Getting back to the gym

by Geneva Scott

Today we are happily introducing new guest blogger and long term friend Geneva Scott who is writing about her experience of getting back to the gym. Geneva was born and raised in London but currently lives in North Texas with her husband and daughter. She recently returned to the gym after a ten year absence.

Woman lying back hands behind head at gym

Getting back to the gym or Brilliant excuses to avoid the gym if you are burnt-out, perimenopausal and easily distracted by boiled potatoesLast September I was made redundant from work. I received a generous package, my husband works, we can afford the mortgage and cheese on toast so although it’s not ideal, we’re not destitute.

It’s a tad uncomfortable but a blessing in disguise. My job had been extremely stressful from day one and the stress just kept piling on steadily over five years. I gained over 30 pounds in weight, binned the exercise regime entirely and substituted it with a small, medium, large increase in chardonnay.

Toward the end I suffered a multitude of bad health symptoms that were probably my body and mind crying out for help. Once (between meetings) I phoned the doctor’s office to set up an appointment to check a persistent pain down my right hand side shooting across my chest and down my arm. The doctor came on the phone and advised me to go to Urgent Care immediately because it was possibly a heart attack. I put down the phone and hobbled to my next meeting muttering ‘….waste of time’.

I had the occasional reflection on all of this but my conclusion was false optimism that once the current project was rolled-out all would be well again. What actually happened was that projects were layered upon projects, vital people were laid-off and those of us fortunate enough to keep our jobs found ourselves even busier. It was the culture and there was never any indication that it would change.

During the first two weeks after my redundancy I did what any professional get-up-and-goer hoping to rebound back into the workforce would do and lay in bed watching reality tv.. At the end of the two weeks I was totally over myself and decided that as well as job seeking I needed to address the perimenopausal elephant in the room. Fortunately I had a gym pass and the schedule taped to the fridge – I’d given it the odd glance when reaching for wine.I was getting back to the gym.

In preparation for my amazing transformation I took a photo of two fat feet (mine) on the bathroom scales displaying my starting weight. I also started thinking forward to my skinny-gym-bod-selfie. My facial expression would be little perplexed (who is this glorious creature in the mirror?………can it be me?), my lululemon top would be pulled up revealing killer abs and perfect under boob. The caption would be something like ‘Just back from the gym looking a complete mess as usual LOL’.

Actually getting back to the gym

First class back was Cycling, which was called Spinning back in my day. It was a total shock to the system. Greatest achievements were not dying, not vomiting, and walking down the stairs after the class (the lift was right there but I pushed myself and those jelly legs down the stairs). During the class the teacher was as worried about the likelihood of my survival as I was and kept shooting me worried looks. Several times she told the class to slow heart rates down while looking directly at me, no doubt going over the process of CPR in her head. I had my gear dialed super low and put in a pathetic effort sure that I would conk out at any moment. Slept for the rest of the day instead of job hunting.

woman slumped over cycle machine at gym

My body was completely surprised when I went back the next day, and the one after, and most days ever since. Physically and mentally the first month was a battle of wills. Once my inner lazy self realized that this fitness thing wasn’t a one off it started proposing brilliant excuses to stop, go home, boil a saucepan of potatoes (that was so weird) and binge watch 90 day fiancé. My head hurt, my knees hurt, I was going to die and I needed to know if someone was going to marry that bachelor. One time there was this huge pressure in my chest so I stopped for a moment while the inner voice said “Great, now we’re having a heart attack”. Turns out I only had to burp.

I also had to overcome my own family stories about what ‘we’ can and cannot do. ‘We’ cannot squat because of hereditary hamstring tightness, ‘our’ knees are banjaxed by the time we hit thirty and ‘we’ are a family of creative artists not circus performers so we don’t lift.

Four hard and sweaty months later and how much weight have I lost? Let’s just say that a new fat feet on scales photo is not worth the bother. I’ve lost a grand total of two teeny tiny little pounds!!! How is that even possible? After a few enquires I have learned that it’s not just possible, it’s what I should have expected. A friend in PiYo Mash-Up summed it up simply by saying “Weight loss happens in the kitchen, not the gym” like that’s a thing, like everyone knows this. I fact-checked when I got home. Apparently it’s a thing and lots of people know about it.

But I have other losses to celebrate. Fat and inches – whoop! Also gone are the aches and pains, feeling heavy and tired absolutely all of the time, hot flashes, drenching sweat, the feeling that my bones might pop out of my skin if I am assigned one more project and that weird obsession with boiled potatoes.

What I have gained? For starters line of sight to my caesarian scar (hello old friend!). She’d been buried under a flap of unsightly flab for the last three years. But best of all is the jumping out of bed (instead of jumping out of the office window) ready to seize the day type of energy and excitement. I have a clear head. I frequently experience moments of pure joy and thankfulness for what I have, and not a care in the world for what I don’t. These feelings are familiar because that’s how ME feels. ME before this super stressy chapter in my life began.

I doubt that my next employer will allow me to spend my mornings at the gym squatting and weight lifting. I know that it’s my responsibility to find a job that will allow me to maintain balance and it’s my responsibility to take positive action if stress levels rise and wellness starts to decline again.

After ten years of doing everything but, it’s my time to consciously prioritize wellness, balance, joy and love -family, friends and ME.

woman looking rueful with gym equipement