I hope you’re all doing well! Today’s post is the start of a new series here on my blog called “The Fitness Diaries” (not the most creative but it is what it is). I decided this summer that I was going to give my life a makeover, starting with my mental and physical health. I want to track and share my progress with you so I thought I’d begin with the hardest part, starting.
As someone with clinical depression, I have highs and lows that often seem to come from nowhere. However, I have noticed that some things can trigger a dip in my mental health. One of those is around identity. If I don’t feel a sense of purpose I tend to get really down. I had a really bad dip in late 2019 and early 2020 which I never really recovered from. Taking care of my mind and body had completely stopped being a priority. I gained some weight and I looked tired and miserable. Every time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw and I didn’t recognise myself. I tried some home workouts but I never stuck with them.
Joining the gym was something I had been debating for a really long time. Despite wanting to get fit, I was scared of walking into a fitness focused environment and feeling intimidated and overwhelmed. I was worried I would end up comparing myself to everyone else and losing sight of my own goals. Secondly, I had completely forgotten what to do in that environment. Would I would stick out like a sore thumb around people that knew what they were doing? What if I drop a weight? What if I look stupid? Sigh, we really are our biggest critics sometimes.
In terms of goals, I have none other than to lose a little bit of weight (no amount desired – just until I feel comfortable), tone up and improve my mental health.
Week One (1 hour of cardio/day)
June 2021: Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I had to at least give it a go before decided I’d hate it. So I walked in, signed up and I went to the gym that evening. To make me feel more comfortable, I covered up in a baggy t-shirt and leggings so that I wasn’t bothered about how I looked. I walked straight over to a treadmill, jumped on, put my headphones in and marched away for an hour. I was sweating like you wouldn’t believe but when that hour was up I was so proud of myself. Just to keep it real, I literally had to sit on the floor in front of a fan afterwards to catch my breath. A member of staff even came and asked if I was okay (dying laughing as I write this). I was so embarrassed but we’ve all got to start somewhere.
I decided that I was just going to to use the treadmill every day to begin with. No weights or machines, just me and my legs walking for an hour or so. I went every evening, and slowly I stayed for longer, listening to podcasts and music that I loved. If I was really enjoying what I was listening to, I would increase the incline and speed, so I was distracted whilst working harder! Within a week I had lost some weight and I was looking much happier and healthier. I found it easier to eat better too as I could literally see my hard work taking effect. I didn’t cut any food out, I simply made better choices.
It wasn’t all easy, it’s hard to do something like this when you don’t love yourself. There were definitely some low points this week. I was fighting my own demons all the time and I could barely look at myself in the mirror. The last thing I wanted to do was get changed and walk to the gym but I did it.
Week Two (2 hours of cardio/day)
June 2021: It was in this second week that I started to look and feel like a different person. The weight was practically dropping off me, my mind was a much more peaceful place and I finally started to respect myself. For the first time in years, I had actively forced myself to think about me for at least an hour a day. I put all my energy into bettering myself and something clicked.
Suddenly I found myself waiting for gym time and I practically skipped there when 6 o’clock came around. I was no longer dragging myself there every evening, I actually wanted to go and I looked forward to it. Within such a short space of time, I started to feel a sense of community at the gym. I was becoming one of the regulars (gasp) and I started chatting to people that would go at the same time as me. I finally started to feel as though I belonged there.
Week Three (40 minutes of cardio & 1 hour of full body weight training/day)
June 2021: This week I ordered myself some leggings (linked below) and some new gym gear. I was now going every day and the wash loads were becoming ridiculous! By this point, I had definitely noticed a lot of physical changes. The weight I had gained during lockdown and through depressive bingeing was nowhere to be seen. I felt good about myself. I was still starting each session with about an hour on the treadmill but I now felt confident enough to start using machines. A whole session dedicated to one thing was something I still wasn’t sure about yet, but I felt I could manage a bit more. I started using the leg press machine, seated press machine and lots of other equipment to work my whole body.
Two months (20 minutes cardio & 2 hours of focused training/day)
July 2021: Excuse the moody face and hand gesture. The first picture was sent to my best friend BUT take a look at those abs please! I was in such good shape at this point. I looked lean and toned and my skin was the best it had ever been. At this point I was doing dedicated training days; legs, glutes, core, arms, back and chest and I could see the difference. It was at this point that other people were noticing a change in me, physically and mentally. I was receiving compliments which made me feel great about myself and encouraged me to push harder.
Three months (20 minutes of cardio & 2 hours of focused training/day)
August 2021: I was starting to love myself. I respected my body a lot more after seeing what it was capable of and after putting so much work into sculpting it. I was eating better, drinking lots of water and I was much more confident. I’d ordered myself some shorts to wear at the gym, which was a huge deal as I never felt confident with my legs out. I had made a few friends at the gym and I was also sharing my progress on social media. The response had really encouraged me to keep going. I felt a huge sense of achievement as by this point, I’d been going to the gym on a daily basis, for three months for a minimum of two hours each day. I’d never stuck to something for this long and I’d never been this focused on myself before.
Here’s the link for these black shorts
September 2021: long story short I went through a whopper of a breakup and I hit rock bottom but I was determined not to lose the progress I had made. I kept going and I kept showing up every day. This was definitely a moth for learning about myself. I figured out that I needed a whole lotta self-love, not the kind that focuses on the future but the kind that is content with who you are today.
I realised my worth and I recognised how much I needed to believe in myself and I spent a lot of time reflecting on different periods of my life. Having been in a relationship for the last five years, I had completely forgotten who I was as an individual. I had sort of lost myself and the gym was helping me work on that. All of that sob story aside, this month was when I looked and felt my best physically.
So there you have it, my first few months of progress after starting at the gym. My mental health has improved immeasurably and becoming physically fit was an added bonus as far as I’m concerned. In terms of my physical health, I’m really in shape, I feel good about my body and I feel much more confident than I used to in certain outfits for example. I think my next goal is to just maintain this level of fitness, I don’t want to lose or gain any more weight, I just want to keep this as a hobby and as a form of daily self-care. Do you go to the gym? Are you wanting to start? Do you prefer to workout at home? Let me know in the comments!