As we move into the new year, I wanted to share a blog post about a yearlong commitment I made to myself and how it has changed my outlook on overall body image and health.
At the end of 2017, I did a personal financial review of my spending and realized that health was a huge portion of the pie chart (no pun intended). I added up how much money I had spent on cardio classes and gym fees and was astonished. A week later, over a Christmas vacation to the beach, I couldn’t help but think about how unconfident I was about my body and at the same time, how much money I had spent that year on my health. Therefore, I started 2018 with a new goal– to get confident in my own skin and tone my body.
I reached out to my favorite Bootcamp instructor (on Instagram of all places) and asked if he ever worked one on one with clients and he kindly wrote back and set up a call. I explained to him that I wanted to gain muscle and lift weights but had no idea where to begin outside of the cardio classes I was doing at Bootcamp, Soul Cycle, Yoga and Pilates. He explained to me that in order to put on some real muscle that I needed to stop almost all cardio and begin training at the gym and I would see results after about six months. I remember I hung up on the phone and literally gagged at the idea of no cardio, how convenient!
In the past, I published Gray's Diet Plan about how to lose weight quickly and effectively. I am clearly someone who struggles with my body weight and this post is a great example of how quickly cardio and diet can change your body. However, I was never able to gain real muscle since I was so focused on cardio and leaning out. Therefore, this post is about how to transform your body over a series of months versus two weeks. To begin, here is a photo of my body then:
Being in my thirties, having a solid job, and thinking about the future, I decided to invest the best way I could think of: in my health and confidence. I hired my Bootcamp class instructor, Harry Rosedale to train me three days a week and bought a package of sessions. Therefore, I was making a commitment to hold me responsible financially as well as setting a great goal for the entire year of 2018– working out with confidence and feeling good about myself. Also, let’s not lie, when you add up all those $25-$35 class fees, you would be surprised what the difference is to have a trainer for three days a week.
As I began my new workout routine, my biggest concern was that as part of the gaining weight & muscle building process is that I would also gain extra body fat. So often we associate weight gain with body fat increase. What Harry patiently, and thoroughly explained to me, was that even though I would be gaining weight for muscle mass, I would actually burn more body fat in this journey. To me, that concept initially made no logical sense! How could it be? What I came to understand, though is increasing your muscle mass increases your metabolism, which in turn helps burn fat. I learned that although a weight-training workout doesn't necessarily burn as many calories as a cardio workout, this metabolism boost is a much bigger win.
Here Harry explains our program including the goals, methods, and reasoning for how it was structured:
“Gray really wanted to focus on building upper body shape and strength, so we targeted specific muscle groups every day. One day we focused on chest, another on the back, one on arms, and another on shoulders. Some days we would combine larger muscle groups with smaller ones, like chest and triceps.
There are so many benefits to strength training. Not only does additional muscle boost your metabolism and help you burn more fat, but it also prevents osteoporosis and injury as we get older. Aesthetically, strength training adds the shape that most people strive for when looking to change their bodies.
Cardio-focused workouts and HIIT workouts have their place and can be beneficial in a routine if someone has a lot of weight to lose. But if that’s all you do, it will eventually have a tendency to promote a “skinny fat” aesthetic with little muscle tone. That’s where strength training can really make a difference.
Fitness classes can be a great supplement depending on your goals, but it’s difficult to achieve the body of your dreams with classes alone. Boutique fitness promotes a one-size-fits-all fitness philosophy that unfortunately leaves many clients feeling disappointed and underwhelmed with their results. This is because genetics, metabolism, conditioning, gender, aesthetic goals, and other variables are important in creating a proper fitness routine. Additionally, many of these classes burn so many calories that it makes it difficult to add or maintain muscle if they are done regularly. The cardiovascular training they provide can be beneficial, but one can get cardiovascular training from resistance training as long as you keep the intensity up.”
Gaining muscle takes time. You must first set your expectation level because unlike cardio classes, results are not immediate. The best advice I can give is that often the best things in life take time and gaining muscle is no exception.
The biggest obstacle I faced with weight training was that I had to stop weighing myself. When you start trying to gain muscle, you are essentially trying to gain weight because muscle weighs more than fat. After about six months I had to “cut”, which is basically a weightlifter’s way of saying lower your fat intake. With summer starting I was pretty motivated to cut, and I did a cleanse with Sakara and then began cutting out carbs and alcohol for two weeks. Though cutting isn’t exactly fun, it does really allow all the muscle you have worked so hard for to finally show more clearly. Harry told me one day that there will come a moment when someone would compliment my body and sure enough, he was right– and it made me want to keep it up!
If you read my 2018 recap post, you know I was busier than ever last year. Traveling nearly 10 days out of every month, I still kept up my training. Even when I was on the road Harry would give me workouts I could do for 15-30 minutes and it kept me grounded and consistent. All I am trying to say is if you think you have obstacles that would keep you from achieving the same results, I am proof that with some internal motivation (ahem, remember this isn’t free) you truly can achieve amazing results.
When my twins were born in December I got to spend my first holiday season in my own home versus traveling to see our family out of state. This allowed me to keep up my training sessions and not slip as we all know the holidays are a tough time with lots of yummy bites and drinks visiting with friends and loved ones.
Therefore, going into January, I feel a world apart from the man on the beach last year with little confidence wondering how he had spent so much money with such little results! They say it takes money to make money which I believe, but in this case, it took money...but I made something greater than money: I made confidence.
Thank you for joining me as I reflected on this process as well as shared the results of the commitment I made to myself this time last year. What a difference a year makes, right?