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.

Snapchat-1545378540

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.

Snapchat-133127579
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.

 

Being Rootless

For those who know me in real life, it’s no secret I am by no means a fan of my hometown. I frequently go so far as to say I hate living there, and have been known to dub it ‘the most boring urban area in the world’ – which, in my defense, it really could be. With a population in the tens of thousands, new housing estates in the works, and being nigh on a century old, you could expect this town to have some degree of liveliness and activity.

You’d be sorely mistaken.

For most activities, you have to leave the town entirely and go somewhere else: bowling, clubbing (not that I do that anyway), even shopping – the town centre largely consists of numerous opticians, cafés and charity shops which cater to the large number of the elderly who take slow ganders there during the week. Despite the promise of brands like New Look and Top Shop and their ilk, the shops are so tiny that they’re not worth going in. Believe it or not, the largest demographic is actually young adults – not that you’d know it, because we’re all so busy avoiding the relatively pointless town centre that you never see us. Particularly because the general attitude towards those aged 13-23 is that they’re unwelcome.

So for me, coming to university, where I live in a lively student city centre, this was like discovering life itself. People exist outside after 7pm??? I can walk to a theatre from my house??? Employment opportunities?!?!

But the thrills of living in somewhere where the average walking speed is not that of a zombie, and where you can expect to see people actually smile while out and about, are not the point of this blog post.

You see, when you combine the facts that I have no desire to return to living full time in my hometown (if I can even call it ‘home’town), that I have very little in the way of friends there, the fact my parents are planning to move elsewhere in the next few years, the fact I have never planned to permanently remain in Liverpool after graduation, and the fact I have absolutely no significant other to consider – it basically leaves me rootless. As me and my dad maintain, if we were told we had to leave my hometown tomorrow and could never return, we’d be A-OK with that.

At this point in my life, I have no particular attachment to any people, place or position. And that is simultaneously daunting, liberating, confusing, exciting, and more.

Daunting, because it means that a lot of major decisions are on the horizon for me.

Liberating, because those decisions are really entirely mine to make, without considering somebody else.

Confusing, because I see other people who have, perhaps, found ‘the place’ for them already – be it their hometown or wherever it is they’ve moved to for university, and occasionally I wonder if I should have too.

And finally, exciting because for the first time in my life, I don’t have an actual plan. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to attend university. I knew from an even younger age that I wanted to write for a living. So, up until this point, I’ve always known where I was headed. Primary school to secondary school. Secondary school to sixth form. Sixth form to university. University and then…

And then what?

I’ve touched upon this before in other posts, but mostly from a place of confusion and, to an extent, apprehension. There is a lot of pressure on those graduating from university to head straight into a chosen career path. It’s the expected thing to do. But the ‘how’ is often far more tricky for those of us not entering a profession on the more science-y, engineering-y, business-y end of the scale.

The thing is, there are a lot of things I could do, and there are a lot of things I want to do. Some of these overlap, others are things I may not necessarily have planned upon but would be open to, and others are things I am desperate to avoid – though life might lead me to them anyway.

What prompted this blog post in particular was a conversation with a friend from home, who, coincidentally, does not live there anymore. Admittedly, her new place is only a 15 minute drive away, but she admitted how much better she feels for actually having left. She was considering how long she might stay in her current place of work, at a recruitment business in London – perhaps another five years. For her, that may be absolutely fine, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting the security of knowing where you’ll be working in five years’ time.

But for me? Honestly, the idea of being in the same place with the same commute, doing the same thing with the same people for five years or more makes me shrivel up a little inside. I rely on change – it’s what I need to keep me sane. It’s always been that way. It’s why university life suits me so well; I choose what to study, and that changes every three months. I choose where to study each day, I choose when to study each day, and if I want my weekend to be the second half of Thursday and all of Friday and my working week to start on Saturday, I can do that. That’s what I did the entirety of second year.

All cards on the table, I would love to move to New York City and live and work there for a year. On a broader scale, I want to write novels and screenplays and work on film sets. I want my life to consist of projects and change and different opportunities, and I want to build a career. As for where I want to live on a more permanent basis, I can honestly tell you I don’t know. I’m completely open to relocation. Elsewhere in the UK, or even to somewhere abroad. I think that’s only natural for somebody who has had the fortune to see a variety of other countries, as I have growing up, and who feels no attachment to the place they call ‘home’. I don’t see myself settling anywhere any time soon.

Maybe that will change – maybe I’ll actually meet somebody and find myself adjusting my plans in order to consider theirs. Maybe I’ll find a position and think yes, this is where I need to be for now. But the fact is, that’s not where I’m at.

It is definitely something that’s on my mind more and more these days, as my degree comes to a close, but I think, even at this stage, it’s okay to not have it all figured out. The hows or the wheres or the whens. And after this past summer, during which I learned a lot and found a lot of great resources, I see more and more opportunities come up that – while not suitable for me right this minute – would be great when the time comes.

I suppose this post doesn’t really have a conclusion. It’s just something I wanted to put into words somehow – the idea of feeling and, I guess, being rootless, and being okay with it. It definitely isn’t something that suits everybody, and that’s fine too – but I’m really not looking for somewhere to settle.

So here’s to all us twenty-somethings, who may know what we want or may not, who may be looking to settle somewhere or may not, and who basically have a lot of decisions to make.

Do you have any particular plans? Are you as rootless as I feel? Let me know.

I Moved House – Third Time in Three Years!

Ah, the university life…

I’m very well aware, as you may be, that many people, when going to university, live in halls for first year and then find some housemates and live in a house/flat/whatever for the successive two years, or however long they may be there for. Well… not me!

I lived in private halls in first year because I didn’t get offered the university-owned accommodation I wanted, and the one they did offer me was far too high a price. Instead, I was in a five-person self-catered ensuite flat, with four people I’d never met before. The staff had managed to group the five of us together as all first years at the same university (they served 3 in the area). It was an interesting year, involving far too much cigarette smoke coming into my bedroom, a melted fork in the oven, and maggots in the flat.

In second year, I chose to live with four other girls, three of whom were also doing history, the fourth doing English. It was actually quite funny as I was the only monolingual of the group – the other languages spoken were Welsh, Punjabi, Greek, and Portuguese. This was a slightly turbulent living situation – two of us preferred to be far tidier than the others, and one housemate actually moved out shortly after Christmas. But, aside from the hiccups, it was a nice house, recently refurbished, with two bathrooms and it was close to the university – though on the other side of campus to my first year, not that this made all that much difference.

So what happened this year? Well, almost from the beginning, one of my second year housemates said they were planning to live with other people in her third year. Then another wanted to live in a different area to where we were – further from the university, where we didn’t want to move to. So we were down to three, until the whole oh-wait-she’s-moved-out thing. This left two of us trying to find an affordable two-bed student rental house, preferably close to university, after Christmas – by which time most of the properties have been taken up. (Top tip: when looking for second and third year accommodation, figure out what you want as fast as you can in October and GET LOOKING!)

If we’d known it would have been just the two of us early on, we probably could have grabbed a lovely, fairly cheap place. As it is, we have a pretty small, slightly shabby house – but it’s actually a tad closer to university than last year, and the bills are included in the rent which is slightly cheaper than it was last year (though my third year loan is smaller too, thanks government).

Moving in at the beginning of this month was a bit of a nightmare, largely because the property wasn’t actually clean. Not too big an ask of somewhere you’re paying a large amount of rent to, right? For it to be clean when you move in? Well, apparently, yes it is. Spiders – both dead and alive – were everywhere. Cobwebs everywhere, too. Sticky floor. The whole shebang. It’s taken a good while to settle in here. Then there was a bit of an issue where I didn’t know where what felt like half my belongings were – at this point my things were spread between two houses in Liverpool, one in Telford, and one at home in Hertfordshire! Thus, it took a bit of time to pool everything together.

See, I actually don’t mind moving – I’d go so far as to say I quite like it. The variety suits me well, and I know it can be a hassle (thanks mum & dad), but all the same… it keeps things changing. I realise many people dislike change as a whole, but particularly when it comes to the changing of home comforts – I can’t say that’s something I find too challenging, but I understand why others do.

So yes, I’m in this place for a little under a year – I don’t plan on going home for all that long over Christmas and Easter this year, probably under a month in total, so I’ll probably be here until the end of the tenancy at the end of June 2019. Then, of course, I’ll be graduating from university and moving back home… which I’m just thrilled about, by the way (sense the sarcasm – next weekend’s post will address this a bit further). In consequence, this is probably the last time I’ll move house (aside from moving out) for a while, which makes me a little wistful, to be honest. But I suppose if I don’t have to spend months searching for where to live for the following year, I might have to put that time into pursuing other, possibly more productive, pursuits… we’ll see.

One thing I’m infinitely glad about, though? After this year, I’ll never have to deal with student landlords again! If you’ve experienced it, you know. If not… be glad.

Have you got any moving-house stories? Let me know!