By AMY STOCKWELL
First, some caveats: I’m not one of those people who likes exercise. I don’t feel the endorphin-hit that people talk about. Despite what the experts tell you, I haven’t found an exercise that is fun for me (yet).
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been going to a gym. Every time I go, I have a fight with myself about not wanting to go. But I’ve persisted. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is brought to you by our partners at Fernwood Fitness. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
1. Nobody is watching you
I was initially concerned that people would laugh at me because I was so unfit. I was embarrassed when I took classes because I seemed to struggle more than anyone else and always came last when we ran around the basket ball courts (I still do both). But one day I realised that no one was watching me. No one cared what I looked like. Everyone was so focussed on their own workout that I could have danced around nude and no one would notice. Women or men, trainers or other clients – nobody cares. People are indifferent – and it’s great.
I should add here that nobody cares what you’re wearing either (which is a good thing given the nude dancing thing.) Don’t worry about buying the right exercise clothes. A good bra and some sturdy shoes are all you need. Any old tshirt and trackies are more than fine.
2. Kids are ok
I’m not a parent, and as I’ve already mentioned I don’t have a great enthusiasm for exercise, so I’m often cranky when I’m at the gym. So, I thought that I’d be irritated by kids running around at the gym while their parents work out or take classes.
Surprisingly, I ended up really liking it. It occurs to me that if I struggle to get to the gym, it must be a lot harder for people with children. And while the kids are boisterous, their parents seem to make an effort to ensure that the kids have something to do or play with while they work out. One of the instructors at my gym is a single parent, and it is pretty cute to see her three year old daughter mirroring her during the classes.
I suspect that the kids at the gym are learning some important lessons about effort and supportiveness too. One night, while I was huffing and puffing through a boot camp class, a little girl quietly said to me from the sidelines, “Keep trying. You’re doing really well.” It was one of my best ever exercise experiences. Thanks, little buddy.
So if you’re worried about taking your kids to the gym, don’t worry. And if you get a bit edgy about seeing kids in the gym, you shouldn’t worry either. The kids are alright.
3. I like being strong
I’ve banged on quite a bit about not loving exercise, but there is something that I have discovered that I *do* like: I like feeling strong. I like being able to carry heavy boxes. I like not needing anyone’s help to carry a 20kg bag of dog food up the stairs. I like impressing my friends by opening jars and other amazing feats of strength. I like throwing around my over-size luggage like an angry baggage-handler. I like being a stronger swimmer in the ocean.
One of my friends said to me that when she feels physically strong, she also feels mentally strong. She feels like she can do anything. She’s smart, my friend. Feeling strong makes exercise worthwhile.
4. Exercise is meditative (kind of)
Meditation is touted as one of the keys to happiness . I’ve tried quite a few meditation techniques, and while having a guided meditation recording on your iPod is handy on planes and buses, I’ve never been that successful at switching off my brain for any decent period.
However, when I take an exercise class, I am so focussed on trying to make my feet step up and down or hold my balance while carrying a tyre, that there isn’t enough space in my brain for other (negative, doubting or self-defeating) thoughts. Even if I am having a bad day mentally and emotionally, an exercise class is guaranteed to give me 45 mins of clear brain space. I’m not as successful at zoning out my thoughts and worries while working out on my own, if I take a class, I’m able to switch off for a little while. And when I finish the class, I’m so grateful that it is over, that any negative thoughts that I had beforehand are replaced with relief.
5. Don’t be scared of fit people
I think that I was carrying kind of high-school hangover that said that people who are super-fit are going to be mean, judgmental and fat-shaming (I had a particularly sadistic PE teacher). As ridiculous as it sounds, I was harbouring a phobia of fit people. And I was so very wrong. The fit people I have come across are not only kind and supportive, they are also generous with their time, intuitive and philosophical about health. They have not been the preoccupied fanatics I was expecting. If anyone was prejudiced, it was me – and I feel like an idiot about it. I actually really enjoy the positivity and perspective of the people at my gym – they are people I like being around because I feel like I might be able to catch some of their enthusiasm and commitment.
6. It’s never as bad as I think it will be
A self-explanatory one here, but the fight that I have with myself every time I go to the gym feels silly when I’ve finished working out. It’s rarely as bad as I think. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m uncomfortable. But I actually feel ok. I’m still a reluctant exerciser – but it turns out that it’s worthwhile for me.
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What’s the one thing that surprises you about exercise?