How many times before have you given up on your newly found fitness journey? Sometimes it didn’t last more than a few weeks, or even days. We are close to the end of May (!), which means a lot of people have already given up by now. It’s also probably not the first time they give up.
I gave up on my fitness goals many times before. I felt uncomfortable walking into a gym without having a strong physique. I was self-conscious about lifting light weights when the guy next to me would be lifting 100 times the weight I could. I was mortified at not being able to finish a rep, especially for exercises like barbell bench presses. I was unhappy at how my shiny new fitness clothes wouldn’t fit as well as the model wearing them on the website where I bought them from.
Many of us have been there and felt this or other feelings about the intimidating world of fitness. On top of that, the unrealistic expectations set by social media influencers and celebrities are a daily reminder that our bodies are inadequate by today’s standards. But you can get over this to find confidence with a newly found love for exercise, whatever that means for you.
It took me many years of failed new year resolutions to finally find the confidence to go into the gym and figure out a journey that suited me. In this article, I will try to give you a few ideas about what you can do to get there, drawing inspiration from my own journey. Believe me, I used to hate sweating or the notion of working out. In school, I was usually the last person to be picked for any sports (except for volleyball, which I wasn’t too bad at). I would always make excuses to avoid doing any exercise. Sound familiar?
After a quick morning run.
1. Small steps 🦶🏼
The first mistake I made in the past was to try too much, too fast. It’s unrealistic to pretend you can go to the gym for the first time ever and do a 90-minute workout without feeling fatigued and even depressed. You will probably not return again. If you do this, it will feel like such a monumental effort while coming from a very low base, that you might not stick to it.
When I was finally able to stick to something, I found an indoor rowing class in a nearby rowing club. The classes were about 1 hour long, but we weren’t rowing the whole hour. We would do some rowing for 5 minutes, or 10 or 15, and take breaks. Our instructor was great at mixing things up, so no day was the same. I started going twice a week for a few months until I felt my fitness level increasing. At this point, I added a third day. I kept this going for a year.
2. Find a routine ️📆
Because I was able to fit in my newly-found love for rowing into my weekly routine, I was able to keep up with it. Routine is important, so you need to work hard to make the time for this, otherwise you will fail. If you don’t think you have enough time for a gym session, for example, get a couple of resistance bands and do a short workout at home, following the endless supply of videos you can find online for at-home workouts.
The important step you have to take is to make time for yourself and your new goal. Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, that is enough to start. Over time, what happened to me was that the 3 days of rowing became too little, and I wanted to do more. I felt so motivated that I joined the local gym and I went rowing there on my days off from the classes. One thing follows the other; if you make time for it, your daily routine will not be the same if you miss or skip a day.
3. Use technology to your advantage 📲
This will depend on what type of exercise you are trying to get into, but there are so many great apps out there that can make your journey easier and faster. I found great success with Fitbod, as I didn’t know enough about weight training to feel confident about going to the gym without a plan. It only took me a few minutes to set it up and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s also a great way to record your progress over time.
Strava can help you maintain a record of your overall journey. One of my favourite features is the Training Log. I like looking at it at the end of each week, to see how I have progressed or whether I did a good job in maintaining my level of activities. It also helps me keep track of my rest days, something that many people neglect.
The Strava training log as seen on web.
Technology can help massively but it can also become a big distraction, or worse, a source of disappointment. That’s why I would also suggest you…
4. Go easy on influencers 🤳🏻
Now, the danger with trying to get into a new activity or exercise regime, especially with general fitness, is that you will go on social media and start following a bunch of influencers who look amazing but over time that will probably make you feel sorry about yourself. And if you don’t go find them, the ads about your newly found passion will find you. It’s inevitable that you will be more aware of —and seek— people who are into fitness.
Instead of following so many influencers (I still follow a few that I really like as people because of their overall message), try to find community. This is where Strava and other social platforms can help you stay motivated. You will find others like you, who have the same struggles and questions, and it will feel great to connect with them.
There are clubs on Strava that you can join for virtually any type of sporting activity. Some are more active than others; I suggest you try finding something local as well. If you are old enough to have a Facebook account, that’s probably another place where you can find local groups. You’re only a few clicks away from finding them.
You can also find like-minded people in our Strava Community Hub. Even better if you come and vote for existing feature suggestions or ideas for your chosen activity. Head over to the Campfire and say hi!
5. Find a buddy 🕺🏻
This is a little harder to do, because of so many different things, like work schedules, commitments, etc. but it’s not impossible. If you are able to find or motivate someone at a similar level to yours, you will likely keep each other motivated to stick to the routine and not miss sessions.
After a few years of weight training, I never found a buddy, but something else happened. I was suddenly being told that people felt inspired by my fitness journey. Co-workers, neighbours, random people you see in the gym, lost contacts that reconnect with you after years apart, etc. all started to comment on how I had physically changed. They also mentioned my confidence was so much higher than before. None of this was something I expected!
Bonus: Enjoy the transformation 🦋
The hard part about a fitness journey, in particular one that will have an effect on your physical appearance like bodybuilding in my case, is that it can be hard to see the progress. Other people will notice it much faster than you will. You look at yourself in the mirror every day and might not see how your body is changing, but it is, if you are doing it right.
Clothes start to fit better. That’s one thing I noticed; I was no longer wearing baggy or ill-fitting clothes. The fashion industry has very specific standards and we are all supposed to look the same, which is unfair. But you don’t have to! That decision is up to you to make. Because I ultimately picked bodybuilding as my fitness activity, it meant my body changed quite a lot.
I had a clear goal in mind after a while, but not at the beginning. That took time to reveal itself. Over time, I don’t know what clicked in my mind, but I started to enjoy all of the things that I hated as a child and younger adult. I felt sweating was enjoyable and no longer something I wanted to avoid. I didn’t avoid exercise, or going for a hike or even a long walk. It all counted.
Don’t be afraid about what others think of you when you make these decisions and finally step out of your comfort zone. Regardless of what you do, people will judge you at the gym, they will think you are doing an exercise with the wrong form or roll their eyes at your chosen weights. It’s human nature to compare yourself to others and egos are amplified at the gym.
What matters is taking that small step to create a new routine, putting the phone down when it’s time to sweat and finding a community to keep you going. Who knows, you might end up being the one who motivates others to get out of the house and exercise. When are you starting?