I cannot believe that I signed up for the gym at the end of October last year. It feels like time flew by and I joined yesterday, and at the same time I can’t remember how it was like before.
I started going to the gym regulargly, instead of doing at-home workouts and going running for different reasons. It all started because, as there wasn’t enough room even for my 5’1 figure to do at-home workouts I had to go running. Emphasis on the “had to” here. I don’t enjoy running and it gives me knee and ankle aches. As I knew the weather was going to turn colder, it would rain more and the nights would be falling earlier, I knew it wasn’t going to last.
The thing is, I need exercise, and I realize it now more than ever – but more on that later. I knew that if I wanted to keep my anxiety under control, I needed to keep working out. So I decided to check the gyms around my area and decided on one that was 5 minutes from a tram stop, and 15 minutes by foot from my apartment. Brilliant. I checked the prices and I was okay with them so I decided to go have a trial session with a then, friend of mine who wanted to join as well.
I’ve been absolutely loving it from the start. I love the energy of a class, the fact that there are coaches checking postures and moves and overall, it love how practical it is: you have a trainer who knows what they are doing, they teach me new moves and know what to do for which areas of the body, for how long, how many reps etc. I also love that I can push myself. Classes mean that I can really push my limits and keep on going no matter how hard it is or how tired I feel. After the 45 minutes classes, I always feel on top of the world, super strong -and sweaty – and mentally great. I’m not saying that some days are not harder than others, because that’s not true. Some days I just don’t feel like going and would much rather go home instead. But I know that once I’m there and usually after 10 minutes, I feel so much better. My heart is pumping, I’m working on my breathing, I’m working on my health, my body, my mental health and just knowing how great I’ll feel after helps me to keep going. And to be honest, a 45 minutes class with music goes by quite quickly.
Ever since I started, I go to the gym 3 (to sometimes 4 when I was at college) times a week with 2 days of classes and 1 day of using machines. I’ve arranged my internship schedule so that it fits my end of day classes and I love that. Whenever I don’t go, I take the tram until my stop and then walk the 15-minute walk until my apartment to still get some physical activity.
Another reason worth mentioning that motivated me to join the gym was weight loss. I felt quite unsatisfied with my weight and how my body looked so instead of just hating my reflection in the mirror I decided to do something about it. I have to say that weight and precisely the number on the scale have always been an issue for me, as it is for my mom, so I have to focus hard not to care too much about that. One other amazing thing about my gym is that they provide free weighting sessions. So once a month or once every 5 weeks I go and get weighted before my workout to know the evolution of my weight, my water content, fat, muscles, viscus and the age of my metabolism. It has been amazing at helping me stay focused and not bothering about my weight but rather the progress of my muscle gain and fat loss.
Of course, I’ve also adjusted how I eat. I wouldn’t say that I ate very badly before that, I’ve always been conscious about what I put in my body and how it makes me feel but it definitely needed some changes. To be fair, I still don’t think how I eat is perfect. I know that if I limit myself and don’t indulge every once in a while, I will fail. It’s the same for everyone, even one of my trainer told me that. So what I do is that I try to eat clean throughout the weak meaning a good healthy fueling breakfast, a balanced lunch and dinner with protein, vegetables and carbs (either complex carbs or white rice or pasta if my boyfriend has already cooked or I feel like it), but I try my best to be reasonable on the carb portion.
However, I like to have one or two “cheat meals” a week, usually a Thursday and Saturday nights or just once a week. I like knowing that I can still treat myself and not feel like I’m on a diet. I’m not on a diet, it’s a lifestyle and the difference is very important. What matters is balance. Of course, some times (or time of the month…) it’s harder because I’m more tired and don’t want to cook or I just want to eat carbs or I’m not motivated. There are always lows. And sometimes, I just feel like eating that cookie and or that pasta dish and not care about it. All that matters is to go back on track, which luckily I always do because I feel so much better when I eat well. When I eat a cheat meal, I always feel sluggish and heavy. I feel fatter and not in shape. But when I eat better I don’t feel like that, and boy that makes a difference.
One of the biggest thing that the gym has changed is my mental health. It has been a huge change. It is common knowledge that exercise is good for the mind but honestly, for any anxiety sufferer out there, you need to try it because it will make a big difference. It really helps me to sweat things off, to work things out. Even physiologically it does amazing things to your mind by releasing endorphins and generally speaking having your heart pumping and working on yourself helps you to feel better.
I’m so glad to say that for the past 6-month, except for a few brief periods of exams or other stressful moments, my anxiety has been very manageable. I feel mentally stronger and that the gym really helps with that. I always can feel the difference when it’s been a few days I haven’t been. A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday I started to feel a bit too anxious for my liking and my boyfriend pointed out that I had been to the gym on Thursday night but not since. And indeed, I went that night and my anxiety was way more manageable. Of course, there are always some bumps in the road but that’s normal. That’s life. And you need to remember that life is tough, but so are you.
Physically, I don’t think I’ve ever felt stronger. I have arm strength! I have great quads! My abs are super strong (it you don’t count the lingering layer of fat on top, working on that still…), my back is strong, my stamina is great and I sleep way better than I used to. That’s also one of the main reason if not the main reason I love going to the gym. I feel so effing strong. And I love that.
To anyone who is playing with the idea of joining a gym, do it, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. It will be hard at the beginning but if you stick to it you will start feeling and seeing the difference and trust me, you’ll feel so great about yourself.