I know I’ve been away for well over half a year at this stage and at some point in the near future I intend to write a post on the reasons behind that but today is not that day. Instead, I’m going to address a topic that I know a lot of people (myself included) are struggling with right now, namely, ~Getting back into it~.
‘It’ being the sort of lifestyle where I don’t view an entire tub of Ben & Jerries as a light snack and consider walking home instead of getting a lift a warrant to have an extra-large fries from Supermacs instead of a regular (Non-Ireland based readers – Supermacs is like McDonalds except for the part where it’s decent, you don’t know what you’re missing).
Scrolling back through my Instagram the other night with my friend I was pretty bummed about the fact that I used to be so very into a healthy lifestyle, to blow my own trumpet, I was crushing it and getting decent results. And here I was, reminiscing on healthier times after just going to Dunnes and buying two Christmas tubs of Roses and Heroes (Celebrations are mediocre at best and if you choose them you’re wrong) as well as a punnet of grapes and calling that balanced.
Things had to change. And so, this blog post was born. This post isn’t so much me bestowing some great learned wisdom on everyone but more like a narrative of what I know I have to do to get back where I was before. I’m in the rut too. There’s lots of us here, it’s like a party where we all kind of pat each other on the back for having their third Eddie Rockets of the
week month but secretly we all want to be back on track but don’t want to admit it because let’s face it, eating crap is delicious and fun #NoRegrets #SomeRegrets
The thing is, I know what it’s like to have my head in the game so to speak. I know what it’s like for fitness and health to be what your life revolves around. And not in an unhealthy way, but in the sense that I fueled my body with a nutrient filled, balanced diet and I worked out to be fit and started to love my body as a side effect, not because having abs was my end goal. I remember living like that and I loved it, I was happy and yet now I’m nowhere near that place and despite knowing that I was happy back then, I can’t bring myself back there.
Anyway. I know I’m not alone in this thought process. I know it’s all easier said than done. I’ve thought long and hard about it and here is how it’s going to go for me. I’ve made the decision that this is how it’s going to be and you can too.
First Things First, Get You Some (Reasonable) Goals
I am not a goal oriented person, I kind of like to go with the flow which is mainly stemmed from a fear of failure, a kind of ‘no goals = can’t fail’ sort of deal, but everyone benefits from having something to aspire to and that’s why it’s important to be realistic with your goals and further, why it’s important to have easily attainable short term goals to keep morale high and then the long term goals that will push you to your limits, that will take time and sustained effort.
Writing these goals down is a good idea for reflection purposes. When I say short term and attainable I mean really go easy on yourself for these. Like making the switch to a natural sweetener (xylitol, stevia, honey) instead of cane sugar in your coffee, not skipping a set in your workout when you feel like you want to, having one less biscuit at tea break. Small things that will take some willpower but aren’t going to be a huge stretch, this way you’re almost guaranteed to reach some of these goals and get that achievement buzz.
The main problem I have with goal oriented fitness is that for some people, like myself, if you don’t reach that goal you can feel worse than ever. These things aren’t always in our control, circumstances change, sometimes you overestimate yourself and sometimes you just don’t hit the goal even though you feel like you gave it your all. Something that was meant to encourage and spur you on becomes a black mark on your record, something you feel disappointed and down about. Some people get right back up and go at it again, and there’s plenty of aggressive ‘fitspo’ pics out there that would have you be just like that. But sometimes I’m just a massive f*cking pansy okay. I did not haul my ass to the gym 4 days a week and do heinous HIIT workouts on the dreadmill to not lose the three inches off my waist that I aimed for.
As per my example above, numeric goals are the DEVIL. Stop. Cease. Desist. Do not, for the love of god, make your goals numerical. No kilograms, no centimetres or inches. Not even percentages, even though body fat is the best thing to measure, any losses (or gains if that’s what you’re into) should be welcome side effects of your goals. You and your efforts are not a number and those numbers don’t always reflect the work put in. The only exception to this rule for me, is weight (lifted), distance or time related goals, performance based goals.
Go Easy On The Weights
The next thing to consider when gearing up to get back on the fitness bandwagon, especially if you have previously been on said bandwagon, is that it’s gonna take some time to get to where you want and even where you previously were. These are the unfortunate facts of life and they are not to be overlooked or ignored.
I tell you this because just last week I went to the gym and did a particularly strenuous leg day. I started off with barbell squats, went on over to the squat rack with an air of confident familiarity, loaded up the bar as always, I know what I’m about son, put on some hype tunes and go for it. Now, before my extended leave from the gym I was able to squat a decent amount, so of course that’s what I loaded up, I mean how much muscle could have really deteriorated?
Spoiler alert: a metric f*ck tonne
5 reps in to my first of 4 sets of 12 reps, my quads are screaming and legs feel like jelly on the push back up. I put it down to being rusty and power through the set, refusing to drop the weight because I won’t be outsmarted by my own legs and in that moment it felt like the entirety of the gym was watching and judging so like hell was I about to cut the set short. Anyway, to cut a long story short, this absolutely destroyed the rest of my workout, everything hurt and continued to do so for 3 whole days. Think DOMS so bad that you’re not sure it’s even DOMS so much as a leg which would be better cut off to relieve the pain.
Moral: Do not be overzealous, too proud to admit you need to drop the weight or under any illusion that you can pick up where you left off. It’s going to take time to build that strength and stamina back. The good news is, that it will come quicker than it ever did the first time. Muscle memory is a great thing. The main point here is come to terms with the fact that you’ll be starting off slow. It won’t feel like #BeastMode. It won’t even feel like #MildlyBoisterousChihuahuaMode. But just like the first time you picked up those weights, you have to start somewhere. Accept it and build on it instead of fighting it and setting yourself back more.
In a Similar Vein, It’s Not a Race
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s important now more than ever. It’s going to take quite some time to see the results you want or maybe even to get the physique back you had before you fell into a rut. That’s okay. It’s about the process and feeling good, looking good will come organically with that. Don’t let a seemingly unchanging figure in the mirror dissuade or disappoint you. You and I both know that those changes are slowly working away, that they take time to show and that they will happen.
This time should be easier for you. In one sense at least, in that you know that you did it once and so you can do it again. It can also seem harder second time round though, because you’re impatient. You think you know more this time around and so it should be easier, but just like that time when you were 8 years old, before the days of the autosave function when you were playing Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex on the PS2 and you finally beat that absolute sh*thead of a boss level to get through to the next platform of levels like you had been trying to do for literally weeks and then you had a power cut and lost all of the progress which you didn’t save and had to go through the whole arduous, infuriating process again even though YOU knew and the piece of sh*t console SHOULD have known that you had done this before and did not need to prove yourself to this smug mutated abomination of a character again and yet here you were, doing it all over again to get back to those levels that were rightfully yours*.
Except this time you had a plan of attack and it took half as much time. And the boss level didn’t get easier, you just knew better how to approach it. And that’s how you should see getting back into this. It’s still hard and you still have to go through the bullsh*t but you have a better plan of attack this time around. Basically, you’ve leveled up.
*I may or may not have cried when that power cut happened. I may or may not still have some hang ups about that game.
Now We’ve Discussed Going Slow at Length It’s Time to Gear Yourself Up
Love a good bit of contradictory advice, me. No, what I mean is inspire yourself to workout. What’s going to make you get up and give this your all? Write those things down, search them online. For me, I’m easily visually inspired so a few good Instagram feeds is often enough for me to feel a buzz and think, ‘What makes this person different from me, there is literally no reason that I too cannot be as fit as this person’.
Sometimes it takes more than that. Sometimes it takes you buying 3 dresses for a friend’s wedding in sizes 8-10 before having to finally admit defeat that you are in fact no longer a large 8, a small 10 or even a large 10. Not a problem, there’s nothing wrong with 12, it’s just a number after all, but I know I can do better and I know I’m not feeling great about my body or fitness level and I know that the way to feel better about it is to get up and workout.
If fitspo and social media is your poison of choice as an inspiration source it’s important to remember that that person you’re looking at had a different starting point, regime, circumstances, availabilities, mindset, genetics and responsibilities than you. You can aspire to have their drive, ethic and enthusiasm but never aspire to have someone else’s body. Focus on sculpting and loving yours every step of the way.
Lay the Foundations and Make Them Solid
Take your own ‘before’ photos for yourself and take your own measurements with a measuring tape (waist, hips, bust/chest, thighs and upper arms). These kind of measurements are far better at giving you info on your progress than weighing yourself #F*ckTheScales. Get your body fat % measured if you have access to it but it’s not vital. More on this in my previous post.
Keep a record of these and do not check them or re-measure or retake those photos for one month. At least. It’s going to take at least that long to see significant physical results and you don’t want to dishearten yourself by scrutinising photos that are two weeks apart to see if you can see any difference for your efforts.
I won’t go into the ins and outs of a successful food prep and its importance, you can read about that in this post, but if you did this once before you’ll know prep and structure is KEY in these first few weeks. Do a good food shop, if you have time to plan your meals and make a list then do so but if you don’t then there’s a good all-rounder list below that will give you a lot to work with, add in a few tins of chopped tomatoes, chipotle paste and a few good spices to your shopping trolley on top of that list and you’re sorted.
Even if you do have a plan, don’t focus too much on a strict regime and being 100%. Going from the lifestyle and activity level of a sedentary sea sponge to that of an IG worthy fit-goddess in 1 day is fairly difficult to be honest. Ease in. For that first week just get to grips with eating well again and quelling the likely raging sugar/high carb reliance.
(Note: this post is aimed at people getting back into fitness after a rut, for complete beginners I actually advise the complete opposite, strictly following a meal plan really helped me in the very beginning and taught me a lot about what my body reacted best to and about nutrition, see Healthy Eating 101).
What’s That Coming Over the Hill is it a Contradiction?
Yep, it’s a contradiction. You know how I just said ease in and went on earlier about not trying to bench press a planet on your first day back in the gym? Well that still stands but for the exercise side of things, you know what you’re doing and you know what a good burn feels like. You also know how addictive it is. For that reason I totally advise scheduling 3 intense workouts for that first week. I don’t mean intense like weight wise, I mean intense energy wise. Don’t cop out when you start to ache a bit (and believe me you will want to), really push yourself.
You know the workouts where you nearly fall asleep doing your post-workout stretches because the mat suddenly seems like the most comfortable thing in the world and honesty you could sleep on the floor of a nightclub toilet right now because you have zero energy left to expend? The ones where you feel the (good) ache even walking to your locker? Do 3 of those kind of workouts. Remember why you loved this lifestyle. Remember what the post-workout high feels like. Remember what the feeling of satisfaction feels like the next day. Feel the burn and remind yourself that it’s working (but as per the previous anecdote, know your limits).
If you feel like you need to be guided through the first week back then classes are a good idea. You just have to get yourself there, the bus drives itself from there on in.
I did a class. Once. It was horiffic boxercise and I thought I was going to die, barf, collapse or all of the above. It was one hell of a workout though and I don’t regret a second of it. Obviously, HIIT is also great for these first weeks back in the game. 20-30 minutes, maximum effort, maximum pay off, boom, go home for some carbs.
So In Conclusion: Things To Remember When You Want to Order a Takeaway or Skip the Gym
- You have your whole life for takeaways and gym skiving, go steady but with ambition these first few weeks back in. Be disciplined.
- Remember why you want back in on this fitness hype. Because it made you feel better than any chicken korma ever could. I know that’s a very bold statement, and chicken korma makes you feel good in a whole different kind of way. But there’s a world where you can reap the benefits of fitness AND korma and that world is one where you’re back in the game smashing decent workouts. Gym first, then korma. And pilau rice. And peshwari naan.
- In 1 month time, 4 small weeks, 28 incredibly quick days, you will see results if you put the work in.
- In 2 weeks time it will be 10 times easier than it is today but for that to be the case you have to start today. It gets so much easier, and you know that for a fact.
Let this be the time that you escape the rut. Not next time, this time. This is the time you get back in the game and feel great in yourself and feel pride when you look in the mirror. Starting over is never fun but being back in the routine is.
Get a new pair of leggings (It’s scientifically proven that new gymwear makes you 67% better at working out – forgot who wrote that 100% legit paper soz), put on a decent gym playlist (you can check out my SQUAT + SLAY playlist on Spotify – there’s also a STRETCH + BREATHE one for your post-workout stretch session – search @allylouisaa) and crush some goal setting, meal prepping and supersetting.
Next post I’ll be talking about how you can easily and cheaply make the switch to cruelty free cosmetics without compromising on quality
Until then, have a great week and keep your focus, we got this and I hope to be updating you all on my progress on Instagram and Facebook over the next couple of months,