Friday, May 1, 2009

How 24-Hour Fitness Changed My Life

There are few investments I've made in my life that have reaped greater benefits than joining a gym. I had just returned home after living abroad (in cold, dark Finland) for 18 months. I was 30 lbs. heavier than when I left. (Side note: If you're ever in Finland, they have the BEST pastries! Don't leave without eating some pulla!) One day soon after returning home, some guy friends invited me and a girlfriend to the beach. I was mortified as I watched my friend take off her clothes to reveal a cute, slender, tan, perfect beach body. I've never wanted to be the girl who refuses to wear a swimsuit, so I removed my clothes to reveal a chubby and white-from-literally-not-seeing-the-sun-for-a-year-and-a-half- body. I wanted to hide. I wanted to be ANYWHERE but at the beach, wearing ANYTHING but the full-coverage, black one piece swimsuit that didn't hide enough.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that a perfect body is the only key to happiness. But I was depressed. I had just returned home from a mission I'd waited to serve my entire life. I'd had my life planned up until that moment. I wasn't sure what the future held for me at that point. I had a college degree to complete, and a Mr. Right to meet. But at that beach moment, I was miserable...and feeling fat and ugly didn't help.

A few mornings later, I woke up and made a decision. I was joining a gym. I didn't care how much it cost, I was going to join. Yes, I was the perfect walk-in-potential-member. I walked into 24 Hour Fitness (with my little brother who I coerced into joining with me), and started looking at my options. When the guy-hoping-for-the-sale told me about the "lifetime membership," I was sold. I knew that fitness had to be a way of life. I wasn't going to be in this for the short haul. I wasn't going to lose the 30 lbs. and quit. I was going to start doing something that I would continue forever. So I paid nearly $1,000 that day for a 3-year membership, and 5 sessions of Personal Training. (I now only pay $20/year to renew! Plus I get FREE babysitting! WOOOO!)
The Best Decisions I've Made On This Lifetime Fitness Journey
  1. For me, joining a gym that day was the FIRST best decision I made in the beginning of my on-going fitness journey.
  2. The second best decision was signing up for those 5 Personal Training sessions. Before working with a trainer, I really only did cardio. Working out meant running. Period. (OK, and Tae Bo with Billy Blanks). After my first few sessions with a trainer, I was sold on the benefits of resistance training. I was sore in places I didn't know existed on my body! I loved it! I loved knowing that I was making changes on my body that couldn't be made any other way. I fell so in love with resistance training, that I went on to become a certified personal trainer.
  3. The third best decision I made on my fitness journey was stepping foot into a group fitness class. I used to watch from the outside and feel totally intimidated by the barbells, steps, and free weights. I vividly remember my first experience in a 24 S.E.T. class (strength endurance training). I looked to see how much weight the other ladies had on their bars. Being the overly-competitive girl that I am, I foolishly matched the ones with the most. I barely made it through class, and couldn't walk normally for days. I'm sure the instructor cringed as she watched my form...I had no idea how hard the class would be. But now, the classes are honestly what keep me going to the gym. They're on my schedule, and I plan many of my days around these workouts. I workout longer, and harder than I probably would on my own. I've made friends in the classes. I heart group fitness!
  4. The fourth best decision I ever made was signing up for a race. Mind you, signing up for a full 26.2 mile marathon as the first organized race probably wasn't the smartest thing. A 5- or even a 10-K would have been better. But regardless of how long the race, I had a goal to work towards. I couldn't NOT run knowing that I would probably keel over and die on the race course if I didn't train. Running soon became an addiction with which I have an ongoing love affair.
  5. The fifth best decision I made was asking for a heart rate monitor for Christmas two years ago. (Thanks, mom and dad!) I now strap a Personal Trainer to my chest, and wear it on my wrist for every workout...from running to Yoga. Love it.
  6. The sixth best decision was starting a fitness blog with my sister. (Hi, Kimberly! You alive?) I love that fitness is always on my mind! I love that I get to learn as I research. And I love that I get to gleam insights from all of you lovely readers.

I hope to make new life-changing decisions in this on-going fitness journey. The most important thing for me is knowing that I'm doing something that I feel I can sustain for...well...forever. I don't workout for hours a day. That's not a pace I can maintain. But I can chug along, go to the gym, and not be completely mortified at the thought of wearing a swimsuit on my Cruise! Yes, I still have some post-baby-body issues, but I'm a happier, healthier, more confident me.

What decisions have you made in your fitness journey?


Diane said...

I agree that joining a gym is a great way to get yourself started on a fitness journey. The fitness classes are the BEST, and hiring a trainer does help you have the confidence to use all those strange looking machines! It's also nice to have my daughters constantly there to coach me along, even if it is long distance! Thanks girls!

Diane said...

I had no idea I'd missed out on so much information! I had to catch up! Lots of good information!

I'm glad you're getting away for some much needed rest! Have a wonderful time....enjoy the ocean breeze! Ahhh...I miss the ocean!

jenifer said...

Excellent post.!! I am totally impressed with your decisions. Well, My 24 Hour Fitness experience is just began and I will always love going to the gym.