Over the past few months, I have been thinking more and more about exercise. I eat well, don’t smoke and generally live a healthy life, but since starting an office job I barely move at all.
An average day for me goes as follows:
- Bed to sofa, eat breakfast and watch the news.
- Head to the bus stop, approximately five minutes walk.
- Bus to office, 25 minutes drive and two minutes walk.
- Office for eight hours, sitting and typing.
- Journey in reverse.
- Sofa for dinner, writing and watching TV.
It’s incredibly sedentary, and more to the point it’s depressing. My boyfriend and I work opposing schedules; I work Monday-Friday 9-5 whilst he works evenings and weekends. 75% of the time I wake up alone and go to bed alone. I come home from work mentally exhausted but physically unchallenged. I’d recently tried out a six week yoga course, but that had ended over a month ago and I’d slipped back into my old ways.
This Monday just gone, I woke up feeling really, really down. I was sick of being in the apartment alone; I was bored, restless, demotivated, you name it. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I’d got into the habit of convincing myself that I was so tired after work that I didn’t have the energy to do anything when I got home. It hit me that quite the opposite was true.
I needed to do something for myself. I needed to challenge myself, move my body and switch off my mind. And I needed to get out of the house for something that wasn’t work.
I sat at my desk that morning and researched the best exercise classes near me. The cheapest, nearest and most flexible option was PureGym. The word ‘gym’ filled me with horror; flashbacks of being unable to work the equipment, clock-watching on the treadmill and just generally not enjoying myself. But with their membership at £15.99 a month and unlimited free classes just around the corner, I couldn’t think of a better idea.
So on my lunch break, I joined and immediately booked myself in to a ‘Pure Pump’ class for that evening.
I headed home at the end of the day still feeling low but optimistic about my evening class. I donned my long-neglected sportswear and left the house, nerves swilling in my stomach. I was full of the kind of self-doubt that comes with a bad day and weeks of too much time alone. Would I be able to keep up? What if people laughed at me? How will I know where I’m going?
If you’ve ever been to a PureGym, you’ll know that there are no staff (aside from the personal trainers), so I was faced with a series of strange, revolving pods with keypads next to them. I entered my pin incorrectly three times, and a line of people behind me began tutting and skirting around me to get to the next pod. I shakily managed to get it right and was transported into a loud, heaving sweatbox.
Every machine was full and people were milling everywhere; toned, glistening bodies in designer gym wear. I became acutely aware of my old, baggy t-shirt, faded leggings and Primark trainers. I took a deep breath and scanned the room for the studio. Nowhere in sight. I climbed to the second floor. Still no sign of it. By now it was only ten minutes until my class, and I wanted to be early to get a space at the back.
I ran back down to the ground floor and felt everyone’s eyes on my as I made my way to the changing rooms. I needed to put my bag and coat somewhere, and there were only two lockers free. But I didn’t have a padlock. A sign on the wall told me that padlocks could be bought from the vending machine on the gym floor, so I made my way over there, panic rising as the class time got nearer.
£4.50 for a padlock and, luckily, I had five one-pound coins in my pocket. I put them in the machine but it kept rejecting one and spitting it back out at the bottom. I tried it again and again before realising with growing horror that it wasn’t even a pound. It was a euro. WHY did we have to get new £1 coins?!
By this point my class had already begun. People were pounding on the treadmill behind me, and I could feel them watching my struggle. The heat of the room started pushing down on me, and I felt a prickle of redness creeping up my neck. My eyes filled with tears of frustration.
I ran straight out of the door.
I walked home crying. I was so angry with myself. What was wrong with me? I hadn’t felt like that since I was sixteen; I’m a twenty four year old woman and I deal with difficult situations calmly and confidently every single day. So why had this happened?
I got home, cried some more and then cleaned my apartment to death. Then I sat down, forgave myself and picked this thing apart. After an hour of analysing, I realised I had pushed myself too far. I chose a terrible day when my mood was low and my nerves were frayed to put myself in a new and pressured situation. I should have given myself more time, taken a moment to scope out the gym and not been so hard on myself when things didn’t go as planned. I couldn’t give up.
Two days later, I booked myself onto Pure Yoga. I knew yoga, I liked it and I was good at it. It would be the perfect chance to start again. This time, I set off 40 minutes before the start of my class and bought a padlock from Wilkos. I told myself that whatever happened, at least I’d tried again.
As soon as I walked into the gym it felt different. No one was watching me. It wasn’t too loud. It wasn’t too hot. Was I in the right place? Yes, I was, nothing had changed. Except my mentality. I had given myself time and been kind with myself, and now the pressure I had created in my own head was off, the entire place seemed totally different. I noticed girls with no makeup in greying t-shirts killing it on the treadmill. People smiled at me as I made my way to the changing room. I felt calm, confident and in control.
I wandered round, found the studio (it was actually very easy to locate now I was free from the cloud of panic!) and settled myself on a mat. People of all shapes and sizes filtered in and the instructor took us through the moves slowly and clearly, giving us options depending on our ability. The entire time, all I could think was, ‘look at me! I’m bloody doing this!’ I felt incredible.
That evening I headed home with a renewed sense of self. THIS was the me I knew. The girl who was kind to herself, gave herself time and kept on trying. I was so damn proud.
If you have a fear of the gym, for whatever reason, take it slowly. Anything you do is a massive achievement. Book yourself into an induction, have a go at a slow-paced class and take ten minutes to get to know the space. Don’t pile any pressure on yourself – you don’t deserve it and you certainly don’t need it. You can be your own best friend if you treat yourself with the kindness and respect you’re entitled to.
I’ve booked myself into another class on Monday – Legs, Bums and Tums. I’m sure that even if I can’t walk afterwards, I’ll stumble out with pride. Whatever you do, do it for you and keep kicking ass 😉