Reclaiming My Fitness (Back to the Gym)
This week I got back to the gym for the first time in a long time … and it felt great!
It felt great to get back in the saddle – even if that saddle promised to make me sore (and it did!) – but more importantly it felt good to be back in control: Control of my health, control of my body, control of my ability.
There’s no question that it’s been a challenge. A challenge to find the time … and commit to it! A challenge to get out the door and over to the gym BUT I pat myself on the back every time I cross the gym’s threshold; before even lifting a weight, flexing a muscle, or breaking a sweat, I congratulate myself on the very fact that I got there. I’m in the building! There’s also the challenge of staying true to your program and not giving into that inner voice telling you that it’s ok to turn off the treadmill a few minutes early or stop a few weight repetitions short of your goal. But perhaps the BIGGEST challenge now will be to develop consistency in my commitment despite distractions, my many moods and the fact that my initial ‘health-kick’ enthusiasm might wane after a couple weeks.
I counter this in two ways – three if I have the option.
1. I measure my accomplishments.
I look at myself in the mirror before I leave the gym. Most of us have had ‘vanity’ beaten out of us as children to the point that we forget to enjoy our bodies and our attractiveness (more often focussing on our ‘self-perceived’ flaws). The ‘pump’ I get from lifting weights is a fantastic positive reinforcement of the work I’ve just completed in the gym and moreover my body’s potential if I continue with future workouts. (I look forward to the day when someone creates a ‘hairspray’ that will hold a post-workout pump – when exercised and fatigued muscles bulge and brim with adrenaline-fueled blood – longer than the current 20 minutes before deflation brings you back to normal size.
If I’ve been running, I note the fact that I’ve gone further than last time – whether greater in time or distance. If it’s a matter of weights, I record the fact that I’ve lifted more than last time or lifted the same weight a greater number of times. And despite my demanding desire to do better each time, I cut myself some slack and recognise no mountain is climbed going straight up; there’s usually some ups, downs, switchbacks and most certainly a required rest every now and then.
It’s nice to be sore the next day (or the day after that) following a workout. For me it’s a nice reminder of the honest effort that I invested in myself. I treat it as a positive reinforcement of the time invested in myself and the fact that I must have honestly challenged my muscles enough for them to be fatigued and recharging. (Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about pain or over-training.) And if it’s really bad, well, I can always celebrate my soreness (and my accomplishment!) with a massage.
3. If I have the option, I have a regular workout partner.
Nothing creates motivation like having a workout partner – particularly if male egos are involved! While not always an option, having a person that is relying on you to show up for a workout is a great kick in the butt. One of my best mates and I use to train regularly, encouraging each other to get up at early hours to fit a workout into our busy schedules. There’d be times we’d get to the gym bleary-eyed and admit to the other that we didn’t want to be there BUT for the sake of commitment there we both were there to fulfill the other’s expectation.
Workouts themselves often go better with a partner to egg your progress on, as well as, developing an alternative rhythm between sets that makes the whole experience go faster than simply trying to time things on your own. And who doesn’t like a bit of companionship and encouragement on their road to fitness?
Currently I have three friends that I send ‘shout outs’ of extreme admiration to: Two friends, whose huge DVD collection speaks of their preference for nights in, have gotten off the couch and have started training for the Bay to Breakers run (12 km/7.5 miles) in May. I’m in awe of their commitment and efforts to tackle this mountain of a run by cautiously but steadfastly attacking their training a step at a time – building up their ability and endurance with regular run/walk combinations.
And another friend who is on track to compete in the world’s oldest annual marathon, The Boston Marathon this coming April … an achievement in of itself just to be invited to participate!