fitness

'I quit the gym and got in the best shape of my life.'

When gyms began closing in March, I couldn’t help but think, “Hey! I was just getting into a routine!” Anxious to get in one last session before an indefinite quarantine, I hurried to my gym. But as I stood waiting for a machine, shouldered between two guys taking selfies, I became disenchanted. The pandemic highlighted sanitation concerns, of course; it also made me question my efficiency at the gym. That was my last day at the gym. Ever.

Fast forward to five months later, and I’ve exceeded all my fitness goals. My favourite pants fit. I feel sexy. I have more energy. I’m in the best shape of my life. But more importantly, I am stronger physically and mentally. All of this without stepping foot in a gym. Actually, I don’t believe I would have ever reached my goals had I not said goodbye to the gym and its inherent distractions.

I’m going to share with you the three principles that changed my life and put me in control of my own fitness journey. Remember, the “best shape of your life” is just that — the highlight of your personal growth. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, priorities, and motivations. Progress takes time, and each body is unique. Let’s celebrate all that our bodies do for us while working to be our best selves.

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Realise you have everything you need in your home (and in yourself).

Before the pandemic, I never considered working out at home. I always thought the gym to be an escape from our small apartment; it was a section of the day cordoned off as “Gym Time.” At home, there were the usual distractions: TV, e-mails, work, more wine, the bed beckoning. Floor mat workouts turned into floor naps. Like many, my intentions were good, but the temptations that came with working out at home made it seem a faraway option.

But after being forced to train at home, I realised I have everything I need to get in shape. If I can do this in a studio apartment with no budget, you can too.

I use a yoga mat, dumbbells, a medicine ball, resistance bands, and a homemade kettlebell, but you’ll find that bodyweight alone is enough. There are plenty of ways to improve your strength and endurance using no equipment. And when you’re ready to add on the weights, use a wine bottle or a planter. Laundry detergent containers with handles are ideal candidates to up-cycle into homemade kettlebells — fill jugs with water for an intense full-body workout.

Okay, I have to admit that working out at home isn’t easy at first. There are distractions, sure, but no one’s gesturing for me to take out my AirPods just so he can ask where I’m from. At the gym, it was easy to sit on my phone while waiting for a machine or spend more time resting between reps than actually working out. Whether at the gym or home, you have to want growth. You have to crave it. The power of working out at home is that you have full control. When I find myself lacking motivation or energy, I’ll do an easy core workout while mindlessly watching Seinfeld or Jersey Shore… not ideal, but it helps me develop the habit.

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Once you realise that only you have the power to change yourself - and it only requires the space it takes to stretch out your arms - you will never dismiss that power again. You have everything you need to get in the best shape of your life. No equipment needed, no excuses.

Don’t think about success in terms of anything other than time input.

Start your phone timer. That’s your “Gym Time” now. No distractions, no scrolling. Maybe your goal is 10 minutes; maybe it’s two hours. The actual amount of time is less important than the act of getting started. Once you have completed your 10 minutes, take that chunk of time and archive it mentally as an accomplishment. Log it in a notebook. Personally, I can more easily visualise results when I celebrate tangible accomplishments, i.e. marking it off my to-do list.

If your goal is to become stronger, interpret that as a goal to do three more push-ups each day. Have a goal of 30 consecutive push-ups by the end of the month. It’s your home and your rules. The beautiful thing about getting in the best shape of your life is that it is all relative to how you feel.

Utilise the free tools at your disposal.

In the world of social media saturation, there are countless free tools at your fingertips. I met my fitness goals and spent less than $50 bucks. Here are three of my favourite free workout sources:

  1. Nike Training Club: I love that Premium features are free indefinitely to support staying active at home during the pandemic. The workouts are curated by athletes and trainers and focused on specific parts of the body. I am completely in love with Nike Master Trainers Alex Silver-Fagan for her warm yoga practices, and Kristy Godso for her killer stability workouts. The app has an option to sync with your health data for those tracking calories or macros, and it has plenty of beginner and bodyweight options, not to mention some quick burners under 15 minutes.
  2. FitPlan: It seems to be a compilation of Instagram’s most darling fitness influencers. There’s not much dialogue or interaction, so it’s easy to sync to your Spotify. It’s perfect for those who want to crank out a workout at their own pace. Con: The long workout times can be daunting to beginners.
  3. Instagram:
  • @hannaoeberg is a trainer and new mum with some serious gym workouts that can be adapted for the home.
  • @emilyy_fitness is a Dogpound trainer with digestible booty workouts for home.
  • @realrubaali posts sweaty circuits while being uplifting and encouraging. I pick her workouts on days when I’m determined to go the hardest.
  • @libbychristensen for easy, no-frills home workouts.
  • @champcityatx offers dynamic and creative strength training ideas for both men and women.

Stop thinking, start moving.

The biggest obstacle in my fitness journey has always been procrastination. I was always putting it off, thinking, “Oh, I’m young,” or “I’m in better shape than some people.” The excuses are always going to be there. But once I finally committed to a regular workout routine, I was able to experience how good it felt to overcome my excuses.

Essentially, I had to stop thinking to get myself to where I wanted to be. It may sound counterintuitive, or the likely advice of a meathead. But our thinking is short-term, focused on what our bodies want now. Our immediate desires are often detrimental to our long-term goals. To meet my goals, I had to stop thinking about what my body wanted, which mostly included being horizontal.

Without thinking, start moving. Make your body listen to you.

There are days when I have a million things to do, and there are days when I have nothing to do. Both are situations in which I can find time to better myself. Only I determine whether I meet my goals or not. The shift in my fitness journey happened when I decided not only to respect and listen to my body but ultimately to take control. When I don’t feel like leaving the couch, I push myself to do Nike’s 6-min Plank Finisher. A quick burn, it’s often a good indicator if I should take the day to rest or keep going.

I find that once I start moving, whether it’s a gentle yoga practice or a sweaty strength training session, it becomes…easy.

Relatively.

This post originally appeared on Medium and was republished here with full permission. 

For more from HK Sloan, you can visit her website hksloan.com.