I’ve never really understood those gym-bums that spend their lives pumping iron, looking lean and enjoying every minute of it; for me working out is about about doing what I need to do, not about particular enjoyment or excitement at the thought of getting back in my leggings. I’m definitely one of those girls that’s not naturally supposed to be super slim or super fit – even at school I was always hanging back with the asthma kids during cross country, or being shamed by my hockey coach for not particularly wanting to spend 90mins on a rainy Friday morning stood in the middle of a muddy field. (Now I realise her attitude just made it worse, rather than encouraging me, but that’s another story.) However, over the years I’ve found things that work for me: be that dance classes, yoga, my exercise bike or a flexible gym membership that allows me to go whenever the need takes me. It’s vital that we all remain active, but shaming people into running for an hour on the treadmill is not the way to do it. If you’re considering joining a gym but are a little hesitant to do so, here are the things I’ve learned since I’ve joined that may help get you off your sofa once and for all.
IT’S NOT AS HARD AS IT LOOKS
When walking through the doors of a gym for the first time you can be met with an overwhelming feeling of ‘sh*t what have I done?’ The lines of machines, the inevitable pumped up dudes staring themselves in the mirror and everyone in their styled-off-the-pages-of-a-magazine outfits can seem more than a little intimidating, but once you see past that you realise that it’s not as hard as it looks. My advice is to always book in an induction alongside a personal training session to start you off, as this will help you get to grips with the machines and ensure you have a programme that meets your needs. Once you’ve got a good routine you’ll be whizzing through it and seeing results before you know it.
GETTING INTO A ROUTINE IS HALF THE BATTLE
You never know how creative you are until you’re making up reasons to not go to the gym; whether it’s because you’re tired, have had a big dinner, haven’t washed your sports bra or simply don’t have the time, the excuses will actually pain you when you realise how much money (and potential) has been wasted. Getting into a regular routine and finding specific time to slip in gym visits (they only need to be 45mins long if you do it right) will set you up to win, rather than allowing yourself to fail. Whether that’s Monday/Wednesday/Friday evenings, during your lunchbreak or on a Sunday morning so you can treat yourself to brunch afterwards, a routine will always work in your favour. For me it’s about having the flexibility to go when I have the time, taking my laptop so I can pop to Starbucks and work with a coffee when I’m done.
NOBODY IS LOOKING AT YOU
First things first, unless you’re a supermodel then nobody looks good in the gym (if you’re doing it properly anyway.) You’re a sweaty, wobbly mess with a slightly miss-matched outfit – but it doesn’t matter because so is everybody else. I can assure you that nobody is looking at you and critiquing your cellulite, trainers or bingo wings, because they’re all too focused on what they’re doing to care; everyone is in a gym for the same purpose: to get in, do your thing, and get home again. Work out like nobody is watching and you’ll have a far more productive session (and be out of there way quicker too.)
AN OUTFIT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Referring back to that slightly miss-matched outfit, from my experience I always feel so much better if I’ve worn something that’s comfortable and also happens to not look awful. I don’t mean you have to go out and buy the entire Sweaty Betty range, but swapping those old paint-splattered t-shirts for a few new vests from Primark could make all the difference. If you stick to a colour palette it means you can always mix and match what’s clean too, so you feel great and look not half bad either; my colour palette is grey, black and white, so literally whatever is to hand will match in some way or another. One less thing to think about!
THE BUZZ AFTERWARDS IS WORTH IT
No matter how much I really don’t want to go to the gym, I know the feeling of accomplishment I get after will make it all worth it. There’s something incredibly cleansing for the soul about pounding it on the cross-trainer – and exercise is known to be an incredibly effective stress-buster and sleep aid. I often leave the gym looking flustered and sweaty, but feeling like I’m ready to face the rest of my day or have deserved a really great kip. Even if you slouch about for the rest of the day, knowing you’ve achieved something is a great feeling that you’ll get a little addicted to.
The gym isn’t for everyone, but it is a really simple and easy way to keep yourself active – especially if you work at home or in an office, when the most exercise you get is walking to boil the kettle. It helps me feel good, gives me the confidence in my body to wear what I want and has more than a little positive impact on my mind too.