Friday, 17 October 2014

My exercise diary #1: Exercise without expectation

Having been an athlete for my entire childhood and adolescence, I more or less stopped cold turkey and haven't partaken in any intentional exercise in about a decade - i.e. my whole adult life. I walk around the city a fair bit and have no problems weight-wise, but recently, the feeling of being unfit was really just getting to me.

I think once I was out of shape, my prior athletic life was more of a deterrent, rather than a motivator. I felt a bit vulnerable, and like I should have been able to succeed at things I just wasn't fit enough for. I was also feeling a bit lethargic some days and thought a bit of exercise might boost my energy levels. The challenge is re-training myself how to be active, this time as an adult.

So, a few weeks ago, I joined a gym. How very cliche. I knew if I thought about it too much I'd never actually go for it, so I made an appointment for a tour and on the spot signed a 1-year membership. After a quick burst of excitement, my immediate second, third and fourth thoughts were "I immediately regret this decision", "I've just wasted a lot of money", and "Do I really need to do this for the rest of my life?" which were all totally predictable. But, I've now been doing this gym thing for a few weeks so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

  1. I really like my gym. It used to be a Virgin Active but got taken over by an organization in the UK called Nuffield Health. The equipment and facilities (including pool/spa/steamroom, etc.) are top notch, but it feels less commercial overall. I'm not at all into the "scene" of a gym and this was one of the big reasons for dragging my feet. My gym has more of a health mandate, and also employs physio therapists, nutritionists, etc... I don't need these but it gives the whole place a less cheesy, less go-to-be-seen feel about it which I really appreciate. They also write up training plans and do periodic overall health assessments to track your progress. The concern is with health, not with appearances and weight loss, which I really like.
  2. I have no expectations. I wouldn't mind some firming and toning, but I know I don't need to lose weight and I have no goals associated with it. I haven't owned a scale since about when I stopped exercising, and I find myself to be far more in touch with my body and its needs, rather than feeling dictated by some external measure. My 'training plan' is for overall fitness and I know what I'm doing will be beneficial to my health. I don't need to change how I eat (I already eat balanced), and I won't be skipping nights out so I can get up early to 'hit the gym' (I hate those people). I don't expect to necessarily fall in love with exercising, or to find it life-changing. I'm hoping I'll enjoy it enough to continue doing it, but that's it. No marathons, no competitions, no end goal. I feel no need to set a benchmark for me to either satisfy or disappoint myself. Exercising is just an activity that I've begun doing and it won't make or break me, which is exactly why I'll keep doing it.
  3. I like the solitude. A lot of things you read about staying motivated to exercise encourage you to rope in a friend or partner as a source of motivation. I'm the total opposite. I'm a bit of an introvert and I definitely don't foresee myself going to the group classes. To the contrary, what I've really been enjoying is taking an hour to myself to do something solitary. To run or use machines, or swim, and think, or not, and that's it.
Do you exercise or go to a gym? What do you like/dislike about it? How do you stay motivated?

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