I HAD 99 PROBLEMS AND EXERCISE WAS A BIG ONE. PLUS, MY SECRET TO WORKING OUT.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I love bragging about going to the gym.
Basically every time I work out, I want you to know about it.
And as tongue-in-cheek as my exercise stories are, I’m genuinely proud of myself every time I hit the gym.
For me, it’s not always been so easy.
This might be odd coming from a ‘former elite athlete’ - aren’t we supposed to be these exercise-unicorns that are completely unrelatable in how much we love to exercise?
Whenever I’ve had to work out on my own, it’s never stuck. Every off-season was a struggle. I rarely worked out as much as I was expected to, because of that very reason: it was expected.
Each session carried so much weight – I had to do it to be the best. I had to do it to stay in shape. I had to do it the be compliant. I had to do it to show I was serious. I had to do it so we could win. I was completely overwhelmed before I’d even begun. I was always exercising (or not exercising) out of a fear and the weight of it made it feel impossible to even start.
This is how I would turn up to day one of pre-season 5kg heavier and more unfit than Norm from the Life Be In It ads.
It wasn’t fun, but as soon as we’d start training, I’d get fitter and faster. I’d feel stronger and leaner. I’d enjoy training and would quickly fall into a false sense of security that I was now one of those ‘fit people’. Then the off-season would come and I’d be snapped back to the reality that I struggled to work out alone.
I played elite netball for 12 years. And this cycle lasted for ohhh, 12 years. I never broke out of it.
Until now, you guys.
You want to know how it happened? I stopped exercising for a whole year!
Those first months of not having to feel bad or dare I say it, naughty for not exercising made me feel so free. I kept waiting to get in trouble! But my body wasn’t answerable to anyone but myself now. How it looked or performed was of no one’s concern but mine.
But a year of doing nothing took its toll. I started to feel sluggish. I was becoming lazier in all aspects of life. I wanted to feel energetic and strong again.
So I started exercising, and the reason made all the difference.
It wasn’t for my looks.
It wasn’t to be better than anyone else.
It wasn’t to please others.
It was because of how I wanted to FEEL. I wanted better for myself.
Exercise makes my mind clearer. I feel more confident. I get a real kick out of achieving things, and working out first thing in the morning makes me a little smug.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t work out all the time. Maybe 3-4 times a week, give or take. But the fact that I CHOOSE to do it, without a hidden agenda or wanting to change something I hate about myself makes all the difference.
If I do have a hiatus, it’s always because I’m putting an expectation on myself. I fall into the trap of needing the exercise to feel worthy. That I need to otherwise I’m a failure. I need to otherwise I’ll feel terrible about myself. That I need to otherwise I’ll get, wait for it…fat. That last one is a red flag for me - I know it’s time to be a little kinder to myself.
So I start again. I remind myself of how great it makes me feel - not how good it makes me look. That it makes me a better version of myself - not better than someone else. And the real game-changer, is that I also allow myself to choose not to go.
As Johnny Farnham says: I take the pressure down.
And without fail the motivation comes crawling back. I commit to one session at a time. I don’t overwhelm myself. And I don’t have to be perfect. My self-worth isn’t dependent on how fit or skinny or toned I am.
My story as an athlete might sound unrelatable to you, but let me assure you it’s not. My pressures felt like they were from external influences – such as coaches, teammates and supporters. Yours could be from friends, family, partners or society as a whole - aren’t we all supposed to lead these perfectly healthy lives? Just take a look at Instagram and all of the people bragging about working out (sorry).
We might think the pressure is coming from someone else, but it’s not. It always starts and finished with us. Often we feel like we need to be a certain way to be loved, accepted or worthy of anything good happening to us. Take a step back and see how little it really matters about how we look, or how fit we are. I’m not talking about letting our health go, but rather forming a happier relationship with it. It’s the most sustainable way and it will make us happier in the meantime.
So yeah, when I tell you I’ve been to the gym – it’s a big deal. It means more to me than a workout. I’m finally choosing to be a little nicer to myself.
And I think that’s something to celebrate.
Do you struggle to work out or judge yourself for how fit or unfit you are? Comment below or email me your thoughts about it. I'm interested to hear!
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