I have never been very good at fitness. I am incredibly uncoordinated, and when you are innately bad at something, it is very hard to find the motivation to do it. The only exception to this was a brief period of about three months several years ago where I really committed to running. I hate running. The only reason I started was because I realised that at the age of 24, I had never once successfully ran a mile. I worked my way up to an eight mile run, which was so miserable that I gave up running then and there. So you can see, exercise does not come easily to me.
However, I want to look fit! I love the way the muscles look! I want to be toned! And none of those things can be achieved while sitting in bed eating pizza. So for the past two years, I’ve been secretly harbouring a desire to start weightlifting. Like, real weightlifting, with the barbell across your shoulders and doing bench-presses and other cool things like that. Last week, for the very first time in my life, I actually went to the gym and lifted weights. And here are the things I learned:
1)The only thing stopping me was me.
Did you see the part where I mentioned that it took me two years to work up the courage? I used pretty much every excuse I could possibly come up with, including, but not limited to: I need someone to show me what to do; weightlifting takes too much time and I’m busy; other people in the gym will judge me; I’m not strong enough to even lift the weights in the first place, so I need to build up first. When I finally decided it was time, I did my research, and just went. Super easy. None of these other things were ever holding me back – I had just been trying to justify not working out.
2) I am stronger than I thought.
In two ways. One, I actually could do most of the exercises. Even if I was doing them with the lowest weight possible, I could still do them, and I think that’s pretty cool. And also, I’m really proud of my mental strength to commit to going to the gym and doing the full workout (and continuing to do it since).
3) Hamstrings are muscles.
Perhaps my most ridiculous realisation. The entire time that I ran, every time my hamstrings hurt, I thought I had overworked my joints and ligaments. Nope. That’s a muscle…
4) No one else in the gym cares.
I’m not sure why exactly I was so hung up on this. I was deeply afraid that other people would judge me for doing exercises wrong or give me bad advice or watch me uncomfortably. Not even a little bit. Everyone goes to the gym to do their own thing, and no one has bothered me in the slightest.
Honestly, I’ve really been enjoying it so far. So if you too would like to try lifting weights, here are a few tips:
1) Do your research.
Before I went to the gym for the first time, I did a lot of research online. I picked a training plan, I read descriptions and watched videos for each exercise. I researched alternatives to each exercise in case I was unable to perform them as suggested or in case my gym didn’t have the right equipment. I took all of that information with me to the gym along with a notebook to write down any questions I had and to keep track of what I was doing. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel.
2) Go when it’s slow.
I’ve been using Ramadan as a great time to get started, since so many people aren’t out and about during the day. The first day I went, no one was in the gym for the first thirty minutes I was there, which meant I was able to fumble around and get acclimated while not worrying about anyone else. If people are there, again, they really won’t care. But for your own sanity, it can help.
3) Tell everyone you’re doing it.
Nothing is more motivating than the desire to not have to admit you failed. If you tell everyone you know that you are going to the gym and starting to lift weights, they will ask. So even if you desperately want to avoid it, you’d probably rather avoid telling your loved ones that you just didn’t feel like it.
4) Bring something fun to do.
Hands down the best part of lifting weights is that for every one minute of hard work you do, you get to take a few minutes off to rest your muscles before you work them again. That means you have a lot of downtime. I’ve been reading books on my phone, but anything you want to bring to keep you entertained will help.