Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A Story About Jim. Er. The Gym.*

So things are getting better in the sleeping department and I'm thinking it has a lot a lot to do with me getting to the gym after work four out of the past five days. Since exercising has been helpful to me, I thought I'd go ahead and be all Advice-y.

Just over a year ago, I made a list on 43 Things of things that that I wanted to do. Of everything on my list "exercise regularly" was the one I knew I could do something about almost immediately.

Luckily, a co-worker at my office was also wanting to start going to the gym and we talked about going together. We went every few days for a couple of weeks until she got sick and couldn't go. By that time, my body was used to going and wanted to go, so I went by myself. And I haven't stopped. No matter what, I've always gone to the gym at least one day a week for more than a year and I'm very proud of that. But, also, I've seen huge improvements in my health. I'm fitter, obviously, but I'm also a few pounds lighter and much more toned. I haven't had anything more than the sniffles, my stress level has been reduced and my sleep (until recently, when I slacked off a little) has been better. I can't say enough about how much nicer my life has been since I started exercising regularly. I'm so glad I started. And I'm even happier that I continued.

So. Here's my advice for anyone who's wanting to start (and then keep on) exercising regularly.

1. Find a reason to work out.
Try to find a positive reason for getting into exercise. Maybe it's to improve your health or lose some weight or to keep fit. Don't start exercising because you "think you're fat" or because it's "something you should do". For me, honestly, it was to reduce my stress level. If I happened to get arms like Madonna along the way? Well, bonus!
I think it's really important that this is something you want to do, not something you feel forced to do.

2. Be comfortable.
Wear clothes that will allow you to move. Get yourself there in something that doesn't rub or constrict, and get yourself a decent pair of runners. After you're in the habit and going regularly, invest in a good pair of exercise pants and some "real" exercise clothes. You'll probably find the more you workout, the happier you are with showing off your body. I started out in big t-shirts and now am more comfortable, and less sweaty, in sleeveless shirts that are made for working out.
The bottom line? Good shoes and comfortable clothes. It's not a fashion show. The clothes are there to keep you from being naked. The shoes are there to keep you from being injured.

3. Don't compare yourself to anyone.
This is a big one. There will ALWAYS be someone better looking, fitter, skinnier, more muscular, better built, whatever. Do. Not. Compare. Yourself. If you want to compare yourself with someone, take your measurements before you start exercising. Take photos, whatever it takes. Just remember, those incredibly fit people? Those gorgeous, skinny, perfectly perfect looking people? They're not you. Don't wish you were them. Some of them were built that way. Some of them do nothing but work out. Some of them will have been working out for years. Some of them are just lucky. Don't waste your energy, don't let other people get you down. I made the mistake, a couple of years ago, of comparing myself to a friend who was a tri-athlete. (Hi B!) He told me he had no idea how anyone could run inside on a treadmill and I figured he must be right. I tried going for walks outside but it didn't last long. I realized, eventually, that just because it worked for him, didn't mean it had to work for me. That helped. A lot.
Don't compare yourself to anyone but you.

4. Make it easy.
This is all about you enjoying exercising. Maybe you'll go to dance classes, maybe you'll go to a gym, maybe you'll swim, maybe you'll join a running clinic. Find something that works for you. For me, it's going to the gym. Find a time that works for you. I don't do mornings, so for me, after work is the best. I go on my way home from work because if I go home first, my couch calls to me and I rarely make it back out.
Make getting to your exercise as easy as possible. Make it easy to add it to your routine. Make it convenient.

5. Find someone to go with.
This may be a personality thing, but for me, the first few weeks, I needed a partner encouraging me. Honestly, most of the time I only went because I'd already told her I'd go with her. Once I was there, I was glad I did, but come the next day, I wouldn't have taken myself if it hadn't been for "having to" be there. You might not need this, but if you can't seem to make yourself go, find someone to make you go.
It can be helpful to have someone to exercise with, even if only at first while you get into the habit.

6. Make it fun.
You need to like working out! That may mean doing something besides walking on a treadmill, or it may mean walking on a treadmill with an iPod and a trashy magazine. Really. If you're hating working out the first few times, make a change. Find something that makes you enjoy doing it.
If you're not enjoying it, you're not going to keep going.

7. Make yourself a promise.
I made myself a deal early on that, no matter what, I'd go to the gym every Saturday. I knew that reasonably, work and would sometimes get in the way and if I could always have a day set aside for the gym, I'd feel better even if I missed a day or two. And I do. I've gone to the gym sick just to have gone on a Saturday and the pride I feel in having gone to the gym at least once a week for an entire year can't be matched.
Pick a day. Always go. You'll thank yourself.

8. Notice.
Take a minute the first time to go to work out and write down what you did. For example: the first time I went to the gym, I managed five minutes on the elliptical trainer before I had to get off, puffing and sweating. Now I can get through 20 minutes and still breathe! Notice how your body changes for the better as you continue exercising.
Write down what you managed to barely get through the first time. Compare that to what you're getting done in three weeks, three months!

9. Take it easy on yourself.
Don't show up on day one and try to run half an hour. Don't twist an ankle and force yourself to keep going. Don't beat yourself up if you get an injury and have to adjust what you do. Remember, this is supposed to be a positive thing in your life. When you first start out, set reasonable goals for yourself and then lower them. Remember, you're trying to start a habit here and change is slow and gradual.
Be gentle with your body and your psyche.

10. Be proud.
Don't be afraid to show off the awesome changes you see in your body. When we were on holiday, I kept asking my Mom if she wanted to feel my muscles. Being my Mom, she indulged me, but really, I was feeling so proud of what I'd accomplished, it was great. Go ahead and buy a new outfit, tell your friends how often you get to the gym.
Be proud of yourself, you're doing a great thing.

OK. That's more than enough. For anyone who's managed to get to the bottom of this post, hi! I'm not re-reading this post tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Sowwy for any mega typos or poor grammar or whatnot.

* I used to joke with my co-worker that we were both dating the same guy "Jim" when we were talking about going to the gym. It was funny at the time. You probably had to be there.

Wow. This so had nothing to do with being single, eh? Um. Let me add this: Single folks? Tons of hot people to look at at the gym! Not convinced? Read my archives for proof. Hotness everywhere. You could probably even get dates there if you were brave!


Anonymous ynbf said...

Let me give myself some credits first:
I'm a veteran with over 20years of year-round training starting from
my teenage years. I work out 4-5 times a week during the winter
and 10-11 times a week during the summer. (No, I don't look buff.
Some people would classify me as skinny.)

Wow! For someone who just started out, those are excellent advice!
I would've said almost the same thing.

"3. Don't compare yourself to anyone."
Everyone falls into this trap. I have a funny story related to this:

On my $2,000 road bike pushing out a nice pace, I saw a fat girl
on a $20 clunker bike (one with a basket infront) way ahead.
"I'm going beat her across that intersection if I pushed it a bit."
But I didn't just push it a bit. I pushed it a lot and just flew pass her.
Suddenly, the lights changed to red! Screeech. By the time it turned
green, the girl already had caught up, and with her momentum, she beat
me across the intersection! The moral of the story? Run your own race.
I think this is exactly the same as "3. Don't compare yourself to anyone."

"4. Make it easy."
I would agree but I would add that keeping a fixed schedule helps.
For example: Workout in the morning before going to work and another
one immediately after work. It might sound tough, but if you get into
a routine, it becomes easy.

"5. Find someone to go with."
I think this is extremely important from a beginner's level all the way to
the elite level.

"7. Make yourself a promise."
While I agree with this, I disagree about keeping your promise in the
face of sickness. I believe the whole purpose of fitness is to put your
mind and body in a better state. (Note: mind first, then body)
So, working out while sick will make you worse off, defeating the purpose.

"8. Notice."
One of my prized possesion is my runner's log. I think it's very
important to keep a log. And don't just records stats; write how
you felt. As a memory-trigger, I can re-live that wonderful run
I had 15years ago and I can even remember vivid details that weren't
written down.

Overall, your advice are awesome. I had to learn some of these the
hard way throughout the years. But even after that, you can lose yourself
to the moment and do stupid things like out-running that bus and wrecking
the workout schedule for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 1:34:00 am  
Blogger Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

Great advice. And, I'm proud of you, too! I love hearing people's successes with positive changes in their lives;>

Thursday, April 26, 2007 6:56:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

Thanks, Woo-Woo :D

Thursday, April 26, 2007 7:57:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

YNBF: Let me begin by saying AWESOME! Good for you being such a healthy fit person : ) I'm glad you agreed with my random and babbling advice!
I also really like what you added (plus the funny story!)
I would totally agree that a fixed schedule helps a lot, totally. And, I hear what you're saying about sickness. For me, I don't go hard when I'm sick or injured, I just go to get myself out of the house and to the gym. I barely work out when I'm there, it's more about keeping the promise to myself that I'd go every Saturday. So, yes, no "real" workouts when sick if any. : )
And, yeah, I've heard runners really value their logs (kind of like a diary for exercise). I know I certainly like remembering how I felt my first few times compared to how I feel now!

Eeep, I've got to go, I'm running late for work! (OK, only figuratively running)

Thursday, April 26, 2007 8:04:00 am  
Blogger Laura said...

Good for you Victoria! I feel the same way. I like the gym too as the best place to exercise, and really kicked my fitness plan into high gear in the new year. Nobody I know goes to the same gym as me, so what I do instead of finding someone to go with is I go to the drop in fitness classes a lot. Technically I'm not committed to them so I could just not show up and nobody would notice or care, but it's a way to work out with other people. And you get the motivation from the class instructor so you don't have to do the motivation part yourself. Another good tip is to switch it up with your routine a bit so your muscles (and your brain) don't get into a rut and you keep challenging yourself. Try different weights and different exercises every few workouts.

Re: working out while sick, I've always heard if your illness is "above the neck" (i.e. sore throat, congestion), it's beneficial and helps you heal faster if you get some exercise. But if the illness has migrated "below the neck" (i.e. chest congestion, nausea, vomiting, body aches) then you need to rest to heal faster. I have always stuck to that and it always works!

I would also like to add that if you are working out at the gym while sick, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take advantage of the cleaner spray and paper towels and wipe down your equipment when you're done with it. Nobody wants to catch a cold because they used the ellipical after someone sneezed all over the handle bars!

Thursday, April 26, 2007 9:20:00 am  
Blogger Likalia said...

In a round about way this whole post relates to being single. You are exercising to feel better about [insert attribute here - ie: yourself, your body], which plays a major role in how people participate in this whole dating "game".

It is awesome that you made a plan and stuck to it. I wish I had that motivation/determiniation, I always have the best of intentions with exercise. Since moving back to my home town I have been even worse where exercise concerned. Like Woo-Woo said though, hearing sucess stories is always great and motivational as well. Now just need to find that motivation...*wanders off to see if she packed her motivation into a box when moving*

Thursday, April 26, 2007 10:05:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

Laura: Good for you too! And, yes, I can't imagine going to the gym while all throwing up, ick! And our gym is really good, everyone uses the spray things to wipe down everything all the time. And I wash my hands before and after! : ) I'm lucky that going to the gym has made me healthier so I really haven't gotten sick to worry about it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 6:21:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Likalia: Any luck checking your boxes? heh.
Yeah, I suppose feeling better about yourself is a good way to attract people. I also found that the better I felt, physically and emotionally, the less I cared about being single, which was awesome.
I'm happy that I stuck to my plan, but it took me years. Really.
I danced for about 15 years while growing up and then stopped during University. I kept saying "I should get back into something" and I spent a lot of money signing up for gyms and classes I never went to more than once or twice. I think it came down to my stress and lack of sleep. I was willing to try anything, even exercise! and just at that time the gal at work told me she was wanting to try working out regularly and I thought "what the heck, I'll give it a go". Then my body started liking it and craving it and it all just kept on happening. You can't force yourself to be motivated to exercise, I don't think. I think that just makes for a grumpy goose. And grumpy geese are no fun. They're kind of scary! ; )

Thursday, April 26, 2007 6:26:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Excellent post - really great, and makes me want to go join the gym (which I have been putting off again and again... mainly because of the time I would have to rearrange to do it).

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy reading your blog...

Saturday, May 12, 2007 3:32:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

Thanks Jonathan! And.. you go (wait.. what's the male equivalent of "you go girl"?) guy!

: )

Saturday, May 12, 2007 11:11:00 am  

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