A Beginner's Guide To Getting Fit

I appreciate we're stretching it a bit with the photo here, but I promise you that me on a bicycle is just, well, more aesthetic than sweaty me at the gym. 

I was not particularly a fit person at all, bar the odd lazy ride on the elliptical with my best friend in which we would gossip about boys and generally would giggle more than we would sweat. In freshman year of college I had gone regularly, more out of misery than anything else, and as soon as I got my life back on track I went back to my regular routine of, well, nothing.

However going to Accra changed that. I had never yet found that elusive balance, the one in which the gym feels challenging but exhilarating, rather than so challenging that I would want to cry in a ball and hug my love handles.

It all started with an Azonto class. If you haven't heard of the Ghanaian dance crazy that swept the world with such force that even Prince William and David Cameron gave it a go, then you're seriously missing out. It sounded like fun, a lot of my friends were going along, and I thought: why not?

Within one session I was hooked. It was hard, don't get me wrong, and sweat dripped down my body as I leapt from side to side, swinging my arms in the air, with a smile plastered across my face. It was fun, it felt good, and I was with a group of people that would encourage me to go week on week. Once I realised that exercise could be enjoyable, I started looking elsewhere. The others were going to this horrifying class called ab ripper (it is as painful as it sounds) and I quickly realised that it wasn't for me, putting far too much strain on my neck. Yet their weekly jaunts to yoga I did enjoy, and that became part of my routine as well. Suddenly it hit me: I need to play to my strengths. 

By that I don't mean only exercise the parts that are easy, because that's not going to help me progress. No, what I needed to do was think about what I enjoyed and make it happen. This is how I found myself alternate running four miles (which is a very big deal for me). I am not a runner: I walked a marathon, all 26 miles of it up and down hill and was (mostly) fine, but after only one minute of running I am begging to stop. So now I only do one minute of running. One minute running, one minute walking, all whilst watching whatever romcom I happen to have on my iPad. Somehow I have managed to fool myself into exercising, and I look forward to my moments of movie watching on the treadmill. Even more remarkably, after this I am so pumped that I actually want to do weights. Thankfully my brief spell in the gym two years ago had led to personal training sessions so I had some knowledge of what to do (I highly recommend at least one session for this reason), but I've always found that gym staff are very helpful if you ask them for advice on the machines.

The muscles that have started to emerge from my body is just one of the ways in which I have noticed an improvement, but I feel so much better too. Going with others always makes the session more enjoyable, but I'm not afraid to go alone and enjoy the time that I feel I'm giving myself. I try to go about three or four times a week now, and even though the act of putting on my trainers can be hard, I always feel so much better about myself an hour later; even if I don't push myself, the fact that I did something is a significant improvement on my previous life. I've even been keeping it up in New York, and I'm supplementing my treadmill sessions with miles of walking across Manhattan everyday.

It is possible to enjoy the gym, and I didn't think I'd ever be one to stay that. So what are you waiting for? Give it a go, and you might just be surprised..