Losing weight is not all about what you eat and how much you exercise. Getting rid of the layers of fat is primarily a psychological game that you must play on yourself every day until your healthy habits are formed.
When I began my weight-loss journey five years ago, I started off with the following strategies to build healthy workout rituals:
1. I did only what I was familiar with.
When I weighed 300 pounds, I felt self-conscious about stepping into the gym for the first time in my life. I did not want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself, so I stuck to slowly walking on a treadmill while I watched other members use the cardio equipment and weight machines. By observing others, I learned how they were using the machines.
When I felt comfortable with trying it myself, I mirrored their actions and behaviors on the equipment. I'm happy to say that I didn't have to face the humiliation of falling off an elliptical, because I took the time to mirror others actions first. If you're prone to quitting because you made a fool of yourself, this is the safe route to travel for a little while.
2. I started out going to the gym with a friend, until I built more confidence in myself.
In order to remove the imaginary spotlight above my head and my obesity, I went to the gym the first four or five times with a friend. It was more comfortable going into an unfamiliar atmosphere with a trusted sidekick. I could focus all of my attention on that friend and what we were doing together in the gym, rather than what other people around me may think of me and my size.
3. I signed up for personal training sessions.
This was a difficult decision because my gym charged more than $100 an hour to work with a personal trainer, and I was on a strict budget at the time. I only had two sessions with her, but she taught me some of the basics that I needed to know about using my body for exercise and proper form. She was a short-term mentor on my fitness journey, but she helped eliminate the word “can’t” from my vocabulary.
4. I chose a gym that was close to my workplace and went every single morning before work — even if it was only for 20 minutes.
I had no excuse for not going. I woke up an hour earlier every single morning and walked to my gym to exercise before walking across the street to my place of employment. By doing this every day, I developed a new morning routine that I could adhere to.
5. I left my dirty gym clothes in the locker at the gym as I left to go to work each morning.
After work, I had to go pick up my gym clothes because it was not permitted to leave belongings in lockers overnight. I always told myself once I got there to pick up my clothes, “I may as well workout for another 20 minutes since I am already here.” I ALWAYS felt better after that 20 minute workout before going home each day.
6. I did workouts that I enjoyed.
I was the queen of cardio for the first several months of my journey. It was the only thing that I actually liked doing for a while. I knew that if I was going to exercise and get sweaty, it had to be something that I liked to do. I was always told that I needed to lift weights and do other strength exercises if I wanted to get healthy and fit, but I did not enjoy doing them at all. I recognized that if I dreaded a workout, the routine was not going to “stick” for me and I would drop off.
Slowly, I started to gravitate to the weight machine area after I did my beloved cardio sessions. I started to enjoy lifting weights in a completely different and empowering way. The key is that I only tried new things once I had found the exercises I enjoyed first.
7. I started talking to the ladies in the locker room.
As I became a regular gym goer and started to become familiar with the other members, we started having casual conversations in the locker room. I shared my weight-loss journey with them and they gave me praise and encouragement that made me feel good. It helped to keep me pushing forward when everyone else in my life was making judgments about me and what I was trying to achieve.
Do you have a similar gym experience you’d like to share? Or did these strategies inspire you to start going to the gym?