Picture this: it’s May of my freshman year of college, and despite my best efforts, the Freshman 10 or 15 have creeped their way in. While I had always been super active in Middle School & High School — rushing around to classes, playing sports, taking dance for gym credit, and bopping around the stage in school musicals — I hadn’t found anything else “active” to take the place of that in college. Even more importantly, my diet had suffered. I had gone from simple, minimally processed, balanced meals at home, to an all you can eat college buffet, filled with overly processed options.
As it does for most people, it took me by surprise! I had the realization sometime in the winter that my clothes weren’t quite fitting the same. I had never been to a gym before, and I had definitely never been a runner. I started slowly, mostly hitting the elliptical and other cardio machines. By May I had lost a bit of the weight, but I still didn’t feel confident in my body; and I definitely didn’t feel like I had found a sustainable way to keep fit that I actually enjoyed! Enter….weights and circuit training!
A Ray of Hope
My godmother, who was around 60 at the time, had been going to a small women’s gym in our town. She saw that I was feeling a bit frustrated, and encouraged me to start coming along and working out with her. At first I was hesitant… but when I said yes, it was seriously the best decision I ever made! Every other day, I would head over to the gym, which was owned and operated by a fantastic female trainer. There were strength machines set up around the perimeter of the gym, and in between she had other free-weight stations set up with special exercises of the week. There were also special themes each day! Some days you would focus on isolating each side individually; some days would focus on stamina, so you would hold the lift for longer, or release it more slowly. I learned SO much just by showing up and letting her walk me through the circuit; and since it was always changing, it stayed interesting. She also had a circuit timer running all throughout the day, so every minute a little bell would chime, and indicate that you should move on to the next station. You could show up and started whenever you want, though…no class times, no pressure…and regardless, you always got individual attention. I loved that little gym, and its incredible how much it changed not just my body, but my mindset.
Carrying the Torch
Once I spent that summer working out at the gym, I started researching fitness and food like crazy! I had been dealing with digestive issues for the previous year or so (more on that soon!), so anything that could help me feel my best, I was ready to try. For a while I tried my best to imitate that circuit-type workout at my school gym, but eventually I taught myself enough through the internet to create my own workouts. Once I felt more comfortable in my skin — and was actually able to see myself as an athlete — I was much more open to trying new things! I started running outside (something I had NEVER done), doing yoga, and trying other workout classes. I’ll be honest, I had always been pretty confident in myself before, in other ways…I did well in school, I had musical talent, and I was content enough with my looks :p. But, I cannot reiterate the change that I felt when I really started to feel strong and physically competent.
Do you, Boo
All this being said, my biggest recommendation when it comes to discovering fitness is to just get started, and don’t give up trying. It might sound like I found what I enjoyed right away, but really that’s not true! I played soccer as a young kid and I hated it! I played softball in middle school and high school, and enjoyed it, but it was never really something that kept me in shape. I tried volleyball in high school, but team competition just never really drove me. I even danced in school plays, and liked it well enough, but it just never touched my soul or gave me a feeling of competence or confidence. But finding lifting when I was 19 — that was a huge gift. Keep trying new things, and eventually, I promise you will find some kind of activity that you will enjoy.
The amazing thing is, there are SO many options out there these days, and it is MUCH for common for women to publicly be “into fitness” in whatever way suits them. When I first started lifting, I was one of the few women I knew who did anything for fitness other than running. Now, I probably see more women in the gym lifting than men! The change in our culture is palpable, I think things will only continue to get better. It is easier and more acceptable than ever right now for women to include fitness in their lives in a big way, that’s really exciting to me. (Though really, IDGAF what other people think anyway :p )
One other plea that I just have to leave here — please, please, please do not let social media get in your head when it comes to getting started. So much of what you see these days is focused on $$$$$$ and status. I guess that’s the trade off to fitness getting trendy. Nothing against Soul Cycle/Barre/Solid Core, etc., or Lululemon, but…ladies…fitness does NOT need to cost that much. There are gyms or online training programs that can cost you $10 or less a month, OR you can use the internet to find body-weight exercises and just start at home with that! And you can work out just as well in a $15 pair of pants as a $100 pair of pants, I promise. We all want to look good, and to feel good, but take it one step at a time, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be so GLAM. Besides, you’ll be so happy when you’ve reached your first fitness goal and you have some extra $ to buy yourself a new pair of jeans! [Disclaimer….paying a trainer for their time is NOT what I referring to here. Compensating a professional can absolutely be worth it, depending on your goals, and is essentially what I did for that first few months when I was learning to lift at that little gym of mine.]
How did you first get into fitness, and what do you love about it that keeps bringing you back? 🙂 What are some of your struggles in getting started?
Yours in fitness,