As my fitness journey progresses into the next stage and I become a personal trainer, I’ve been reflecting on my journey so far. Whilst the overall outcome of the process has been a positive one, I have encountered some negative experiences along the way - experiences that many people face but not many people talk about. So I’m going to!
When embarking on a fitness journey many people look to classes as they provide motivation and knowledge. This is great as it gives guidance for those who perhaps lack the knowledge to know where to start and how to progress. However, when particularly unfit, group exercise classes also open up the possible humiliation of not being able to keep up.
Shortly after having my daughter I attended a mum and baby circuits class. The class was full of super fit mums and was incredibly intense. As someone new to fitness, I can not even begin to explain how intimidating it was and how humiliated I felt when I couldn’t keep up. I felt extremely emotional and self conscious throughout the class and even burst into tears when I got to my car afterwards. Admittedly, it wasn’t the fault of the instructor or other participants, the class was just too intense for my level of fitness and it was disheartening not being able to keep up with the rest of the class.
Take Away: carefully consider the exercise you choose to partake in. The level of fitness required for the class and how comfortable you feel in the particular environment. You don’t have to start hard to see results, build your confidence at a level which suits your current fitness and progressively increase the intensity.
You will never feel skinny
Many fitness journeys are inspired by aesthetics, most commonly to lose weight. I too was motivated by the desire to shed the pounds. But what people don’t tell you, is that you will never feel skinny. (Ok so I don’t like the use of that word as my journey has led me to work towards something other than skinny - but initially it was my aim). What I mean by this, is that your perception changes and once you reach your desired weight, your focus then changes to the fat in your thighs, the love handles you still feel you have, or the double chin you thought shouldn’t be there anymore.
Even the most beautiful celebrities in the world still have flaws of their own that they focus on - no one is perfect, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever feel that they are. The key here is to stop determining when you will be happy, and focus on being happy in your journey. Only a matter of weeks after losing my weight, I started to feel fat again. My hips looked huge, my bum looked massive and I felt ugly all over again. Of course they weren’t, especially in comparison to before I lost the weight, but I had got used to my new body and had just begun picking holes.
Take Away: don’t strive for aesthetic perfection - it doesn’t exist. Your best body is the body in which you can live a happy life that you enjoy. Don’t set goal posts for when you will be happy, be happy in the journey.
It’s usual to experience rapid amounts of progress at the start of a fitness journey, whether this is weight loss, muscle growth or cardiovascular fitness. But as your body adapts, it becomes more difficult to make gains. This is usually the point at which obsession can sneak in.
As a pervious sufferer of OCD, this is something I struggled severely with. After losing 3 stone, I found myself feeling terrified of gaining even half a pound. I was no longer losing weight on a weekly basis and it became all I focused on. From daily weigh ins (sometimes multiple time a day), to excessive exercise (particularly after consuming food), I found my life was consumed with my fitness journey.
Admittedly, these behaviours were to the extreme and many people would not experience obsession to the same level, but it is not uncommon for people to closely track macros, weigh in multiple times a week and exercise excessively in the attempt to get gains. It’s important to identify these behaviours when they start and understand they are not going to benefit your journey.
Take Away: when gains begin to plateau, obsession can creep in. It’s essential these obsessions are identified and dealt with. And please, please if you feel the behaviours are consuming your life, then seek professional advice.
It’s usual to get a lot of attention when you start a fitness journey. Your progress excels at its fastest in the beginning making it more noticeable to onlookers. How good does it feel to hear ‘look how much weight you’ve lost!’ Or ‘your biceps look huge’? Problem is, after a while, your fitness journey becomes old news to those around you and the compliments become few and far between. It’s at this point it is easy to become disheartened, leaving you searching for more compliments to keep you motivated.
There will come a time when you will be classed as fit. People will no longer associate you with who you were when you began your journey, and so they will no longer feel the need to make comparisons and comment on your progress. Just remember that a fitness journey is personal, it should be driven by an internal motivation and not subject to validation from others.
Take Away: your fitness journey is for you! Don’t let its worth be determined by the attention of others. Making you feel good should be the primary focus of any fitness journey.
By all means, not everyone will experience all of the things I’ve mentioned above or you may experience other negatives but it’s just important to focus on the fact that a fitness journey should complement your life, it shouldn’t control or consume it. Enjoy the ride!