When it comes to starting at the gym, we are our own worst enemy. Until we are truly ready to make important, healthy changes to the way we live our lives we continue to ignore the warnings signs. We also tend to be resentful of those who are taking measures to improve their health and we can make things worse by deep diving into the bad habits that cause our health to deteriorate.
For me being ready to hit the gym was a long time coming. For the better part of my first 30 years on this planet I was blessed with an excellent metabolism. That combined with a love of walking allowed me to eat or drink anything I wanted and almost overnight by body would burn the calories off. Back then I was skinny, almost too skinny, but I didn’t think it was a bad thing. After turning 30 and more so even after 35 I noticed that my metabolism was slowing. I was still eating and drinking whatever I wanted but slowly I noticed that slim was giving way to a small gut.
When I would look at myself in the mirror I would stand there, contorting my body into positions that made the fat look better. Loose, un-tucked shirts replaced my fitted button downs. The optical illusion worked on me and those around me, or so I thought. I was literally fooling myself and then going back to the pizza box for one more slice and washing it all down with another bottle of wine. Overtime the weight gain was enough to be noticed by family members when I would travel home, by colleagues when they hadn’t seen me for a while and even by the Staples delivery guy who made fun of me because my too-tight shirt was about to pop at any minute.
One summer evening last year I was headed home on the 97 bus, crossing the Plateau on Mont-Royal Avenue when I noticed the Econofitness at the corner of Mont-Royal and Parthenais for the first time ever. As the packed bus slowly drove by the gym I had a thought about convenience. For me there were many reasons why I wouldn’t go the gym but I never realized how important convenience was for me until that moment. There are a few reasons why the thought of working out never crossed my mind. Here’s my top three…
First of all, gyms are expensive and I don’t want to waste my money by going for a month and giving up (I hadn’t started and I was already planning on giving up). Second, if a gym isn’t in walking distance form my home, I am going to find a reason not to go (see…, convenient!). Third, I had signed up for a gym a decade before for the wrong reasons (to impress someone else – as dumb as I feel about that now, it didn’t feel so dumb when I was 28 years old) and the result was poor. You can’t do this for anyone else but yourself.
The next day at work I went onto the Econofitness website and I signed up for their $10.25 per month membership. They offered a Platinum membership (access to the entire network of gyms, massages etc.) and the Platinum Plus (even more advantages) but for me I didn’t want the bells and whistles. If I am only investing $129 a year and I decide to give up in a month, it’s not that big a loss. Taking the pressure of losing money because I wouldn’t be interested actually worked wonderfully. So, signed up and ready to go, I hopped off the 97 early and went to the gym for the first time a few days later.
Back in January I wrote about how intimidating going to a gym can be for the first time. Fearing judgment and worrying that you will be laughed at can be enough to keep anyone away from a workout. Once again, because of our vulnerability, we are our own worst enemy. One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is that everyone is so busy with their own lives, they don’t have time to care that we can’t turn on a machine, they don’t notice that we haven’t mastered a sit up or that our gut is visible in our T-shirt. No one in the world judges us as much as we judge ourselves. Once you overcome your own judgment, you begin to win.
The first few weeks proved to be easier than I would have thought. I went to my Econofitness two to three times a week and focused on cardio. I tried the treadmill (I was afraid to run on it at first because I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t go flying off), the stationary bikes and the elliptical and over a period of five weeks I noticed the first of the pounds were melting off. My enthusiasm spread to my diet and I was eating better, paying more attention to what I was putting in my body and holding off on alcohol as much as I could.
With cardio under control I began going to the machines that would start building a little muscle. It isn’t my goal to be a body builder but I do have a goal of looking great in a shirt. One at a time I began using the machines, observing others as they would finish a set and then try it for myself. Some I like, some I loath but now, almost 8 months later, I am where I wanted to be. Starting is one thing but continuing is a whole other beast. There are moments of weakness where we tell ourselves, today I will only do this or that instead of sticking to the plan. I have to fight against my brain almost every time I go to the gym but when I am able to overcome my own destructive force I am proud of myself and that voice has less power as time goes on.
I want to be on this Earth for as long as I can and Econofitness is part of a permanent lifestyle that I may have started a little late in life but better late than unhealthy at 40. I don’t expect to become anyone’s fitness guru but if you are standing in front of a mirror and you don’t like what you see, ask yourself why you don’t like it instead of twisting yourself into a pretzel to hide it. The answer might be the nudge you need to start the rest of your life off on the right foot.