Lesser Known Benefits of Going to the Gym

To say I'm not really a sporty person is a little bit of an understatement. I remember being so nervous in one of my first ever ballet lessons that I wet myself,  a story that both me and my dance teachers (who had the pleasure of reminding me of this fact every dance lesson until I was 18) find really hilarious, but to a shy three year old it was a horribly intimidating experience. 

My dislike for sport only increased with my age; although I was no longer wetting myself on frequent occasion, I did have a habit of hiding in the bushes during cross country runs and rejoining in with everyone on the last lap, and the number of notes feigning migraines to excuse me from having to play netball in the freezing cold probably rival the page count of War and Peace. I have always relied on the fact that I was on the 'slim side of average', and therefore my health must be OK. But when I hit 17 my health took a serious turn, my immune system decided that it no longer wanted to cooperate and over the space of two years I endured countless doctors appointments, blood tests and even a few hospital admissions. I have worked incredibly hard over the past few years, finally becoming someone who I am proud to be. I overcame my anxiety, I beat my illnesses and I am now working hard on becoming a healthy, strong and happy person.

Part of this involved me rejoining the gym, but along with seeing an vast improvement in my strength in the two months since, I have also noticed monumental changes in all sorts of areas in my life. I never thought I would write this but going to the gym is now something I enjoy. I have listed just a few of these little changes below...

1. Confidence - Walking into the gym to rejoin in November I didnt feel anything close to confident. Confident in my body, in my fitness, in myself or confident that I'd actually find a routine that I could stick to and see the benefit of. It was almost like walking into the lunch hall on your first day at a new school; not being at the gym for weight loss reasons, and having never lifted a weight in my life I just felt lost. But through support from a Personal Trainer, and now through my own training I have found a flow that works for me. I am still an insecure person, but I have a new found confidence in both my mental and physical strength. In two months I have improved much faster than I ever thought I would and these successes are only spurring me on to reach bigger and better goals.

2. Mind - People say exercise releases endorphins... I've been told it creates the same chemical reaction in the brain as when you give a hormonal woman a bar of chocolate. (Whoever said this was clearly a man and has never experienced the pleasure that is eating a bag of minstrels straight out the fridge at the end of a stressful day). Joking aside though, he did have a point. Strangely, coming back from the gym really does make me feel good about myself. I get a buzz from pushing myself to try something harder, and enjoy educating my mind and my body into a new way of training. I am mentally kinder to myself now. I am learning to be my own cheerleader, to love, treat and respect myself the way I want others to. Tonight I tweeted that I am happier, stronger and more proud of myself than I have been in a long time, and hand on heart that statement could not be more true.

3. Resilience - Failure is hard. Someone recently told me quite bluntly that we need to fail. Failure teaches us to appreciate success, rejection makes us stronger and admitting defeat is not a sign of weakness. Strength is how well we react to these inevitable traits of human life. Training has taught me that unless we allow ourselves to fail we will never improve and never leave the safety of our comfort zone. For years I have clutched to things I know I can succeed in, absolutely terrified of entering a realm of the unknown or pushing myself to try at something new, clinging to my safety blanket to the point where at one stage of my life there were days when I was frightened to leave my room. I have learnt that it's OK to fail, it's OK to fall. Fall seven times, stand up eight. With each fall you drop further and it can be harder to get back up- I know that to be all too true myself, but I'm still here and I'm stronger for it. I will keep pushing, I will keep failing and I will keep standing back up.