First, this is not a post about exercise. This is a post about going to a gym!
I notice that every once in a while someone asks a question about gyms: joining them, using them, etiquette, etc. I also noticed that there isn't much about using or accessing gyms in the wiki, so hopefully this gets added (or not, if it's not useful). If you're new to getting in shape and want to use a gym for that, I hope this will answer any questions you may have.
This is based on my personal experience, and I'm sure many of you will have "but my gym doesn't do it this way" comments, so please feel free to comment and I'll adjust accordingly. Without further ado, let's talk about gyms!
What and why
A gym is a place that makes working out easier. It's usually a space dedicated to some form of physical activity that allows members to reach their fitness goals. Gyms vary quite drastically in what they offer, how they offer it, what they prioritize, etc. While you don't have to join a gym to get active or hit your fitness goals, it usually gives you access to equipment and resources you can't get otherwise (like weights, cardio equipment, pools, personal trainers, etc.). Unless you're hitting a specific exercise (running or swimming, for example), joining a gym is an easy way to get access to those resources.
Different gyms will prioritize different aspects of fitness and well-being. Most large gyms are all-rounders: they try to cater to weightlifters, bodybuilders, yoga enthusiasts, swimmers, runners, etc. Some gyms are more specialized: for example, some may have weights only. Or some might be single function (and probably not be called a gym at all): wall-climbing, yoga studios, Pilates studios, etc. What you join should depend on your goals, and this guide will cover as much as possible to help you decide and navigate the gyms.
To say that I've gone through hell during the last 14 months is a gross understatement. The highlights: loss and grief, substance abuse, addiction, psychological and physical abuse, lost my job, tried to end my life. This already on top of CPTSD and BPD from childhood trauma. 2 months ago I started a weightlifting routine and it's helping me so much after only 2 months, I really wanted to share it here in case there are others who are considering something similar and could use a bit of a push. Even if you've never thought of weight training, if you're curious do give it a try! Here's a progress pic of the last 2 months; it doesn't look like much, but a lot of the progress is happening inside :)
Symptoms are very much still there, exercise doesn't help with them; I track them daily and haven't spotted any important changes. I definitely don't see that "exercise and diet and you'll get better" effect. For example, I can still go to the gym, feel amazing, come back and have a meltdown leading to suicidal ideation. Twice I've gone into crisis while at the gym. But it has helped enormously to improve my lifestyle and feel a bit better about myself; I feel stronger not only physically, but mentally. It also takes a good chunk of the day, so they don't feel so endlessly long (a big problem for me at the moment). The most valuable thing in my opinion has been the "domino effect" exercising brings, as it filters through other areas of my life. Some examples:
Because I'm working quite hard in the gym, the motivation to not take substances and overeat in the evenings is way, way bigger/stronger. As a result I've stopped drinking and smoking almost altogether.
Because I'm commuting to and from the gym I'm spending more time outside, walking, catching up with emails, reading, being around people. These activities sometimes help me to get me out of my head for a bit.
Because I need something to do while I'm in between sets, I've restarted listening to music and fallen in love with it all over again (I have a background in music and can't overemphasise how important this has been for me).
Because I'm keeping track of my weight I can get a very clear sense of progression through simple numbers. Even in my lower days, I've at least got that.
I've even been able to come off antidepressants for the first time in 2 years. I'm still taking other meds but I had been feeling that SSRIs were no longer effective (which they weren't, can confirm after 2 months off) and made no sense to continue. I wanted to stop taking them but was too scared of the withdrawal and now thanks to weigh training (and the associated improvements it comes with) I've felt mentally stronger and have had the appropriate lifestyle to push through withdrawal. I didn't turn to substance abuse because I've been feeling more disciplined and more able to resist unhealthy cravings.
I'd be more than happy to recommend resources and share tips; I've also gotten really into nutrition so I can share a bit more about that too. Whatever helps.
This is my experience and it may not work exactly the same for others, but I often wish there was more about recovery among all the venting stories in Reddit (which are also important!). For once I feel like I have a small something to share with others. The road I have ahead is full of challenges and difficult, scary times; having started weight training is really helping me as I continue to take it one day at a time.
Thanks for listening!
I've had a really horrendous week, lots of bad news in the space of a few days.
I was meant to go swimming yesterday but decided against it, and instead of letting it snowball into avoiding exercise for the foreseeable future, I got up early and went for a swim this morning. And I feel so much better for it!
It can be really hard to motivate yourself to move your body, but the rewards are totally worth it. I hope this helps someone who's feeling a bit low today - you can do it!
This week started off great. Ran Sunday Monday and Tuesday and then I got a urinary tract infection. That started getting better and then I had a really bad acid reflux episode today that was so bad I cried. I didn’t get out of bed until 2 pm today. I’m so depressed because of all the health issues I’m having that I didn’t go to the gym with my husband tonight. I started feeling better after dinner and I’m walking on the treadmill now. I am starting to see after just 3 days how exercise is a necessity for my anxiety and depression. I feel so bad for people who have chronic illnesses and how they must feel all of the time. Struggling constantly takes a huge emotional toll on mental health. I am going to try to exercise every day, if even just a walk.
Jan 23, 2014