Throughout my life I’ve swung between extremes. From couch potato to gym junky, I excelled at both ends of the spectrum.
At my lowest of lows I found it hard to move or leave the house, battling agoraphobia (the extreme or irrational fear of open or public places), and at other times I would torture myself with fat talk and feelings of guilt, so much so that I couldn’t go a day without going to the gym.
I haven’t been to the gym for years now, ever since I gave up my personal trainer and gym membership because I just couldn’t be bothered anymore (and I’d hurt my wrist). I also think my body – and my mind – were calling for a different type of TLC. Something a lot more kinder to my self.
So what exactly did I learn at the gym?
1. Working out at the gym can be really addictive
Whether it’s the release of endorphins, the adrenalin, the weight loss, muscle gain, or good-looking people, the gym can be addictive once you get over the hurdle of actually showing up.
It’s a fine line. Sure, it’s great to exercise every day in an environment that motivates you, but everybody needs rest and time to recoup. And as someone with an addictive personality and body image issues, it was incredibly easy for me to become addicted to the gym.
It didn’t take long for the anxiety to set in if I missed a day here and there. These feelings quickly developed into ‘fat feelings’ if I missed a day or if I didn’t go to the gym every day of the week… even on a Sunday.
I knew this wasn’t healthy for me. I’d been down that road before, and so I knew it had to end before I ended up an exhausted mess. This is what I remind myself of everytime the thought of joining a gym again pops into my mind. Gyms can be dangerous places for people with body image issues and anxiety.
2. Learn to listen to your body
Everyone’s body is different, therefore every workout affects everyone’s body differently. Just because something works for one person it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you! I encourage you to listen to your body. After all, you know how you feel, no one else does. Personally speaking, my left wrist will never be the same again after over working it and ‘pushing through the pain‘ because my personal trainer told me to. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop doing it. It may hurt for a reason (and not a good reason).
3. Shop around
Those helpful, friendly gym people are really master sales practitioners. I have been suckered more than I am going to admit!Before signing your life away to a gym membership you may or may not get value from, make sure you shop around and take advantage of free trial periods before locking yourself in to a contract. After all, you want to find a place that is flexible to your schedule and budget, where you feel comfortable, where the facilities and classes are good, and where the staff and people are actually friendly. Oh, and I’m positive you can find a gym where you don’t have to lock yourself into a ridiculous contract you will end up having to talk yourself out of.
Before signing your life away to a gym membership you may or may not get value from, make sure you shop around and take advantage of free trial periods before locking yourself in to a contract. After all, you want to find a place that is flexible to your schedule and budget, where you feel comfortable, where the facilities and classes are good, and where the staff and people are actually friendly. Oh, and I’m positive you can find a gym where you don’t have to lock yourself into a ridiculous contract you will end up having to talk yourself out of.
4. Allow your body – and mind – time to recover
Your muscles and overall body needs time to rest and recoup between sessions (yes, it really does!) so it’s really important that you allow yourself some downtime, or at least decrease the intensity of your workouts every second day.
Do yourself a favour and mix it up. Focus on different areas of your body throughout the week. Take a yoga lesson. Sit in the sauna. Treat yourself to a bloody massage. Or why not go for a walk outside in the fresh air?!
5. Are you actually having FUN?
The gym is not for everyone. Seriously. And that’s TOTALLY okay!
I tell ya, if you aren’t enjoying yourself at the gym go do something else. Exercise should actually be fun! It certainly doesn’t have to be torture.
I fully support finding something that is enjoyable. Roller skating, pole dancing, kickboxing, rock climbing, belly dancing, shopping. (Yes, I said shopping. I know my heart races and break out in a sweat when I shop).
6. Good shoes are a must!
If you are going to spend money on anything, make sure that you invest in a good pair of shoes for your workout. Actually, make that two good pairs of shoes: one pair for cardio (like running and walking), and another for weight training and other exercises.
7. Enjoy the quiet periods
Gym’s are best experienced in the quiet periods, say during the day or on Sundays, where you have the pick of the equipment and the room to breathe. Of course, I am an introvert and I find those quiet periods at the gym so much less intimidating with fewer people around. I’m also less paranoid when I see myself in the mirror…
8. Work out gear
I once had a light grey pair of workout pants. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work out…there’s nothing worse than catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror where it looks like you have wet yourself… *cringe*
To prevent any embarrassment, especially when your hunky trainer is spotting you, get yourself some appropriately coloured workout gear – preferably bottoms in black. Oh, and make sure they aren’t see-through – that’s not a good look for anyone, even if you’ve got a rock hard ass!
9. Call in a friend
I loved going to the gym by myself. It was my chance to get out of the house and just tune out. But at other times I felt lonely or out of place (or uncool…). It was during these times that it helped dragging my boyfriend along with me. I could also then rely on him to drive me home afterwards when muscle fatigue kicked in and I couldn’t walk!
10. Gyms are full of Gods and Goddesses…and then there’s people like me
You know the ones I’m talking about! Perfect makeup and hair, hardly breaking a sweat, trendy clothes, great form, perfect breathing…
I don’t know how people do it. I am the least glamorous person when I work out. I breathe like I’m going to have an asthma attack at any minute, sweat buckets the minute I look at a treadmill, and walk around the gym like the klutz I am.
If anyone knows the secret please let me know.
In the end, whether you’re a gym junky or choose to do something a whole lot gentler, it’s important to remember to look after both your body AND you mind because then you will be nurturing your overall wellbeing.