So…. A year ago I wrote a blog post about getting healthy. It was called “My 12 Week Fitness Challenge”
The fact that it was actually written over 52 weeks ago should give you a bit of a clue as to how successful that entire endeavour was…
Well, I’ve been going to the gym for the last 8 weeks and it’s going well.
This isn’t going to be a blog post about what to do when you’re at the gym, nor is it about diet, macros, nutrition windows or anything like that. Simply because I have no idea what I’m talking about regarding all of that.
I have a rough idea for me. But I’m a very special animal and none of my advice is usable for the majority of people. I lose weight relatively easily. I eat irregularly to the point I was accidentally engaged in intermittent fasting for a month and I only started using protein shakes because they were on offer.
What I can offer is a little bit of advice for anyone who, like me, was concerned about heading back into the gym.
There you go, step 1. Start.
I have been going to the gym in some capacity or another since I was about 16. When I first went, I’d go at 6am before college, 5 days a week. I had no idea what I was doing (some would argue that is still the case) but God bless me, I tried.
One thing which remained consistent throughout all my on-again-off-again relationship with exercise is that starting is the hardest part. I would read books about the best exercises, learn to cook healthy food, tell everyone I was going to start at the gym… basically everything short of just turning up.
If you want to do something, the hardest part is getting started. Even if you have setbacks, overcoming those is much easier than getting there in the first place. So, if you’re thinking of going to the gym, go. Just once. You’ll see it gets much easier.
Shut up about it…
It has been proven by a scientist somewhere that people crave validation. I clearly want it, I write a blog. So when you tell people you’re going to start exercising and being healthy, they congratulate you. Guess what happens next… Nothing.
Once you’ve received the glory of people high fiving you for mentioning the word “gym” in a sentence, you don’t crave the need to actually go. It’s psychology at it’s finest. Telling people about all your plans gets you adulation and satisfaction. So don’t tell a goddamn soul* you’re planning to go to the gym, or start running or whatever. Just do it and they’ll soon notice a difference.
*Unless you’re accountable to someone. Don’t just up and leave for a few hours a day under a veil of secrecy… that will probably start an argument… especially if you come back sweaty.
Around the 5th time I was going to the gym regularly, I went with my friend Nico. Dude is a beast. He’s about half the size of me but I’m pretty sure he could curl me. He doesn’t look like it, he’s just densely packed, like mutton. Anyway, while we were training, I was smashing plateaus and PBs and other bro-talk.
We both became busy with work and stopped going. Months later, I signed up to another gym and honestly thought I could pick up where I left off. Bench 120kg? Pfffft, of course… Deadlift 240kg? Like some weak ass trick? Sure, I’ll give it a go…
Spoiler alert… I could not do either of those things and I made a complete idiot of myself trying. Instead of taking the grown up option of starting again, rebuilding my strength and working up to those weights, I quit. Like a child.
The point I’m trying to make is that whether you’ve never stepped foot in a gym before or you’ve just had some time off, you’re not as strong as you think you are. Hell, you probably don’t even know how strong you are (yet). Get in there, start off light and work your way up. Your spine and aching muscles will thank you (and, by proxy, me) for it later.
Don’t be scared
One of the most common things you hear about the gym is that people are terrified of the “Meatheads”. You know who I mean, those massive, almost exclusively dudes who are more veins than man and wear string vests because going topless gets you thrown out. They’re dominating the weights section of the gym with their grunting and throwing weights on the floor. There just isn’t space for you and your waif like frame.
The thing is, 90% of those guys are actually nice, friendly and helpful. I’m not saying that you should pester them, at all, (Dudes are huge!) but don’t be scared of them. It’s a common misconception that they are elitist and snobby about who can use their equipment. The truth is that they were once like you. One or two may have been grown in a lab, and they’re super happy about human contact. The rest know how difficult it can be to get started.
So, if you need a spot and one guy is stood there, ask him. If he’s busy, he will let you know.
If one of them is using a machine you want, wait til he finishes his set and ask how long he will be. You can even go so far as to ask him to let you know when he’s finished. They really don’t mind helping people out.
Why are you doing this?
I was going to go with “Don’t Quit” as the final chapter to this epic treatise on getting off your arse but I thought I’d wrap up a few lingering issues under one banner.
So, why are you doing this? Do you want to get stronger, fitter, more toned, out the house for a bit? All of those are good reasons, but you need to think about why you’re doing it at all. Do you want to get stronger to be stronger? So you can hold yourself a little taller, maybe lift 2 boxes at work instead of one? Great reasons, no one likes making 2 journeys.
Do you want to get fitter for sports reasons. I don’t sport so just put in your own incredible turn of phrase here. Kicking… something?
Do you want to get more toned and be a bit more confident in yourself? Grand, have at you.
The key to any and all of those reasons is that you do it for you. Don’t ever start going to the gym to impress someone else. I don’t know you, but you don’t need to impress anyone but yourself. If you go to the gym thinking that you’re going to get proper hench and chiselled, you’re going to hit moments which make quitting so much easier. If you go because you want to feel better about yourself, trust me random stranger, you will.
I go to the gym for something to do which involves exercising something other than my thumbs, which are pretty beefy actually, getting a bit of exercise so I don’t die quite so early and to get me out of the house. I have no need to be in shape or stronger. But it’s just nice that I am.
So go for yourself and you’ll never want to quit. Because then you’ll disappoint yourself and you have to live with that person… they hold grudges.