I had been exercising at home for several months but I’d reached a plateau. I had achieved a great deal in a few short months walking, exercise bike and swimming, but like many people, I had found that time and space had become an obstacle to progress. I recognised that I needed a new environment, not just with additional facilities but also the opportunity to focus on my objectives without distractions.
Although many years previously I had been a member of a health club which allowed a swim at lunchtime I had never previously been in a gym. For the main part this was simply because my health, had not been a consideration for a very long time. But also I held all of the prejudices many people hold about gyms; the contracts, the costs and the machismo culture.
At the point that I walked through the gym door for a tour and a chat my mind was already switched positively. I had far more to lose from not trying than failing, but as I have written in other blogs, so much is determined by mindset and motivation. Single most important advice before taking this step is to commit. Honestly.
My First week:
Day 1: It’s official. I’m a #GymWanker. My first session and I committed a full 90 minutes. I try out most of the machines and spend maybe 15 minutes on free weights, and both physically and mentally I feel as weak as a kitten. I am very aware that I am struggling to bench press a 1/3 of what I did at home 20 years previous.
Day 2: I’m in awe (& slightly intimidated) by work rate and athleticism of many. Some of the men impressed too. It is not the HUGE guys and heavy weights which impress me but those who are climbing ropes and doing pull ups. I really hurt today but really motivated – I have set myself some targets to beat myself up.
Day 3: There should definitely be a “kid corner” in the gym. I imagine it would look like play area in HMP visits. I would definitely be comforted by sight of Sponge Bob….rather than the bigger boys. Free weights area often feels like kindergarten; weights abandoned, collars often missing and energy drink cans.
Day 4: Bastard. I really hurt today. I took a shorter session but used time to reflect and plan. I used the time at the gym to do this. Did I mention I hurt?6:
Day 5: Rest.
Day 6: I have met my first set of targets – now going to use this routine for next month. I feel confident about using machines and picking up good tips from watching others.
Day 7: I genuinely enjoyed today.
Top 5 tips:
- Don’t keep “gym” water bottle next to cut onion. But surprisingly cucumber chunks are good.
- Do make vanilla protein shake in mug – residue nice in the recovery coffee with breakfast. I only use a shake if I’m going straight to Gym before breakfast.
- Do plenty of reading and preparation – and be wary of “sponsored” articles. Do not be afraid to experiment on your approach, routines and solutions. It has taken me several weeks to get the right programme designed which I both enjoy and is delivering results.
- Don’t worry about how you look at the Gym! No one cares or pay attention – if you are overly self-conscious then I would advise attending class at a quieter time rather than blowing budget. I have made 3 purchases – sports knee support, drink bottle and weight gloves with wrist supports.
- Always listen to your body, and respond. There is a difference between tiredness and injury, work with one and care for the other. The advantage that a gym will always have over home exercise is there will always be alternative exercises.
Things not to worry about:
- The man mountain who pushes cooling fans out of his direction regardless of impact on others – usually many others.
- Asking how long someone will be on a machine for – that way you will get the “nod”.
- Take your own hand towel for wiping yourself and maybe equipment but remember it is just water.
- That you are lifting or travelling “less” than others – no one but you will be taking notice.
- Dress for comfort not fashion – focus on sweating and support. If you are serious about success, about looking and feeling good, then it’s records you’ll be breaking not hearts.
It is 2 months since I joined up and good progress is being made, quite possibly the best thing is that I enjoy my sessions and look forward to them. For the first few weeks I attended every day except when work or family commitments came up – I now plan a “rest day” each week. For the past 6 weeks I have lost approximately 1lb a week but more importantly my measurements have continued to change – this, and feeling great, is my motivation!
- Continue to read and learn about the subject but be mindful that many articles are sponsored so look at a variety of articles and advice before making a decision.
- Set yourself targets for all that you do – consider your longer term plans. Don’t be shy to ask advice of experienced friends or Gym staff but you’re not in competition with anyone but yourself.
- Diet is a personal thing and ultimately determined by your body needs and objectives but it is important to be nourished and prepared for your workout. Depending what time of day I’m attending the gym I will eat maybe an hour before I go and drink apple juice and wheatgrass as I leave home – if early morning I will have a protein shake before I workout and breakfast when I return.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session or two, and if you are feeling low why not do a lighter routine – there is even some benefit to this. There is always an alternative available if you cannot attend the gym – I have a single kettle weight & chest expander if I have to work away, and “planking” is equipment free!
- Over the past few months I have tried a number of supplements and have currently settled on a few which really work for me. Diet and drinking plenty of water is extremely important but I’m certain that my mental and physical agility have benefited by supplements but I do think you need to find your own way.