Somebody asked me the other day – how did you go from zero to 100? You never used to work out much at all – how do you manage to do it 5x a week now? There were a few things that came to mind – the first being that it really wasn’t zero to 100. Actually, I started the first 6 months of my health & fitness journey with home workouts. I would put my quilt on the floor each morning before work and do a bodyweight workout for maybe 15-20 minutes. The first thing I did, which showed I was dedicated to progressing, was purchase a yoga mat. Next came 2x6kg dumbbells (which was extremely heavy at the time – I had to get Levi to lug them for me from the concierge to my flat), and finally I picked up a £5 set of resistance bands.
Going to the gym, and getting to the stage I’m at now (with oh so much left to learn) was a very slow and steady process of learning and getting over the fears we all face when starting something brand new. I was only able to stick to it because I just started doing what I enjoy – 45 minute cardio sessions were never really my thing and perhaps that’s what made me feel physically sick getting ready for one. Working with weights, and implementing cardio via HIIT techniques, well… that’s more of my thing. Along the way, there definitely were some mistakes I’ve made. If you’re kick starting your health & fitness journey this year (“new year, new me” and all), here are a few things to learn from mine…
1. Spending hours and hours at the gym
I used to go to the gym for no less than 1.5 hours… usually up to 2 hours+. I thought that if I wasn’t doing this I wasn’t pushing myself enough, but, eventually, I decided to condense the time I’m at the gym to within the range of 45 mins/1 hr 15 mins max (usually 1 hr but the higher range for lower body and lower range for HIIT). I did this because I realised I needed more time to focus on other things in my life.
The truth was that, before I made this change, I simply wasn’t being efficient in the gym. God knows how long I’d have breaks for in between sets but it was definitely several minutes too long, I’d also spend much too long on my warm ups. These days I time my breaks in between sets and unless I really do have a lot of time to spare (which is really only on the weekends), I don’t waste tons and tons of time dilly-dallying on different warm-up exercises.
2. Not really pushing myself
“Progressively overloading” (i.e. “the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training”) is a term that didn’t really enter my vocabulary until later in 2018. I guess you can say that I was scared… I was lifting weights way below what I could hack (when it came to deadlifts and squats more specifically) – because I didn’t really know what I could hack. It was only after training one day with Levi and his flatmate that I felt the adrenaline to seriously push myself, and all of a sudden 40kg squats shot to 60kg+, and 45kg deadlifts rocketed to 80kg. On that same day. I learned that I was a lot stronger than I thought. Now I don’t always go to the gym intending to lift extremely heavy… sometimes (like today), I have a moderate weight day but play around with the time under tension/the lowering phase of a specific exercise. Sometimes I do high reps and lower weights. But sometimes I push myself to the absolute max and honestly, often I surprise myself. I set a 100kg hip thrust as a long term goal this year and I hit this goal already a few weeks back.
3. Not focusing on core compound moves
Now that I’ve been working out for a little bit, I’ve definitely got a bone to pick with a few Instagram fitness girls…
A few of the workouts I tend to come across on Instagram, whilst looking very fancy, are a bit impractical and don’t actually do all that much (they do, however, attract more views which is why I think they are so popular). When it comes down to it, it’s likely that the person posting these on Instagram are probably not even actually posting exercises they regularly perform themselves. I see some of the strangest things sometimes on Instagram and I used to load my workouts full to the brim with all these strange exercises before I started to realise that sometimes they’re not all that effective. Some accessory work can make workouts more fun and keep things interesting – for sure – and actually I swear by some things people may see as unnecessary accessory moves (like glute kick backs and cable pull throughs) – but, it’s hard to beat a very core compound move. Your squats, your deadlifts, your hip thrusts; these are really when you push your body and when you start to see the most changes. FYI and for those that may not know, a compound exercise is defined as “a multi-joint movement that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time” and you can progressively overload on these to see continued results.
4. Beating myself up if I couldn’t make a session
In the week just passed, I skipped two days that I’d usually go to the gym because “I’ll just go out for one drink!” after work, turned into four drinks, turned into “might as well go home now…” over two successive days. I was disappointed only for the fact that I was genuinely looking forward to my workout on those days (it was glute day after all…), I was not disappointed because I felt I would be seriously stunting my progress for taking time out to do something as necessary as err… socialising. The thing is, back in the day, that is literally what I would think. This time last year I literally took a 3 day trip to Madrid and made sure I booked a hotel with a gym because I absolutely had to get a workout in. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, at the end of the day, it’s all about consistency. You shouldn’t let working out and being healthy actually stop you from just… living your life.
5. Comparing myself to others
Now this is something most of us are guilty of doing.
I used to scroll through Instagram and scratch my head at what seemed to be absolutely breathtaking stories of progress and wonder – what was taking me so long? Honestly, at a point I felt embarrassed about my progress – how can I be going to the gym so often and still look… like this?
As cheesy as it sounds, everyone’s individual journey is different. We all start at different points and given that we all have different genes, that means we won’t all fall under the same umbrella when it comes to progress. I got more comfortable with this idea over time and also just found that I could switch things up if I was unsatisfied (e.g. my routine or what I’m eating) and just keep on pushing. As I am enjoying this journey so much, and because it is such a means for getting some much needed headspace, I was going to continue on the journey under any circumstances. Which means that the results will come… when they come. It’s similar to blogging – I may not have 10 million followers like a Zoella, but ya know what, I really do enjoy this little space I have, it has brought me some great opportunities and I am grateful to everyone that reads, follows and shows love.
If you’re pondering over your own “health & fitness” journey, my best advice will always be to just… start. The rest? That’ll figure itself out later.