Yes, you read that title correctly. Having a desk job has actually encouraged me to, for the first time in my life, pursue exercise for the sake of exercise, voluntarily and for enjoyment. Of course, it started only as a way to keep myself from getting very out of shape as I age, but I have actually grown to enjoy it.
I’ve never been the sort of person to go to the gym or do the things most people do when they do exercise. Not because I’ve been inactive all my life. In childhood I was very active; my parents encouraged playing outside rather than watching TV or playing video games, and I played a few sports as most kids do. I also grew up taking care of a lot of animals, including horses, and there were always chores to be done when I got older. My exercise as a teenager included mucking stalls and moving heavy wheelbarrows full of manure. I’ve also always held active jobs that included not only being on my feet all day, but getting down onto the floor and back up and lifting heavy stuff all of the time.
That all changed when I decided to switch careers and become a web developer, and now I sit down close to forty hours a week at work. After a year of this I noticed I was gaining weight and losing energy. I would go from work to home and sit on the couch at home watching videos. Then I’d play video games on the weekend. At the end of the year I was hanging out with a friend and we went to the park. For fun she decided to do some pull ups. Although I never did pull ups regularly, I thought I’d still be able to do one or two, but I couldn’t even do one. I felt pretty bad about myself, and I was tired all the time.
I knew that I needed to start exercising but it was so hard to start. I was intimidated by it because I’d never really done it before – I didn’t know how to use the equipment at gyms, I felt stupid even going to the gym. I really disliked running and walking for exercise didn’t seem like enough to me. But I knew I didn’t want to keep gaining weight and adding cellulite to my legs, and be completely out of shape in five or ten years. Since January I’ve made a few steps into actually getting myself into shape.
The first step was doing some exercises at home. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that you can follow along with, and you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing you look ridiculous trying new movements. My best advice if you want to do the workout at home route is, do it in front of a mirror. Form is very important for exercise, and you really won’t know what your form looks like unless you’re in front of a mirror. That’s why there are mirrors in gyms – not so people can gaze at their bulging muscles.
After about six months I realized I wasn’t getting very far with the home workouts. Well, it took less than six months to realize it, but it took me that long to actually do anything about it. No one was motivating me to workout at home; I had to get myself to do it, and I’d often skip up to a week. I also never pushed myself very hard when I did exercise. I have pretty poor self-accountability. It’s why I’d never work for myself, and I don’t work well on my own. I’m just meant to be a part of a team. That’s where step two comes in.
Step two is to find a workout buddy. This is the person who is going to force you to actually do exercise by working out with you. As a team-oriented person I really like having someone to support me and who I can support. Having a friend to exercise with also helped me reduce my anxiety about the gym, and my buddy and I joined a gym together. Neither of us knew what we were doing but we did all of it together. We both got personal trainers (this is not absolutely necessary but it really does help if you have no idea where to start) and we tried some of the classes the gym offered.
I’ve been going to the gym five or six times per week most weeks, for the past three and a half months. I usually go after work, which was hard at first because I was tired, but believe it or not if you exercise regularly you actually gain energy. It’s being sedentary all the time that drags you down into being tired all the time. Now I look forward to going most days. I’m getting stronger and am happy about it. I’m starting to set fitness goals for myself, and I’m actually excited to see how far I can push myself.
All my life, keeping in shape has been done through work. But now, I need to see keeping in shape as fun. Having a friend to work out with and a good community at the gym has helped me with that, as well as the rewards I get—endorphin release and seeing a reverse in the aspects of my body I didn’t like when I was out of shape. The hardest part of exercising was just getting started doing it, and actually sticking with it. If you can do those two things, then you may eventually think of it as fun.