diary of a gym newbie: important lessons I've learned - part 1

After the realisation that my ridiculously high blood pressure won't go down by itself, I reluctantly decided to join a local gym.

{image from Swide Magazine}

I've now been a member for about 6 weeks and, despite suffering a mini anxiety attack during a session last week, the results so far are pretty astonishing.
  • I'm sleeping waaaaay better than I have for months - only the odd sleepless or nightmare-filled night, which is a vast improvement.
  • I'm feeling happier and generally less angry, even when work has been rubbish.
  • I'm feeling just generally better in myself - stronger, healthier and more confident.

That's not to say this last month hasn't been hard, because it has.

Some days I'll wake up full of beans and be so excited about going to the gym that my excitement will continue all through the day, and come 4pm I will be so drained and tired and grumpy that all I want to do is sleep.

Some days I'll have a crappy day at work and want to go and do some weights to make myself feel better - if I can make myself physically stronger perhaps it will encourage me to be emotionally stronger? Good logic, eh?

In my first month of active gym-going I've learned a fair few things, which I would like to share with you:

lesson #1: you mustn't compare yourself to other people

People go to the gym for a bunch of reasons - mine alone are threefold: to lower my blood pressure, to get stronger and to find a sensible way to release frustration. Some people might go for health reasons, some might go in order to strengthen up, some go to relax, and some to feel part of a community or to socialise. Whatever reason you might go, you'll have differing aims from almost everyone else there, so there's just no point in comparing yourself to other people.

lesson #2: be enthusiastic but don't go mad

Those days where I get really frustrated at work and think that the one thing that would help is to go to the gym and throw things or punch stuff or lift ludicrously heavy weights? Admittedly, those are "enthusiastic" gym days, but don't let them get too extreme - and don't push yourself too hard too fast - you will almost definitely break yourself or burn out, and that will be even more frustrating. And painful to boot.

lesson #3: know your limits

In only my second session with my personal trainer I was really arrogant over-confident - "30kg? Pah, I can do that, no problem!" - "10 push ups? Pah, I can do 20!" - perhaps I thought I was being "enthusiastic", but I wasn't, I was being bloody stupid, and I certainly felt the repercussions over the next few days. It's all very well pushing yourself, but don't feel disappointed if you can't do some stuff straight away. Start somewhere comfortable but not too easy, and work your way up gradually. All of your muscles, even the ones you think are already strong, need time to get used to their new routine!

lesson #4: don't expect immediate results

It might be a bit of a shock to the system when you first start at the gym - your body may be using muscles that haven't been used for a long time, and your heart will have to get used to all the extra effort. You will, no doubt, have certain expectations, but you mustn't think that you will definitely see immediate results - you probably won't. Be patient and work at it, slowly but surely you will find yourself getting stronger and feeling better, but don't feel disheartened if you don't feel it instantly.

lesson #5: rest is just as important as work

Upon joining the gym, I was tempted to push myself as hard as I could - and I did for the first couple of weeks. And then it started hurting, and I had to stop. My body had been enjoying this new routine - it likes to be used, and it wanted to be stronger, but going to the gym every day won't necessarily make you stronger straight away - it'll probably make you hurt, or cause you to injure yourself. Pushing it is one thing, but you need to know when to stop. As soon as I started giving myself "days off" and a bit of time for my muscles to recover, it meant that the next time I went I worked harder, knowing that afterwards I would get another chance to rest and let my muscles recover.

The main thing I have learned, however, is that I should learn to believe in myself: I can do it, whatever "it" may be, if I work hard at it.

And that's a good life lesson, right there.

3 hellos:

Siobhan said...

Yes. This is what I learned too. Thank you!

Claire said...

Great post, sweetie! I'm so glad it's going well for you!


Vixie said...

No doubt I'll learn a bunch more stuff in the next 6 weeks!

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