I started my “fitness journey” in the summer of 2017. I had been in university for 5 years at that point. I had access to a “free” and beautiful gym for 5 years, and the only times I went was for a few beginner dance classes. For all those years, I hadn’t ever dared to enter the weights section. It was too intimidating. I had no idea what to do with what equipment, and I most definitely didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ girl.
I’ve never really been overweight or even considered to be ‘big’, but that doesn’t mean I liked my body. My frame is small. I’m 5’2” and I weigh around 120 pounds. I’ve fluctuated in weight every now and then, but I usually returned to my base weight. Because of my stature, I look small, but I do carry fat in my midsection and in my limbs. I’ll just say that I do carry fat fairly visibly.
I’ve never been confident in my body. I’ve only ever worn a bikini on its own once in my now 25 years of life and that was in my friend’s backyard pool, where there were only two other people: my friend and my cousin.
Asians, if you’re unfamiliar with our culture, are fairly blunt when it comes to weight. Friends and family are very straightforward when they tell you you’ve gained weight or when they tell you that you should control your diet. Being Korean, and being female, the standards of ‘skinniness’ are high. It is almost EXPECTED that you are petite. Friends would jokingly call me ‘fatty’, point out my underarms where fat accumulated, and cousins would criticize my thicker-than-average Korean thighs. In other words, it has always been made apparent that I’m not skinny, and that I would never naturally be.
A condensed history of my fitness journey.
It’s March of 2019 now, almost the 2 year anniversary of my fitness journey, and I’ve changed! I started out being obsessed with cardio and weight loss. I essentially did lots of cardio and only ate enough to get by. I saw each ‘extra’ calorie as unnecessary and evil. (I will expand on this in a future post.)
Without addressing my diet, I slowly transitioned into weight training. I had already gotten my feet wet into fitness, so I figured I may as well continue. My university friends were an invaluable part of this story (shout out to Nay, Nicole and Val)! All three were already regulars in the weight section of the gym. While I was busy focussing on cardio, they were doing their weights. One day, they asked if I wanted to join their High Intensity Interval Training. I was scared as hell. These gym rats (said with the best of intentions) wanted me(???) to tag along? I knew they were my friends and that they would be nice about it, but me? They were more than welcoming, they were encouraging and they held me accountable to join the workouts. Having supportive people to go with makes a world of a difference.
But even when I started doing resistance training with my friends, I was too intimidated to go into the weights section alone. I felt like I was taking up space and equipment. I felt like a lightweight like me didn’t deserve the same access to the squat racks as the heavy lifting macho men.
In retrospect, no one in that gym made me feel that way. It was all in my head and had everything in the world to do with my own insecurities. (I later learned that gym people, though they look intimidating a f, are actually incredibly friendly and willing to help – but again, a story for another time.) My friends showed me the ins and outs of the gym. They showed me a VARIETY of exercises. They pushed me to do better. They pushed me to lift heavier and to keep up with them. I felt comfortable with them, but I still, even after months in the weight section, I didn’t feel comfortable going alone.
I had lost enough weight for people to recognize the change. People were complimenting me on my achievement. That was sufficient validation for me. School had also gotten busier again, so while continuing the gym, I started eating regularly again. I needed the nourishment for my brain to function.
Eventually the school year came to a close and it was time for us to part ways. I was moving home to where my parents were, a small rural town in Alberta. While trying to figure out my next career move (more school vs. get a job), I got a gym membership and I forced myself to go into that weight section. The gym was a lot emptier than at my university gym; everyone was basically older than me; there was more diversity in body types; and best of all, I didn’t know anyone so who cares if I made a fool of myself. I started with what I knew – what I had learned with my friends and I did that for months. At the same time, I joined all of the fitness classes offered at our gym (spin, yoga, HIIT bootcamp). I didn’t have any particular strategy or goal. I just wanted to ‘look good’.
Then I saw an ad in the gym for an online fitness training program. I inquired and the next thing you know, I was in. It was a 6 week program and I figured it would be short enough to commit to without feeling overwhelmed. I paid my fees and I was committed.
One of the first questions on the entry questionnaire is what my goals are. This is literally a copy paste of one of my answers:
Want tone and definition i.e. non-flabby/toned arms and legs, somewhat defined midsection (want the linea alba to show), tight and poppin’ boooootay, and toned back.
First of all, can you tell I’m an anatomy student (linea alba LOL who do I think I am)? Second, I basically wanted to be an instagram fitness model. Look at those goals.
Anyways, the program worked. I lost weight and I looked TONED, but more importantly, I was nourishing my body with the proper foods. After that program, I wanted more. I joined a 3 month program with the same trainer. I’m now 2 weeks away from being done this challenge, but this one was a journey that differs significantly from my first experience. During the first 6 week challenge, I was training to lose weight and tone. This time, I’m bulking. Bulking is a completely different game. This time, I’m counting my macros and LEARNING about the foods I put into my body.
My journey hasn’t been straightforward. Rather, it has been incredibly dynamic. I now have different goals and I have different focusses. I know how to eat properly and to make those foods for myself. I’m not afraid to love food anymore , and I don’t associate every calorie with weight gain. I have an incredible appetite. I know how to listen to my body, while knowing when to push it. I am more confident in my body and so incredibly proud of what it is capable of.
If you’re pursuing a fitness journey, keep at it. The hardest part for me, even today, is getting to the gym, but once I’m there, I’m determined to finish that workout and to reach my goals. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. It’s a continuous learning process and I’ve met so many positive-minded and encouraging people along the way.
Whenever you want to give up, remember,
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
It’s called a ‘journey’ for a reason. Keep at it. Believe in yourself and believe that your efforts will reward you.