Confessions of a Fat Girl: How to Survive the Gym
By Lauren Berny
Today was the day that you decided that enough was enough. “This time is different; I will stick to this no matter what,” you said. Putting on your sneakers and workout outfit, you felt confident and ready to gym.
But then, not long after you walked in and looked at all of the different machines—half of which you had no idea how to use—you couldn’t help but feel your heart drop a bit. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Did they notice that you didn’t?
I will admit: Walking into the gym for the first time can be overwhelming. If you are going to the gym, or plan on going and don’t know how to go about it, don’t worry. You are not alone.
Many times, we approach the gym by telling ourselves, “I’ll spend an hour at the gym every day of the week!” I myself am guilty of doing this.
Clearly there are several things wrong with this mentality. For one, it’s a little too unrealistic, especially if you are a newbie at the gym. I have done this several times before; it never lasted longer than a week. I would burn myself out so quickly to the point where the thought alone of going to the gym made me feel tired. It was not at all the best way to sustain a lasting routine, and even though I did lose a pound or two, I was never able to keep that off when I fell back into my old habits.
Setting yourself up with a realistic schedule and goals can help you maintain a workout routine without burning out so quickly. According to MayoClinic.org, even working out 30 minutes a day is much more sustainable than an hour.
For myself, I work out four times a week for 30 minutes. On days where I feel unmotivated—and you will have those days—I try to do an activity that I really enjoy that still helps burn a few calories, but I’ll talk about that a little later.
Also, there is nothing wrong with starting off with 5-pound weights your first few weeks at the gym. Building yourself up to 10 pounds, then 12, then 15 is perfectly normal. I still don’t feel comfortable doing certain moves with 15-pound weights, and that’s okay! With each set you do with weights, try out a heavier pair and see how it feels. If it’s really hard, don’t feel bad if you need to go back to that lighter pair of weights. It’s a process for a reason.
It’s important to know when to push yourself and when to take a break.
If you are in the middle of a set and you feel like you’re about to completely collapse from sheer exhaustion, or that your shoulders are tense, stop what you are doing! Take a breath, drink some water, and stretch for a second if you need to. The last thing you need is to pull a muscle at the gym.
According to LegalMatch, 1500 people were injured in 2009 because of gym equipment. My guess as to why? Most likely, the injuries happened from wrong form, going too quickly, or simply by not giving yourself the time to stop.
Being cautious and taking your time with a machine or free weights is important. I’ve been hurt before from using gym equipment, and it sucks. Whatever muscle you’ve pulled, you’ll probably end up avoiding working out that area for awhile. It would be better if you did your best to not pull that muscle at all. Also, reducing your chances at getting hurt at the gym can be better long term. If you are doing a move with improper form, you can actually injure yourself, and if you ignore that pain, it’ll continue to get worse the more you do it.
My friend’s dad did certain workouts without keeping his back straight, and to this day, he still has a lot of back issues because of it. He also had a very taxing job that required him to move around a lot, and even he admits to not bending his knees and keeping his back straight to pick up 50-pound bags.
This just shows that keeping proper form can be extremely useful when preventing injuries.
UNENJOYABLE WORKOUTS? GO TO A CLASS
If you are a Long Beach State student, ease your way into going to the on-campus gym by taking a free workout class! They have everything from yoga and kickboxing to dancing, swing, and more. To see which classes are available, you can go to their website and choose which class looks the most interesting to you.
Personally, I really enjoy yoga and swing classes. Yoga makes me feel super relaxed and helps me let go of all my stresses at school and my personal life. Swing is just fun! There is rarely a bad time with swing classes.
Again, the gym can be a little overwhelming, but it’ll become more familiar if you scatter your classes throughout the week. Another thing: Take classes that are interesting to you! There are so many times that I took a class or did a workout that I dreaded, and therefore found an excuse to skip. When you are able to find classes that you really enjoy, it can make the process of going to the gym much easier.
Also, don’t be afraid to try something new! Even if you are most interested in kickboxing, maybe try a dancing class and see how it goes. It’s boring doing the same workouts over and over again. Switch it up! Give yourself room to explore different activities.
Despite popular opinion, the gym can be fun and enjoyable. Finding your way through the gym will become less uncomfortable as time goes by, and before you know it, the gym and workouts will become part of your regular routine and not just something you do once in a blue moon.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this thought: Everyone had to start somewhere. Everyone. Becoming a healthier and happier person doesn’t mean you’ll healthy and happy overnight. Putting the time and energy into going back to the gym comes with its many challenges, so don’t beat yourself up too much when you don’t see the results you want when you want them!
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