Quick note: this is about my personal experience with exercise. If you’d like a personalised routine that caters your individual medical needs and goals – see an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (especially if you have medical complications) or a Certified Personal Trainer. This post isn’t encouraging you to workout exactly like me, but rather encourage you to find a type of activity you love that doesn’t feel like a chore!
About 6 months ago, I joined a gym (for the first time). Yes, I know, as a 22-year-old who works in health that may be difficult to believe. I’ve always had a few reasons not to join the gym, the first being I did so much physical activity in other forms (dancing and walking around mostly) and being on a student budget didn’t help either. I was also a bit hesitant to join because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, how machines worked, it just seemed so overwhelming! I was experiencing “gym-timidation”.
When my placements started in February, I decided to bite the bullet and just join. I needed a physical outlet for all the different emotions I was experiencing day to day, and some time to just think them through whilst doing something beneficial for myself. I had limited time to be outdoors with my schedule (students will know the feeling) and I thought putting money toward the gym would motivate me to go to get the most out of the membership and I couldn’t use weather as an excuse either! Win.
Since then, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with going to the gym – I get a real kick out of being active, easing my mind from the day’s stresses and seeing how I progressed either with strength or my physique. I change up my routine regularly so I can continue to challenge myself in different ways. I don’t really enjoy doing cardio-based activities (and you certainly don’t have to, many females have that misconception) – however, I wanted to improve my respiratory fitness so I decided to incorporate it into my routine more regularly. And no, ladies – lifting weights won’t make you bulky! Wonder on over to that free weight section and give it a go.
My Gym Routine
My routine currently looks a bit like this (totally just make it all up and so far has helped reach my goals)
Day 1: Light cardio (30 min) – uphill fast-paced walk and uphill cycle
Day 2: Upper Body Strength (30 min) – warm up with a 10 min jog on the treadmill and a few laps on the rowing machine, followed by free weights and machines that target the chest, shoulders, arms and back (depending on my mood, this kind of changes)
Day 3: Interval Run (25 min) – circuit of fast-paced walk, jog and run
Day 4: Glutes (30-45 min) – warm up with 10 min on stair master followed by high reps of various glute targeted exercises using body weight, free weights or machines (e.g. kickbacks, hip thrusts, back extensions, deadlifts)
Day 5: Boxing & Core (30 min) – circuit of boxing, skipping and finish off with a 10 min core workout
Day 6: Legs with a quad and hamstring focus (45 min) – warm up with 10 min on stair master or uphill on treadmill followed by weight training (squats, lunges – walking, static, reverse, curtsy),
Day 7: Rest (this just lands on the day I feel most sore or tired)
What keeps me motivated to continue going to the gym?
It just doesn’t feel like a chore for me. And that’s really what I’d love to get across to you in this post, find a form of activity that you enjoy that keeps you interested and exercise will no longer feel like a chore. I like seeing my body be strong and capable of lifting heavy things, and watching it change its composition has also been interesting too (and yes, the numbers on the scale definitely went up! However, I’m not letting that make me feel bad about myself – rather just a reflection of my increased strength and muscle tone).
When I’m really feeling tired or demotivated, I like to tell myself “you won’t regret being active, after you’ve done it, but you probably will regret not going.”
My Thoughts on Gym Culture
The gym environment certainly isn’t for everyone. It can be intimidating, it feels like all eyes are on you (when in reality, everyone is busy working on themselves to really notice what you’re doing), the machines look confusing, there’s grunting and weight slamming happening and sometimes a lot of egos filling up a sweaty room.
What irks me the most about gym culture, is the abundance of misinformation that circulates in the gym. Either from well-intending personal trainers pushing for supplements, or other gym goers giving anecdotal advice on diet or exercise, posters telling me to “eat clean and train dirty” or that “sweat is fat crying”. Excuse me, sweat is a way to maintain an optimal body temperature as you heat up moving muscles – not fat crying, fat doesn’t produce tears! And let’s not start on “clean eating” – check out my previous post about here.
TL;DR? Here’s the important bits
- Exercise is not punishment for what you ate.
- Be active because it makes you feel good, not for any other reason.
- Ditch the over-marketed supplements for the average person, food is more than enough to fuel your workout.
- Gyms are places that should be free of judgement and places to simply focus on yourself in your own way, not to propagate messages to make you feel self-conscious or guilty.
- If the gym isn’t the place for you, start exploring by trying classes or simply going for a walk and find what you enjoy so that exercise is never a chore!