Sunday 28 August 2016

My Fitness Journey and The Benefits of Working Out

I started working out properly in 2014, when I'd had enough of waiting for things to happen and instead woke up to the realisation that you have to make things happen for yourself if you want to see a change. I know right, light bulb moment. But since then I've ridden high on the wave of regular exercise, and the low of getting into bad habits when other aspects of life take over. As with anything, it's a journey, but persistence is certainly key to get yourself out the other end of a slump!

In 2014, I was working out with a gym partner, she was working towards her wedding and I was just glad to have a friendly face who would share my pain at being in the gym so early, as well as having the motivation to get to the gym in the morning because your partner is there and you can't not go. That meant in 2014, getting up and going to the gym was actually relatively easy, I had a routine, it worked, there was a social element to it too, all good. It also meant I didn't have to put myself on any crazy diet for holidays or things because I was already in good shape - I'd made it a lifestyle choice, which is a much better and healthier way of going about things. Slow and steady wins the race and all that. 

Then things changed in 2015 when I got a new job, changed gyms but then that gym closed for refurbishment which meant that there wasn't really anywhere as convenient and my priorities began to change. My work social life focused more around after work drinks and not having someone to motivate you in the gym meant being left to my own devices became a whole lot harder. Other things started to happen to, arguments at home, increasing pressure at work, which all means that it was easier to turn to comfort food and wallow in my misfortune than keep my head in the gym game. 

As a result, towards the end of 2015, start of 2016, working out was not as much as a priority as it had used to be. I found it really hard to find a routine that worked for me, and felt like I was trying to make my old routines work when they just wouldn't, my life was different now and what worked once, didn't work anymore. 

Luckily, my office moved and I was back to being able to go to the gym and walk to work in the morning, which makes life so much easier (trust me, getting on the underground after a workout in the morning is a sure fire way for you to look like a sweaty mess when you emerge at the other end) and I also found a routine that now worked for me and I've been able to sustain. 

That's the key to routines, rather than trying to walk before you run, they need to be maintainable, and if things are thrown up that mean you can't stick to it for one week, or two, that's OK, work around it, or just do what you can, because you know fundamentally you've found a flow you can work with, and once you have that, everything is easier! 

My routine now sees me in the gym five times a week, with a possible run thrown in on the weekend if I fancy. This is the same amount of working out I used to do, at my peak but my routine has changed because I now do two after work spin classes on a Monday and Wednesday, and then work out in the mornings; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. The good thing about this is it mixes up my workouts and also gives me the lie-ins I need during the week as getting up so early (I get up at 5:20am to get to the gym in the mornings) five times a week was just too much without having a friend to meet in the gym like I used to. 

The fact I found my new routine that worked was the first tick in the box for me, the second was maintaining it. I've also become a regular face in the gym, which makes the experience much more enjoyable, especially in the mornings, where it is a bit of a 'club'; there are always the same faces there outside of the gym at 6:30 ready to get in and get on, and you've seen each other round long enough you kinda know each others habits and almost silently work round each other too. That in itself makes life easier, they may not be friends, but there is now that knowing smile of the girls and guys that are there when you're there, the small bit of small talk because you start and finish you workouts at the same time etc, that does make you feel like you're part of something. 

The trainers / staff getting to know your habits also makes it easier to keep coming back, they know my name and greet me with smiles and also help motivate. For example I was feeling a bit snuffly the other week, and in my mind I was going to allow myself a Friday off because I was exhausted and I didn't want to be run down for the weekend, but when I was leaving one of the trainers said 'see you same time tomorrow right?', well that put me on the spot, I said yes and felt duty bound to go the next morning because he'd reminded me it was my routine and it was something I did need to commit to! So I went, had a good workout and left with a spring in my step as I always do. 

The final thing that's really got me firmly back into the saddle is the fact I can physically see the changes in my body, and my fitness has increased, both of which prove what I've been doing is working. This is the most encouraging, as getting into shape is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you were in good shape and then fell off the waggon, because you do have to start from the bottom again, and it can be really disheartening, but trust in the process, it will come good again as long as you stick to a system! 

When it does come back, it's great though. There is nothing better than lifting heavier than you have done before, running for longer, or faster than you were able to previously, or looking in the mirror and seeing that your body has begun changing. That your butt is taking shape thanks to all the lunges and squats, that your arms and back are looking stronger and more defined, your thighs are toning up, and your happy with your stomach when you look down. 

It's all progress and the physical manifestation of having put in the grind and effort into something and seeing the results, a truth that hard work pays off, and there is nothing more encouraging to get you back into the gym. 

This is where I'm at now, I've been back in the gym, working in my new routine for three - four months now and the changes are happening and visible. Perhaps not to everyone, but to me and I'm the one who counts right?! After all it's my body, I work out for me, not for anyone else and it's working, I don't need anymore motivation than that to keep going and pushing myself. 

If you need further motivation to work out rather than sit on your sofa and perhaps choose to worry about a situation, see if the following benefits of working out will get you going:

1. It can turn a bad mood into a good mood
Which is always handy when shit hits the fan and you're either concealing some pent up rage or frustrations or you just want to work through it. Whatever it is you're working out for, the positive endorphins released after a workout are a real mood booster. 

2. It's a great way of clearing your head
Especially running, and it goes past so much quicker when you have something on your mind. You almost forget what you're doing and instead you have the peace of mind of being alone, in your own head, working through something that can often give you the clarity you need.

3. Clearer skin
Sweating out all the toxins and crap from your body, does wonders for your skin, plus you drink so much water when you're working out, you're getting rid of the bad and replacing with the good, it's ideal!

4. The positive effects on the rest of your day
By this I mean more energy overall, but then a real tiredness at nighttime as you've expelled so much energy throughout the day. It makes you more focused, alert and prepared to handle what comes your way.

5. It makes you feel good about yourself
Perhaps the most important of them all. You can only work out for you, you can't do it for anyone else, as you have to want to do it in order to make the change, and when you do stick to it and see the changes, its encouraging and there is nothing better than being your own inspiration and motivation to keep going. How awesome is that if you actually think about it? You have committed to improving your body, you are achieving that and seeing your own improvements is enough encouragement to keep going. That my friends is the true representation of being the change you want to see. It starts from within, and its that internal strength that will see you through! 

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