By Savanah Mandeville
***Disclaimer: This article is in no way saying that I think everyone has to work out. These are simply some benefits I have noticed that may be helpful/motivating to those who are thinking about starting.***
Last summer, I started lifting weights at the gym and it has been an amazing journey.
I got started because I had a couple friends who were into heavy lifting – doing squats, deadlifts, that kind of thing – and it seemed like they really enjoyed it. I also was seeing tons of Instagram fitness models and, like, those girls look amazing, so I figured lifting would be a good way to get in shape. I made an appointment with a personal trainer who created a lifting program for me and showed me the ropes like proper form and how the machines work (this was super helpful and something I recommend). I remember during our consultation she asked me what my goals were, and basically all I could think of was, “Uh, to look really fit??”
Well, over the course of the last year I have learned that there are A TON of reasons to go to the gym that have nothing to do with looks.
We all know about some of the more common benefits of exercising that don’t deal with looks – better health, increased endurance, better mood, better sleep. Below are five unique benefits that I have discovered over the last year. And these can apply to any type of fitness routine whether it’s lifting weights, yoga, classes, running, or whatever type of exercise makes you happy.
- It Gives You Something to Do
Before I started hitting the gym, I had a really terrible habit of drinking wine after work. Once I started going to the gym, my workout routine replaced my wine routine. By the time I got home from the gym, drank my protein shake, showered, and made dinner, I had no time for wine and the bad habit just sort of faded away.
I think the moral of the story here is that free time is great thing, but too much free time leads to its evil twin: boredom. I was drinking after work out of sheer boredom and having nothing to do. Maybe you have another bad habit when you’re bored – snacking, binge watching TV, wasting time on the internet. Perhaps when you’re bored, you start overthinking. Going to the gym is a great anxiety reliever because it’s a healthy distraction from your problems and can help you to stop overthinking in addition to kicking other bad habits to the curb.
- You Get to Have Performance Goals
I love focusing on performance goals rather than appearance goals for a number of reasons. First of all, performance goals come faster. Appearance goals take longer to see. You can achieve new performance goals just about every time you work out! For me, hitting a new high weight on my squat feels amazing. It could be different for everyone… running a new distance, mastering a new technique, making it through a whole Zumba song without a break. Performance goals are more concrete and measurable, whereas appearance goals are more subjective – “It seems like my pants feel looser…” Forget about scale goals. Your weight can fluctuate depending on your cycle, how much water you’ve had, how much sleep you got the night before, how much muscle you’re building, etc. Scale goals are not a very good way to measure progress. Focusing on performance goals is extremely gratifying. Appearance goals may have been why I started, but they aren’t what keep me going to the gym day after day. When you focus on performance, the appearance goals will follow in time.
- You Build Confidence
When you dedicate yourself to a fitness lifestyle, it builds confidence both physically and mentally. And I’m not talking about the confidence that comes from having a hot bod. I’m talking about internal confidence that comes from appreciating and trusting your body’s capabilities and doing something good for yourself. For example, when I’m trying a challenging weight, it can be a little bit nerve wracking. What if I drop it? What if I get hurt? What if I make a fool of myself? I have little mantras I tell myself that get me through it: “You’ve done this before, you can do it again.” “I know what my body can handle.” “I am confident in what my body can do.” “I am grateful for what my body can do.” And then I kick ass and get it done! What is more confidence building than that? Regularly challenging yourself and succeeding is HUGE for confidence. Furthermore, proving to myself that I could make a fitness routine and stick to it long term has given me the confidence to go after long term goals in other areas of my life.
- You Stop Caring About What Other People Think
Oh man, this is a big one. When I was new to the gym, I was pretty self-conscious of looking like a newbie, of guys staring at me (especially being the only girl in the weight room), looking grody in my gym clothes/ponytail/no makeup, being really sweaty, etc. There’s a lot of ways to feel intimidated at the gym. But, first of all, it doesn’t matter what you look like at the gym. Sometimes I have to tell myself that before I go. (Btw, if you feel more comfortable wearing a makeup at the gym, then wear makeup at the gym. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.)
Also, it’s really important to realize that everyone is there for the same reason you are – to get healthy and work on themselves. Everyone there is focusing on their own workout and likely not paying attention to you. Just crank your music up, avoid eye contact, and focus on your workout. Another bit of advice – create a plan before you go to the gym. When you have a step-by-step workout routine that you’re following, it’s a lot easier to zone in on what you are doing and not pay attention to what’s going on around you.
Once you become accustomed to being at the gym for YOU and YOUR GOALS, you really don’t give a crud what you look like or what anyone there thinks of you. Hella empowering.
- Gym = Therapy
For me, this is probably the biggest benefit of going the gym of all. Going to the gym is my “me time.” It’s my special time of day that I have all to myself. When I’m at the gym, I focus on my workout, I don’t think about any of my problems, and I rarely respond to calls or texts. It’s kind of like meditating in a way… it’s a time out from life and a good way to destress and clear your mind. Plus, you get all those endorphins firing! I always leave the gym in a good mood and with a clear head to face the rest of my day, and this has had a super positive effect on my mental health overall. I have noticed that when I miss a few days, I start to feel more stressed and kind of grumpy. The gym is definitely my therapy, and when you view going to the gym in this way it’s a lot easier to stay motivated than dragging yourself there because you hate your body. Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate!
BONUS: JAM SESSION!!! One of my favorite things about working out is it’s an uninterrupted hour for me to jam out to my favorite music! ‘Nough said.
If you’re thinking about beginning a workout routine, I hope these six benefits inspire you to go for it! No matter what your goals are, there are so many wonderful things to gain from adding exercise to your life.