Breaking Free

In my last post, I revealed that before I started working out regularly, I went through seven years of trying and failing. A vicious cycle that got me zero results and got me pretty down on myself. I was finally able to break free from that cycle, or the “thermostat”, about ten months ago. So how did I break free?

Before I get into that, I have to throw in a little disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am not a personal trainer. I’m merely a person who’s also struggled with having the discipline and motivation to work towards her fitness goals. I can only share with you what I know – what worked for me. Everyone is wired differently. Everyone has a different background, different lifestyle, different situation in life, etc. Take what you need from what I say, make it work for you, or just leave all of it.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here goes.

The turning point came for me one night over dinner. My husband was telling me about his FitCamp program. It’s a 12-week program that includes group personal training classes, a nutrition program, before and after photos, progress tracking, etc. To qualify for the program, you have to go through an interview so they can get a feel for what your goals are and why you want to transform your life.

That got me thinking. What are my motivators? Why have I been trying to go to the gym for the past seven years? On a superficial level, it was always just to “look good.” I never really took the time to dig deep and figure out the real “whys.”

So after some soul-searching, I realized that it wasn’t about “looking good.” It was about more than that. Firstly, I didn’t just want to “look good.” I actually wanted to be the type of person who is healthy and fit. In other words, I wanted that feeling of achievement knowing that I reached the goal I’d been striving towards for seven years. I wanted to know that I grew as a person and was therefore able to get there and uphold a way of life I’ve always wanted to. Secondly, I’ve always wanted to help my husband grow his business. How could I represent his company in any way without “walking the walk”? And lastly, I wanted to be an example to my future children. How could I teach them to live healthy lifestyles if I’m not living one myself?

These were the true “whys”. Only after I identified them did I finally have a deep, emotional drive to achieve my health and fitness goals.

I met with my husband, and I told him that I wanted to join his FitCamp. Before that, I had never taken any kind of group fitness class. So this was stepping way out of my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to hold myself accountable. For me, what better way to do that than to make it visible to other people when I’m not pushing myself hard enough or when I get lazy and skip class.

I interviewed with my husband told him all the reasons why this time I was serious about making a lifestyle change. I also set a timeline for myself – my cousin’s wedding in Vegas in four months.

Then the work began. It wasn’t easy, but I got there. I didn’t reach my goal by my cousin’s Vegas wedding, but that’s okay. I didn’t give up, and about a month later, I did get there. I knew I would.

The FitCamp was the jumpstart I needed. When the 12-week program ended, I continued to focus on the progress I had made, and I never wanted to risk losing it. I’ve found that once you get over the initial hump, it gets much easier. I stopped craving all the bad food (the bad food didn’t taste as good anymore either), and working out became less of a choice and more of a way of life.

Some days I’m still tempted to skip the workout, and yes sometimes I do. But I forgive myself, move on, and know that I’ll do better the next day.

So in summary, here’s how I broke free from my thermostat:

1) I took the time to do some soul searching and uncovered the real, deeply emotionally compelling reasons I wanted to reach my fitness goals.

2) I said these reasons out loud to someone else to hold myself accountable.

3) I set myself up in a situation to hold me accountable – the FitCamp. The key for me was that I made my quest visible to other people, surrounded myself with people who were also working towards similar goals, and made it fun.

4) I set a timeline.

5) I knew I would get there.

6) I was patient with myself.

So there you go. Like I said, take what you need from this and make it work for you. Hopefully I gave you some ideas about how you can break free from your thermostat. I think the most important things are to find the deep, emotionally compelling reasons behind your goals, be patient with yourself, and know you’ll get there. I mean really KNOW it. And you will.

Best wishes on your journey!

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UPDATE: Women who lift heavy UNITE!

Surprisingly enough, I actually got a response to my inquiry about putting heavier weights in the women’s area at my gym.  (Read about it here.)  Only two days after I received the email from the nice, young personal trainer I spoke to saying they’d “definitely consider it,” I got an email from his manager indicating they were going to put in heavier weights that same day!  And they did! [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.]

Granted, they only added a set of 25’s and a set of 30’s – way short of the 50-60 pounders I asked them to incorporate into their dumbbell ensemble – this is progress.  They’re supposedly looking into incoporating up to 50 pounds by way of Power Block dumbells.

So they still have yet to follow through completely on their word.  Hopefully they don’t disappoint me. 

I was in there today using the 25’s, and it’s not far off that I’ll need to upgrade to using the 30’s.  Pretty soon I’ll need those 35’s or 40’s.  (Not to mention that I already need those and heavier for single dumbbell squats (aka plie squats), but I’ve been avoiding doing those because of the lack of appropriate hardware.)

So yet again, I will keep you posted.  At least I got a response that indicates they acknowledge there’s a need for heavier weights in the women’s area.  I hope I’m not the only one using them!

Women who lift heavy UNITE!

I work out at a pretty huge gym.  It’s actually more like a health club.  They have raquetball, tennis courts, a spa/salon, a restaurant, a pool, fancy locker rooms, etc.  They also have a small area that is restricted to women’s use only.

Don’t get me wrong.  I actually like working out.  But that wasn’t always the case.  I used to get nauseous at the thought of going to the gym.  Not only because it just seemed like too much effort to put some workout clothes on, drive to the gym, and expend way more energy on a treadmill or doing squats than sitting on the couch watching reruns of Friends, but also because it was actually a daunting experience.

I think now I can say I somewhat know what I’m doing when I’m at the gym.  But when I first started working out, I was really self-conscious about it.  Firstly, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was sure it was obvious to everyone around me.  Secondly, all those guys on the weight machines, grunting and flexing in the mirror, while scrawny, petite me had to completely remove the pin on the row machine because even the lightest weight was too heavy. 

And while I was in college, I was self-conscious around men in general, let alone while suggestively raising my hips off the ground to do lying butt bridges.  And honestly, I still am slightly self-conscious about these things.

Fitness institutions such as Curves were established for this very reason.  They understand that testosterone-laden gyms may not be the best environment for women who are not figure competitors to begin their journeys towards their fitness goals. 

And this is the reason behind the area at my gym that is women only.  Sometimes I workout in the big, crowded weight room, filled with Arnold-wannabe’s.  But sometimes I want to work out in an environment where I feel comfortable and where I don’t have to put myself on a waitlist for the 30-pounders.  Only problem is, the dumbells in the women’s area only go up to 20 pounds.

Back in my college days, that may have been good enough.  But now that I’ve gotten stronger, I need to lift heavier.  It’s like the big-wigs at the fancy gym think that women who are able to lift more than 20 pounds are advanced enough that they shouldn’t be self-conscious about working out among the men.

(This could potentially get into the whole “I’m afraid I’ll look like a man if I lift more than 8 pounds” conversation, but I’ll save that for another day.)

I don’t know about you, but I feel it’s discriminatory and somewhat hypocritical that this gym would force me out of the women’s area because I start getting stronger.  Isn’t that something the gym big-wigs should support?  I can see how this would deter some women from continuing to pursue their fitness goals: They start seeing results, get stronger, start needing to lift heavier weights, but then stop progressing because they continue to lift 20 pounds because they don’t want to leave the women’s area.

Anyway, so I approached the nice, young man behind the personal trainer’s desk and asked him if they’ve ever considered putting heavier weights in the women’s area.  The answer was “no.”  But he did talk to his supervisor and emailed me asking what weights I would like introduced.  It’s something they’ll “definitely consider.”

Good sign.  I’ll let you know what happens.

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