My fitness journey began nine years ago, back in 2011, when I discovered the gym and started lifting weights. Between those early days and now there have been a lot of ups and downs, mistakes and successes, experiences and lessons. If you’re someone who is only just discovering fitness then perhaps by sharing what I have learnt over the past nine years I can help make your ride a little smoother.
1. Your body and needs are unique.
I spent the first few years of my journey looking to others for inspiration, copying their workouts and hoping I would end up looking like them. What resulted was a fitter and stronger version of myself, but one that looked nothing like the girls I followed. I soon realised that my body type, my height, my genetics all played into my physique and the way training affected my body. In short, you can eat exactly the same and follow identical workouts to someone else but you will get completely different results. So instead of aiming to look like other women, I started to embrace looking like myself and focus on what exercise made me feel good.
2. Your workout routine will evolve.
As humans we often value consistency and fear change, but it is natural for your exercise preferences to shift over time. When I first started training I lifted weights 5/6 days a week and loathed cardio. I have been through phases of loving bodybuilding, 10km runs, hot yoga and group classes. And now? I am enjoying weighted circuits, pilates and running, which I am sure will change in a few months or so. Don’t hold onto old routines which aren’t making you happy out of fear of change, embrace it.
3. Low intensity doesn’t mean low efficiency.
I used to be a HIIT addict and I didn’t view exercise such as yoga and pilates as “proper workouts” (I know, silly me!). This all shifted after my bowel surgery when I started doing regular pilates during my recovery. I realised the true value in this kind of training and now I am a convert. I do pilates once a week and if I had time I would love to incorporate it more. It is incredibly beneficial for your core, posture and stabilising muscles. Basically, don’t knock it until you have tried it.
4. What you do outside your workouts is important as your training.
I used to place the emphasis of my fitness journey on my sessions in the gym alone, but as time has gone on I have realised that health and wellness are multi-faceted. You have to balance a few different lifestyle factors to feel your best. Now I ensure I give time to good nutrition (I have gone from a repetitive meat-heavy diet to a varied plant-focused diet), good sleep (I’ve gone from 5-6 hours a night to 7-8) and good mental health (I get out in green space and do breathwork daily). And that is just the beginning, how we feel and function is impacted by so many different factors that we can’t just place our wellbeing in the hands of the gym. Oh and don’t even get me started on how as women our hormonal fluctuations affect our workouts, that has been a revelation!
5. Light coloured gym kit is for home workouts.
I am such a sweaty betty that when I wear light coloured clothing I look like I have peed my pants, poured water down my bra and sat in a puddle. Sure, I probably shouldn’t care what anyone thinks but to avoid the stares I stick to dark colours in public and light coloured at home!
What lessons have you learnt during your fitness journey? Any of the same ones as me? Let me know on social media @zannavandijk