Being healthy is really important to me. Without our health we haven’t got much and it should be a priority for all of us. Sadly, we can’t be healthy without a combination of good food and exercise. Getting that balance right isn’t always easy and lord knows I still struggle but I recently took an unexpected step in the right direction and quit the gym.
I’ve been a member of different gyms on and off since I was 16. You know how it goes, you join up feeling really enthusiastic and determined to go three times a week, get really fit and end up looking like an Instafamous fitness model. It never happens, not to me anyway.
Me, myself and the gym
My latest membership lasted about 18 months. I started with the same enthusiasm I always did, equipped with my official workout plan the personal trainer wrote out for me on induction day. I went regularly and once I’d been, there’s no doubt that I felt great. I had that satisfied feeling you get when you work up a sweat watching the calories burned count mount up on the machine. This all sounds great but there was a big problem – I never wanted to go and I hated every minute of cardio. I might have felt really good afterwards but did I enjoy one minute on that treadmill? No! I hated it. It was torture, one eye on the TV screen and the other on the timer praying it would all end. Even worse, I’d often run at the side of my husband (who LOVES the gym) and would have to put up with him regularly reaching over to notch my speed up! Not once did I think ‘yeah! I really want to go to the gym’ – I thought ‘I should go to the gym’. I’d paid for my membership, so I felt I should get my monies worth. Want and should are two very different things. Too many shoulds in our lives is a recipe for disaster because we aren’t being true to who we are.
Hating every minute was only the beginning. The biggest problem I had was my thinking that because I’d been to the gym, it was perfectly reasonable to demolish that Indian takeaway or those chocolate chip cookies without having to feel guilty. Going to the gym was my free pass to junk food, only I still felt guilty after eating it. The days after said takeaway the guilt would come again if I didn’t go to the gym to burn all the junk food I thought I deserved off. I was in a vicious cycle of guilt. I slowly realised the whole thing had become a stick to beat myself with. It had to stop.
Finding a solution
Giving up exercise altogether or food I enjoy i.e the occasional Indian takeaway wasn’t an option. I started thinking about exercise that I actually enjoy and this is when the idea of balance became clear to me. Horse riding was top of my list. I’m at my happiest on a horse and it’s really good exercise. Looking back it was the strangest thing but I would feel like I didn’t have time to ride some days because I should to go to the gym, yet I enjoyed riding so much more. I also really enjoy walking Dolly (my dog) and yoga, which was something I’d tried and enjoyed but never stuck to. None of these involve intensive cardio so why was I putting myself through something I hated? I gave up fighting it and opted for the more enjoyable but less intensive workouts. I quit the gym.
There’s a lot of research to suggest the way we look is down to what we eat and exercise hasn’t got as much to do with it as we think. You can’t actually cancel out all those sugary treats with a half hour treadmill session. So sad but true. Eating and exercising with intention provides a realistic solution to this sad truth. This means exercising because you really want to and eating what you really want to. For this to work you have to only do exercise you love and only eat what you love. Moderation is the key here.
Where I stand now
This is where I stand on being healthy – Take a more rounded approach. Eat good food that you enjoy and only do exercise you enjoy. If you are enjoying something, I think it’s good for you. Stop being hard on yourself. I know that isn’t always easy and I’m the first one to come crashing down on myself but you really do deserve better. Perfection isn’t the aim, you’ll never get there anyway so you’re wasting your time trying. I think it’s really important to stop punishing ourselves with a vicious cycle of food and exercise. Being riddled with guilt has got to be a bad thing, it cannot do us any favours.
Two months after quitting, do I regret it? No. It was something else I would worry about having to fit in and now that worry is gone. I feel much better for trying to take better care of myself in general. I no longer have that post gym feeling to provide that free pass to junk food so I’m more mindful about eating well in general. Not depriving myself of foods I want and not forcing myself to do exercise I hate. I’m not where I would want to be in a perfect world but quitting the gym was a step in the right direction for my balance. I enjoy the time I’ve got back by not having to fit it in and I’ve used that to do more exercise I enjoy including yoga at home – which I love. If you’re interested in doing some yoga at home in your own time like I was, I would highly recommend Yoga with Adriene. I’m 10 days into her 31 day yoga revolution on YouTube as I’m writing this and I’m hooked.
I’d love to know if any of this resonates with you. Let me know in the comments below.