This Girl Can. 

Today has been a good day. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this proud of myself for a while. I’d say it’s been at least 3/4 years since I was this proud of myself. I went to the gym properly for the first time in a while, and managed some small victories whilst I was there.

I am someone who has always struggled with any form of physical activity, whether it be running, walking, sports or the like. I’d come second/third from last in every cross country race at school, and would look for any opportunity to avoid physical work as much as possible. So it should come as no surprise that I am proud of what I achieved during my first proper gym session in a while.

Rather stupidly I wore the the complete wrong trainers for the job (I didn’t even realise that was possible), and managed to finish off with a sore ankle, so a little bit of advice. When you’re going to buy trainers, go and ask someone in the store you’re buying them from. Don’t be shy. No one is born with divine knowledge of anything, and I promise you that you won’t look silly. It’s better that you do that, instead of ending up with sore ankles, feet or blisters (trust me). Today I circled the women’s trainer section in Nike about 4 or 5 times before I plucked up the courage to ask about the correct shoes for gymming, and it made me realise that I have 4/5 pairs of redundant trainers that I can now sell (#hustling).

So back to the main story here. I DID 40 MINUTES OF CARDIO CONTINUOUSLY. I am so happy and pleased with myself. So here’s what I did:

  • 20 minutes of treadmill (nearly died)
  • 10 minutes on stationary bike (nearly died)
  • 10 minutes of treadmill (nearly died)

Now you may be wondering why i’ve put (nearly died) after every activity, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve written that because that is EXACTLY how I felt during the whole thing. I felt weak, I felt tired, I felt breathless, I was sweating and panting, but one thing I didn’t do this time, compared to every other time, is give up. Let me give you a quick example, Last Monday, I tried to do day one of Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Workout Guide (bearing in mind this is day one of the pre-training, so not even the real thing). The aim is to do a circuit as many times as possible in the space of 7 minutes. This particular circuit was for legs and included exercises such as squats, knee-ups and skipping. I looked at the and thought “sure, this seems easy enough”. Oh boy was I wrong, because God knows that when I reached the last exercise, not only had it taken me 6 minutes to do just one circuit, but I was literally seeing stars. I was badly out of breath, I was weak, and I had gone pale. I had to stop my timer (I think it was about 6 mins 30 secs, so I didn’t even last the whole 7 minutes), and I literally packed up my things, and came home. Can you imagine? How unfit must I have been that I couldn’t even last 7 minutes in the gym? And that’s when I realised – it wasn’t my body that was unfit, it was my mind, and I’ll tell you why.

I ended that day on 6 mins and 30 secs. I decided to throw in a towel at that point, i.e. I made that executive decision. And what did I base it on? I based it on the 10-15 seconds of discomfort I felt throughout those 6 and a half minutes.

So lets break that down. 15 seconds out of 6 and a half minutes. So essentially thats 15/390 seconds, which is also equivalent to approximately 3.85%. I gave up on my entire workout based on how I felt for 3.85% of it. Let that sink in for a second, because I know that when that had sunk in for me, I was actually shocked and frustrated with myself, and I know exactly where I went wrong.

I’m someone who likes a clear plan. It helps me manage my anxiety if I know what needs to be done, or expected in the future, and it helps me hold myself accountable for what I do. Having a plan sets the foundations of any activity, so that it can be built upon and adjusted as required, and the latter part of that is what I completely lost sight of. There was absolutely no shame in adjusting the plan to suit my capability at the time, but because I just saw it as a plan that I had to religiously follow in order to obtain my fitness goals, I tried to push myself in the wrong way, which is why I failed. Let’s fast forward to Saturday, and I was filled with dread at the thought of maxing out after 5 minutes of cardio…but I didn’t. This time I started at a pace that suited me, and upped the speed after intervals that were comfortable for me. When I felt a surge of energy and motivation, I upped the speed of the treadmill to the maximum I could tolerate, and stayed at that speed for as long as possible. Before I knew it, the 20 minutes were over, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt prouder of myself for sticking with it. I did this for the remaining exercises (the second treadmill session was totally unplanned, but I felt super psyched). This whole experience taught me two things:

  1. Don’t be afraid of adjusting things to feel comfortable at first
  2. Set your own goals for yourself and smash them for yourself

I’ve touched upon the first point already, but the second point hit me like a train.

My local gym is predominantly filled with men, most of whom are middle aged, or towards the older side of the spectrum. They’re kinda like typical Desi dad types of men. Sometimes I’d see them and giggle, because one would be wearing a legit shirt with cargo pants and chappal, and another would be wearing a vest and what looked like shorts made from dhoti material. I wouldn’t giggle because I was being judgemental of them (trust me, I’m the last person to be judging anyone, especially in the gym), it was just amazing to see how happy and comfortable they were, despite knowing that they were getting funny looks. I promise you this links in with the second point, just hear me out. Now, when I finished my 40 mins of unplanned cardio, I cooled down for a bit and had some time to think. I was watching other people (in a non-stalker, non-creepy way of course) going about doing their exercise. There were the typical beefy boys in the free weights section, screaming the place down, there were the uncle-jis doing random exercises in the cardio room, there were some women smashing it on the treadmills, but should I tell you what I saw beyond that? I saw everyone getting on and smashing their own goals. They didn’t care who was around them and who was watching them, they were in that gym with a purpose. That’s when I realised that our society has conditioned us for failure when it comes to these things, by constantly comparing us to a standard that was not made for us individually. Lets talk this through. I aim to complete the London Marathon in a years time, despite being not only a non-runner, but a total physical activity non-participant. It would be safe to assume that my fitness level is in the minus region (if that’s even possible), and I have little or no experience with the gym. If I go into that gym and hold myself to the standards of the Greek God running on the treadmill next to me, or the Hulk pumping away iron that is probably twice my body weight, I am doomed for failure before I even begin my journey. There’s a reason why it’s called “my” journey, and that’s because it is unique to me. In order to achieve and surpass the goals I have set myself, I have to take into consideration my own capabilities before I even set those goals, and then I have appreciate all of the small victories that will lead me to bigger success. And that’s why I’m making such a fuss about doing that 40 minutes of cardio. For all you budding Mo Farrahs and Paula Radcliffes out there, this 40 minutes of cardio may form your warm up, but for me it was no less than climbing Everest (and yes, I am entirely serious about that). The point I’m trying to make here is that you should be justly proud of yourself for the small things as well as the big things, and the easiest way you can achieve that is by sticking to your own standards, rather than chasing someone else’s. How does this link back to the old men I mentioned before? I noticed that whenever they finished their respective exercises, they would looking significantly happier and perkier, and would be more enthusiastic about the next exercise they moved onto. They were happy with what they achieved, because it was a big deal for them, and they weren’t letting anyone rain on their parade.

It’s like that old saying goes, if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s entire life believing it is stupid. Be the salmon that gets happy if it manages to jump a few centimetres up stream, because who knows, what was easy waters for some may be tough waters for you.

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