There is a moment in life when you get so caught up in daily activities that you stop appreciating the simplicity and beautify of physical exercise. You keep telling yourself that you are just too busy to go to the gym, or to go running, or to do any kind of exercise for that matter. You are however aware of your fluctuating weight and the intake of calories that are quite often related to the level of stress and the lifestyle that we lead. You decide to go on a diet, but you quickly discover that denying yourself foods you like isn’t helping, but only makes you moody and short-tempered. You want to lead a healthy lifestyle, but your mind is constantly fighting your body and vice versa. Making yourself feel bad about it isn’t of any benefit either. It’s not really mind over body, you discover; what you need is retuning your mind and your body to want the same thing – the best for you.
I have always been somehow involved in sports; from competitive sports such as handball or running at school, through fairly regular exercises mostly based on how I felt at the time, gym after work to feel less like a blob of laziness to krav maga for a couple of years; through all these times I always managed to get myself to the brink of improved self-image, but I never understood why I hadn’t managed to continue with any of these. Until I employed a personal trainer and, quite frankly, someone was there that was not taking my “no”, or “I can’t” for an answer and to every “help me” he would answer “no, you have to do it yourself”. No, he’s not there with me during every training session, but he did write a program for me which I need to follow to the letter and, being my compulsive self, I do. As a result of it, along the way I noticed so many things changing in the way that I perceived my life choices that I decided to compile a list and share it with you.
Here are some points I managed to write down over the last few months on how physical exercise changes the way we think about life:
1. You stop appreciating the gym-based vanity fair.
When your mind is set on the workout which lays ahead of you, you complete it, and you sweat, and you look terrible, smell terrible and, you just can’t understand how anyone can take a selfie and post it online saying “look how I work out”.
You also give yourself a point every time you are not acting on your impulse to tell someone to kindly get off the machine you need when the sole reason for them occupying it is to take photos with a complete hair-do, full make-up, not a drop of sweat, munching on something and choosing the best filter.
2. The importance of buying good and comfortable gym clothes.
The reason why you start working out may be because you simply want to be healthier, but, quite often, you just looked at yourself in the mirror and you remembered your fitter self. Going to the gym with rubbish workout clothing doesn’t do you justice, because if you feel uncomfortable and unattractive, it will reflect on your performance. Instead, it’s more beneficial to invest in the workout clothes that fit you well and make you feel like a goddess, or a god, if you are a man. I guarantee that you will take much more pleasure in your workout when you feel good about the way you look.
3. You embrace the sweat.
This is a hard one. If you don’t like sweating, then any wet patch under your armpit causes you to flip. However, if you actually work out the way that is going to change your body and mind then I can pretty much guarantee that your armpits will not be the only places that became subjected to excessive perspiration. You will need to wipe your eyes from the sweat dripping from your eye brows and after each workout you will have to peel the gym clothes off. In short, embrace the sweat. It’s your new best friend.
4. You stop comparing your body to those around you.
At the beginning you are very conscious of yourself working out among other people. Then you notice that no one is actually looking at you. Then you start working out and you’re too busy trying to retain a steady breath. Yes, you notice six-packs around you, but you also notice people in a worse shape than you.
You realise that you are all on the journey and no one is judging you and therefore you don’t wish you had someone else’s body. You see your body changing and this is the greatest reward.
5. On the day that you feel particularly fat, you discover that this is really just your imagination. It may be truer for women than men, but we have days when nothing can convince us that we look good. I promise though that the day you feel particularly fat on, you look just as amazing as 4 hours before; you’re just used to putting yourself down. Also, remember, the hormones play tricks on us. So give up on an argument every once in a while, it may not be you talking.
6. The pace doesn’t matter.
Sometimes you wish the changes took place quicker, but unless you take steroids, your body will only change as quickly as it is genetically programmed to change. As a facilitating activity, you can take your full body pictures once a week or once every fortnight. You will see the change and you will realise that the speed of the progress doesn’t matter, as long as you keep moving forward. So don’t put yourself down for not having that six-pack yet, or not getting that promotion you are waiting on. Life has its own pace. You do everything you can to make each day count, but don’t worry about tomorrow.
7. Your sports bra is both your friend and your foe.
Sports bras are made for at least one purpose. To make sure you look like a Wonder Woman. I swear they must be bullet-proof because once they are on, nothing escapes them and nothing gets under them. They are a god-send when you work out, holding everything in place, but they are a pain to take off when you are done for the day and dripping with sweat. You find yourself performing a very peculiar dance trying to get them off.
8. Some exercises will make you feel sick.
Some, correction, all of the exercises on my list push me to my limits, but there are some that sometimes actually make me feel quite sick. In those moments I just take a short break and remember that I only have another three series left and that time will pass anyway, whether I complete the exercise or not, but the outcome will depend solely on whether I give up or push forward. The most rewarding things in our lives are often the hardest ones to complete. Just, don’t give up yet.
9. You re-learn your anatomy.
One day you will be doing the most ordinary activity and you will notice something odd on your body. A closer examination will reveal that there is a muscle where you thought there weren’t any muscles. That’s the moment you have to contain your smile, because people will think that you won a million pounds, dollars or whichever currency you abide by and they will react very badly when they hear your explanation that you just discovered a new muscle.
10. Regardless how many kilograms you lift you learn not to make a peep. Ever.
Working out is hard. Sometimes you pant and sometimes you scream when the muscles feel like they are going to pop (especially when you are doing crunches). But the first time you make noise you notice interested looks, so you quickly learn to keep it to yourself. Sometimes you hear some prime mates giving out battle cries as they dead lift 150kg, but you do not dead lift 150kg and you are not a prime mate. And no, you are not looking for a mate at the gym either.
11. There are moments when you’re asking yourself whether or not the gym became your new relationship.
You began to put aside time for exercise very religiously. You friends start hearing the word “gym” much more than anything else. You start building your schedule around essential activities like work, school, food and gym. When someone is asking you out on a date, you choose the non-gym day to make sure that you have time to get ready. You also automatically disqualify any man who is asking you to “skip” the gym to see him instead.
12. There are moments when you question yourself about the meaning of your life.
You still get moments when you want everything to happen quickly. This is particularly true with people who suffer from lack of patience. You will doubt the need for everything, including exercise, on the day that you feel you are not making any progress. This is also a fact, that the moment you workout more you notice more fat on your body, which makes no biological sense, but it’s driving you crazy. You will feel like giving up.
Don’t ever give up. You are making progress, but sometimes a new muscle won’t just pop up to encourage you. You just need to hang on there for a while and continue even though you don’t feel like anything is changing in your life. You will notice that you’ve gotten stronger with the struggle and, ultimately, this is the greatest change.
13. You use any opportunity to work out.
14. You stop craving junk food and so you’ve run out of comfort options.
At some point your body knows what it needs as you keep sweating out the toxins and eat healthier to sustain the growing needs. With every week of exercise and increased care, what you eat will reset your body and mind to what it actually needs. Junk food becomes less desired and so you run out of known comfort-food options. This one is a very difficult one to deal with, because there are days when you just need chocolate, but your body doesn’t want it. Remember that you can simply be creative, prepare and store your own treats which would hit the spot, but also be good for you. You will also avoid the feeling of hopelessness when you don’t know how to deal with the problem of wanting something sweet but not knowing what to choose.
15. That leaves you with alcohol.
This is the follow up on point 14. However, you can’t drink too much because of your schedule, you know, gym in the morning. So you choose gym over alcohol. That takes you back to point 14.
16. You realise that working out is not a quick fix. (You won’t lose two sizes in a week.)
It is hard to accept it because, after all, you need to feel better quickly, no? But losing weight, or working up muscles, or feeling stronger isn’t going to happen overnight. Still, good things are worth working for.
17. Self-gymming isn’t going to take you far.
Unless you are a trained personal trainer and a nutritionist, you need someone to guide you and explain to you how your body will progress and why. They will also create a program for you that your body can take, not the one that you will limit yourself with.
18. You won’t lose your stomach before tonight’s dinner party even if you work out one whole day.
Sorry to break it down so frankly. But, this doesn’t mean that you should give up trying to change that. Only for tonight it may be best to wear some spandex granny knickers to hold it in together so you can still look fabulous knowing that in a few months you won’t need that accessory at all.
19. It will happen that you miss an occasional workout.
It simply happens. Don’t beat yourself over it. Sometimes you can remedy it by going to the gym two days in a row, but sometimes there is just nothing you can do about it. Don’t think that you screwed up. You didn’t. Just continue pushing and it will take you to where you want to get. After all, it’s all about the journey.
20. You feel better about yourself.
That’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because this is why you’re doing it in the first place, but a curse, because the moment you see an outline of your future six-pack, you think that you look amazing and therefore you can skip the entire month of workout. If your goal is that six-pack then you keep pushing and pushing until you get it and then, you push further. Just as there is no stop to our intellectual education there is no stop to the physical development. Stopping means backsliding.
21. Time will pass anyway.
Whether you workout towards your goal or sitting on the sofa eating chips and watching movies, the time will pass anyway.
22. Treat yourself.
We all house an inner child within us. Go out and treat yourself. You’ve worked hard. You deserve it.