I have never thought I’d be admitting the stuff I’m about to write, but yes: hitting the gym is having a dramatic, positive effect on my mental health, and my improved and positive mental health is dramatically improving my performances at the gym. This, coming from a world-famous couch potato, is quite remarkable. Being in a positive circle of awesomeness is something very new to me, and I’m enjoying it to the fullest as we speak.
Bit of a background to the statement above: yesterday I had my usual session with my personal trainer. I asked her to hit me with some new stuff, to push me more, to bring the game to the next level. Of course, she did comply with my request, and she created on her feet “the brutal program from hell”. We tailored it here and there during the session, increasing weights and difficulty whenever I was not feeling it, and once the session was over, she complimented me saying “it is nice to train you, because I can really push you and you just take it on board and do it. I can see you want it badly and you are on the road to get it”. Of course, I was very flattered and happy, but most importantly, I was extremely satisfied with myself and this incredible determination that I have found in this journey.
See, I used to be the one who leaves when the game gets tough. At the first difficulty, the first criticism, the first sore muscle, you name it, in any aspect of my life, I’d be either leaving or sulking in a corner thinking “I’m so dumb / stupid / weak / ugly etc… I can’t face / do this”. I never wanted things “so badly” that I was ready to put up with anything in order to get them, aside from getting out of my mental hell. In anything that I got into, sooner or later I reached the point where I would have raised my hands, surrendered and come up with an excuse to leave without looking too stupid. I blame my low self-esteem on this, but also this horrible attitude that people around me had, who thought that by putting me down with stuff like “see? You’ll surrender anyway” I would have done anything to prove them wrong: actually, if anything, I used their remarks to feed my negative narrative. That was exactly what pitiful, weak, self-hating me wanted to hear.
One of the big mental shift I decided to make is the “not surrendering” one. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’d be stupidly keep going doing stuff that’s pretty pointless and leading to nowhere, but once I rationally assess the situation, the potential output and the journey to get to the final goal, there is no backing down unless it proves to be truly impossible (and still, there may be room to lower the bar and keep going anyway).
My gym body is something I decided I WILL have, no matter what.
When I hired my Personal Trainer, I regretted it the moment she fired a calendar invite in my diary. When she asked me to make it a recurrent appointment, I felt trapped like an animal about to be locked in a cage for the rest of his days.
I struggled to believe in me.
To believe that I could have done it.
Then I got fired up in a “I do this as a revenge” against my ex-boyfriend.
Few psychotherapy sessions under my belt, and my mind shifted from all of this to “I want it. I do it. This is for MYSELF”.
Guess what? My training session went from “an hour of moaning and tortures” to “let’s see how hard you can push me this time”. And guess what? Results went from “tiny bit” to “do I really have ALL these muscles?”.
Yes, yes, yes, this may well be endorphins fired up in my body who are making my brain drunk on happiness, and mind you, more than one people told me (including my ex, who was shocked to the core at the changes that I’ve made) that I seem to be on a constant high so happy and positive I look.
Thanks to my personal trainer I have learned to “feel” what I do in the correct muscles, and I don’t just “do” things to get them done. My sessions are now a mix of physical and mental work: I get “in the zone” and I focus exactly on pushing what I have. If I don’t feel it, or I feel it in the wrong areas, I’m either doing it wrongly, with too much weights or with not enough weights. Incidentally, all this work is improving also my (so, so dreaded) physiotherapy sessions, because when my tortur… ehm… physiotherapist makes me move in a certain way, or tells me what I should or shouldn’t feel, I really know what she means (and so far my shoulder is in a happy place).
I am so determined to make it with my training that I even decided to stick to a proper, muscle-feeding diet. Yes sir, for the first time ever in my entire life I am actually sticking to a healthy diet. Me. The one who barely eats if she has to cook for herself (and resorts to starve or eat stuff like cookies, crisps etc. because I cannot be arsed to cook). The one who decides last minute what she wants to eat for dinner (lunches I generally skipped because I cannot be arsed), that goes grocery shopping to then cook what she was craving then gets home and… yes, cookies etc. I was still on this not-exactly-appropriate regime when I started working out. However, I had a massive scare moment when, after a month and a half of quite hard training, nothing was happening in my body: no energy, no muscles, I always felt like about to drop dead, nothing. My trainer made me jump on a scale and we both got horrified to discover that I lost 9kg. She looked at me and said “ARE YOU EATING?”.
The answer was yes, but not “exactly” as I should have been eating: that is, to fuel the exercises I was doing. I was honest with her and I asked for help. It seems a very stupid question to ask, and probably it is, but new Silvia doesn’t care: if she needs help, she’ll make sure she’ll get it. Yes, I knew that muscles need protein to grow, I’m not that dumb, however I didn’t know that it takes 2.2 grams of proteins per kg of your weight to build muscles. I barely ate proteins! No wonder nothing was happening! She helped me learning how to use protein powder, she suggested websites and resources to improve my diet and she made me swear to stick with it. It took a bit to get my mind into the new regime, because ultimately my laziness to the core took over my best intentions, but when I indeed put the effort in it, I got blown away by the gains. I now plan my weekly lunches and dinners every single weekend; I write down exactly what I’m going to cook and eat, and then I will shop only those things required in my planned meals. No more things like “maybe I’ll get this in case…”. No. As a rule, I will reserve higher protein meals for the days I know I will train, and I’d be fairly relaxed (but healthy) the other days. No shitty, unhealthy stuff (I do enjoy a can of Coca Cola here and there and over my dead body you’ll take my red can of heaven from me).
So yes, I feel great, I look great, I sleep like a baby (ok, more like I hug my pillow begging for mercy since I’m sore from head to toes), I’m loving it and it’s all positivity and happiness. Oh, you know what is the best feeling ever? Moonwalking (yes!) out of the gym after the most brutal session, knowing full well that a month and a half ago I would have been collapsed on the floor. This is pure satisfaction (but now let me crawl in bed because the pain is unreal!!)