Hello, my name is Jane Yee and I have a fear of exercise. No, really.
Recently I was approached by The Active Lifestyle, a fitness studio in Mt Eden Auckland, to see if I’d be interested in giving their workouts a go.
As I read the message I could feel my stomach starting to turn. I was immediately conflicted because obviously I was being presented with a fantastic opportunity, but also: I’m allergic to exercise.
Okay, I’m not allergic to exercise, but I might as well be. I’ve given it a reasonable crack in the past. I’ve delved into gym memberships, running, swimming, online at-home programmes and then there was that half-completed Yoga course. None of it has stuck.
Tell you what has stuck though, my lack of self-confidence and total intimidation when it comes to exercise. I know that it’s good for your physical and mental health to engage in an active lifestyle, but I find it so incredibly hard because I’m so incredibly unmotivated (lazy?)
I think the problem stems from not having a particularly sporty childhood, and not needing to exercise to maintain my weight. I’ve just never been active; exercise just hasn’t been part of my everyday life.
I’d always been a stick of a thing, as a kid, a teen and right into my early thirties. I ate whatever I wanted, moved only when I had to, and my waistline was never affected. To be fair I didn’t really have a waistline; I was straight up and down and could be mistaken for a twelve-year-old boy right up to the age of thirty-two. Oh to be a twelve-year-old boy again!
Where it went belly up (or belly out)
I had kids, and suddenly everything caught up with me. While breastfeeding I was able to consume massive amounts of food. I don’t mean to brag, but was actually impressive. Eventually the feeding of babes stopped but the feeding of self did not. My stomach was well used to processing huge portions of grub and was like “yo, I’m digging all this food, especially the yellow stuff, keep it up”
To make matters worse, I wasn’t getting enough sleep and aside from pushing the mop and running around after the kids I definitely wasn’t getting enough exercise. Unsurprisingly I started to get a little soft around the edges (and then quite a lot soft around the edges) and I felt like rubbish in general. The worst part was feeling like I was one step behind all the time. I couldn’t keep up with my kids like I wanted to, I constantly craved naps, and with the weight gain and general exhaustion my self esteem plummeted.
The only time my body found its way back into my “normal” clothes was when I went through the Great Breakdown of December 2015 (didn’t eat) and the Great Gastro of October 2017 (couldn’t eat). I don’t recommend either of these methods as healthy weight loss options btw.
So anyway, when The Active Lifestyle offered me this bloody great chance to face my demons I knew I had to take them up on it, even though it genuinely freaked me out. Honestly, I think #fitspo’s who love exercise just don’t have the slightest clue how unnatural it feels and how scary it is for lazy blobs like me.
No Mucking Around
My first visit to the studio in Mt Eden doubled as my first training session with Amber and James. They were enthusiastic and encouraging and I sort of absorbed all that right away. I felt empowered and inspired from the word go because their energy is so damn infectious. That said, the first session was killer. Whilst trying not to throw up during reverse rows I could hear my pesky inner voice say “lol, you can’t come back here again, you are actually about to DIE”.
It turns out training is hard work – who knew?! It’s meant to be – that’s what makes it effective. Going for a leisurely stroll might be great for the mind and good for the body, but it’s not going to help you achieve your strength and fitness goals. Fortunately, at the end of the session (when I’d managed to catch my breath) my rational outer voice said “thanks so much guys! See you tomorrow!”
And I did see them the next day. And then 2-3 times a week thereafter.
Making every bit of exercise count
I’m into my ninth week with The Active Lifestyle and it’s been a game-changer. The focus on correct technique means every rep counts. It all going into the Body Bank meaning I’m not wasting any effort.
At first, trying to figure out how to correctly execute each movement felt super strange. It took everything in me to remember which bits to tense up and which bits to tilt forward. That’s changing now because the consistent form-correction from the trainers has got me to a place where my body knows what to do on its own. Now I can concentrate on breathing through the movements (super important!) and pushing myself to my limit.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days I don’t feel like going to the studio. There are times during the sessions I want to just lie on the floor and cry. But I do go, and I don’t cry, and I always come away feeling amazing and genuinely proud of myself.
I’m gushing, I know, but honestly, it blows my mind that I can walk into a fitness studio and feel totally at home. Like I actually belong there. I can’t tell you how much of a monumental shift that is for a couch-junkie like me.
What’s different this time?
So how come I’ve managed to stick with this exercise routine when every previous attempt has been such a spectacular failure? Excellent question. And here are the answers:
The fact I have appointments to attend means I’m accountable, so I actually go. If I was relying on my own self-motivation to get to the gym for a work out at my convenience, I’d last about two weeks. I know this, because I’ve been on and off that mouse-wheel many times before. In fact, for the amount of time I’ve actually spent making use of gym memberships I might as well have just thrown some cash through the front door and headed off for a burger.
Small Group training
Sessions at The Active Lifestyle are limited to no more than four people. This means it’s a lot like personal training in that the trainer is constantly tailoring the sessions to make sure we get the most out of our time and effort. Unlike one-on-one training there isn’t that pressure of being under microscope and we have the camaraderie of working out with others.
Amber and James own The Active Lifestyle and run the bulk of the training sessions. That means they personally get to know all their clients and they have a vested interest in providing a superior and effective training experience. As for the clients, we’re talking a bunch of real people who are all just trying to be the strongest, healthiest versions of themselves.
I can honestly say everyone I’ve met during sessions at the studio has been super lovely and a lot of fun to train with. We all chat while we train, and when we’re struggling for breath we encourage each other to push through. There’ss no judgement, just lots of laughs and a shared dislike of bear crawls.
The Active Lifestyle offers four different styles of training, and you can mix them up to suit you.
HIIT (High intensity interval training)
Yoga (Vinyasa Flow)
I’ve been doing three sessions a week comprising strength, boxing and yoga. The diversity means I don’t get bored and I’m working my body in different ways.
I wanted to lose weight. Straight up, that was my goal. I thought having a lower number on the scales would help me feel better about myself. Turns out there’s a lot more to self confidence than reaching your goal weight. I know, I’m a vom-inducing cliche over here.
By the end of my first session at The Active Lifestyle it was made plain that this studio is about strength, confidence and being active and healthy. It’s not about extremes and not once has my weight been recorded. I’ll be totally honest with you, I haven’t lost any weight – though that has nothing to do with my training. There’s no way my body is going to look the way I’d like it to while I eat the way I eat – which is terribly by the way.
Tell ya what though, I’m still really proud of this body of mine because it now behaves the way I want it to. I’m stronger, fitter, gaining confidence and holding better posture. I’m getting quality sleep and feeling more positive about life in general. I can keep up with the kids and I can get through a full-on day without needing a nap. I’m also proud to be modelling healthy habits for my kids. I know I don’t need to tell you all of that means so much more than numbers on the scale.
So what about that weight loss goal then?
All that said, I’m sure the weight loss will follow. At the beginning of all this, the idea of addressing my terrible diet and abysmal lack of activity in one hit was overwhelming. It was just too much and, honestly, I didn’t know when to start. However, now that I’m in a regular training routine the thought of facing my diet head-on doesn’t seem quite so daunting. One body battle at a time I reckon.
I realise this reads like a massive advertisement for The Active Lifestyle, and you know what? I guess it is! But moreover it’s a massive advertisement for finding the courage to take the leap.
I’m writing this because I’m proud of myself. The idea was to give the sessions a go, and if I liked them I would cover my journey on my social media. There was never a request for me to write a blog entry or to post a certain number of instagram pics. The only reason I’m tipptiy-tapping this out is because I really am so grateful to Amber and James. In helping me overcome my fear of exercise they’re leading me to a place where I’m actually starting to enjoy it. And that’s clearly contagious, because Joel’s signed up now too.
I know not everyone is in a position to do the kind of training I’ve been fortunate enough to engage in. While I can’t recommend these sessions enough, the main point of this post is to encourage you to do something. To face your fear of exercise head on. And trust me, if I can do it, you can too.
You might be scared of gyms and feel like a total numpty when it comes to moving your body. Maybe you get overwhelmed at the idea of working out and don’t have a clue how to start being active. If that sounds familiar, know this: nine weeks ago I was you. I really, truly was. My confidence has come a long way, but I haven’t forgotten those feelings of total intimidation. I know how scary it can be to contemplate those first steps towards an active lifestyle. But I urge you to take the leap, you won’t regret it.