This is how I quit the gym and got in the best shape of my life

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When I started my fitness journey two years ago, I thought I would be a gym rat for life. I was working with a trainer and hitting the gym hard 5-6 times every week. New PRs and new muscles that never existed before kept me hungry for more. You could say I made a lot of newbie gains and I went from scrawny to sculpted in a matter of months. I was seeing quads, biceps, and all the rest for the first time ever! My training regimen consisted of a mix of powerlifting and bodybuilding—I would have lower body, upper body and back days, and would prioritize squats, deadlifts, and the bench press. I loved feeling strong and having the ability to lift heavy weights (well, heavy to me).

About six months ago, though, something shifted. While I was still progressing in the gym and making gains, I wasn’t feeling like I was actually physically fit. I was lifting all the heavy things, but if you asked me to run a mile or do a pull-up, I’d have nothing for you. I really felt like this was an issue. How could I deadlift more than my body weight, but I couldn’t handle my body weight in a push-up or pull-up? My cardiovascular system was mediocre at best—the most cardio I was doing was walking on the treadmill or the Stairmaster, if I felt like it (which, surprise, was mostly never).  Moreover, one of my biggest aspirations from day one of starting my fitness journey was to be able to do unassisted pull-ups, and as it turns out, all of the heavy deadlifts, rows, assisted pull-ups and lat pull-downs didn’t do the job like Google had promised. What the heck was I going to do if I found myself being chased by a bear, or if I tripped and fell off a cliff and the only way I could get up was to pull myself up?! I’d be dead, that’s for sure!

At that point, I also really started to hate going to the gym, especially after work. Going to the gym had always felt like a process to me: getting dressed, packing your gym bag, driving there, finding parking, hoping and praying that by the time you got out on the floor the power racks weren’t all being utilized until the end of time, cleaning other people’s sweat off of machines, hoping you don’t look like a complete idiot while struggling to try pull-ups (admittedly, my biggest gym insecurity), and then driving back home (and my goodness, having to shower and make a healthy meal). If you think that sounds exhausting, add hating going to the gym to the mix and the process magnifies ten-fold. I ended up changed gyms three times before I realized that it wasn’t the location of the gym, the clientele, or the equipment that was making me hate it—it was me. I needed to make a change.

I decided to say screw it and stop going to the gym altogether. No, I didn’t sit on my couch and binge watch Game of Thrones (most days), I started working out at home at five in the morning before work. I am nowhere near a morning person, but as it turns out, there’s something so satisfying about starting the day off with movement and on a positive note. I purchased adjustable dumbbells, resistance cords, resistance bands, and a large exercise mat from Amazon. I started out by trying to do the same strength training workouts I’d do at the gym—this didn’t go too well. Doing sets and reps at home isn’t the best idea, especially when you can’t go that heavy. I tried dusting off the treadmill in my basement and running for cardio—I detest running, so that didn’t last more than a few days. I then discovered the wonderful world of circuit training—strength and cardio rolled in one 30 minute workout? Hell yes!

One of the BEST things about working out at home (or anywhere, really) is that you save so much time! What was a 2+ hour process at the gym became 45 minutes at home. Not to mention, I’m busting out push-ups and other body weight exercises like it was nobody’s business. I’m doing EMOM (every minutes on the minute) workouts and challenging my cardiovascular system like never before—all in the comfort of my own home. I do full-body workouts where, for example, I’ll do 10-12 reps of squats, push-ups, negative pull-ups, burpees, and lunges for 5 rounds with little rest in between rounds. Try it, you’ll sweat your buns off.

Working out at home, I don’t need to worry about what I look like while exercising, I don’t need to clean off other people’s sweat, and I don’t have to wait in line to use equipment. I also noticed that I’m not getting winded anymore when using the stairs, and I’m seeing positive changes in my physique. A win-win-win in my book. I am literally in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m able to handle my bodyweight—I can do push-ups, dips, pistol squats, burpees (these were problematic in the past, but not anymore!), and more. I still cannot do pull-ups yet, but because I now have a doorway pull-up bar at home, I can practice them anytime I want without having to leave the house. I did lose some strength and mass because I am using lighter weights, but I’ll take being physically fit over having bigger muscles and not being able to run a mile.

The bottom line is you don’t need a gym to get in shape. All you need is you and a little open space. Trust me, your body is enough to challenge you, especially if you’re not used to using it. You can do anything you set your mind to. If being in the gym causes you strife and takes up your precious time, give working out at home (or in a park, beach, etc.,) a try.

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