In my previous posts, I have touched on two topics which affect my life: vanity and motivation, so it only feels right for the third post to combine them. In 2013, I left my life as I knew it and moved to Sheffield for University. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, I was leaving my body, as I knew it, at home with my parents too.
First year of living in halls is like living in a bubble. A bubble that apparently nutrition and wise decision making cannot penetrate. I estimate it took 3 months for my diet to descend into complete anarchy and by the second term I was trapped in a cycle of over indulging and under exercising. Predictably, I put on a noticeable amount of weight. However, it crept up on me so I didn’t notice for an alarmingly long time considering I was so self-absorbed. Anyway, by the time I graduated and moved back home, the takeaways had taken their toll and I had to face the consequences of my eating in the mirror every day.
I ignored it for a long time but the last straw was about two years ago when I was in the bath and tried to avoid looking at my reflection in the tap. A definite low point for someone who stops to observe themselves in a car window. This acted as my turning point; I was unhappy with my physique, size 8 was but a murky memory to me and size ten was a couple of pizzas away from a similar fate.
Long story short, I joined the gym.
Over the course of the last two years I have been going to the gym at least 3-4 times a week consistently. Although my body is finally back to being the way I like it during the process of getting here I have encountered many of the common issues fitness faces us with. When you make the decision to change your lifestyle and get into the gym, you can always expect there to be growing pains (and actual pain in this case come to think of it). Now, as 2018 draws to a close, I consider myself to have become somewhat of a gym whisperer, and a generous one at that, so in preparation for the January resolution buzz, I have decided to offer some advice. I hope my hard earned insights can be of help to you all in your quest to become sickeningly healthy.
- Ladies don’t be afraid of the men
First things first; men do not have any ownership over the weights section. ‘Yeah, obviously’ I hear you cry, but trust me, when you get in there and your find yourself next to a behemoth dropping weights that are bigger than your head everywhere, you will seriously consider running to the safety of the cardio section.
It’s a weird feeling, considering it is the only place that people with less muscle should be, yet it is the ones already weighed down by theirs that are comfortable being there.
NO MORE is my plea to you.
The only way to start feeling at home in the weights section is to put some empowering music on your phone, strut in there, pick up the 4kgs and go for it. After a couple of weeks I promise that you will feel at home there and scoff that you ever felt differently. Before you know it, you will be telling Tim in his vest to move over, you want to flex in the mirror too!
In all seriousness though, cardio is good for losing an initial bit of fat, but to build the body you want and see plastered all over the place, you need to create some muscle. By doing so you can take advantage of perception. Want a smaller waist? Build your shoulders and bam, you have the illusion in all its tapered glory. Building muscle not only speeds up your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories, but it will make sure you stay in proportion, or help you change your proportions if that’s your goal. You can build whatever kind of body you desire, just get in that weight section!
- Don’t rely on motivating yourself. You. Will. Fail.
This one sounds weird, but the reality is, that little voice in your head whose job it is to shame you for being lazy and force you to get up and do stuff, can be a bit lazy too.
Don’t be surprised if after a month or so your resolve begins to dissolve and you’re back to eating peanut butter with a spoon (a random example in no way related to my life…)
I combated my ability to down play how much I needed to go to the gym by following people on social media who make me hate myself a little bit. This sounds like a toxic piece of advice I know but it honestly works for me. If I am in bed scrolling through social media, it isn’t going to be one of my friends who sparks this reaction from me. I need to be bombarded with physical examples of what I want and, because I am still in bed, don’t yet have.
This works for me because I am depressingly aware of what distracts me on a daily basis. Therefore this solution is tailored to help me snap into action, the possibly attainable carrot tantalisingly dangled from the pull up machine. This can be changed to fit different people’s habits of course. If you honestly assess your habits and locate what is becoming a hindrance to your activity then you can create your own solutions. My friend, for example, leaves notes to herself and pictures of her ‘dream body’ randomly in the pages of books she is reading, because she knows books can swallow at lot of her time.
Do what works for you but do something because it is really, really difficult to keep your motivation up without a little bit of help here and there.
- You’ve got to organise to capitalise
This is a common tip you can find on most fitness pages which only serves to prove how true it is. Creating structure around your workouts and your diet helps immensely in your journey to becoming the envy of everyone you know. Many fitness influencers publish their own workout guides that you can purchase but I don’t think it is really necessary. I spent a lot of time on YouTube and Instagram finding people whose bodies I wanted to emulate and watching the movements they did in their videos. In addition to this, rather than pay for a personal trainer, I watched other people’s personal training sessions in the gym while I was there and basically stole their plans. #sorrynotsorry
By combining these two cheap and fool proof methods, I made my own plan until I became familiar with what each exercise did for my body and how they could be grouped, tweaking as I went. Now I split my workouts by muscle groups which I why I can go to the gym 4-5 times a week without damaging my muscles. This helps to stop your workouts getting too repetitive which limits your interest and enthusiasm for the gym but also your progress. Muscles get accustomed to exercises after a while and they become less effective, unless you are increase the weight constantly.
Organising your diet is also important I think. Go shopping with meals in mind and try to plan your week as best you can. I don’t like to do meal prep because I never know what I am going to feel like eating, so if you’re fickle like me you definitely need to make sure you have a few healthy options in the fridge waiting. I would also recommend getting the MyFitnessPal app as well so you can track what you’re eating. I was horrified at the information that I had been eating pasta for a family of 4 with ease for the majority of my life. That being said, be mindful of what you’re eating and how much but don’t starve yourself, you need to eat to speed up your metabolism if nothing else. Eat a balanced, fresh diet and exercise regularly and you will be laughing.
There are many other things I could go into on this topic but these are the main three that I wanted to share. I could always write a follow up post to this another time if that’s what the people wish, let me know.
My last word on the topic is at least give yourself 8 weeks of serious training and commitment, once you see results you won’t need any more help.
Enjoy your journey to health, it’s horrible but well worth it.