|Left: July 2016 (I never would have tried kayaking if I hadn't started working out and building muscle!)|
Right: May 2017
Last May, I had been on Weight Watchers for three months and lost 29 pounds. I was walking almost every day and in a place where I felt like I could start working out. If I would have tried earlier, I probably would have failed. I had been inactive for too long and trying to fix my diet and exercise all at once would have been overwhelming.
With my diet on track and my activity level increased, I was ready.
To be successful, I decided to get a personal trainer to help me. My gym offers a free consultation to have a program designed for you and I did that first, but even with that I wasn't ready to be on my own. Without confidence about what to do, I knew I wouldn't actually go and workout. I got along well with the trainer who did the consultation, so I asked him if he would train me.
A personality match is very important when selecting a trainer. Yes, they need to be knowledgeable and work on your level, but if you don't enjoy your time or they don't motivate you to work your hardest ... it's not worth it.
I lucked out with Eric. He never made me feel like the fat slob that I was or made me feel weak or inadequate. I was uncoordinated, clueless and that was okay. Plus, he's a Game of Thrones fan, so that gave us something to talk about!
Working out with Eric provided two things for me that I needed: accountability and the fundamentals. Once or twice a week, I had a strength training session. I looked forward to it and never once did I think of cancelling or not showing up. I wanted to be fit enough to handle the grueling physical aspects of San Diego Comic-Con and with the walking and training sessions I achieved that goal. I had the best con ever.
Without the planned sessions, I probably wouldn't have lasted a week at the gym. Why? No accountability, but also I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I knew I didn't want to use the machines. Those aren't fun and they aren't as effective at strength training as using free weights and other movements.
Eric taught me the fundamentals, even if I didn't realize it until months later. With what I learned from him, I was able to start working out on my own and developed a habit of going to the gym after work. I didn't even think about it. I just went. That makes it so much easier to achieve your goals. No motivation needed when you have the momentum of habit on your side (which can just as easily turn against you-- pint of ice cream a night? Same momentum of habit there...).
The movements I started learning a year ago helped me build a foundation that I use today for barbell training. The most important was the squat. A year ago, I didn't understand how critical squatting is to our overall health and movement as we age and really only truly figured it out this year.
I started with box squats and TRX squats. It makes me smile to think how difficult those were for me a year ago given where I am now. Even funnier is that I called box squats, "sitdowns." Hey, I was doing step ups, so why wouldn't they be called "sitdowns." My naivety was astounding, but that's how most people are when they walk into a gym. It's nothing to be ashamed about, but embraced. Walking in the door is a huge step in and of itself.
I tried to lose weight and work out many times over the years and never succeeded until this time. Part of the reason is that there aren't many resources available to help the out-of -shape, inactive person to get started. Most video workouts or classes are too difficult and that becomes frustrating. There are a bazillion programs you can follow online, but those also aren't designed for someone with zero experience and just starting out.
We are set up to fail.
For me, I found success by getting a trainer to teach me the fundamentals and to hold me accountable which made it more difficult to quit. Not that I wanted to because I got the bug. I loved it, so then working out became a way of life for me. If you have the resources, get a trainer. A good trainer with whom you have a good rapport. It makes a world of difference. If not, try small group strength training. It's cheaper, but you still have the attention and availability of a trainer to answer questions and help you.
This was what worked for me when I started. I transitioned to a new trainer at the same gym after a few months when Eric left the fitness center. This change triggered a new phase of my training which sparked a fire inside me that has pushed me to where I am today with lifting heavy shit! I'll write about that another time.
Something I hope to do this year is to collaborate to create a training resource for people who are overweight, out of shape and want to get started with strength training. There's not enough good information out there for people who want to get started. In the meantime, I hope my story helps at least one person in their own journey to a healthy lifestyle.
Be the best you that you can be. Do better! Be better!
And, thank you to Eric for getting me started on the right fitness path!