I began working out consistently at the end of 2019 but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I had the choice to either stay home and just work and not build upon myself or I could utilise the free time I had after work and improve my body and my mentality. I opted for the latter…
I was sick and tired of being called the ‘skinny’ girl, the one who looks like she doesn’t eat anything all day, I had this energy around me so much that it began affecting me mentally so I decided one day, to use this pain for my own gain. And I wanted to not feel bad about myself anymore and to not let others affect me so easily. And that’s exactly what I did. I started my fitness journey weighing a 48kg and I am now a comfortable and healthy weight of 61kg.
Was it easy? NO
Was it always enjoyable? NO
Did I give up? NO
The fitness journey is a non linear process but one that I am so grateful and glad I took. I didn’t just do it because others made me feel bad about myself: I wanted to prove to myself that I can be a better version of myself, I wanted to escape this reality and finally know what it is like to put myself first.
Below lists some things that I have found key in my journey so far, many of which you have probably come across in other blogs, but I am here to tell you that I was in your exact position. I read up on all articles on how to get stronger, how to see results quicker, what to eat and how to perform exercises correctly. During my fitness journey, I thought to myself many times “but it’s not working”… I wanted to give up but I didn’t. So allow yourself time because the process is worth it in the end.
1. Set Goals
If you’re new to the gym, it can be daunting at first – and at times overwhelming – to turn up to the gym but by simply creating some fitness goals for yourself, you will put yourself on a clear path on how you are going to achieve your goals and also find it beneficial and easier for you. People decide to train for a variety of reasons: from losing weight to gaining mass or to building endurance or to active recovery. No matter what your reason is for working out, everyone should know what they want to gain ultimately from working out. Once you have recognised your fitness goal, you can then deduct the steps that are needed to be taken in order to achieve this. But when taking this pathway, it is important to remember that you must set realistic steps.
If someone, who was completely new to the gym, never lifted a weight before, goes to the gym for 1 week and then says “right, I’ve squatted 15kg in my first week. Next week, I’m going to up this to 30kg.” Well, this is something that I would strongly advise them against. What this person is seeking is progressive overload, which is fantastic and a goal that they will achieve, but not like that. Progressive overload comes in different forms: upping the weight or upping the reps. What this essentially means is that every week you increase the weight and do less repetitions or you increase the repetitions but lower the weight. What the person in question is doing, is setting unrealistic expectations. Your body responds to progressive overload and this means that you need to gradually increase. A good starting point is a 2-5kg increase in weight every week. Although tempting it might be, it is very important to not train with such heavy weights when you are a beginner, as this can result in injury. During your first few weeks, prioritise on perfecting your form before increasing any weight. Remember, you will achieve your goals but it is more important to set the realistic steps in, in order to achieve your goals; this is a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Prioritise Protein
Everywhere you look or go in the fitness industry, you will undoubtedly have come across multiple times, someone say to you ‘make sure you get enough protein in your diet.’ And I am here to tell you, that everything you have read and heard is true. But first, let’s look at why we need protein? Why is it so important for our bodies – especially if we want to gain muscle mass?
First things first, protein is a naturally occuring substance in our body, composed of amino acids. They play a key part in our body as these amino acid chains break and repair, building our bodies as we develop over time making us stronger, this is essentially in an ever going state. Therefore, as our bodies are made up from a majority of water and protein respectively, it is our care to ensure that we nurture ourselves and replenish an adequate amount of these substances back into our bodies. So we now know that protein is the functionality in growing and developing our physical bodies. I am guessing you can now deduce a picture of how it is even more vital to get that protein intake in, when you start training?
When you train, your muscles tear and rebuild in order to grow stronger however working out is pointless if you are not getting enough protein. I have met multiple people who have complained about their frustration on not seeing growth in the gym: the issue is not with their workouts themselves, the issue is with what they are eating. From what they have told me on what they eat on a day to day basis whilst training, is sadly not sufficient enough to see growth in your physique. People often associate seeing growth from the gym but this is not accurate at all: of course working out will assist your growth massively, but the gym only makes up 20% of the growth scale, to really monitor and see your results, you need to focus on your diet and get that protein in your body. There are a variety of recipes online that you can look for on how to achieve this but some quick and easy ways to increase your protein intake include adding peanut butter to your morning oats or having a protein shake immediately after a workout.
Protein was my saviour on how I transformed, it is the key to gaining muscle if you are on that path. This is how my body transformed in 3 years due to consistency and diet implemented with a good workout regime. It is NOT an easy process: in terms of eating enough and working hard enough. But with consistency, comes the results.
A lot of beginners, start their fitness journey with high expectations. They expect to see significant results in a week. Sorry to inform you but that sadly does not happen. Allow yourself a few weeks to notice changes physically and emotionally. By this point, you will see physical changes such as an improvement in your physique, increase in endurance and stamina. But you will also reap massive benefits in other ways: you will begin to feel less stress and anxiety and it will increase happiness and give you a better mood as working out produces chemicals such as cortisol that manage stress and dopamine which is released in the brain every time you do something you enjoy.
4. Mind Muscle Connection
Mind Muscle Connection is a common term in the fitness industry and rightly so. It really is important to engage your mind when you are working out a specific area. What mind muscle connection means is that you are activating your brain to focus on your target muscle group whilst you are engaged during an exercise. Some top tips that helped me get into MMC are:
- Time under Tension – go at a slower pace for each rep you do, increasing the amount of time that the muscle is spent under tension.
- Visualise: Connect your mind to the muscle group you are training. This is the mindset you will need to have in order to achieve MMC
- Warm Up Sets: this allows you to start feeling the exercise take effect prior to adding weight.
5. Get Enough Rest
Every person will vary on the amount of sleep they need to function at their best but on average, an adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is vital for the repair and regrowth of our muscles. It is the optimal time when our bodies repair themselves.
But in a society where we have easily accessible technology which allows us to scroll on Instagram or finish that Netflix series we’ve been glued to, this can interrupt our sleeping schedule.
Not getting enough rest means that not only will we feel fatigued the next day and have an irritable mood, we also slow down the progress of our training and this seems such a waste. I learnt that the hard way – my sleeping schedule was absolutely horrendous. I would sleep at 2am and get up for work at 6:30am. Remember, I was also training consistently 5 days a week at that point too. So how did I do it? I relied on caffeine which is not the answer. The cure is a good nights rest. It’s safe to say that I now enjoy at least 7 hours of sleep but my optimal sleep duration is 9 hours as I feel fully refreshed but it is a massive improvement on the 4 hour sleep schedule I previously had.
These tips are not an exhaustive list, there are many more tips I have learnt on my fitness journey; and many more that I continue to learn every day! My advice to anyone wanting to make a change for the better for themselves is to find your WHY, have a clear plan on who you want to become on this journey, and most importantly, love yourself during the process.
Be Consistent, Be Patient, Be You.