FITNESS PART 1: Starting Out, Goals and PT
The first proper workout I did this year I bottled it 11 minutes and 15 seconds in. I was doing interval training on the bike: high resistance, 10 seconds pushing as hard as I could, 20 seconds going slow and steady, just lightly pushing the pedals round. This is something I did fairly regularly during my gym attempts before, and I’d never felt like this; I got tunnel vision and I thought I was going to throw up. Needless to say, considering I’d lasted just over 10 minutes, I felt pretty disheartened. Now I know that days like this just happen. You’ve been busy, your blood pressure is low, you didn’t hydrate well enough that day, it’s that time of the month. Don’t beat yourself up about it. I think anyone that exercises regularly will tell you this happens to them occasionally, though it happens less and less the fitter you get. Regardless, some workouts are just better than others.
The next week I booked my first personal training session. The gym I joined offered five free appointments to begin with, with a free one every month after that, so I was ready to make the most of these and jumpstart my motivation and confidence in the gym. As I've said a few times on the blog and elsewhere, in terms of fitness I am characteristically pretty lazy. The only thing I really enjoyed as a kid was dance, and since I stopped that in my mid-teens I've mostly relied on running up the stairs in my house for any kind of regular exercise. I've attempted official Gym-Going™️ before, only to get distracted because of a crazy busy month or two at uni. Personal training was something I'd considered to get me out of this rut before, and I was interested to see not only if it made my workouts more challenging (I couldn't cop out at the first wheeze), but also if it made them more consistent. That extra money coming out of my bank account on top of a gym membership and the promise of exact appointments with someone waiting for me seemed to be like the only way to get this lazy arse away from my desk and into the gym. So far, it's worked.
My goals were to become stronger, particularly in my arms and back, to tone up in general, and also to use my body whilst I'm still young and get into good habits with it now before I get any older. I'm so deskbound a lot of the time that I felt I was just turning to mush. I've already become significantly stronger in general, my arms notably so. When I'm not training with my PT, I find myself a lot more comfortable with the equipment in the gym and just being assertive about my time there as opposed to wandering aimlessly and being unsure what to do next. I'm currently aiming for about four sessions a week if I can. I originally intended only to train with my PT once a week, but I've upped this to two because I find it to be a bit more useful.
Although everyone always talks about the mental health benefits of exercise, this is the first time that I've really noticed it. I think in times before I've been so caught up in whether what I'm doing is good enough, or how weak I am, or what to do next that I haven't found my time dedicated to fitness particularly relaxing. Consistency has been key here; now that I'm comfortable in the gym I can enjoy the benefits of a good workout, and I kind of had to push through that initial awkward stage.
Now I know that it's not easy for everyone to join a gym or get a personal trainer, whether that's because of financial or physical/mental health reasons. These are a few tips from a newbie to other newbies, but I know lots of you guys probably know all this stuff already!
- There are so many great at home workouts you can do on YouTube, either with no equipment or with a minimal selection (you can get dumbbells and other bits at quite a reasonable price online). I asked you guys for recommendations on Twitter and I'm going to list them down below; when I go away or don't have access to the gym for whatever reason I'm definitely going to be working some of these into my routine!
- If you want to go to the gym but not so much the PT (PureGym tends to have really flexible and slightly more affordable memberships), then my best advice would be to make yourself accountable to someone, and maybe work out with them. Find someone you trust who won't judge you, that way they can push you a little harder than you would normally go and vice versa. I'm really missing a gym buddy at the moment, I'll take applications.
- As I said above, planning what you'll do ahead of time once you've familiarised yourself with the gym can really help, that way you aren't wandering aimlessly round getting flustered. You can do this with a YouTube workout or with a little bit of research. Targeting one or two areas of the body at a time can be really useful in finding good workouts.
- Playing sport! I hate competitive sports (because I'm way too useless to be as competitive as I am), but if there's something you enjoy doing with friends then don’t worry about all the official weight training and stuff, it's really not necessary for everyone if you can be active some other way.
- I started running. This is truly the last thing I ever expected myself to write. I'm using the Couch to 5k Runner app and it's really great; it eases you into it so that it feels very doable, and there's a specific goal so it doesn't feel like a scary aimless exercise that hurts your soul. You can do this basically anywhere once you have the right shoes.
I'm finding that exercise is one of the few things these days that can get me out my head, and stop me worrying about when I'll next post a video or a blog post, or when I'll fit in time to do this reading or how fast my deadlines are coming up. I'm looking forward to updating you guys in a few months time, and also please let me know what your favourite things are to get yourself moving. I think the next thing I would love to do is start taking more classes, but I'm still a little intimidated by them. I'd like to do some spin or HIIT maybe but also some more fun stuff (maybe it's even time to start dance lessons again...) If you have any great London-based recommendations for classes I am all ears.