I’ve never been a particularly slim, or fit person. I remember being 15 or 16 years old and having size 16 trousers, but to me, it was just a number – I was never brought up to feel ashamed of my size or ever thought that was anything but a trouser size. I never associated it with an emotional feeling about my body. Looking back at old photos, I look like a completely different person then compared to now, but it wasn’t until I got older and started getting interested in health and wellbeing as a whole, that I realised that I wasn’t destined to be that size forever. Firstly, I got ill (thanks glandular fever) which caused me to lose a lot of weight, and joined a gym where I focused mainly on cardio while lifting light weights. I became what they call ‘skinny fat’ – a low weight, but I didn’t have much in the way of lean muscle, and still a high body fat percentage. With stress, grief and an unhealthy relationship with food and cardio, I looked skinny – at one point, I remember the Mr saying how I looked like a frail old lady in my oversized cardigan and my bony collarbone peeking through (said with love and concern of course).
Earlier this year, one of those ‘low cost, no contract’ gyms opened up, less than a 5 minute walk away and we decided to give it a go. As soon as I stepped in, I felt more at home in this gym than I ever did in my previous gym and I started spending time learning how to lift weights. Something suddenly clicked into place and I realised that years of cardio and eating under my calorie goal just wasn’t enough – I had to build muscle too. I always knew that building muscle was the foundation to a slim, lean body, but I guess I didn’t know how best to do it and kept returning to the treadmill to burn more calories because that was my misguided priority.
I’m feeling less self conscious at the gym now – I think not caring what other people think, putting my music up loud and realising that everyone is there to achieve their own goals, is something that makes me feel more confident in the weights area. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best form for each exercise and I’d much rather complete my work out with perfect form at a (sometimes embarrassingly) lighter weight, than use shoddy form to lift a heavier weight. Thankfully, I am able to go to the gym during the day when it’s quieter and get my workout done quickly and well – and it’s so nice to see so many females in the weights area too. It seems that the rise of social media fitness accounts and youtube stars have made weightlifting more accessible for women – fewer people are believing the misconception that weights make you look manly (search my favourite inspirational youtuber Heidi Somers aka buffbunny, for example, for ‘girls with muscle’ fitspiration).
While I’m a long way off achieving my body goals, I’m getting stronger with each week that passes. I’m combining weightlifting with cardio and a good diet and I feel really good for it! I’m slowly noticing my body fat decreasing, my strength is increasing, and there are muscles where I never had muscles before. It’ll be a while before I have any real definition, as my body fat percentage is still quite high, but I’m noticing progress and I know that if I keep at it, I’ll be a different person months down the line, not just in body composition, but mentally, having put time, effort and discipline into my health and fitness.
My goals for 2016 are:
- Get down to a healthy body fat of 20% (at the moment, my scales say I’m 35%, my body fat callipers say 25% – I’m not sure which to believe, haha!).
- Do a real, unassisted pullup.
- Run a 5k in under 30 minutes.