I swallowed my pride last week, and told myself to face something I had been putting off: 'oi, get back in the gym!'. As someone who has been very public with health and fitness (for example, this and this) it was a challenge to write this article and admit that I had been struggling with something which I felt should have come much more naturally for me. I know all the benefits and the reasons to get in there especially in terms of beating my depression, but there was just something stopping me.
Now I'm reflecting on it, perhaps the fact I was so public with my training was part of the reason I was so hesitant? I pride myself on not caring about other people's opinions, but sometimes my ego tries to crawl out and make me worry about my image! Not too much mind, I still look a bit like a hermit. More fundamental than this, and a much bigger barrier for me, is my pride in front of myself. Most of us are our own worst critics, and despite mostly being encouraging and supportive towards myself I can also be quite hard on myself. I knew that when I first tried to get back in the gym I would struggle a great deal with the physical aspect, and I also knew that out of everything that would be my biggest psychological struggle.
My rational mind knows that performance will drop after time off training, but that it will come back relatively fast. I have experienced this myself on numerous occasions, most recently just a few months ago! But my emotional response to moving backwards is more primal and irrational, and makes me feel weak, inferior and depressed. Not a good state to be in when trying to make positive changes!
So I gritted my teeth, and made the effort to get back in the gym. It was tough, I'm not going to lie, but I am proud of myself for doing it.
We all know that the first time back in the gym is going to be grueling, but it still came as a shock. I was gasping for breath after lifting weights which earlier this year would have been my warm-up! Everything felt ten times heavier than it used to, and my body was giving out on me. But I kept going and completed the workout so that's something, and this week I will be going back twice. Help me stay accountable, connect with me on Facebook and/or Instagram!
There are two key things to remember when attempting to get back into a positive habit, whether it's in health and fitness, your career, your relationships, anything:
Firstly, something is better than nothing. Don't try to jump back in with what you were doing before! If you used to train in the gym 5/6 days a week but you haven't been in 3 months then don't start with 5/6 days a week again, that's really unlikely to be sustainable. Start with maybe 3 times, or even just once or twice per week. If you set yourself the initial goal of getting back in the gym once per week then when you nail that and find it easy you can up it to twice, three times, and go from there. That is a way better plan than aiming for 5/6 times, only going 3 times and feeling like a failure when in actual fact you are doing amazing! 'All-or-nothing' is rarely a good idea when it comes to health and fitness (I would risk saying NEVER, but I will stick with rarely because there are always exceptions to a rule even if I don't know them), so don't get sucked into that mindset.
Secondly, be patient with yourself. Once you have started, please understand that you are going to need some time to see the progress you are looking for, it won't happen overnight. Consistency and patience are the two most important and overlooked aspects of success, so make these your primary focus. Not 'going hard' or training until you hurt, or until you're sick, or any other bullshit...consistency and patience! I know those aren't as sexy as 'go hard or go home' or 'no pain no gain', but they are definitely more effective. Consistency and patience mean sticking to something regularly and for a long time, so make sure the plan fits your lifestyle and other commitments or you will struggle with this, and you can look back at my first point about starting once per week if you have to.
To add to both of those points: make sure you enjoy what you are doing! If you don't enjoy it you won't stick to it, no matter how well-intentioned you might be. Yes it's going to be difficult, I'm not saying do something easy I'm saying do something you enjoy. If you don't enjoy the gym then do something else! Go climbing, or cycling, or swimming, or join a netball team...it doesn't matter, just make sure you enjoy it enough to stay consistent long term.
I hope this has been valuable, now get back in the gym! (or wherever)