Why I Don’t Care About Numbers at the Gym

For a lot of people, when they work out, it’s about a number: a weight they want to get down to, a weight they want to get up to, a weight they want to lift, a record they want to beat. Me? I have no number. I go to the gym for one reason and one reason only: to keep my body fit and healthy. I’m not looking to impress anybody, and I’m not going for aesthetic reasons.

My body has a history of injury, so I’m really just happy when it’s capable of doing exercise. I have to be aware of what my body’s limits are and just how far it’s safe to push it.

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I started going to the gym regularly two years ago, when I first arrived at university. Through a stroke of luck, that autumn was the time when the tennis elbow I’d been struggling with for the previous five to six years finally eased off. But, in consequence, that had left me with incredibly underdeveloped muscles in that arm (and the surrounding shoulder/chest area) because I couldn’t use it properly for so long. I was pretty weak on the muscle front in total, really.

But for whatever reason, when I moved to university, my body finally started co-operating. I was very tentative when I started going to the gym – when it came to running, I only did short bursts, afraid I would reignite that old injury. When it came to cross-trainers, I could only do short bursts because I didn’t have the strength for it: two minutes on a low setting would tire me out. When it came to weight machines, the absolute lightest setting was difficult for me.

Building up muscle over the last two years has been a slow journey, and I’m in no hurry to rush it. I have definitely seen remarkable improvements – simple as it may seem to some, I could barely lift heavy shopping bags two years ago. Now I do it without blinking an eye. The shape of my arms has changed incredibly; I used to have absolutely no shoulder definition, and very skinny arms. I still have skinny arms, but now the muscle definition is visible. I can go on a cross trainer for a good fifteen minutes on a medium level and continue my workout elsewhere afterwards. I’ve done 5km runs on the treadmill and felt good afterwards, rather than like my foot was splitting open – which used to be my reality.

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About nine months after joining the gym

To other people, who don’t live with my body and who don’t know its history, the numbers surrounding my workouts seem unimpressive. 20kg weights aren’t seen as much. Taking 45 minutes to run 5km is seen as slow. Only being on level two of the cross trainer seems mediocre. But for somebody who would be unable to walk for a day after running 400m, completing a 5km is amazing! For somebody who had to quit playing piano because the strain on their arm was just too painful, to be able to actually lift heavy boxes when moving house is triumphant. I kid you not when I say that even something as simple as plaiting my own hair was a challenge only a few years ago, because I lacked the strength to hold my own arm up for that long.

Even during the last two years I’ve dealt with other injuries – back in February this year, my thumb on my writing hand became so strained I actually lost the ability to handwrite for a while. Thankfully, I’ve mostly regained the ability since then – though I doubt if I’ll ever get back up to my old speed. I’ve also had knee issues, which meant I stopped using the cross trainer for a while so they could recover. But these injuries have been easier to deal with, and I suspect it’s due to that base line of fitness I’ve managed to build.

And that’s why I don’t care about the numbers. Of course I like seeing how fast or far I’ve managed to run, but I’m only looking to build muscle and fitness in the way that’s best for my body.

What about you – do you go to the gym? Do you have a numbers goal? Maybe you’ve got a condition/injury that you’re trying to work through? Let me know.

 

10 Unusual Things About Me Tag!

Recently, the ever-friendly Ross from manvsadulthood.com tagged me to complete the 10 unusual things about me tag – so here we go! Let’s launch right in…

  1. I have had plastic surgery, but you’d never know it from looking at me. It was emergency plastic surgery when I was ten, because I flew spectacularly off my bike on my mother’s birthday, and landed chin first at the bottom of a hill (sort of blacked out for a moment). Let’s just say: visible jaw bone, lots of blood, hospital transfer, surgery.
  2. My stomach may or may not be in the wrong place. I’ve always struggled with acid reflux, and this could be the reason. There’s no point finding out whether it is or not as long as I can manage the condition through my diet and lifestyle! I’d definitely rather put off the camera-down-your-throat thing for as long as possible.
  3. My name and birthday basically define my personality. I say this because I have a very literature-infused name, and was purposely named after 2 Jane Austen characters (my surname was a coincidental 3rd Jane Austen character drop). Then I managed to arrive in the world on the anniversary of the end of WW1, and now I’m at university studying English literature & history – two subjects I very much enjoy.
  4. I hate my birthday. Yes, I am one of those. My birthday, in my opinion, is rubbish. It’s mostly to do with the time of year, rather than the actual fact of  getting older – mid-November is a miserable time, it rains every single year (I dislike rainy weather), I spent my 16th birthday in silence all day because I had mock exams that week, I have never been able to go on holiday over my birthday… I could go on.
  5. I would like to believe in ghosts, but I’m not sure I do. My family has a joke about our friendly house ghost, who seems to have followed my parents from their first flat together to their first house together to the house where I grew up. From hiding a packet mix to dropping a shoe in the hallway to tapping us on the shoulder when we’re the only one in the room, there’s been a fair few inexplicable ghostly moments over the years. We like to joke about it because it’s never anything horrible, so it’s like we have our own version of Casper the Friendly Ghost who just likes to remind us of his presence every now and again. Having said that, I don’t know if I actually believe in ghosts in any other circumstance.
  6. I’ve never had a pet, but I am friends with a stray cat. At home (i.e., not where I live at university), there’s a very muscly stray black cat. Over the past five or so years she’s become a regular visitor to our house – she didn’t understand the idea of being stroked at first, so she’s always liked to jump and headbutt us instead.
  7. I get hayfever – but not consistently. I can spend 6 months of the year needing hayfever tablets, or I can spend the entire summer absolutely fine with no symptoms at all. It makes no sense.
  8. As a baby, I never crawled. I was a bit of a late walker, but I basically went from hardly moving on my own to just getting up one day and walking off. NBD.
  9. I looked younger age 19 than age 12. I blame a really bad haircut & acne for this.
  10. I have a minor weird fear of things that are a lot bigger than me. Really tall buildings, whales, that sort of thing… Just makes me a bit uncomfortable really.

Well, thinking of ten was remarkably more difficult than I anticipated it would be – but thanks to Ross for the tag! Here are my tags: Nele, Katie, Dani, Luke, Jess, Ellie, Claire, Sophie, Amy, and Morgan. Enjoy the challenge!