From Hating to Loving the Gym

Monday, 24 October 2016

    My relationship with exercise and the gym has been challenging up until recently, to say the least. I went from being a fit, active child to a lethargic, unfit teen when playing tag stopped being a socially acceptable thing to do on top of lacking any concept of portion sizing.  Later, I very quickly lost loads of weight when I started university - this was for no reason other than the fact that the food in my catered halls was nasty shit. Through all of it, I hated exercise. I hated cardio especially. I hated the thought of ever going to a gym; I just imagined them to be awful places full of judgemental athletic women and obnoxious meatheads.

When Chris and I moved to Leeds a few years ago, I started to take up working out at home and I was pretty good at it! I began to feel a bit fitter and more energetic, but I still hated every second of the exercise itself and had to force myself to push through it knowing I’d feel better for it afterwards. After we left Leeds and headed back down south, I decided to join the gym at work since it was right across from my office and essentially on the way home. This was totally against my anti-gym code, but it was a little gym with only a handful of machines and there were only ever one or two other people there, so it suited me fine. I started out with the treadmill, switched to the elliptical when I realised running wrecked my legs and ankles, and eventually started using weights. I still hated exercising, but again, I forced myself to do it because I felt amazing afterwards – all the more so after I started lifting weights, because I could actually see myself gaining muscle. My little noodle arms had muscles for the first time in my life, and that was some crazy motivational stuff right there.

Fast forward to this year, and I was offered a better job at an organisation that didn’t have its own staff gym, presenting me with a dilemma: do I give up and find a new way to exercise (bearing in mind that I could do no jumping or cardio in my flat due to it being a thin-floored first floor flat), or do I finally bite the bullet and join a real gym? A public gym? With people?

I joined the gym, and after nearly three months I haven’t regretted it for a second.

Gyms aren’t for everyone, but as it turns out, the one I chose is just right for me. What really hooked me were the classes included in the gym membership – most weeks I go to at least four or five classes, which is great not just for motivation and direction for your workout, but for picking up tips for good technique and for learning moves you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. I now know how to do various exercises properly and can try to perfect the technique on my own and add them to my independent workouts, and some of the personal trainers are now familiar faces that know me and my fitness levels and are open to any questions I might have.

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to motivate myself to go somewhere else to workout either, but having it as a set part of my routine, leaving the house and going to another location encourages me to dedicate myself to it while I’m there and to work out properly to make the most out of the visit. When I exercise at home, it’s all too easy for me to get distracted or decide I’ll do it later (and to then not do it later…) or to not work as hard as I know I really can, but going to a place that’s sole purpose is for people to exercise kind of helps with that. For the days that I go to classes, they’re already scheduled and my name is on a list, making it all the more motivating for me to actually get up and go. I was surprised by how well I took to it to be honest; I don’t even go straight after work either, I sit around for a couple of hours at home and then go, which a few years back would’ve been a disaster.

Getting into it was tough. I think the most difficult part of trying to get fitter is simply getting to the stage where you’re not quite fit, but you’re no longer unfit, and the workouts stop being an exhausting, onerous task and start being fun and uplifting and leave you feeling strong and capable and like you can take on the world. It’s like a climbing a steep cliff that later levels off into a nice, steady hike up a hill.  Now that I’ve busted through that wall of being knackered all the time and feeling like I’m getting nowhere, I love every second and actually enjoy pushing myself and trying new things and basically looking like a hot mess dripping with sweat. The results are visible too, although they aren’t anywhere near the focal point of my motivation. My body looks leaner and my butt finally has some lift to it again – when I first started exercising regularly all the fat in my booty dropped off but it wasn’t until recently that I actually started doing muscle-building butt exercises so much to my frustration, I’ve basically had a flat butt for months! As usual though, I ignore the scales, and I encourage everyone else to as well. My body has clearly changed, but perhaps surprisingly, I weigh roughly the same as I did several years ago before I started working out at all.

Whenever my classes finish, I’m already looking forward to kicking ass in the next one, and as I type this I’m itching to get back at the gym after over a week off thanks to a conference for work followed immediately by a bad cold (my entire, big office is a coughing, phlegmy mess right now and two of my co-workers are off sick…). Had you asked me five years ago if I’d ever consider joining a gym, I would’ve laughed in your face, but actually, I like gyms! And there are probably jerks and meatheads who go there who I haven’t encountered yet, sure, but everyone I have is super nice. Especially when you go to classes, there’s a quiet sense of camaraderie, you get chatting to people and everyone is – gasp – not actually horrible just because they go to the gym regularly. We’re all there for the same thing at the end of the day!

Are you a gym person?  If not, what’s your favourite way to get your exercise?

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