I hate the gym. So I found an alternative. – Phuong Vu

This is a bit of an unusual article, since I never consider myself into fitness. After all, I write extensively about Arts, Music and other craftsmanship, why would I write about working out? However, since I’ve recently taken on a fitness challenge, I figure I would write about what I learn, and how that changes the relationship with my body.

To be fair, I have a decent active lifestyle, I go hiking weekly, or bi-monthly, varying from 5 to 12 miles. I walk everywhere (just like anyone living in San Francisco) and stand on the train. I was never (visibly) out of shape, or needed to lose weight, but I have a certain goal of toning my body that the activities mentioned don’t suffice. People told me I should go to the gym.

Truth is I hated it: the smell of sweat or rubber mats, the sound of heavy lift crashing the floor, and the Lululemon yoga pants that are too too overpriced for its own functionality. I came to the gym thinking I could make some new friends (as I normally bond in any social activities), only to get disappointed that people there get the work done, and get out as soon as they’re done.

Last year I started giving ClassPass a try. I went to aerial dance class, pole dance class, biking class, barre class, TRX, I went swimming, etc. As I love diversity, the variety of options on ClassPass was more than enough to feed my craving. Some classes stick, some I decided was too difficult and not so interesting (aerial dance was one of them). I’m not a fan of the logistics that come with going to class: Showing up 15 mins earlier to check in, taking a shower afterwards (yes, I have curly hair and that means bringing my own shampoo, conditioner, waiting forever for my hair to dry, etc.), planning my commute. I then turned to home work out as an alternative.

Long story short, after trying several work out Youtube videos (Emy Wong, Hana Giang Anh, Chloe Ting, and a bunch of other PT that I don’t recall the names, sorry 😔 ), I stick to Chloe Ting, for several reasons:

  • Her workout is short, and has intense focus. Quite frankly, I don’t like gym-ing. So in order to get the most out of a Job-To-Be-Done, I learned focus. Get in, do the work, get out.
  • It requires no equipment, or just minimal equipment, so it eliminates the choices I need to make.
  • Clear schedule. I started out with the 26 days Hourglass program. It works like a no brainer to me, I just have the schedule in front of me, follow the videos, and don’t have to think about it.

So by 11-Nov 2019, I already completed the programs, with visible results.

I was surprised that I’m able to complete the program within the timeframe (I gave myself an extra 15 days, which I actually didn’t need to use), but more pleasantly surprised about my learnings:

  • Know what motivates you: I’ve never been motivated about the look. I thought it would be nice to accelerate my hiking pace, and maintain an active social life without doing harm to my fitness progress (it means eating out at events without increasing waistline). I wanted to keep one aspect of my life in check (fitness), so I have room and energy for other aspects (that I deemed, of higher priority).
  • Have a specific goal: I wanted to grow some muscles on my belly, thigh and butt, so although hiking and running are good, they weren’t optimized for my goal.
  • Fit your workout into your lifestyle, not the other way around: I still don’t like going to the gym often for reasons I mentioned before. I’m more of a cutthroat Job-To-Be-Done person, and don’t need pep talk, or a public commitment to do what I set out to do. I don’t display my goal in public because I need someone to keep me accountable (which is actually at the core of the gym). Indeed, I opted for a routine that works for me as a morning person. That left me bandwidth to enjoy my evening activities without having to cut it short. Indeed, you wouldn’t find me excusing a social/artistic activity “to go to the gym”.
  • Listen to your body: Journaling is my way to thoroughly reflect different life aspects, and so far it has proven effective in showing me signals of where my micro-improvement should occur. In other words, it takes the guess work out of my mind, so I can make specific action to get me closer to the desired outcome. Now that I know how receptive my body is to a certain type of exercise, I can double down on what works, and modify others.
  • Understand your tendency, and make peace of it: I’m all about having various options. Juggling options honestly doesn’t take much of my mental space as it does for other people. To counter the ‘boredom’ of home workout, I need a program that gives me enough variety in exercises.
  • Pick your environment: I don’t like the aggressiveness in competition, and that’s okay. External rewards don’t mean much to me. I’ve seen countless articles on how competition helps raise the bar, and supportive groups can backfire. I couldn’t disagree more. I did switch from a high end gym in FiDi in San Francisco, where everyone is rigorously competitive, to a more relaxed/friendly gym in the Mission. I still got the same work done, and I opted for the ambiance that best suits my personality.
  • Research, and constantly iterate: I used to dread researching anything gym related. Really, it wasn’t the most fascinating topic I lean toward. I’m not a gym rat, and neither do I see myself there anytime soon (I’m at 5 times work out a week, and still don’t self-identify with my definition of a gym rat).
  • Measure your progress based on Consistency and Intensity. When I first started, I struggled most with Consistency. Now that I have built a habit, I can add more Intensity into my routine. While it’s important to feel stronger, it’s even more important to feel connected to your body.

I didn’t fully follow Chloe Ting’s program on the eating side. I didn’t eat clean, neither do I do fasting (I’m a morning person and get hangry if I don’t eat on time). However, I did cut down on sugar on a daily basis, which was a great achievement for me since I’m a sweet tooth. I’m still able to have dessert as I want, with very moderation consumption.
So what’s next: I took only 2 days off after the program, and still work out 5 days a week! I don’t have mental resistance anymore, I just wake up and put on her video and start my day. I’m looking forward to following her other programs, and see what else is my body capable of. But most importantly, I had fun!

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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