Okay this is one I could talk forever about. But I've tried to condense it into a tidy 4-minute read for you. Do note that I am not a personal trainer and this is just my personal experiences. Enjoy!
It's always been well-known that I'm pretty dog shit at exercise.
I dabbled in tennis, swimming, road cycling and hiking at various points over my school days. But to say I 'consistently' stuck at any one of these for a prolonged period would be laughable to say the least.
I just didn't care.
I didn't like the feeling of being drenched in sweat or completely draining my body of all energy to do anything else. It also didn't particularly help that I was relatively useless at all means of activity mentioned above either.
Body image was something that never phased me much. I was bloody skinny (something I only realise now) but I just kinda took people's remarks on the chin. I didn't give a shit about how much I weighed nor what I ate, probably checking the scales once every 6 months or so? But they never seemed to change regardless of what I did.
Big thing to note here: I'm not meaning to come across gloat-y in any way, shape or form here - this is just my personal experience. I fully recognise that a lot of people struggle with body dysmorphia and eating disorders on a daily basis and that this can lead to some extremely challenging impacts on one's life. Okay anyway...
The first three years of university were pretty much the same. I did a Zumba/DanceFit (yeah yeah shut up and stop laughing, I know) class once a week and... well that was about it! I had maybe one(?!) gym session with a PT which lasted for a few weeks before I failed to find a routine and just gave up.
Then early in 2019, I thought to myself
"Y'know what... f*** this. I'm fed up of stopping and starting this fitness shit all the time. I'm getting nowhere and it's utterly pointless."
Over time I watched a few YouTube videos on people's transformations, how to do exercises with correct form at the gym and this foreign concept of 'cutting and bulking'. I then eventually made an Instagram account called @alexgetsripped to document my progress and hold myself accountable.
Throughout that year I guess is where it kind of started. I went to a gym in Auckland over summer and got given an upper/lower-body split programme by a PT there. I vividly remember really struggling to lift the barbell (20kg) on an incline chest press for 3 sets of 8 reps. I would do one day of upper body, one day of lower and then a rest day, repeat, which was probably okay for a beginner.
I then later changed to the uni gym as it was closer and aimed to go every other day. I was semi-disciplined at sticking to this. There were definitely hiccups and disruptions with uni workload, extra-curriculars and general mental health but it was better than nothing.
I recorded every single rep, set and exercise I did per session in a notebook (in the gym itself, so I could take time away from my phone) and then onto a Google Sheets document afterwards. I can't overstate how much this helps keep track of your progress. I still use it vitally to this day.
I attended a seminar with the recreation centre's resident nutritionist, Matt, who provided some fantastic tips on food intake, calories, water, understanding nutritional labels and more. I had a one-on-one follow-up session with him afterwards where he gave me a tailored plan of what I should be eating in order to 'bulk' up more on a student budget.
I also went to a group session (and then an individual one) that focussed on how to perform a squat, deadlift, bench press and more with the right form. I was always too nervous to do these for a while as it always seemed like an exercise performed by the 'meatheads' of the gym (for which I am now probably guilty of being a member of). I also discovered just how many things there are to think about with your form in these!
Once I got to grips with a rhythm and feeling the confidence of knowing what I was actually doing, exercising felt significantly easier.
I finished uni and jumped into more of a chest/bi's, shoulder/tri's, back split for a bit at yet another gym with another PT. This time I was doing 2 days on, 1 day off, repeat. This was ongoing for about 4 months and then a certain Covid happened and everything just turned to shit.
During this, I was determined to go for a ~5km walk every second day up the hill but all weight training just went out the window. I quickly realised that home workouts and bodyweight workouts were not for me... at all. I needed a different environment to do exercise in.
Luckily, the lockdown was over after a couple of months and I hit the gym hard to make up for it, going roughly 5-6 times a week. This was probably too much on the intense side and wasn't leaving my body much time to recover. Not for a second, do I take for granted how privileged we were to be able to return to gyms so quickly, when much of the rest of the world has had severe restrictions for the better part of a year.
And that's pretty much where I've been at ever since! I usually squeeze my routines into my lunchtimes, working out for about 50 minutes about 4-5 times a week. I like to think I eat relatively healthily but don't religiously track calories nor give a toss if I eat a pizza, chips or ice-cream here and there. You gotta live a little right?
I'm relatively satisfied with how progress has been going since the start. I'm still utterly useless at sports mind. Can't play a game of basketball for shit despite the height. But y'know what? I've now learned that's okay! You can take the piss out of yourself for it.
By no means do I think I'm 'there' yet but I'm not entirely sure I ever will feel like I am. There isn't really an end goal and I think to have one kinda misses the point. Because for me, the focus is on building fitness as a healthy habit, one that's sustainable and one that feels accomplishing.
Achieve this, and you hit the nail on the head every time. You're out there! Giving it a go! And that... that's what counts most.