a heavenly state of self-acceptance that can seem unattainable. I enjoy it every day.

I won’t lie, maintaining this level of physical fitness takes far more dedicated effort than it did in my early 20’s. My nutrition is fairly regimented and I hit the gym religiously 3-4 times per week, and when I’m there, I kick my own arse so hard even the personal trainers comment on my “dedication.”

To an outsider, my routine might seem fanatical, but as any fit person knows, you hit a rhythm that pumps so many feel-good endorphins into your bloodstream, you hate the days when you don’t workout.

But I bought this luxury. My body is the most expensive thing I own.

Bridget caseyBridget Casey / Money After GraduationMy most recent gym selfie (two weeks ago).

I spend $US70 per month for my gym membership, which works out to $US840 per year. I understand that you can choose to run outside and do bodyweight exercises at home, but I can’t have the body I want without a full weight room.

Most women don’t realise there’s a major short-cut to the body they want: lifting heavy weights. The answer to being ultra-fit isn’t hours of cardio and knee push-ups, it’s doing squats with a barbell loaded up until it weighs more than you do.

I burn through one pair of shoes per year plus regularly purchase fitness apparel. This probably costs $US500 per year. And then there’s my food. So much food and nutritional supplements. Together my fiancĂ© and I spend about $US600 per month on groceries, which is a lot for two people.

I imagine the bill would be closer to $US400 if we didn’t consume two chicken breasts each, every single day. I’ve outlined what a weight-lifting diet on a budget looks like, and it’s still not cheap, but it’s worth its price tag.

All in, I estimate the individual cost for my fitness routine is $US3,000 per year.

It’s the best $US3,000 I spend, but I won’t say it doesn’t put a dent in my bank account. $US3,000 is not a small amount of money. It’s enough to pay for a nice vacation. It’s enough to pay for my mobile phone, Netflix, internet, daily Starbucks habit, and then some for an entire year.

Putting $US3,000 towards my health and fitness each year instead of into a savings account will leave me $US270,000 poorer in retirement. But exercising regularly and eating healthy increases the probability that I’ll see my retirement years in the first place, so that’s the tradeoff.

For Casey’s stats and details about her diet and exercise routine, continue reading at Money After Graduation.

This post originally appeared on Money After Graduation.

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