May of 2017 I took one of the biggest steps of my life. I walked into a gym for the very first time. It took me 24 years to even step foot in a gym. I have always planned on having a gym membership. Actually one year, for my birthday, Josh pulled up to a gym to surprise me by buying a membership.
I started sobbing. Literally sobbing.
I don’t exactly know why I responded that way, and Josh was certainly perplexed by my outburst. I suppose I was afraid.
When I moved out to California I was blessed to have a friend and sister-in-law, Cheyenne, who was passionate about working out. Wanting to gain muscle and have a hot bod, I jumped on the wagon of fitness. I had no idea I would learn so much.
1. Confidence is Made
I would not call myself an insecure person, but I would not call myself a confident person either. I am somewhere awkwardly in the middle with occasional flares of insecurities and confidences. When I started going to the gym, the occasional flares became more frequent.
I remember once making a plan to join Cheyenne on a charity cycle event. Basically, every mile you hit the gym would donate a dollar to a specific charity. I had taken a few cycle classes before, so I figured it would be pretty simple. As it turned out, Cheyenne had to cancel the night before because of a surprise trip she had no idea was happening. I felt confident and planned on going without her. The next morning I strutted in right when everyone was starting. I looked at the bike I was supposed to be on and my heart dropped to my stomach. This was nothing like what I had done before.
The room was packed with people with boulder-like arms. Everyone was cheering and getting pumped as the instructor started the countdown. I was escorted to my bike and tried to understand the instructions I was given about “screen A”. “Let’s GO!” was shouted over the booming music as I suddenly understood how a deer feels facing headlights.
The stationary bike was not a normal spin bike. It had large handles that needed to be pushed and pulled in order to make your feet peddle faster. I felt fine in my little back corner and figured I would just do the best I could. There were some people on bikes, and some people on the floor in front of me doing a variety of workouts displayed on screens in front of them. It wasn’t like anyone could see my screen, right? Wrong. Suddenly a loud beeping noise went off and everyone jumped off their bikes and switched with a person on the floor. Confused I stayed on my bike until a huge man approached me.
“Uh… I think we are supposed to switch. It is my turn on the bike now.”
“Oh! Right! Sorry. I was confused.” I nervously chuckled as I wobbled off the bike onto the floor.
I noticed a screen with an “A” on it and assumed that was what I was supposed to do. Pushing through the exercise on the screen, I heard the beeping again and saw everyone switch again. I was starting to understand. Every 5 minutes, we switch. This event was an hour long. What on earth did I get myself into?! Mr. Buff Instructor apparently noticed the disoriented look on my face and covered his mic to ask me if I was doing ok.
“Yes! Of course! Woo!”
As if I could fool him into thinking I knew what I was doing. He checked up on me every time I got back on the bike.
After another switch he had to help me with barbell curls. I had never touch a barbell in my life!
“Just leave one of the weights on it. That should work great for you!”
Nope. I could hardly even life the bar without any extra weight! Finally the hour was up and I could not get out the door fast enough! I honestly felt like I was going to fall over and die. Except, it wasn’t even over.
“Everyone on the floor while we count up these miles! WOO! Everyone in plank position! WOO WOO!”
You’ve got to be kidding me. This has to be a joke.
Friends, it was not a joke. We did a million different planks and a whole lot of other exercises while they took their sweet time adding everything up.
Finally, It was done. I bolted out of that gym faster than a toddler after a chocolate bar.
As I sat in the car, I expected to feel embarrassed – but I was actually super proud of myself! I did it. I completed that event! The event I never would have signed up for if I knew what it was really going to be like.
That was a game changer for me. I slowly started gaining confidence, not because I was very good, but because I wasn’t doing it for anyone that was watching. I was doing it for me.
2. Focusing on My Progress
I was so excited once I started my workout and diet plans. I took before and after pictures to see my results happen right in front of my eyes! When I saw no difference in the first month, I was so disappointed. There was no change in the pictures or the scale. Was I doing something wrong? Was I not pushing myself hard enough? Unfortunately, I was so focused on what didn’t happen that I didn’t even noticed the changes I did make! I was going once a week to a spin class and reaching past 15 miles every time. I started out feeling so unstable running on a treadmill that I held on to the bars every time. Now, I was letting go and running faster.
It took me a while to figure this one out. I still struggle with focusing on the goals I haven’t met instead of what I have achieved. Ironically enough, when I focus on the latter, I find myself making more progress because I preform better with positivity versus negativity.
3. What I See is Not What I Get
Good ol’ social media. There is nothing quite as inspiring as a comeback story, and Instagram is full of them. “First I was overweight, or had baby weight, or had a gut, or was weak, but then I became this super hot muscle person with a perfect body at all times.” I became obsessed with the stories because, well, they were true. I saw the pictures! No airbrushing! The pictures were taken from an iphone! How did they do it? How do they achieve such perfect bodies and have a picture of themselves eating pizza on their story.
Somehow I stumbled upon a honest Instagram user. She displayed how certain tricks can make your body look completely different. She would take a photo using these tricks and then add a 5 second later photo next to it. Instantly, she would go looking like a fitness model, to a completely normal human. It is amazing what high waisted work out pants and natural lighting can do! Again, this was a great reminder that I was making progress and it was unfair to myself to want a “perfect” body. Odds are I would never be satisfied because I would be to busy finding something wrong. “Comparison robs all joy.”
4. A Strong Mind
I was talking to a friend about work out goals. (I find strength in numbers!) She said something that I thought it summed up my thoughts perfectly. “I hope [at the end of my challenge] that my mind and my determination is the strongest part of my whole body.” This is probably the most powerful thing I learned. The mind is a powerful thing. I hoped for a change in my body, but there was such a great change in every area in my life. I did not expect working out to also strengthen other areas of my life. We live in a body-obsessed culture and I bought into that obsession when I first started. When I strengthen my mind, I not only strengthen my physical self, but also my parenting, mental, and spiritual self. After a year, I’m dropping the body obsession and trading it in for something more precious: a strong mind.
Proverbs 24:5 “The wise are mightier than the strong, and those with knowledge grow stronger and stronger.”