It has been a very long time since I was in really good shape. Probably around 10 years! The last few years I tried hitting the gym, and getting back in really good shape, like when I was 18-years-old. However, it was extremely difficult!
The reasons why it was difficult for me to get back into shape were frustration and laziness. I remember one year, I got a gym membership at the beginning of the new year to fulfill my new year’s resolution to become fit again, and after about two or three months, I stopped going to the gym, and let my membership expire. Why? I got lazy. I decided to go home after school instead and occupy myself with other things. Another reason it has been difficult for me to get back into shape has been frustration. I would set a goal to get fit, start my exercise routine for the day, and automatically get really tired, because I was so out of shape, naturally. This would frustrate me so much that instead of continuing to crush my goal, I would quit. So for the last two years or so, I completely stopped exercising.
I made the WRONG decision. After a lot of reflection, I realized that I cannot give up on my body. My body is the only means of my physical existence, and I must treat it with respect. I realized that means physically challenging myself to maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise. There is absolutely no excuse for me to let my body go to waste.
The last couple of months, I have been going back to the gym. I realized that a healthy lifestyle through exercise is a marathon, not a sprint. That meant that I needed to build up my strength from scratch. At first, I was extremely intimidated by all the different kinds of machines at the gym, but that quickly went away after using a little bit of common sense and actually using them. I was also intimidated by the other gym goers who were already fit, and looked phenomenal doing their exercise routines. I also noticed, however, that everyone at the gym has earbuds in, meaning that they are not worried about anyone else there except themselves. They were not looking at me!
So I decided to study exercise routines that are available to anyone who can use the Internet. I watched these routines, did them at home, and implemented them at the gym. Some of the ones that I really enjoyed are:
I started my routines with dumbbells at five-pound weights, slowly progressed to seven-pound weights, and now I am using 10 to 20 pound weights. For my machine routines, I started at no pounds, progressed to 20 pounds, and now I am using 55 to 75 pounds.
I also alternate routines. For example:
- Mondays, I will focus on legs.
- Tuesdays, I will focus on abs and core.
- Wednesdays, I will focus on biceps and triceps.
- Thursdays, I will focus on shoulders and back.
- Fridays, I will focus on glutes.
(I do not necessarily follow this exact order, but you get the point)
I also incorporate cardio by either starting or ending almost each routine with a 15 to 30 minute elliptical, cycling, or rowing session.
Seeing my body slowly change in a good way is extremely inspirational, and makes me want to continue my goal of maintaining my fitness, and toning my body.
I know many of you are thinking that I am already in shape and do not need to hit the gym. Simply because I am a petite female (height: 5’2″ weight: normally 115 lbs) does not mean that I am in shape. I learned that very quick the first couple of weeks I started going to the gym. I was out of breath very early on, I was slow, my balance was off, and I had zero agility. All of us require exercise regardless of shape and size. Exercise helps improve good health, and that is something that we all NEED in our lives.
Something I learned is to exercise when you have the most energy during the day. This is different for everyone, and we all have different schedules. I learned that, for me, I have the most energy between noon and two in the afternoon, so I fit in my workout during those times.
Since I started working out, I have slowly gained strength. I can now lift much heavier weights than during my first two weeks. I can do many more repetitions and sets. I try to do at least 15 repetitions and at least four sets for each routine. You just have to experiment, and if your body gets tired, it is ok to do less or take a break. I take breaks all the time!
Taking a break! Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Some good things to keep in mind to take to the gym are a towel, if your gym does not provide them (most do), water is essential, your phone, and earbuds, or a headset. Listening to music has really helped me get through my workouts. For me, music does not only make my workout seem a lot shorter than it actually is, but also the music I choose energizes me, and when a really good song comes on, I want to go harder! Sometimes, I listen to a good podcast though. It really depends on my mood. But I always make sure I have something to listen to.
Implementing exercise into my life is the beginning of a wonderful journey. Even if exercising is all I do in one day, I feel much more accomplished than when I did not exercise. It is not easy to begin a life with exercise. It requires focus and determination. Exercise makes me feel like I have beaten laziness. I learned that exercising brings out good qualities. That is something we all need to strive to. So I encourage all you to go for a short walk. One day that may turn into a sprint. Go pick up those five-pound dumbbells you have laying around in your closet. One day those will turn into 30-pound dumbbells. Stay focused. We can all do this!