No paths are straight. My journey to fitness sure wasn’t – it was filled with lack of rolemodels, frustration, boredom, laziness, crooks, and turns. Life had a tendency to get in the way, and I let it. But in the end, I’m fitter than ever before, and keep coming back to my weights and mat and get a sweat on. And I enjoy it each and every time.
In my childhood I had a lot of male role models regarding fitness and strength, but physically strong women were not something I was exposed to a lot. I guess Xena the warrior princess, and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, was the closest – but they did not have the physical body that was needed to do the things their characters did. I remember rewatching Buffy as an adult and seeing the stunt-double in a scene in “Anne” (S3E1) where her back was bulging with muscles and I was in awe of her – but also thought that it clearly wasn’t Sara Michelle Gellar.
So for most of my young life, I thought only men could become muscular since that was all I saw. I tried doing some crunches and pushups here and there but didn’t see much point in it since I wouldn’t see any difference anyway. It didn’t help that I was a very indoorsy child that didn’t move much if I didn’t need to. I had a lot of apathy for my physical body since I had no role models to show me what my body was capable of. Most of the time it was just easier to sit inside, playing games or watching television.
College: Casual Weightlifting, Blogilates and Crossfit
I started college to become a civil engineer. Here I found myself surrounded by a lot of guys – I think we were 25% women in our class, which is normal for civil engineering. So I got myself guy friends who started working out at the Uni gym, so I joined them. I liked hanging out with them (and would end up marrying one of them – go figure), so why not spend some time lifting weights along with them. I enjoyed the time I spent in the gym, but I didn’t really have my heart in it. It was really unmotivating to see big, but unfit, dudes being able to bench 50 kg when I barely could bench press the bar on its own. School got hectic so the workouts got dropped. Plus the gym closed in every finals period since it could be heard from the hall where exams would be taken place. And as school progressed we took different classes, had different schedules, and it just kind of fizzled out.
My first minor breakthrough was when I started doing Blogilates workouts. Cassie, the host, showed me that working out can be fun and satisfying, without spending two hours in a gym. She was excited, happy, and motivated me to push through the workout. It felt like working out with a good girlfriend, getting challenged but also supported when I needed it. I was also super amazed at how strong and how much stamina Cassie had, to do the workout continuously throughout the video. Finally I had a strong rolemodel, even though she isn’t traditionally “buff”. She really tought me the joy of using my body and getting stronger.
But as I got busy with school, working out got put on the back burner. What can I say? Life happens.
At some point, my boyfriend and I found a Crossfit gym and started taking classes. At first, it was really awkward for me because I’m such a shy person, I didn’t feel great sharing a rack with some other women, but I loved the challenge it gave my body, and I loved the sore feeling I got basically every time. I found joy in lifting heavy, but I missed some way of registering my progress or just a way to remember how much I lifted in the movement last time – like if I last week squatted 20 kg, I needed a way of noting it down so I would remember that weight the next time a squat was on the board. This combined with the need to be at least 5 minutes early to secure your slot (which often turned into 10 or 15 minutes) made us drop the classes and the gym.
Post College Breakthrough: a picture is worth everything
I finished my degree and got a job with a 45-minute commute each way, so I didn’t have much energy, brainpower, or time to work out (at least I didn’t feel like I had). So I found a simple workout online with a few exercises, that I did at least on the weekend, and once during the week if I felt like it. I took a very casual approach to this workout, using it mostly to keep my body moving and feeling good.
Then came the breakthrough. A trip to California in 2016 where my husband took a picture on our visit to one of the redwood forests. He showed it to me and pointed out how muscly my shoulders looked, and I was like – “damn, if I can gain muscles to this degree doing casual workouts, just imagine the muscles I could get by taking it seriously!”.
Then you can be damned straight I started to take my workouts seriously. It started with a bodyweight program which I only needed a pull-up bar to do. We lived in an apartment at that time, and I was on unemployment, so a program that only needed a pull-up bar was a good start. I really loved this program since it had scaled exercises so I just started with the exercise version I could do, and built from there. I also loved that it had an exercise progression which was predictable and regular. It was here I started seeing the most progress in my strength that I had ever seen – I ended up being able to do pull-ups, where I started with barely being able to hang on the bar for any amount of time.
Once I reached a level of strength where I was too difficult to progress my leg strength we bought a set of weights – a barbell, two dumbbell bars and weight plates. Then I made my own weightlifting program and started lifting weights several times a week. Then I discovered the 5×5 program and followed that for a time before returning to my own program after getting bored with the same 5 exercises repeated ad nauseum.
Then I rediscovered CrossFit through youtube recommending me a Brooke Ence video – and then I was down the rabbit hole of training workouts from the trifecta app, learning all I could about programming workouts, making my own workouts, and just immersing myself in the CrossFit world by watching vlogs and the Crossfit Games. I’ve rambled on for too long, so the whole story of my CrossFit journey will have to be some other time.
That will be all from me for now. I hope this story will show that it can take time to find the right type of workout, and that ups and downs are just a way of life. Remember to take your time, find something you enjoy, and listen to your mind and body.