My journey into fitness
During this lockdown I’ve often found it difficult to self-motivate to exercise – constructing a new routine, working with different equipment, exercising alone rather than with friends or in a class. I realised that I really missed the gym. And with that, a realisation that a few years ago I would never have believed I could feel like that.
Not at all sporty
I definitely wasn’t always into fitness. I loved gymnastics when I was little – I was obsessed with learning new tricks and was fairly bendy although by no means a pro. I did a bit of sport at school but it was never a priority, and after about 15 years old I stopped it almost completely. Throughout 3 years at uni I think I went to the gym twice in total!
I got into yoga a bit later on and grew to love it, partly for the movement but mostly for the mindfulness and breathing aspects of it. I spent a few years with yoga as my only form of exercise, alongside hiking and gardening – working on farms!
It was only during my separation from my ex-husband that I fell fully into fitness in a way I never thought I would. I was struggling to adapt to a totally new way of life and of thinking about myself. My circumstances had changed completely – I went from living in rural Colombia to central London. Every vision I had created of my life had to be reimagined. And this on top of all the pain I was recovering from and unsavoury practicalities I was dealing with.
During that time, I met my friend Paulina who introduced me to calisthenics – essentially using your own bodyweight to train strength. It reignited my old love of gymnastics – playing on the monkey bars and testing the limits of my body. I fell headfirst into strength training, alongside Pilates, and found a new love of gaining physical strength – pushing my physical and mental boundaries, achieving things I had never dreamed possible or that I thought were only in my past.
I had never understood gym-goers, preferring the outdoors and generally turned off by all the peacocking and focus on aesthetics. For me the gym conjured images of sweaty men flexing their biceps and self-conscious girls taking mirror selfies. Far from appealing!
Calisthenics was something I could do outside, with no weights (something I was averse to due to their connection in my mind with bulging biceps), and most importantly there are no mirrors in the park! It felt very freeing to focus completely on myself from the inside whilst training, rather than concentrating on a reflection of myself – from the outside.
I was pretty weak when I first started training but I saw immediate progress and became almost addicted to seeing myself advance in small but certain ways. Setting tangible goals, slowly working towards them and actually achieving them was incredibly fulfilling, and still is now, 2 years later. It completely transformed my mental health, propelling me through my separation and divorce and helping me love myself again, or maybe only properly for the first time.
It also opened a window for me, and now I also love the gym, lifting weights and trying new things. My body has become a playground that brings so much joy to my life, has connected me with wonderful new friends, keeps my mind sane, my self-love blooming, and does wonders for my productivity, mood & motivation.
I listened to a podcast about finding your exercise soulmate (it sounds a bit stupid I know!) but it really resonated. I was never into running or gymming or team sports so I assumed I wasn’t into fitness. I just hadn’t found my thing. And then I did. And it changed my life. (Excuse the cheese!)
My driving force
I haven’t even mentioned the physical benefits, of which there are many. Pilates and strength training were both huge factors in drastically improving some chronic back issues I had had since my teens. After having chronic pain for more than a decade I had become so used to my back problems that I thought that was me for life, but I’m happy to say that I am now almost pain-free (except for the occasional flare-up!). Fitness has also improved my digestion and my skin, although both of of those are very connected to my emotional health as well. More on this to come!
Of course it’s changed the way I look as well. I’m much more toned than I used to be (not bulky!) and my cellulite has definitely reduced a little. More than that, I’ve found a greater appreciation for the body I have, regardless of how it looks. I have quite an attachment to my wobbles as well as my muscles!
I love the positive effects fitness has had on my body but it’s definitely not my driving force. It’s a fantastic side effect of doing something I love that makes me feel amazing from the inside out, not the outside in.