Shaken, Not Stirred

It felt really good to get back into the gym today, Monday, after a weekend away.

I actually took three days away from the gym: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I normally would have gone to a kick-boxing class for cardio on Saturday as my 5th day of the week, but this weekend I had to take a first aid class to learn how to help choking kids (I have three of them so it’s high up there on my priorities) and it took place at the same time as the class.

Today was a great day in the gym, which really goes to prove the point I was trying to make (to myself, more than to anyone else), that determination and persistence are the true keys to results in fitness. If it hadn’t been for me accepting the fact that the last couple days in the gym weren’t my best, and accepting that just like in life in general, we’re going to have good days and bad days, then I just might have thrown in the towel early, thinking I wasn’t doing a good enough job, it was too hard, etc. etc. — all that negative self-talk we use to give ourselves reasons excuses to not keep going.

On that note, I have to say how much I appreciate the mental training that this physical workout plan is giving me. And again I have to emphasize how amazed I am by the cliched “mind/body connection,” but it’s so incredible. The more I train my physical body, the more results I feel mentally. As my body gets stronger, my mind continues to get stronger and the tangible result is that my self-esteem is increasing at the most rapid pace I’ve ever experienced.

And since self-esteem is such a cliched phrase as well, I want to try to articulate what I mean by that. I feel an appreciation for myself, a sort of self-love, self-admiration and self-confidence that I haven’t felt in a long, very long time. Coming through a divorce, from a relationship in which I didn’t feel I had a voice of my own, this aspect of self has been the hardest for me to rebuild, and I’m finding that the gym is putting in on a fast track, which is exciting and rewarding for me.

Other things are happening as well, both pleasant and annoying. For one thing, my clothes are starting to look like total crap on my body. Which, in a way I guess is good, because it shows that I’m reshaping and redefining my body into a healthier form. But it’s also really annoying because I don’t like the way my clothes look on me, they don’t fit properly, and it makes me feel bad to look at myself in baggy, ill-fitting clothes when I can’t simply go out and buy a new wardrobe.

On the flip side, this being conscious of the fact that “I don’t like seeing myself in baggy clothes” is kind of amazing in and of itself. The fact that I actually take notice now and care about how my clothes look on my body, and how my clothes either accentuate my body or take away from it, and this desire to want to actually have my clothes fit in a way that flatters my body’s shape and form. I never gave it much thought before, but now that I’m consciously working on my body and how it looks and feels, it seems perfectly logical and right to want to showcase it to make it look nice.

Which brings me to another topic I’m reflecting on lately: the idea of fitness-y people being “show offs.” I’ll be honest: I always thought people with nice physiques were show-offs by wearing their form-fitting workout clothes, “showing off” their sculpted and toned bodies. It was like, “Come on… give me a break!”

Now that I am working actively on my shape and feeling good about myself, I have a new viewpoint on this. I no longer feel that these people are show-offs. At least not the great majority of them, anyway. What I’m starting to realize is that, when you feel good about yourself, when you love yourself for who you are, and when you put in many long, HARD, EXCRUCIATING hours of work at the gym to ensure your health and your STRENGTH, then it’s only natural to want to dress in a way that puts it in its best light. And at the same time, the body becomes its own calling card for fitness. Why should people who are in shape and feel good about themselves and all the hard work and discipline they’ve dedicated to getting there, feel like they have to hide their accomplishments?

I wonder if a part of that way of viewing them wasn’t some sort of hidden jealousy on my part, or by chastising them inside I wasn’t just trying to reinforce to myself that “I” didn’t need to do that.

The biggest revelation I took away from my workout today was DISCIPLINE. It takes a real solid amount of discipline to continue to workout, day after day, rain or shine, good mood, bad mood, energy high, energy low. I don’t consider myself an extremely disciplined person. I start things all over the place: books, projects, ideas… and then never manage to finish them, because my interest gets sparked by something new. That can’t be the case with this lifestyle and it’s helping me to reshape my mentality, and helping me to learn how to pace myself, how to appreciate small progress, how to stick with a plan and see it through, especially since this plan is indefinite… if it works correctly, it won’t ever come to an end.

PS Why “shaken” in the title, you ask? Because today was the first day that my target area (I was working chest and triceps today) was shaking. I did bench presses (found the weight clip, by the way! small victories!) with correct form and had to really push it hard. I did incline DB presses and had to tell myself “you’re strong” to get through them all. My arms were literally trembling. That made me feel good, because I knew that meant I was working at a level of challenge and not wimping out, which doesn’t produce results.

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