Mims’ Blog | Breaking the Myth of Myself
I’m about to turn 30 and I’ve never worked out. Ever. I was exempt of most physical activities during High School, and my family never maintained an active lifestyle for me to model, so here I am, clueless, terrified of any form of exercise.
“Why are you writing this blog post, then?” you might wonder. The short answer is that I’ve decided to finally get into shape and document the process for those of you who may identify their own habits and fears in my words. The long answer it that I’m no longer benefitting from the story I’ve been telling myself and others. It’s time to break the Myth of Myself.
How I Got Here
I’ve spent most of my life avoiding physical activity by relying heavily on my rather-decent genes. I figured that if I fit into a pair of skinny jeans it shouldn’t have to matter that I can’t carry groceries or run after the bus. This attitude has kept me blissfully pinned to the couch cushions until about two years ago, when I met my partner. For the first time in a long time I was truly in love, going on dates which revolved around our stomachs (perhaps too literally?), preparing generous meals for two and enjoying the leftovers. It was a time of grandeur and indeed my butt was becoming impressive. I still looked like my usual self, but soon had to shop for size 40 pants instead of my normal 36. I now preferred to wear dresses instead of jeans which accentuated my waistline, and stopped sharing bikini photos on social media for fear that my new measurements were compromising my “Hot Girl” image. It was time to admit that the personal Myth of Myself had (ironically) run its course: I was Secretly Chubby. With my gluttonous inner monolog finally showing through my skin and bloodwork, I knew I could no longer ride the wave of previous pretentious privilege.
An Anxious Girl’s Guide to Doing Something About it
I met personal trainer Tal Assa through mutual friends, and for a long time he tried to persuade me to stop by his new gym – Next Level AMS in Amstelveen – which was right by house. I was sure he would try to lure me into getting my ass kicked for the sake of his masochistic pleasure, but when I finally did make it over there, I found a luxurious space which was very well-planned and welcoming. I was so impressed that I immediately offered my ass for kicking.
Our introduction session was comprised of a few steps:
- Short questionnaire about my current lifestyle, daily schedule, eating habits and desired fitness goals (I put down, “Would like to quit being a potato.”)
- A shared file where I could start sharing my daily menu with Tal, for him to learn my food preferences and identify weak spots. As soon as I started logging my meals, knowing that somebody else was also following up, I began making better food choices.
- Connecting to the VirtuaGym App, where I could track my progress.
- A detailed BIA report from TANITA. This one was a real thriller: I stood on the TANITA scale and it provided me with detailed input about my body: my weight, muscle mass, bone mass, visceral fat, total body water and of course BMI. It also showed me where I fell on the average scale of my peer group. This information was coupled with physical measurements and photographs, so I would be able to document and appreciate my progress over time.
- Stress Test! I couldn’t avoid it any longer. It was time to move. Tal gave me a few tasks to help him estimate my cardio and core strength (rest assured, there was none). After a total of 3 minutes I was beat, gasping for breath and sweating profusely. I wasn’t pleased with my poor results, but Tal ensured me that everyone needs to start somewhere, and that he was impressed with my posture during squats and planks. Not too shabby, eh?
At the end of our short introduction session he emailed my results to me and said that I did great. I didn’t believe him just yet, but that was about to change in our first real workout session later that week.
60 Minutes of Truth
I was nervous before our first training session. First and foremost, I knew that my act was up: I couldn’t pretend to be fit, I couldn’t fake stamina, and couldn’t keep my face from turning bright red with embarrassment and/or effort. I didn’t know if I’d be able to go the full 60 minutes, and was more concerned about encountering other clients in better shape than me, instead of feeling excited about this opportunity. Reluctantly, I had allowed my ego to rule over me, which left me timid and anxious. I was so used to being in control, so used to portraying my own comfortable and aesthetic reality, so used to never working hard for anything, that the prospect of being bare was almost paralyzing.
Once the moment of truth arrived, I quickly saw that my fears were nothing more than a psychological barrier, easily broken dow. Tal knew what he was up against: With skill and insight he let me slowly gain confidence by letting me warm up on the treadmill, checking that I felt comfortable. He told me that clients are welcome to choose their favourite playlists during workouts, so we settled on some Classic Rock, which made for a few uplifting moments. Tal then explained the routines thoroughly, correcting me if needed, and never forgot to support and encourage my efforts. I was surprised by his positivity and by how often we found opportunities to laugh mid-suffering. It was entirely different to what I had wrongly assumed. Sure, I broke a sweat within a minute, my heartbeat was ridiculously fast, and everything felt challenging, but I didn’t feel like I had to stop, I didn’t write myself off as a failure, and was surprisingly determined to carry on. Simply put, I trust him, and my fear of humiliation was extinct.
I soon found out that Tal was counting me down during exercises that I could actually perform, and so I began asking him to let me further exhaust them before moving onto the next. Let’s take another look at that sentence: I asked to be trained harder (!). I could also tell the difference between experiencing difficulty and tapping out, so with this new appreciation for communicating my ability, I felt driven and confident.
Building the New Myth
At the beginning of this week I was focused on my potentially poor performance and feelings of being exposed. now I see that it is possible to construct a new myth about yourself. You may need the right people around you, and you may still seek opportunities to sabotage yourself, but it’s so rewarding to kick down that wall and discover that it was just a small fence the entire time. It doesn’t make the workouts any easier, or your breathing less heavy, but imagining everything that could go wrong is so much worse than actually living through those 60 minutes. I’ll continue do document my small insights as they gather over the coming months, and hopefully they’ll install a sense of confidence in you too.