There are few words in the English language that can strike fear into the hearts of many so effectively as the word ‘gym’. I am no stranger to this fear – in fact for the first 19 years of my life I never once set foot in a gym. The first time I went I very nearly turned around and walked straight back out. In my mind, I had escalated the gym to some sort of Mecca status – a haven for all the fit, healthy, skinny people to go hang out and run 10 miles on the treadmill without breaking a sweat. For the majority of my adult life – and most of my childhood too – I was not fit and healthy, and I most definitely was not skinny. In my mind, the gym was not the place for me.
Even after joining Weight Watchers I continued to avoid going to the gym – or, indeed, doing any kind of exercise beyond walking the two miles to and from town a few times a week. Predictably, after the first few months of having the weight fall off me like chocolate from a melting Magnum (what!? It’s a warm day! If I want to fantasize about ice cream then I will!), my weight loss slowed down and I became disheartened. I fell off the wagon for a few months and regained just over 1 stone of the 3 stones that I’d lost. Stepping on the scales on the 1st of January and realizing, to my horror, that my weight had crept back up from an embarrassing 16st 11lbs to a mortifying 18st 2lbs was the kick up the butt I needed, and a couple of weeks later I rejoined Weight Watchers and got myself a gym membership.
And I can honestly say that I have never looked back.
I have lost weight consistently since then, mostly due to having completely over-hauled my eating habits, but also thanks in no small part to my regular gym sessions. I won’t pretend that I immediately started working out for two hours five days a week (even as a Literature student with only 6 hours of classes a week I didn’t have that sort of time!), and I won’t say that I loved every session. What I definitely won’t say is that it was easy to motivate myself to go, because it wasn’t, and there were plenty of days when I thought to myself ‘screw it, I’ll go tomorrow instead.’ What I will tell you is that every time I sacked off the gym for coffee with a friend or a lazy day in front of the TV, I regretted it. Not just because I wasn’t getting in any exercise, but also because there was this nagging voice in the back of my head (that incidentally sounds a lot like my mother) which kept telling me that I was wasting my money on a gym membership that I wasn’t using enough. Weirdly enough, I never bailed on the gym for two days in a row…I always got myself back in there the next day to start it all over again.
After a while (quite a long while, if truth be told) I somehow found myself in a routine of gym, studying and socializing that really worked for me. Without making the conscious decision to do so, I had arranged my other commitments (which admittedly aren’t many when you’re an unemployed student) around four trips to the gym every week. Yes, it was still hard to get out of bed some mornings, and yes, I did spend most of my time on the treadmill gasping for breath and cursing my inability to say no to dessert. But I went, and in a perverse sort of way, I actually found myself enjoying it. There is a sense of satisfaction to be achieved from a decent gym session – much like the one that Rosie gets from running. Not only that, but I find that I work harder in the gym than I do when I’m exercising alone. When you’re in a room full of people all pushing their bodies to go that bit further, you don’t want to be the first one to quit. Even if you don’t know the people around you, there is still that inherent competitiveness in all of us that pushes you to go that extra few minutes on the treadmill, to up the resistance a few more notches on the cross-trainer. And you soon find that actually you’re capable of a lot more than you thought you were – all because you didn’t want to stop before the girl next to you did. Human nature is a funny thing.
And while pitting yourself against your fellow gym-goers can be both rewarding and effective, there are also plenty of other ways to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts. A lot of gym memberships include a complimentary induction session with a trainer – a fully qualified professional who can show you the correct way to use the machines and work up a program suited to your individual needs. You can also ask for follow-up meetings with your trainer to assess how you’re getting on after a few months and tweak your program to suit your increased level of fitness – making sure that you continue to push yourself whenever you go.
And then, there are the classes. Oh fitness classes – how I dreaded them. It took me over a year of being a member at my gym to work up the courage to go to a fitness class. The thought TERRIFIED me. I was sure that everyone would be watching me and laughing. Reality is…nobody is taking a blind bit of notice of what you’re doing – they’re too busy making sure they don’t fall off their Step platform or slide of the bike seat in Spin. Classes are great way to really push yourself – particularly high-intensity classes like Body Combat, Body Pump and Spin, which are high cardio and muscle toning classes. All the classes I ever went to had a kick-ass soundtrack and the instructors were all fantastic. My favourite is Spin – something about being on a stationary bike is extremely appealing to someone with no rhythm or co-ordination – but if you’re looking for something slightly lower intensity then there are LOTS to choose from. Most gyms offer a free trial for classes, so you can go along for free and see if it’s for you before committing to do them. Just ask at the reception in your gym and they’ll give you all the information you need.
There is no doubt in my mind that working out regularly at the gym was instrumental to my weight-loss, and its no coincidence that since I left university and haven’t had access to it my weight loss has hit something of a plateau. To me, working out and eating right go hand in hand – if I’ve sweated my guts out in the gym that morning I’m more likely to eat well because I don’t want my hard work to go to waste. And I know that its intimidating and unnerving and a little bit overwhelming for all you gym-virgins out there, but believe me when I say that it can also be extremely motivating and effective as well. I spent years telling myself that the gym wasn’t for me, only to find out that actually its where I do best, where I push myself hardest and get the best results. It might not necessarily be the same for you, but you never know until you try. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find waiting for you on the other side of those doors.
Post written in collaboration with Fit Space Gyms
Post written in collaboration with Fit Space Gyms