It seems appropriate that I’m writing this (my debut FFD post) on so-called #TransformationTuesday – the Instagram initiated excuse for people to post a photo of their current selves, standing side by side with their past self, ranging from 1 week to 10 years ago, a photographic display of their physical progress and development.
An expression of pride, it’s a (usually) socially acceptable excuse to show off the weight lost/gained by the photograph’s subject, the gradually growing biceps, the 6 pack that’s becoming more and more defined. Sometimes, as is always the case with Instagram, it’s just yet another attempt for someone to gain another few followers. But if you scroll on past the posts that don’t seem to be anything more than a self-indulgent ploy for attention, you can come across some really inspiring photos, of people who have genuinely changed their lives to become healthy, fit and strong.
Why am I banging on about Instagram?
Because I find it both reassuring and incredibly satisfying that so many of the successful people in the age of social media fitness started out, like myself, as the underdog.
As mentioned in my About Me page, I hated P.E. in school. With a passion. I was a music nerd and a bookworm, a theatre geek, a linguist. Anything other than the bolshie, confident (and coordinated) netball girl that you needed to be to excel in school sports.
I NEVER felt comfortable with a hockey stick and I had nightmares about the dreaded bleep test.
This is why, when I find myself at 6am every day trudging along to the gym in the pouring rain, I have to stop, laugh and wonder how I became that fitness-obsessed girl drinking the protein shake.
Because I STILL do not feel comfortable wielding a hockey stick. And yes, sometimes I do still have nightmares about the bleep test.
I’ve finally managed to differentiate what I used to class as “fitness” (being good in P.E. class/other organised sports) to what fitness really is to me now: a passion, a lifestyle – something that every day I look forward to trying to excel in.
I’ve never posted a #TransformationTuesday myself. Not because I haven’t changed physically; I’m definitely a lot more toned and muscle-y than my adolescent self. Mostly because the changes that I am most proud of are predominantly psychological- I no longer feel threatened by my uber-long-legged, perfectly-coordinated, netball-girl demons.
So if there is anyone out there that hates ‘exercise’ as much as I did, but wants a healthier lifestyle, here are a four simple rules that hopefully, might help to change your attitude…
1) Cut out The Cardio
Too controversial for a first blog post?
I’m not saying that cardio isn’t good for you. Of course it is – and it’s obviously important to do your best to maintain a healthy heart and lungs. But with that disclaimer out of the way, I do think that if your hatred of exercise is rooted in a past history of getting asthma/panic attacks in the middle of the school annual cross-country run, then you probably need to realise that ‘fitness’ means so much more than not getting out breath and jelly legs, and feeling like you just can’t keep up.
What I’m basically trying to say is take the time to find a niche that you genuinely enjoy. I wasted so much time on the treadmill before I realised that what I actually wanted to do was put things on my back and squat them…
Weight training is so alien compared to the countless games of hockey/netball/tag rugby that I did in school that I don’t associate it at all with any of the things I hate about exercise – so I’m actually able to find genuine enjoyment in it.
If you do get your thrills going on a run or cycling across the country then by all means go for it. Congratulations. I couldn’t do it. But if the idea of a bike or a sprint frightens the life out of you then you just need to persevere and find something you DO find fun.
Try dancing. Group Exercise classes. Aerobics. Or skipping. Or Calisthenics. Or Bodybuilding. The fitness world is your oyster.
2) Make it Exciting
No one that I know gets excited about brushing their teeth. Don’t get sucked into the trap of exercise as something that MUST be worked into your daily routine because then it becomes just yet another chore. If you do want to go hard-core and be at the gym everyday then change your outlook on it – make it something that you set aside time for each day. You time. People look forward to bath time…not to teeth brushing time.
3) Don’t Punish yourself for a slip up
Equally, just because you skip the gym a couple of days doesn’t mean you’ve given up and doesn’t mean that the rest of the week is a failure. If you punish yourself too much when something goes wrong then you’re no better than the gym teacher that gave you detention for conveniently organising your “piano lesson” every week during rounders season.
4) Stop being so goddamn competitive
Competitive people are usually great at sports right? Well, actually no. Not necessarily. I only recently realised quite how stupidly competitive I actually am. I am terrified of failure, to the extent where I am often scared of trying something new in case I’m no good at it. I like being good at things, sometimes pushing myself too hard because I want to be the best. I often find myself comparing my own abilities to others, and overly-panicking when I’m not better than them. When I realised this about myself, I sort of twigged that possibly the reason I hated PE is because I was so scared of failing in front of people – it was so much more open and obvious than if you failed a question on a test in a different subject.
Clearly this is a pretty unhealthy mind-set to have, so I’ve been making a conscious effort recently to keep my natural competitiveness whilst reigning in the fear of failure that sets me back. When you let go of the fact that sometimes you have to fail – and also learn to appreciate that there are always going to be hundreds of people better than you at some things – you’ll find that something like fitness becomes so much more enjoyable.
Do it for you, not for anybody else.