A Week in the Gym Has Already Changed My Life

The whole self-hate thing is getting pretty old. We are meant to love ourselves!

But, I won’t lie to you. I fell for all of that social media nonsense for years. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of skinny, beautiful girls who promote detoxifying teas and appetite-suppressing lollipops. In high school, instead of loving my body for what it was — the beach volleyball it helped me play, the streets it allowed me to run, the cakes it enabled me to bake, the singing it cultivated my audience with — I hated it for what it wasn’t. I hated that I didn’t have a thigh gap and that I didn’t have lines across my stomach to display just how much I didn’t eat. I hated that I didn’t look like the girls I followed on Instagram who were confident enough to flaunt their bodies in swimsuits on warm summer days.

women with different body types Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels And, as much as I wanted to change, I hated the process. I killed my body in the gym, running and running as if it was away from something rather than towards it. I wanted to run away from the resentment I felt for my own body rather than towards a long and healthy life. Instead of asking for strength and courage, I asked to lose weight. Instead of asking for love, I asked for acceptance. But in the past few years of trial and error, I have finally learned that life is not just about being accepted, it is about being embraced. Don’t stick around for people who make you question your worth. Instead, work for who you want to be, and the true people will follow you to the end. 

I struggled with this for a while. At one time, all I wanted was to be skinny, skinny, skinny and I didn’t care how I got there. That was until I finally started following fitness accounts on Instagram that embraced strength and health over hunger and aesthetics. Through social media—an old friend that once taught me to hate myself—I learned to love myself again. Of course, I was dealt the somewhat unlucky card of realizing my passion for weight training the second that gyms closed. For nearly a year, I struggled to do at-home workouts with eight-pound dumbbells that did not challenge me whatsoever and I did not feel strong. But, just about two months ago, I moved to college. I realized that the only person who was going to motivate me was myself. So, I put the work in. I used resistance bands and any furniture I could to make it until I could be in a real gym.

Woman doing bicep curls Pixabay And, to my luck, SCU opened an outdoor weight room just a week ago. Adrenaline pumped inside me at the announcement of its opening. The dream I had for nearly a year was finally coming true. After waiting for gyms to open for months on end, it was time to act. The Notes app on my phone was filled with workouts. I planned my leg and arm days and contemplated moves that would challenge my core strength and strengthen my body rather than make it smaller. I don’t care about having a six-pack anymore, instead, I want to beat my guy friends at arm wrestling. I signed up for a session the second the gym opened. I walked into that weight room at 2 pm on a Monday, slightly intimidated by those around me, but ready to work. I stumbled a little but enjoyed every moment I was in there.  

And then I went back the next day, and the next and the next. I lifted heavier each time, already increasing my weights by 5-10 pounds in the span of a week. I have already learned how to motivate and push myself. The soreness I feel after is a punishment and a reward. I know that starting something new will be naturally painful at first, but I feel encouraged to keep working until it doesn’t hurt anymore, and I can’t wait. Every time I come home from the gym, I feel fresh, motivated and happy. Just yesterday, I dropped and did ten pushups without struggling, when I could barely do a single one just a month ago. Knowing how strong my body is makes me realize how strong I am as a person. I am worth all of the love I receive and I can do anything I set my mind to. My body is more than how it looks; it is a representation of all of my compassion, strength and abilities. Everything seems so hard before you start, but you will soon realize—like I did—that the first step is just starting.