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How I learned to love the gym

Gym session. PHOTO/PEXELS
About Lauren
Growing up, I was never the sporty girl. Weightlifting? Not my cup of tea. Running? Not built for it. Squats? Heavens, no. My experience with team sports went only as far as YMCA basketball in 4th grade, and I dreaded anything that required me to display physical prowess in front of other people.
Then, in my 20s, I heard someone mention “sarcopenia”—a fancy term for the natural muscle deterioration that comes with aging. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3-5 percent of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. Even active individuals still experience muscle loss as they age.
All of a sudden I felt vulnerable. Was my fear of looking weak in the gym forcing me to become weak? Was my self-conscious nature preventing me from achieving new heights of health and wellness in my life?
It was time to learn to love the gym.

Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3-5 percent of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. PHOTO/PEXELS
I started small, joining group classes that allowed me to get more fit with some amount of anonymity. Barre, spin and yoga class became my fitness foundation, and over time I began to feel myself getting stronger, faster, more capable.
After just a few weeks, those bike sprints started to feel a lot more achievable; my lungs didn’t burn anymore; my muscles recovered from fatigue more quickly.
This growth gave me the satisfaction and empowerment I needed to feel more confident working out. Sometimes I hated it (okay, I often hated it), but the feeling of post-workout elation couldn’t be beat. Then, nearly four months later I decided to finally take the plunge and begin weightlifting—something so far out of my comfort zone it took more mental training than physical to help me succeed.
I taught myself to live by these mantras:
You have strength within you.
You are more capable than you realize.
What you do today directly impacts your tomorrow.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, I pushed my body to its limit. I celebrated the day I was able to deadlift one full plate on each side. I danced around the room when I realized I could squat an amount that exceeded my body weight. I gave high fives. I got high fives. And over time I convinced friends to join me in the journey and try it too.

Out of my comfort zone it took more mental training than physical to help me succeed. PHOTO/PEXELS
Working out is not something I do to get skinny, compete with others or impress the people around me. It’s also not something I do because “that’s what people do.” I genuinely love it.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that physical fitness and strength training is a massive part of my overall mental health. Working out keeps me feeling balanced and energized, inspires me to give my body the nutrition it needs and helps me feel more capable in daily life. It also helps me to feel more prepared for whatever the future has in store.
Pregnancy? Bring it. Illness? Bring it. Aging? Bring it. I’m stronger now.
This story was first published by CARE2


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