Getting Fit – Week 1


Treadmill Running

Like many people who work in an office, I struggle to get as much exercise as I would like. When I was young, I did sport seven days a week for most of the year, played for a number of teams, and even competed at county level in athletics.

My name is Matt Tallis, and I’m the lead content writer at Fitness.me.uk. Since taking on the job, my fitness levels have (ironically) dropped over time.

Working at a desk every day – lunch break aside – means I am much less physically active, and this has a negative effect on my health: I have gained some weight, and when I play football, my breathing is considerably heavier.

Working in an office means the motivation to exercise just isn’t there. At the end of a long day, my energy levels aren’t exactly high, and my desire to go to the gym is low. I also hate waking up early, so a gym session before work just isn’t going to happen.

This blog will cover my own experiences, having now signed up to a nearby gym and rejoining my local football team.

My aim is to reduce my body fat percentage, and build up my strength. This type of fitness goal can lead to a host of health benefits, such as a reduced risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

So, my first week at the gym…

Signing up online was more straightforward than I expected. I tried out a smart tactic I’d heard from a friend, where I enter my details to the gym’s sign up page, but don’t complete the payment. A few days later, the gym sent me an automatic email offering to drop the signing up fee, meaning all I needed to pay would be the monthly fee. Success.

Of course, this isn’t to say you can get away with not paying a sign-up fee for every gym, but it is definitely a bonus when this fee is waived.

I arrived at the gym after work on a Monday, harbouring a convoluted mixture of excitement and trepidation at where I was. Growing up, I hated the gym – it just felt very dull and monotonous – and preferred to get fit by playing sports each day, which I found much more exciting.

I headed into the changing rooms, which, thankfully, were very spacious and had showers well out the way of the benches and lockers. A helpful tip: bring your own padlock, it saved me paying £4 to buy one from the gym.

I decided to split my time up so that I worked my upper body on Monday and Wednesday, and then my lower body and core on Tuesday and Thursday. What was the logic behind this? Only half of my body would be aching the next day, meaning I wouldn’t need to miss the next gym session. I could then work the other half of my body as the sore, already-worked half rested.

This would help me lose weight, because I would still burn calories, whereas if I skipped the session I would miss out.

Also, playing football each Saturday meant I wanted to rest on Friday and Sunday. It’s also nice to relax over the weekend and not be sore from head to toe!

However, having restarted football, my highest priority was to improve my cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity, rather than building muscle. This will hopefully enable me to exercise for longer each time at the gym, as well as lasting longer on the pitch, before I succumb to tiredness and/or cramps. Having better stamina will make my workouts more effective as I can do them for longer, burning more calories.

Therefore, I spent the week with the treadmills, cross trainers, indoor rowers and exercise bikes, and only did a very quick circuit of the weight room, lifting light weights, during the first week.

A corridor of absolutely gargantuan people

Arm curl machine

I entered the main room on my first day, and headed toward the vast array of cardio equipment. Unfortunately, to get there I had to walk through a corridor of absolutely gargantuan people lifting enormous weights, growling as they pushed themselves to the limit, armed solely with my phone, drink and padlock key.

It can be an intimidating sight for any newcomer. However, I soon realised that no-one was actually bothered if I wasn’t a behemoth, and that everyone at the gym seemed to have respect for anybody who had joined and was trying to get fit.

I reached the treadmills, placed my phone and drink in the holders on the machine’s dashboard, and pressed start. I walked at a moderate pace for five minutes, then jogged at a medium intensity for 10 minutes.

Once I felt sufficiently warmed up (as GCSE P.E had hammered home the importance of warming up properly before exercising), I increased the speed using the up and down arrows on the treadmill and ran for 15 minutes, at a pace which tested me, but not enough to make me seriously worried about falling off and ending up on YouTube.

After these 15 minutes, I reversed my warm up, gently jogging for 10 minutes, then walking for five. This was to complete my cool down and give me a fighting chance of avoiding DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) the next day or so.

Throughout the workout, I watched the TVs lined up side-by-side in front of all the cardio equipment. Most of these were showing the news, and neither the sound nor subtitles were turned on, so as you may have guessed it was a real contender for the longest 45 minutes of my life. I made a mental note to always bring my wireless Bluetooth headphones from now on, so I can listen to my music as I run, instead of the monotonous pounding of feet on treadmills.

Studies have actually shown that listening to music while you exercise can boost your performance, especially if the songs have quite a quick beat, and they can definitely make it feel like the time goes quicker.

I was thankful the treadmill I used just so happened to be directly below an air conditioning vent. When I left I was rather sweaty, but not as much I expected, based on my poor fitness levels. However, much like my entrance walk, I realised no-one would care if I was sweaty at all – it shows your workout was tough.

I actually felt alright going home, and had a relaxed evening. Even the next day, I wasn’t aching anywhere near as much as I anticipated, which I put down to having spent time warming up and cooling down.

The next day

Elliptical Trainer Cross Trainer

I returned the next day, this time to try out a cross trainer. I had never used cross trainers before, but they have turned out to be my favourite piece of equipment (at least in these early stages). They are good to use for my warm up and cool down, as I control the speed of my movements, helping me ease into the workout and raise my heart rate. But, most beneficially, they have helped reduce the strain on my joints as I exercise.

Treadmills are great in that they allow me to run at varying levels of intensity, even increasing the speed up into sprints, but they can lead to blisters, and seem to have a higher risk of injury compared to the more gentle – but still demanding – cross trainers.

Both of these issues can result in people missing their next gym session, which obviously isn’t something I want, having just paid out for a membership and making a commitment to get fitter. I found that when using the cross trainers, this has never happened.

The next two days went fine, and although I felt gradually more lethargic each progressive day this week, I had no serious issues, and was able to get in a good 45 minutes each day on the cardio equipment.

So, I’ve made it through the first week, not just alive, but injury-free too. I haven’t pulled any muscles, nothing aches that much, and I don’t already want to quit the gym. I put this down to the fact I knew my fitness levels would be significantly lower than they used to be, and eased myself back into exercising rather than trying to go as fast or as long as I used to be able to.

Warming up and cooling down properly, I have been able to burn a decent number of calories four days in a row at the gym, and can build on my good start next week, with no injuries holding me back. Bring it on.

Have you recently joined the gym, or completed your first gym session? How did you find it?

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