An Open Letter to All New Gym Members
Hi! First off, congrats on making the decision to get in better shape. It's important to take care of yourself, and often times it's the last thing on our priority list. It's something I continually struggle with, like I'm sure you do too. But, by joining a gym, you're taking a step in the right direction.
Second, and I want to make this perfectly clear, I am not a personal trainer, nor am I in any way, shape, or form a fitness expert. Not even close. I don't even consider myself to be a "gym rat." So, if you stumbled across this blog hoping to find the best way to tone your abs, or firm up your gluteus maximus, you have come to the wrong place and may want to stop reading right now (although I hope you don't). All I am is a dude, who just like you, finally decided to stop talking about needing to go to the gym, and actually went.
But, it took me a while to get there.
I guess I'll start with why I finally started going. I've always eaten whatever I wanted and not really cared what the after effects were. On top of that, I did little to no physical activity. But as I got older, I'd find myself looking in the mirror and not liking what the reflection showed me. Probably sounds familiar, right? Before consistently hitting the gym about a year and a half ago, I was up to 220 pounds. I'm also 6'3", so I wasn't obese. Overweight, yes, but not obese.
Truthfully though, the number on the scale wasn't the driving factor in my decision to join the gym. I really just didn't like the way my shirtless body looked. My chest looked flabby, and my midsection was looking more and more like a muffin at Donut Bank. When my family and I would go swimming or to a beach for vacation, I kept a shirt on the whole time. Partly because I'm terrible at keeping sunscreen on consistently, and I HATE getting sunburned on my back, but mainly, I wasn't comfortable with the way I looked without it.
Yet I still didn't do anything about it. I'd convince myself that I didn't have the time, that we didn't need the extra monthly expense of a gym membership, or if I did join I would just wander around aimlessly from machine to machine not knowing what in the world I was doing or if it would even help. I had given myself a bunch of reasons why I shouldn't even though none of them were as important as the reason why I should.
It wasn't until my son expressed interest in lifting weights to bulk up for football in the summer of 2018 that I finally decided to pull the trigger. Why it took him showing an interest for me to get over whatever hurdles I had put in front of myself, I don't know. Whatever the reason, it got me to do something I had been thinking about for years, and that's all that matters.
In August of that year, we joined a gym here in the Tri-State. In the interest of full transparency, thanks to my line of work, I was able to get an endorsement deal with that gym meaning they gave me a year's membership for me and my family for free in exchange for talking about my experience and what they offered on the radio. That is no longer the case as the agreement ended in July. I've been paying for a membership ever since. And I'm glad I stuck with it.
In that year and a half, I've lost 15 pounds, went from a 36-inch waist in pants (which I had been for 20+ years) to a 34, started wearing large shirts instead of extra large, AND, I've gained some muscle you can actually see. Most importantly, I feel better physically and mentally. I feel more confident, and I'm more comfortable with how I look without a shirt. So much so, I'm putting a shirtless picture of me in this post.
Is Marvel going to cast me as the next Thor or Captain America? No. While I am trying to eat better more times than not, my sweet tooth still gets the best of me from time to time, and I still like cheese. But, when I look at the guy on the right, I don't think, "Yuck" any more. And that's what's important.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. But, I like going. I like everything about it. I like the sweat pouring off my face and dripping on the floor while I'm trying to hold a plank. I like that sometimes the veins in my forearms pop out after a workout. And for whatever reason, I even like the days when I've pushed myself particularly hard and my legs are a little twitchy. If I miss a day during the week for whatever reason, I feel like I've let myself down. Don't get me wrong, there are days when I don't want to go, and there are some exercises I do that I'm not a huge fan of, but when I look at this picture, I know the work I've put in so far as paid off, and that's enough to keep me going.
Again, I am in no way a gym expert, but here are some things I've learned through my experience that may help as you begin yours, take them or leave them:
1. Work with a Personal Trainer
Again, full disclosure, my deal with the gym through the station included a few sessions with a personal trainer to get me started, and it was a huge help. I told him my goals (lose fat, gain muscle. look more trim), and he tailored three sets of workouts for me. Plus, he showed me proper technique with each exercise so I didn't inadvertently hurt myself. You don't have to stick with them forever, but at least use them for a month or so to help you get started. That's what they're for. They want to help you stick with it.
2. Don't Compare Yourself to Other People
This is really tough for me and something I still struggle with every time I'm at the gym. There will be people there every time who can lift more than you, and are in better shape than you, whether that's more muscular, thinner, more tone, whatever. I have to constantly remind myself that they've likely been working out for years longer than me, and probably thought the same thing when they first started.
3. Know Your Limits
If you feel a certain weight on whatever exercise you're doing is too light, by all means, kick it up a few pounds. But, I've learned the hard way it's really easy to think you can handle more than you really can and over do it. You're not going to hit your goal overnight. If you can't lift your arms for two days because they're so sore, you overdid it.
4. Drink Water
Honestly, this is one that I've really committed to since the start of the year. I've never been a fan of plain, old water. I like my drinks to have some flavor, but I knew I had to start drinking more of it, and I have noticed a difference the last couple of trips to the gym. My muscles don't seem to be as worn out afterward, which I assume (I'm not a scientist or doctor either) is because I'm keeping them hydrated.
Finally, I'm not a motivational speaker. I don't come up with inspirational quotes that people share on social media. Again, I'm just someone like you who made a decision to finally get off my lazy gluteus maximus and try to improve the way I feel and look that hopes by sharing my experience it will in some way be relatable to you. If you find inspiration in it, great. If you're motivated by it, wonderful. If you're neither of those things and you feel like reading this was a complete waste of your time, sorry. But the fact that you walked through the doors of whatever gym you chose says that at least for a few hours each week you've decided to do the same. I think, and hope, you'll be glad you did.