Tales From a Non-Athlete Learning to Work It Out

19 Mar

image from motivationintohabit on tumblr

So I mentioned earlier that I joined a gym. It’s been two weeks to the day since I started actually attending and exercising. So far I have seven hour-long classes under my belt, two personal training sessions, and three on-my-own running days. (Before you ask, no, I don’t go every day. More like every other day. My gym has an awesome class list on Monday and Saturday where power yoga comes right after step class, so I get a twofer benefit by planning to stay for two hours.) I’ve had days where I leave the gym feeling like I could climb a mountain. I’ve had days where I call A on my way home crying in frustration. I’ve had days where I feel like I could go for a third hour, and days where I feel like my legs are filled with cement. (Usually the latter happens on days where I had more than a little to drink the night before. Funny, that.) Despite setting a ridiculous physical goal for myself last year and meeting it, I am not what anyone would call athletic. This has been especially true since I started fighting S.A.D. For the last three years a desk job and lack of activity has helped me grow to have an alarming body fat percentage and sixty pounds of excess weight to lose. Even more than putting goals to get healthy on The List, I’m very motivated to change my habits before I turn thirty and physical fitness becomes even harder to achieve. Not that it’s not possible – if Biggest Loser has taught me anything it’s that anything is possible no matter how old you are – just that it may be harder. As a lifelong non-athlete, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned in my vast experience as a two-week-old hard-core gym goer.

Belonging to the same gym your friends do makes all the difference.
Three of my girlfriends belonged to my gym before I did. The first week I joined, my friend Dianne (my unofficial life-coach) texted me four times to see if I wanted to meet her at the gym. Even if she isn’t going, she regularly asks me if I am. Talk about motivation. I get to catch up with my friend Hanna at step class (and try to copy her killer moves), and Mandy and I make plans whenever her crazy work schedule allows her to meet up. Even if we’re not doing a class, we’ll often text each other to say we’re going and try to meet up. It’s fun, it definitely helps me in my goal to have Friends Without Food dates, and we’ve hung out after workouts a few times to have dinner or grab a smoothie and discuss life, books, or whatever. I know I’d go even if I was just me, but having them there is a super boost of motivation.

I’m so much more likely to go when my gym feels like a spa.
I’ve done the dingy, poorly air-conditioned gyms. I’ve done the cramped circuit training specialty gyms. Walking into a gym that feels airy, open, and clean is amazing. It really has an atmosphere that feels more like a spa that you happen to work out it. It smells clean instead of sweaty, and employees walk around every ten minutes making sure everything is wiped off, refreshed, and sanitized. Speaking of employees, I’ve dealt with many in my two weeks, and they are so far from the bored co-ed more interested in flirting with their co-worker than answering your question it’s not even funny. Everyone acts like it’s a singular pleasure to see you when you walk in, help you if you have a question, or tell you about new classes. It’s lovely.

To get sold-out on exercise, everyone must find their thing that they love to do.
For me, this is running and classes. I’m always fighting to turn off my mind, and there’s nothing like going for a run to reduce life down to something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. This isn’t to say all kinds of running works for me. I hate running on a treadmill. I’ll do it (I melt in the rain, you know) but nothing makes me feel more free than watching scenery pass as I run by. As much as I like being alone with my thoughts on a run, I’m so much more motivated if I meet people for a run. That’s because I’m super social, and being around people motivates me. Which is why classes really work for me. I’m so blessed to have friends at my gym, but even knowing there’s a whole room of strangers meeting up to work out really works for me. I’m more and more convinced that everyone has something they can get into exercise-wise, if they only cared to find it.

I have no core.
At all. My trainer has been working with me to build core muscles and overall lean muscle to help support my running. I can do a wussy plank for 30 seconds before collapsing. But that’s fifteen more seconds than I could do the first time. My core is sore for days after we meet, but I’m becoming aware of muscles I didn’t know I had before. I have to build my core and lean muscle mass, because it will make me a stronger runner, better at yoga (also on The List), and (one day) make bearing a child easier.

It’s all mental.
The more I learn about my body, the more I realize that I am limited only by my own belief in myself. Working out with a trainer has really underlined the truth of that for me. My trainer tells me I can do something I haven’t done before, and I psych myself out before I get there. It reminds me of the first time I ran a whole mile. I was running with a TNT mentor, and I wanted to drop down to a walk after a few minutes. He kept urging me on, saying to try to keep it up for just a little longer. Until I hit a mile. Without realizing it. I kind of shut down a bit and decided to turn back, since that was the farthest I’d moved in a long time, much less ran. On my way back, I decided to keep running and see what I could do. I kept wanting to stop, and after almost giving in a few times I did a physical check on how my body was doing. Was I breathing hard? Yes, but it was a normal amount and manageable. Was my heart feeling stressed? No. Were my legs tired? Nope. Feet? Nuh-uh. Which left only one thing; I’d never run that far before, so my brain was reacting by sending signals along the lines of, “danger, danger, this in uncharted territory. You’ve never done this before, you’d better stop before something scary happens.” Only nothing scary was coming. After that, I’ve done my darndest to not self-sabotage just because I haven’t done something before. Which brings me to my next point…

I’ll try (almost) anything once.
Kick boxing, Yoga, Zumba, Boot Camp, Core Focus, Pilates, you name it, I want to take it. But, as I said earlier it’s important to know yourself. I have no interest in water aerobics or anything involving spinning. You have to be a very special kind of crazy person to enjoy strength training while perched on a hard, skinny bicycle seat.

If losing weight were easy, everyone would do it.
It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. Working out, especially with a trainer has made me face some uncomfortable realities about myself. I’ve never learned to work out, and I’ve not been a good steward of the body I’ve been blessed with. It’s like going to therapy. It’s not pleasant, it doesn’t feel great in the moment, but I go through it because, ultimately, being healthy worth it.

5 Responses to “Tales From a Non-Athlete Learning to Work It Out”

  1. Sis March 19, 2012 at 7:07 am #

    I’ve found that it helps so much more to have someone next to me to motivate me. I don’t know what I’d do without my running partner.

  2. Cara Olsen March 19, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    L.O.V.E. this post!!! And may I just say how proud of you I am. I’m well aware of what it takes mentally, physically, emotionally to keep going (That Jillian Michael’s quote, btw — I was cracking up! Sounds like something she would say . . . LOL), and make yourself go when you’re tired or sore. The aftercare is nearly as difficult as actually doing the exercises. For the first few weeks you’re SOO hungry and you go through this gamut of schizophrenic emotions including, but not limited to: pride, denial, intense fury (usually when you want a snack, but shouldn’t have one), despondency, and my personal favorite, derangement.

    “I’m so much more likely to go when my gym feels like a spa.”
    You nailed this one on the head for me. Because I spent so much of my teen-life being over-weight and out of shape, I know that I will never allow myself to “go” again, but what I have noticed is that, since joining the Sport club vs. the Active, I enjoyyy going to the gym — I look forward to it. Spa, pool, high-end locker room, showers, HUGE facility. I could hardly ask for more in a gym.

    Rootin’ for you, Christy. Get them core muscles, girl!!


    • Christy A. March 19, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      I’m going to add one that says “I’m more likely to go if I post it online and have Cara pump me up.” I was totally debating only hitting yoga tonight, but after a comment like that, how can I not do step as well? You rock, Cara!

      • Cara Olsen March 19, 2012 at 10:36 am #

        YAY!!! You step and then you step some mo’! And when you get tired, just hear my voice — something melodic and encouraging, with a pinch of Jillian Michaels’ ferocity — telling you what a stud you are. 🙂 If that doesn’t work — picture Pinkberry. ❤


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