It’s strange to think that I once had a life that didn’t consist of going to the gym. Training and lifting weights has become so entrenched with my lifestyle, I can’t imagine anything else anymore. Growing up, I was always quite active and sporty. I enjoyed playing a variety of different sports not only for fitness but also for fun. I swam, played hockey, ran cross-country, completed several triathlons, cycling as well as shooting a few arrows here and there in archery. So, I understood the benefits of staying active and the importance of keeping fit. 

The first time I stepped into the gym was oddly enough a one-time incident nearly 15 years ago at a recreation centre where I worked at. The gym offered employees free gym access so I booked an appointment with a personal trainer. I was introduced to a variety of different machines and shown some simple movements that encompassed a whole body program. I managed to stick to my program for three weeks before getting bored and giving up because nothing kills motivation more than boredom.

“Nothing kills motivation more than boredom.”

More than ten years passed before I revisited the idea of the gym again. I was working full time as a school teacher, my days were busy and I had limited time to focus on my own health. I was starting to gain weight and subsequently becoming increasingly conscious of my low self-esteem and negative body image. I tried many things to lose weight. Running regularly at the park outside my school as well as heavily reducing my food intake were my keys to rediscovering my leaner, more healthier self. Of course, as expected, my rediscovery never happened, and not the way I had planned it. All I found were shin splints and fatigue. It was time to revisit this notion of the gym. 

I was too nervous to step into a gym at first. Being highly self-conscious, I thought everyone would stare at me the minute I stepped in, scrutinise my every movement and judge my rounder physique. I’d seen many videos on social media making fun of those who did the wrong thing in the gym. I didn’t want this to be my claim to fame. So, I started my relationship with weights in a home gym so no one could see or hear me.

There’s something ingenious about going straight to a professional at the very beginning. It means that you start with the correct information and guidance and eliminate the period of making unwitting mistakes. It also provides you with a sense of security knowing that you’re not wandering through unfamiliar gym territory with no gps. I started with the basic strength movements, learning how to do them properly. I learnt how to breathe and brace, grip the bar, stay steady under any given weight and get as tight as possible. I also learnt the importance of commitment and saw myself progress in the weight I was losing as well as in the weights I was picking up. I not only found increased satisfaction and motivation in seeing my body change and grow stronger, but I also realised my idea of an ideal body image change and grow as I learnt more about what it looks like to be truly healthy. 

Confidence is a very interesting thing. Everyone has it. We can lose it and get it back again. We talk about it a lot like we don’t have much control over it, but really we do. Our actions can play a resounding impact on our overall attitude, mindset and, of course, our confidence. For me, stepping into the gym and finding a strength and conditioning coach was the changing point for my self-confidence that I never expected to happen. My original goal was to get fit and lose weight. What I achieved instead was something so much more.

“I have grown from a girl with low self-esteem and negative body image, to a strong woman proud of her body not because of how it looks but because of what it can do.”

I now step into the gym several times a week. It’s my second home. And when I walk in people still stare at me. But this time, compared to my initial fears, I’m no longer concerned or worried about what other people think of me. They can judge and scrutinise. They can also comment on my lifting videos on social media and make fun of me. But, I have grown from a girl with low self-esteem and negative body image, to a strong woman proud of her body not because of how it looks but because of what it can do. I now eat to fuel my body instead of deprive it of nutrients in order to lose weight. And I now have different goals that don’t consist of weight loss but rather weight gain (on the bar). 

We all start somewhere. Whether you have never stepped foot inside a gym or not even know where to begin. It is what we choose to do that can either help make or break us.