A little over a year ago I made a commitment to my health and fitness that has paid off in more ways than I could’ve imagined when starting out. Fitness journeys are personal to every individual, so it goes without saying that this is a bit of a personal post! But I hope that it will inspire some of my readers on their own journeys, either to start, to keep going or to get back on it if it’s fallen aside.
Looking back over a year…
I honestly cannot believe how quickly the year has passed. It seems like almost yesterday when I first stepped foot on my fitness journey. At the time I was feeling pretty low. I’d recently seen some photos of me and it was at complete odds with my mental picture of myself. My self-esteem was in the dumps, plus my energy and general wellbeing wasn’t too great either. I was stressed at work, with a bad body image to boot. I slumped my way into my gym, which I’d been going to on-and-off for about a year with no real commitment. Worse still, my boyfriend (who’s a personal trainer) had started working at the same gym. I felt so self-conscious as I walked through those doors! I even asked him not to acknowledge me or introduce me to his colleagues until I’d ‘gotten fit’.
So much can change in a year. Making that step, that commitment to work on myself by working out, led to a whole host of different benefits across my life. Of course, there’s been ups and downs. I’ve not quite fully shaken-off the self-esteem issues, but I’m in a much better place.
Benefits to my overall health
Okay, so I’m physically fitter. I have muscles and I can carry a whole week’s worth of shopping in one go without breaking a sweat. I can walk for miles without DOMS the next day and that’s given me a lot more freedom and quality of life.
My holidays are much more interesting now. I’ve been able to explore the places that I travel to a lot more now without running out of steam early-on in the vacation. Plus, I’ve started looking at active stuff to do at each place, meaning a whole new perspective on a local area.
My mental health is way better
But there’s been HUGE mental health improvements too. Like I mentioned earlier, I had issues with my self-esteem and felt incredibly self-conscious. That hasn’t gone away completely, but it’s a hell of a lot better and when those niggling doubts do come in, I shove them away pretty quickly. I’m always reminding myself that my body is incredible in all the things that it can do. It’s not always about how you look, or what dress size you fit into. I’m much happier now that I know I could run away from a horde of zombies if I really had to.
The grit to start a business
In fact, at some point during my fitness journey I learnt that I could achieve anything with a bit of grit and determination. There’s nothing like doing an hour of different burpees (courtesy of that aforementioned boyfriend) to make you feel invincible. Which led me to a huge life decision: setting up my own company.
I wouldn’t have made the leap in my previous state. It took me getting to know myself and my physical limits, for me to have enough courage to pack in my full-time job and go it alone. And that was not easy. I had so many sleepless nights wondering if I’d made the right decision. But it’s paid off. I’m so much less stressed and frustrated at work. I’m doing something I absolutely love and that I’m good at. Starting my own company has made me grow so quickly as well and I’m so glad that it all started with my fitness.
Fitness gives structure to my week
It’s still contributing to my work. I don’t have to work a set 9-5 now. Which initially wreaked havoc on my fitness journey. When you don’t have a schedule, or one that’s always changing, then making time for the gym can be really tricky. But a few months in I’ve pretty much nailed it (I hope!).
Having set sessions scheduled in isn’t just good for when life gets really busy. It also provides some much-needed structure to my work week. As an added bonus, when work really is super-busy, it gives me a set time to down tools and unwind. I have sessions scheduled specifically at the end of a work day for that reason. By going to the gym, I tell my mind to switch out of work mode and into social mode.
Then there’s the new skills I’ve learnt through getting fit. Like social media and website skills. These compliment my day-to-day work. A lot of what I do involves marketing to some degree, or writing, and having this blog as a creative outlet makes me both a better writer and a better marketer for my clients.
An outlet for my emotion
Ups and downs are an everyday part of living. Back when I started my fitness journey, I was super stressed and frustrated at work. Looking back, it’s obvious that fitness became my outlet for all the anger and disappointment I was feeling. Sometimes before work I would go into the gym and just run on the treadmill, imagining myself running far far away.
Now when I’m feeling annoyed or upset at something, I’ll take myself off for some me-time at the gym. It’s where some of my best ‘lightbulb’ moments have happened and where I’ve come up with solutions for some of my problems. It’s also been where I’ve cried inside whilst physically working it out of my system. Sometimes, to process stuff you have to heave iron.
A balanced lifestyle
Starting a fitness journey and reading everything I could on healthy living has helped me create a more balanced lifestyle compared to the one I was living. Before, I was trapped in a cycle of being unhappy with how I looked, crash dieting or taking diet pills, losing a bit, thinking I could take it easy, putting weight back on, and repeat. Not a happy time.
I used to have a really tricky view of food. Half of my family are Malaysian, and their culture is ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. Which meant I pretty much grew up addicted to it. But I’d diet and restrict myself, sometimes to not even 500 calories a day. Food became the enemy. One that I loved and hated in equal measure.
My fitness journey broke that cycle. I learnt that food was fuel for everything I wanted to achieve. It’s changed the way I eat to a more sustainable and long-term plan. Plus my budget has improved dramatically thanks to meal prepping!
I know I can indulge sometimes without guilt. Likewise, I know if I overindulged that I’ll soon physically feel rubbish because my body will say to me, “Yo! Where’s all those nice veggies at? I need FUEL to do what you want me to do!” and I’ll find myself craving a more balanced diet again. This is especially important when I’m working flat out on my business. I need the right food to be in the right mind to do my best work.
I’m closer to my body
In more ways than one, I’ve learnt to listen to my body and respect it. I’m a five-foot-nothing half Asian girl with big calves that I was bullied for in secondary school. My body image hasn’t been great at the best of times. Now I’ve learnt to love my body. It’s where I live, so I have to take care of it. My focus has shifted from simply how I look, to how I feel and how my body works. I’m glad that I have the strength to do things I couldn’t before.
Yes, I have sometimes wished I was thinner or taller (or even blonde!). Even now, I sometimes worry that I’m getting too bulky. But my body can get through a 12+ day without failing, it can lift two wriggling Bengal cats simultaneously and (perhaps most importantly!) it can carry all the equipment my boyfriend uses for his clients when I feel like being a good girlfriend.
It’s improved my relationship
Speaking of which, it’s also added something extra to my relationship. Fitness is something we have in common now. If I hadn’t gone on my fitness journey, I don’t know if we’d be as close as we are today.
Plus I can keep up with my boyfriend. Which does help in a relationship! He’s obviously very active so now we can do a lot more stuff together that previously he wouldn’t have done or would have had to do alone. We hang out in the gym together too and that keeps us (me mostly!) both on track. And I can help him with his work sometimes, such as polishing the blog posts on his website or sending him interesting fitness news I’ve found online. Finally, when we’re feeling a little tense we do our own version of couple’s therapy: donning boxing gear and punching the @#%& out of each other!
From my fitness journey…to yours
So that’s a round-up of all the ways fitness has helped me to-date. But I’m sure there’ll be many more benefits as the months and years go on.
What about you? If you’ve started, what impact has fitness had on your life? If you’re starting out, what do you hope to achieve? And if you’re thinking about it, I’d say 100% do it. Take that first step. You never know what exciting places your fitness journey will lead you to.