Returning to fitness can be as tough as starting from scratch
For a number of years, if you asked me, I’d tell you I was a fit person. Despite too long of doing too little, I still see myself as a fit person. Ultimately, it’s easier to tell myself that than to realise if I attempted a workout I smashed a few years ago it would likely leave me curled on a sweat-drenched floor, in a world of pain.
Just a few years ago, I trained at a CrossFit gym most days. I competed at a pretty gruelling CrossFit competition and had plans to enter a novice weightlifting and Strongman competition.
I spent my spare time at rockclimbing gyms and my go-to stress release was an evening run in the rain.
A couple of times, I jumped on a rowing machine to hit a halfmarathon (a little over 21km) distance because it seemed a fun challenge – and I had nothing else planned for the day.
Somehow, before I even noticed, life happened. Fitness habits were forgotten far quicker than they were made. Time with my husband was more valuable than time in the gym. I swapped freelancing for full-time work and ditched my lawn-mowing sidehustle. Around 15,000 steps a day instantly fell from my normal routine. My strict diet made way for late-night snacks on the couch.
Yet, I told myself, I was still the same fit person. It’s an easy lie to tell ourselves when changes happen slow enough to not see them coming.
And I’m still active. My comfort zone is lifting heavy weights – and I know I’m strong for my age. If you need something heavy moved, I’m the first person to raise my hand.
But when it comes to boosting the heart rate, I have become far too comfortable not getting uncomfortable.
Compared to many, I’m not unfit. I have tackled a few fitness challenges recently. I survived them, just. But taking breaks or dropping weights became the norm over battling through the ‘‘pain cave’’.
It became a realisation I did not want to have about how I’d let myself lapse.
And what I’m realising is returning to fitness is just as difficult, and often as demotivating, as starting from scratch. Maybe even more so. My expectations for myself are much higher, yet just as unobtainable, as when I first began a decade ago.
Somewhere between a handful of chocolate almonds and struggling to keep up a rowing pace five seconds slower than what used to be my standard, I realised I needed to change.
I know it’s do-able. A decade ago I was a chain-smoker, occasional binge-drinker and had not stepped foot in a gym since an injury knocked me out of competitive gymnastics as a teenager.
I can throw excuses at myself. I’ve had injuries, lockdowns and life. But it is far too easy to hold onto those excuses long after they’re still a justifiable reason.
At some stage, the decision needs to be made – put in the effort, or continue down the trajectory of no change.
My plan for 2023 is to find a way back to fitness. Maybe I still can compete in a weightlifting competition.
Maybe I’ll tackle Strongman. In the meantime, I’ll sign up for my first Round the Bays.
I also realise it won’t be easy. I have taken advice from personal trainers. I know I need to curb expectations to start with. I have been in touch with my old personal trainer to give myself accountability. I have packed gym gear in a bag for an upcoming overseas trip.
For a while, I loved the mantra ‘‘embrace the suck’’. In short, learn to love the struggle because it makes us stronger.
Lately I’ve become accustomed to embracing the comfort of life outside ‘‘the suck’’. The journey to fitness will not be easy. I’ll likely fail many times. There will no doubt be setbacks and injuries and days when I just want to return to the couch with my husband and movie with a bag of chocolate almonds.
But I also know I was happier, stronger and far more proud of myself when I was at my peak fitness.
So if you have made the decision to make 2023 the year of embracing the suck, being comfortable getting uncomfortable, or simply putting down the chocolate almonds and getting on your feet, I’ll be there too, celebrating the wins and trying not to beat myself up over the failures.
Maybe we’ll see each other at Round the Bays.
‘The journey to fitness will not be easy. I’ll likely fail many times.’
Do it yourself
New Zealand’s biggest fun run, Round the Bays 2023 is set for Sunday, March 5, and to get you ready Stuff has launched the RTB Fitness Club with coach Bevan James Eyles, an 8-week training programme designed to get you match-fit and excited about exercise with a like-minded community, whether tackling the event in-person in Auckland or virtually.
For $25 you will get:
An 8-week walk, walk-to-run or run-only training programme. Weekly mentoring videos with Eyles.
Weekly live Q&A with Eyles.
A strength and stretch component to help prevent you from injuries. Access to the exclusive RTB Fitness Club Facebook group. The first 250 people to join the club will get a FREE Under Armour T-shirt.