On the 14 March 2018 my life changed. I attended my first gym class in about a year. I’d started a new job within mental health services in the summer of 2016 and before this point I’d maintained my weight with relative ease. I was 2 stone heavier than I should have been for my height but it didn’t bother me too much.
Enter my new job in the public sector. There was no way I could have anticipated the profound negative effect it would later have (and continue to have) on my physical and mental health. Within a year I gained 2 stone and by the following year another stone. This made me weigh the heaviest I’ve ever consciously been aware – 16.7 stone at 5’7”.
Being brutally honest, I do not handle any form of stress well. To be oxymoronic I thrive under pressure. It’s why I left my uni assignments to the last minute and tend to be tardy (not a good trait, I know). However, the stress I was under at work was incomprehensible. If you work in mental health services in any capacity then you’ll be aware that they are grossly under-funded and understaffed. The team I work with are phenomenal; they truly care about their work and the care they provide. It was what frustrated me most of all. We had amazing staff who wanted things to improve but were powerless to make any real changes.
As the months went by my mental health took a turn for the worst. Within my first year I was signed off work with clinical depression. I found myself frequently tearful and self-medicating to deal with the constant state of anxiety I found myself in. My spiritual health also took a sharp fall. I didn’t want to be around anyone and I began to isolate myself.
Doctors have always recommended regular exercise for our physical and mental well-being but I never took that counsel seriously. From my college days I’d join gyms and go sporadically. I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing when I went. I’d use the cardio machines and feel ravenous afterwards. I never felt any real satisfaction, though.
That was until 3 months ago when I did my first class using weights. I wasn’t a stranger to weights. But my body was not the same as it was a year before and using a mere 4kg kettlebell hit my back hard. I’ll never forget the excruciating pain that felt like liquid fire in my lower back. I had to stop and couldn’t complete the class. It was just too painful. I remember feeling angry at myself and disappointed as I hate to quit anything. To my pleasant surprise the instructor was really understanding and helped me stretch. I’d never experienced such warmth from a gym instructor before and it made a great impression on me.
After this first class I was absolutely determined to go to the gym three times a week. I was tired of my body being in pain. It was no longer about vanity, I needed the pain to stop.
So I went to the gym three times a week. I did a kettlebell class (weights), a muscle-building class (more weights) and eventually started doing a Les Mills bodypump class (weights with lots of repetitions and great music).
In 5 weeks I lost 10lbs. I was using MyFitnessPal to track my calories and macros and made sure I was consistent with my gym attendance. I started following transformation accounts on Instagram to encourage me visually. In 3 months I’ve now lost 15lbs.
At first my going to the gym was about losing weight so I could be in less pain. But I soon discovered that it was helping me deal with the stress of work in the best way possible. I was able to cope with a 5 day working week knowing that three of those days would end with me sweating and feeling a great sense of achievement. I began to always look forward to the days when I knew I’d be going to the gym.
I love using weights. Personal trainers have taught me that you burn a lot of calories using them and you continue to burn calories afterwards as your muscles grow and repair. My favourite thing about the gym is knowing that each class is going to make me sweat. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen my sweaty selfies that I love to share three times a week.
I’m now on my 13th week of regular gym attendance and it is true what they say: Consistency is key! Deep down I knew I wouldn’t see any results if I did it half-assed. I was watching what I ate and drank meticulously and as a result the number on the scale was going down. One of my proudest moments was being able to fit into my high-waisted Adidas leggings again. In February they were half way down my bum and now they’re back up where they belong! 🙂
Another achievement I’m proud of is that for the last two weeks I have felt no pain in my back at all. I am now swinging 12kg kettlebells in class and I’m loving it. 12kg kettlebells. From 4kg kettlebells and excruciating pain, to 12kg kettlebells and the good kind of pain where you feel every muscle in your body working. I still cannot believe the progress I’ve made.
That isn’t to say that I haven’t had any set-backs. Just last week I gained 3lbs as I overindulged in wine during my father’s 11 year anniversary. But thankfully, I’ve lost it again. There are days when I would like to just go home and veg out but I know once I’m home I’ll only dwell on the working day which is why I have to discipline myself. Sometimes I just want to eat a big bag of crisps and watch Gossip Girl in bed but over the last three months I have slowly become more accountable for my actions.
I’m a young woman with an anxiety disorder and sometimes I feel social anxiety especially in open spaces. I tend to overthink things and this can hinder my progress. I am trying to accept and learn that this journey is not linear by any means and there will be instances were I stumble and lose focus but I am determined to make physical activity a permanent addition to my lifestyle.
I love classes because I need to be told what to do. I crave structure. I’m not at a level where I have the confidence to work out on my own but I’m sure that time will come eventually. For the moment I’m enjoying my classes and now my personal training sessions. I honestly and truly never thought there would be a time where I would love going to the gym. But I really do love it. I love sweating, I love feeling that afterburn sensation in my muscles, I love cooking, I love weighing and measuring my food, I love feeling my clothes slowly get looser. But most of all I love the feeling that I’m finally taking care of myself.
If I could offer advice to anyone who is thinking of joining a gym I would tell them to be consistent. To track what they eat and drink. To go to the gym at least 3 times a week if their circumstances allow. Only with consistency will you see your hard work start to produce results. If you like cardio do cardio. If you prefer weights, do weights. If you would rather work out on your own, do that. If you like classes do classes. Just make sure you’re moving! Follow inspirational social media accounts that will keep you motivated and take progress photos and keep a record of how you feel each week.
I promise that if you are consistent you won’t fail. You will only grow and surprise yourself.
Love blackpistachio x