It’s been 14 months since I decided I needed to make my health a priority and started exercising ‘formally’, with a personal trainer and classes and the like. It’s been two years since I did my first Operation Move, Learn to Run program, which I loved and taught me that while running is not for me, exercise makes me feel really good.
14 months ago I made some big changes and expected some big results. By which I mean, I expected to lose some serious kgs. In that time I’ve followed a healthy diet (but not ‘dieted’) and worked out an average of 4 times a week, in recent months increasing this to 5-6times a week and I’ve not lost a single kg, nor a single cm from my body.
With every change, with every tweak to my lifestyle I hoped to uncover the reason for my body’s steady refusal to respond but so far, nothing has ‘worked’. Instead I’ve found the muscle I’ve had to work the hardest has been my brain. I’ve had to train myself to keep going, to keep stepping up when what I’ve been tempted to do is give up, and wallow in frustration. It’s been a constant effort, mentally, especially as I see so many folk on social media experiencing great ‘results’ from excecise but it’s also forced me to examine my motives and consider how much I really value my health not just my waistline.
In the hours I’ve spent googling possible reasons and new things to try, I have come to discover that I am not the only one out there who would like to be literally working their butt OFF but is instead just working their butt, so here I offer the 12 things I’ve learnt from 14 months of working out and not seeing any ‘results’.
1. I refuse to be ashamed of my body because it doesn’t look the way it’s “supposed to”. In part, writing this post is an outworking of this refusal. It means acknowledging what is plainly obvious to everyone who meets me and talking about something that at another time would have made me feel uncomfortable.
The truth is that despite wishing that I looked like I exercise every day, I do actually feel really good about my body. I think that exercise plays a big part in this as it makes me feel so good physically, those good-feeling-vibes flow on. And I simply refuse to hide my body, sitting on the sidelines of the pool, of my life. Why should I? Why should anyone?
I also love my wardrobe and I have the ladies of Instagram to thank for this, especially the women behind #aussiecurves. In watching these body-positive women sharing photos, looking amazing, I decided it was time to stop ‘waiting.’ I used to put off buying clothes, waiting for this unforeseen time in the future when I’d buy a better size or have lost weight. So here’s a captain obvious revelation I’ve had – you can have a great wardrobe at any size, and that’s not about buying a heap of stuff, or spending a load of money – it’s just about finding things you love and wearing them. So I threw out all my frumpy clothes and decided I would only buy clothes that I love. And every so often I share these on Insta knowing that I don’t look like all the other ‘model-mums’ and being totally Ok with that.
2. Exercise is the goal itself, it’s not the means to the goal. This has been a lesson it’s taken me a long time to learn but I’ve come to accept and let go of the expectation that “calories in – calories out = weight loss/gain.” That just simply isn’t true for me. Weight loss may come as a result of this for some or even many, but not for everyone. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up though; I will keep learning about my body but give priority to my overall health. The goal is now to get stronger, get fitter and stay committed to this new lifestyle whether I see physical changes or not.
3. Fitness experts are not (necessarily) health, medical, weight loss experts. Fitness folk tend to be people for whom exercising has fairly quick and tangible results. If you’re like me, you may need to be quite careful about what you share about your journey with said fitness folk, and even some medical folk. I’ve found myself feeling very ‘blamed’ in conversations with peeps who assume I must be eating a lot of junk food/take out etc…. and that I just need to work on my diet and the rest will follow. These conversations can be extremely disheartening so I’ve learnt to be careful about who I discuss things with.
4. All bodies are different. I am never going to have someone else’s body so I’d better just enjoy the one I have. (Not just accept it, enjoy it). What I have accepted is that at least for now, I’m not going to be seeing any cms falling from my hips but by golly am I seeing muscles growing in my arms.
Strength training has been SO GREAT for me – it’s been the one thing I can see tangible results from and has helped me keep motivated. I have found it much more helpful to stop focusing on what isn’t changing and instead think about how to build on the changes that ARE happening.
5. I need to mix it up. You’re not going to like every type of training and some take a lot more time than others (and time is precious) SO keep trying different things ’til you find what fits for you. Over the past 14 months I’ve tried a variety of options – the one I’ve stuck with throughout has been personal training but I’ve added in swimming, walking/running, Metafit (a form of interval training with classes that are almost always kid friendly), boxing, strength classes and weights sessions at the gym. For me, I’ve found that a mix of Personal Training, Metafit and Weights Classes work best. I’m a bit interested in trying Crossfit next year so we’ll see if that eventuates….
I am happy to recommend the following trainers and gyms:
In Melbourne I recommend Little Diamond Fitness, based in Reservoir and training in surrounding suburbs. Maria understands women’s’ needs when it comes to training and offers both Personal Training and Metafit classes.
I also train occasionally at the HIIT Factory in Northcote. They are a bigger operation so have a varied timetable with lots of class times and options which is really helpful, but I personally find the class sizes too big (generally 40+ people in each session).
In Sydney, Eternally Fit based out of Hornsby Heights are fantastic. This is where I train when I’m in Sydney.
3. Try different trainers, and different places. I am a bit of a loyalist most of the time – once I find something I like I just stick with it. So it has been interesting for me to mix up not only where I train but who I train with – something I’ve done as the result of my timetable not personal inclination. And it’s been great! I’ve learnt different things from each of them and been pushed in different ways. While this has worked a treat for me, my neighbour who I do Personal Training with has found it best to stick with the one thing – so do what works best for you!
7. Get the right gear. First up, I need to support my feet so I’ve gotten myself fitted for trainers and have tried to update them as needed (usually around every 6 months). I also have invested in good leggings and HIGHLY recommend Mums’n’Fitness wear for comfort, quality and price. I have three pairs and the first pair I bought a year ago still look pretty much brand new. If I am getting up a 5.45am to be ready to train at 6.15am then I am not searching around the house for a pair of clean pants which is why I have multiples! Until recently I wore old t-shirts but have since found some good and cheap tops floating around the shops so grabbed a couple of those too.
8. Have a good support network to keep you motivated. This morning was one of those mornings that I really wasn’t feeling it. But I got up and got dressed (the gear helps the mind!) but then wanted to crawl back into bed anyway. My hubby is a great support and reminded me that I always feel better if I start the day with a workout and that was exactly what I Knew, but needed to hear someone else say. So off I went and of course, now I feel great! As well as the hubstar, my neighbour is an inbuilt support because we train together twice a week – this keeps both of us accountable and present. We know that if we bail we leave the other out in the cold on their own… So we show up!
9. Exercise is contagious. My kids think that exercise is normal. For two years now they’ve woken up to find that I’m either out for a walk/workout or just coming back in the door from one. Since starting Metafit, which is the most kid friendly activity ever(!), they sometimes join in for a bit of the class. It’s brilliant!
10. Showing up is not enough. On days when I wasn’t feeling it or was struggling with a session I’d find myself thinking “At least I’m here, it’s better than nothing.” but I realised this year that I was undermining myself with that attitude. What’s the point of showing up if I don’t give it everything I’ve got? A metafit session can be as short as 17 minutes and as long as 23minutes. Why bother if I’m not going to leave there having given it my all?
Whenever I feel like taking the easy way out I remind myself of this; sometimes I’ve already given it everything and need to take a breath, but even then it’s only a breath not a full stop.
11. Ask for what you need. As part of this mental shift, I’ve realised that each trainer has their own style. Some will yell and push and others won’t, they’ll just accept your pace. I’ve learnt to ask my trainers to push me, to say that I’m ok with them going all seargent major on me to help me keep going. The last think I want is a trainer thinking I can go harder but not telling me to.
12. Don’t ask yourself if you feel like training. The worst thing I can do when I wake up is ask if I feel like training today. No! I need a plan as to WHAT I am going to do not IF. This means pre booking sessions so I’ve paid in advance and getting clothes ready the night before. The only question I ever allow myself (and even then only occasionally) is ‘which of these two options do I want to do today?’ If I ask myself if I feel like training the answer is always almost ‘um…. not really’ so why give myself that option?
It’s been good for me to focus on the things I’ve learnt this year. I had hoped to be reaching the end of this year with a different set of outcomes that haven’t eventuated and it would be easy for me to to think it was all a waste of time. Instead I can see that this different path I am on is teaching me a whole heap of truths I may not otherwise have learned, and for that I am grateful.