How I learned to love the gym in 2019
I set big intentions for 2019. Like most of you I’m sure, I took the time to dig deep and reflect on what the passing year meant to me. What did I learn? How did I grow? What do I want 2019 to manifest?
2018 was a year of big changes; it was a move across provinces, of leaving a life and career I’d built for six years in Halifax, of starting fresh in my home province with a new job, a new apartment, and a new Toronto. 2018 was a year of protecting my health and my heart, and basically just trying to keep my head above water amidst it all. I spent the time to learn what I need to be my happiest self, and this is something I’m taking with me into this new year.
Now, 2019 marks a year of fluidity and movement, of not standing still. I’m ready to welcome new people, new experiences, travel, adventure, love, and growth into my world. This means new habits, new perspectives, and shedding a lot of the old, ingrained preconceived notions that previously held me back from this kind of openness.
And here we are, kicking off our fourth month of the new year, and I’ve settled into my first new habit of 2019: the gym. Sounds so cliché, right? Well, despite so many of my best efforts in the past, plus a lifetime of playing competitive soccer and being quite active, I’ve never been able to embrace or love the gym. I get bored, I get discouraged, I get lazy. So after a few weeks of giving it a go for a while every few years, I tend to fall back into old habits and mind-traps and I jump ship – right back to the couch, a busy social life, or towards any other excuse I can find.
In this new year of openness, to finally find a positive relationship with — and *gasp* enjoyment of — the gym, is a Big. Freaking. Deal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely writing this from my couch in sweats while I continue my Game of Thrones marathon because balance, right? But, I’m setting a goal to get my healthy is hot moments in while still balancing a career, being a good dog mom, and having a social life – which sometimes (who am I kidding, often) means a date with my couch, the pup, and Jon Snow.
So, how did I manage this complete 180 with a smile on my face? To start, you need to be in the right frame of mind, in it for the right reasons, open to the task, and have a desire to do it. But here are a few practical tips that have worked for me to keep things a little more grounded.
The first change for me was simple: just show up. Even if I went for 20 minutes, I knew that was better than nothing and I knew that was good enough. I’m lucky that I have a gym in my condo, so I don’t have to travel very far to sneak a quick workout in. Showing up for 20 minutes, running for 10, lifting weights for 15… whatever it is, it’s better time spent than what I would otherwise be doing this cold, dreary winter – sitting on the couch watching Netflix. And as I’ve settled into my work-out routine, I find myself in the gym for an hour a day now, continuously working up how long/fast I can run and how many reps I can lift each time I am there. The time flies by and I don’t ever second guess showing up.
Lay off the pressure
In the spirit of #1, I let go of the pressure. I used to feel like if I wasn’t running 5k and beating my PB every time I worked out, that I wasn’t doing anything. This is a huge trap for your mental health and also a direct road to burn out. It sets unrealistic – not to mention, high – expectations which become daunting if you don’t live up to it every time. And let’s be honest, some days you are just having an off day and you need to be happy with just showing up and putting in what work you can. See #1. The second I started viewing my output differently, with less pressure and more of a “do what you can, and be happy with what you can do” attitude, my relationship with the gym transformed.
Find your groove
I’ve got a pretty good routine going in terms of my self-made circuit at the gym. I always start with cardio to get warmed up (running), and then I switch to weights and alternate between working on my legs and my arms/back. This routine takes me 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how often I’m distracted by Instagram. I typically run for 10-15 minutes, trying to clock in 2.5km, and then I do five different exercises with weights for about 1-3 songs each – and yes, I measure my work outs in music. I find it’s a good mental trick that feels less daunting than counting down reps. Thank u, next… Compare this to the old me: I used to always mix it up and do something different, but then I could never track my progress. By sticking to these core exercises (for now), with each work out I find myself getting stronger, able to do more reps, run for longer or faster, and the high that comes with those mini accomplishments just can’t be beat.
Now, onto the music. A good playlist is key to a) match your mood to the endorphins that will be streaming through you in no time, and b) to keep you motivated and interested. At least that’s what it does for me. Honestly, I am such a mixed bag when it comes to my music, but lately my runs and lifts and have been complemented by the sounds of the OG BSB, N Sync, and Britney albums, along with Ari’s latest collection, Thank u, next. (How many references in a single post is too many references?) An uplifting, motivating soundtrack to your workout is just table stakes.
Enjoy the moment
Honestly, this one is so much easier said than done. It’s taken me a lot of mental work to enjoy the gym. I still have days where my body is rebelling against me and I barely have the energy (whether mental or physical) to get a work out in, but now when those days happen I’m actually sad and disappointed that my body is letting me down. Wth? This to me is a sign that I’m truly and honestly finally in a place where I actually like the gym and what this hour represents for me. To me, it means one hour in the day where my mind can be completely free and focused on me; I am not thinking about what my dog needs, what my coworkers expect of me, or what my friends and family want from me. This is my one hour (or 20, 30 minutes, whatever it is) in the day that I have truly and completely for me. And that, my friends, is a freeing feeling.
For me, this has been the best first step I could take in my year of not standing still. The foundation I am building – both in mental and physical strength – is going to give me what I need to be able to tackle all my other ambitious intentions for the year.
Wherever you are in your journey of self-love and care, I hope this helps to inspire you either off the couch, or to keep doing what you’re doing. Honestly, if I can finally learn to love the gym in 2019, anyone can.