Javier Leiva, a writer, consultant, speaker and trainer in Barcelona, Spain, shares his hater-to-lover story:

"I started to play tennis at the age of 6. I took classes for several years and participated in some local tournaments. I practiced frequently and began to develop as a player. Soon I was selected to play for my city team in the Catalonia championship tournament. In my early years as a tournament player, I ranked number four on my team. But I improved as a player each year and was recognized as the highest-ranked player on my team in my last three years of tournament play.  I really enjoyed playing tennis and the confidence that it instilled in me.

Go, Javier!

Go, Javier!

Unfortunately, I made a mistake. When I was 14, I lost interest in tennis and stopped playing. At the time, I was more interested in having fun with my friends. It became difficult for me to train on weekday evenings and spend the weekends playing in tournaments. So I stopped playing. I wouldn’t exercise again until I was over the age of 30.

In my thirties, I was working from home. I was spending my days in front of a computer, I barely left home and my longest walk was from the office to the kitchen. I was overweight and a little bit depressed.

Fortunately, my wife knew what I needed at that time. She insisted that I start going for a walk every day. At the beginning, I resisted. Even though I knew she was right, I was simply uninterested in exercise. But she kept insisting and finally I agreed to walk with her a couple times a week.

My routine started as a 30-minute walk two days a week. Soon it increased to an hour per day. A year passed and I was moving faster and I started to think I could go farther. So during a short vacation with my wife, we walked a total of 100 kilometers over a period of four days. It was painful, but wonderful. We made it!

After that, I started to hike a lot and found myself moving faster and faster, until one day, when I felt that my body was asking for some more, and I started to run. Since 2011, I have been a runner. I try not to force myself to run too fast, that way I decrease the likelihood of injury. I normally train three times a week, running 10 to 12 kilometers. In addition, I like to participate in formal races because it gives me a chance to run with other people that enjoy running as much as I do. I normally take part in 10K races, but I was recently provided the opportunity to run a half-marathon in Buenos Aires. But the achievement that I am most proud of was the 100-kilometer non-stop charity race called the Intermón Oxfam Trailwalker, an event that I completed in 2013. Coincidentally, it was the same course that I had walked years before with my wife."

Javier sat down with ih8exercise.com staff writer Josie Rubio to answer some questions, too:

What was the turning point when you realized you had transformed from an exercise hater to an exercise lover? When I discovered that I could hike for a great distance the feeling of accomplishment changed me from an exercise hater into an exercise lover.

What are your favorite workouts? I love when I have the time to run for more than an hour at a slow pace. For example, one-and-a-half hours at a six minutes pace per kilometer is perfect.

When it comes to exercise, are you a pack trainer or a lone wolf? I consider myself more a lone wolf. Exercise has become a time for me to think, leaving behind my daily work stress. Having said that, occasionally, I like to hike with my family and even run with a friend. In addition, I really enjoy being in the middle of a crowd when I participate in a race.

What’s the piece of workout gear that you can’t live without? I always track my workouts with the RunKeeper app on my smartphone. I enjoy reviewing my GPS-generated workout tracks. In addition, the app shows me some statistics that help me to be more consistent with my exercise routine and keep me focused on the need to exercise.

What songs are on your go-to workout mix? I do not normally listen to songs when I go for a run. Instead, I listen to podcasts that help me to practice English while I exercise. My favorites are "The Bryan Callen Show," "Quick and Dirty Tips," "Smart Talk," and "Versió RAC1"—the last one is in Catalan. But when it comes to a race, I never listen to anything because I want to hear the sounds of the race.

What’s your biggest workout obstacle, and how do you overcome it? Even though I really enjoy running, my biggest obstacle is myself. Sometimes, it is easier to simply stay at home than to put on my running clothes and go out. If I miss a single day of exercise, it becomes easy to miss another. And if you miss too many days it becomes much more difficult to start running again.

What do you do when you feel as if you’ve hit a plateau or rut? Currently, I am not in front of any big challenges. I only want to keep running between 30 and 40 kilometers every week and enjoy it the best that I can.

What’s been the biggest benefit to becoming an exercise lover? I think the benefits are more mental than physical.

What advice would you give to someone who hates exercise? Just start to do it and do not push yourself too much. Go step by step, and enjoy yourself.

Want to share your hater-to-lover story? contact@ih8exercise.com


Photos courtesy of Javier Leiva