You Can Find Me In The Gym

It used to be that you were about as likely to find me in the gym as you were to find me “in da club”. Things have changed.

For the majority of 2014 I suffered from persistent negative thoughts. I tried various ways to cope with these, from the very old (Buddhist worry beads) to the very new (unfriending a load of people on Facebook). Nothing worked which meant I would need to take drastic action the following year. 2015 subsequently became my year of living dangerously – well compared to how I had been living, anyway.

In February last year I sat silently quaking on a 2 hour flight to spend time in Austria with a good friend. By December I was sitting relatively calmly on a 10 hour flight to a retreat where I didn’t know any of the 130 other attendees. I made lots of changes inbetween those two events but the pivotal one was joining the gym last July.


The person responsible for holding my hand and encouraging me every step of the way was Val the Cookie Queen. Like all the best role-models she didn’t preach or cajole, she was just a great advert for what an active life-style can do for you.

Up to that point I’d heard countless times how exercise helps with low mood. I just couldn’t identify with working-out in any way and didn’t consider it to be an option for me. All I’d done in the past 20 years was a spell of Kundalini yoga: call me hardcore, but I don’t think anyone should be snoring during their exercise session (I swear it wasn’t me).

When I tentatively brought up the idea of following her example and going to the gym, Val plainly stated it would change my life. That was the final push I needed to at least give it a try.

To say I had low expectations on taking out a gym membership is to put it mildly. I felt like a fish out of water and thought it unlikely that it would be for me. But in the spirit of my drive to step out of my comfort zone, I’d give it a proper go for the next 6 months.

After two weeks my obsessive thoughts had decreased by about 90%. I was amazed. Considering they had been intense and constant for the previous year and half, I don’t think this is a coincidence. I doubt I was pushing myself hard enough to release the required amount of endorphins but I do think I sent a strong positive message to myself that I was prepared to do whatever it took to improve my well-being.

Becoming fitter and reducing my body fat was a great bonus. I do two sessions of cardio/resistance work a week plus a Hatha yoga class. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t exactly enjoy being at the gym and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my watch regularly while I’m there. All the same, if I can’t go for any reason, instead of feeling relieved I feel uneasy. This is now an important part of my weekly routine.

Thanks Val, you were right; going to the gym changed my life.

val fortnum.jpg

Me and Val at Fortnum & Mason last summer

Do you go to the gym or do any other kind of regular exercise? What have the benefits been? 




Filed under Thoughts

48 responses to “You Can Find Me In The Gym

  1. You both look beautiful in these pictures and this is a very brave and soul-bearing post.

    I used to go to the gym a couple of times a week and am also not even VAGELY a sporty person whatsoever, but it definitely did boost my mood and that was really why I did it. Right now I have very bad knees (still haven’t had an operation that I need to ASAP) and so can’t go – I can’t even WALK properly, to be honest. Reading this does make me want to get it all sorted out though so I can get that feeling back and lose some desperate kilos.

    The all important question, though: do you go scented?


  2. What a brave and inspiring post, Tara. I really enjoyed reading it. It is quite some time since I went to the gym but I am reconsidering it now after reading your post and positive effects it is having on you.

    Was thinking the same, do you use a fragrance if only not to scent others which used to bother me.

    Bravo and happy Easter, Esperanza


    • Hi Esperanza,
      It really doesn’t have to be the gym, but it works for me. I wish I was of those that enjoyed sport because that must be so much more fun.

      As I said to Neil, it’s just the remanants of my morning perfume application that accompany me to the gym in the late afternoon, so not much but something.

      Happy Easter!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Going to the gym has changed my life – I cant sleep, study or concentrate without it – going to the gym has shown me how important the mind-body connection is! Keep going sister!


    • Thanks, Laura! I really appreciate – and need – the encouragement. So happy to hear it’s been life-changing for you too. I had no idea the mind-body connection could be quite that powerful.


  4. What an inspirational post, Tara! I’m glad that going to the gym brought you such a positive outcome. I’m not a gym girl but I enjoy walking a lot. I walk regularly for 1 hour or so, perhaps 3-5 times a week. When I feel down or want to mull over stuff, I always go for a much longer mountain walk. It clears my head.

    By the way, that’s a great photo of you and Val. xxx


    • Magpie, I believe a brisk walk is as good as anything. I make sure I go for a walk during lunchtime at work because it really clears my head and gives me a boost. How wonderful to be able to walk in the mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I practice Ashtanga yoga about 3-4 times a week and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have become more flexible, stronger and more relaxed throughout the day. I even lost a little weight.


    • Wow, Chris, 3-4 times a week is amazing. No wonder you’re seeing such great benefits. I feel a bit of a lightweight but it’s a manageable routine for me right now and that’s important.


  6. Tara,
    I love you so much.
    Once upon a time I went to the gym regularly. It was fun and social. Getting across the threshold is the hard part for me but once there and in a routine I find it most enjoyable.
    Do you make me want to go back? No. Am I thrilled that it’s working for you on so many levels? YES!
    What would we do without Val? I would be lost.
    Portia xx


    • Portia, Val really helped me to get out of a hole. It would have taken I don’t know how much longer on my own. The gym had such a dramatic effect, it was really unexpected.
      Dropping some weight and building up my fitness level is taking a lot longer 🙂


  7. Tara C

    I have the same sorts of issues when I’m not active, and I loathe going to the gym, so what I’ve done is take up cycling. Bought myself a nice road bike and go out 2-3 times a week for 50-60 kms. This keeps my spirits up and makes me feel virtuous and happy. I also walk quite a bit as I don’t own a car. Being outside and moving is the best thing I’ve found to keep me feeling good.


    • That sounds fantastic, Tara C. I cycled for the first time since childhood a few years ago and it felt like flying. I can see why you love it. Is there anything better than feeling happy and virtuous as a result of an exercise you enjoy? Unlikely!


  8. Sun Mi

    What a great post! I don’t go to the gym, per se, but I am usually very active through competitive volleyball. I notice that when I haven’t played in a while my anxiety creeps up in much stronger doses. I’m so glad you’re finding that the gym is helping you!


    • Hey Sun Mi,
      I was just saying how nice it must be for people who enjoy a sport. Playing competitive volleyball probably doesn’t feel like hard work to you. The gym mostly feels like a grind but the results are worth it.
      Working out in some way is SO good for anxiety. I’d love to find a book that explains how all this works.


  9. cookie queen

    Hey Tara! What a touching and totally surprising post. You did it all yourself you know. The gym has kept me sane over the last nearly 10 years. I always, always feel better after a workout, not forgetting a preworkout drink beforehand. Doping all the way. Hahahahahahaha. You inspire me. ❤️❤️❤️


    • I was so nervous and unsure, Val, it was thanks to you that I even got through the door.
      i spotted those work-out drinks at the gym on Tuesday! Cheers to sanity 🙂


  10. It is really great that the gym has such a positive effect on you.
    I experienced something similar this year when I started climbing. For once I am lost in the physical world, with no time or resources left to f**k around in my mind. 😉
    The best part is that we share the sport as a family, it has brought us closer.

    Love the photo of you two!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly it, B. You are forced into your body instead of being totally in your mind the whole time, which is rarely healthy.
      I love that you climb as a family and even M is doing it with his fear of heights. What a brilliant activity for bonding and making you happier and healthier. It doesn’t get much better than that.


  11. Hamamelis

    Great to read what small steps can do! I suppose I created the solution to my total aversion to A ‘normal’ gym/fitness by creating a new training concept (or rather giving form to the idea which has been around for a long time) with my husband, based on high intensity training. I train in one of our (quiet, and pleasant) studio’s once a week, on appointment, with a personal trainer, and it just takes 20 minutes, no joke, no fad. It is intensive, and you need to train with focus, and a ways into ‘muscle failure’, which needs a capable trainer. The studio’s are kept cool so you don’t perspire, and you don’t need to change or shower. For me this is ideal, and the results people get are quite astounding really. We have worked very hard for years, bu now have 70 studio’s in the Netherlands, and 4 in Belgium. And possibly we come to the UK soon! It is not for everyone, but for many people who are too busy, or dislike a gym, or don’t have enough discpline it really works.
    And then I walk my dog and do tai chi (which I love)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hamamelis, what an excellent concept and how wonderful that you put it into action (which is where most people fail). Congratulations.
      I can absolutely see how that way of working out suits busy, time-poor people in this day and age. I hope you do bring it over to the UK.
      I can’t cope with high intensity but interval training has been a good compromise for me.
      I think I’d love Tai Chi too.


  12. Thank you for this Tara, you and Val inspire me. So grateful I got to spend some time together with you both.
    We need to care for ourselves physically emotionally spiritually and when out of balance we don’t fulfill our own potential.
    I can imagine how hard it was the first day at the gym, I haven’t been for years I remember I enjoyed it at the time.


    • “When we are out of balance we don’t fulfil our own potential” – wise words Anna Maria.

      I vividly remember that first day at the gym and how I kept telling myself “This is the hardest it will be”. Part of it is just building up confidence and getting used to the surroundings.

      We’re lucky we all got to meet.


  13. I really dislike any form of physical activity and if I could I would have stayed motionless 😉 But since I cannot, I’m trying my best to do at least something. These days it’s a 40-minute swim in the pool once a week and 30-40-minutes walk 1-2 times a week. I know that I need to be more active but I can’t make myself.

    Valerie is great! (maybe I should discuss my in-activity with her? 😉 ) And I think that you’ve made amazing progress in the last year. Keep going!


    • Oh I’m with you, Undina. It took a lot to get me off the sofa after not doing any regular exercise for pretty much 20 years.
      I’d say you have nothing to reproach yourself for. I’m sure even Val would agree that your swimming and walking routine is fantastic. However, if you want a motivator, there’s none better.
      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I am so happy at the physical and mental changes that going to the gym has brought about for you. You do look great on it, and Val is indeed a wonderful role model.

    I used to belong to a gym and there was a time when I was in the zone and going regularly, yet even then I was still a bit ambivalent and sometimes didn’t feel like making the effort. And in the end it was the cost that made me have to cancel and that is what puts me off a number of classes I could do you like Pilates and yoga et cetera. However, like some of the other people who have commented, I do enjoy walking and I am gradually getting back into running – or will do now my project is over – and hopefully swimming is the next goal. I like swimming, and it is probably the cheapest form of paid exercise.


    • Oh, I gave the lawn its first cut of the year the other day, and it was very hard pushing the mower. So I thought to myself: ‘This may count as resistance training!’


    • Oh yes, I think swimming would be perfect for you. At least you don’t need to do it for weight reasons. Too much cardio and you’d be in danger of disappearing completely when you turned sideways.

      I can imagine that for people working from home, it’s especially beneficial to get out of the house and move your body. Good riddance to that rotten work project!


  15. Time always goes slower at the gym, it’s a known phenomenon… I simply call it ‘gym time’. It’s at least two seconds per one second of real time. In a treadmill, even longer…

    I started running in July 2015 and really enjoy it. It’s a bit hard on the ankles though… But I always feel better for a run. I should have taken it up when I was studying – that’s the time I could have used some headspace, might have avoided an anxiety attack or two…

    Nice article Tara. xxxx

    Tina G


  16. Annette

    Well done Tara, for getting up and going! It is harder than it sounds to make the effort and it sure is paying off for you. Right now I make do with the exercise bike but love to swim in the summer. Perhaps I’ll join the local gym with pool and try to get fitter. Keep going.


    • Annette, I honestly think the only reason I’m managing it is that I get changed at work and go straight from there (it’s just across the road). If I went from home I’d find it near impossible to leave the house!

      Oh do start swimming if you love it. It will be so good for you in so many ways. You’ll never regret it.


  17. Hi Tara. I loved this post and your honesty as exercise does not come naturally to everyone. I know that it is a serious mood booster and as soon as I feel stressed, grumpy or sad I head out and walk by the sea. It’s pretty easy to do as it’s just over the road but even then it takes a push sometimes. Also I love the gym, not only do I feel better mentally but when I go regularly (which is not all the time) I feel stronger in my body and more connected to it somehow. Plus I love spin classes – I just go full on in them in a way I don’t do when I’m on a real bike plus I love the usually cheesy pumping music that gives me a real adrenalin high! Keep it up. I’m trying yoga next though for the opposite experience I imagine.


    • Hi Megan,
      Oh to have the sea over the road! Nothing beats a walk along the coastline.
      It’s great that you love the gym and I really admire you for doing spin classes – they scare me 🙂 Starting to run is pushing me harder though.
      Yoga is excellent for working the body in a totally different way and also builds on that mind-body connection.
      I totally agree about how good it is to feel stronger in your body. I’m only just starting to get that and it’s great.


      • Tara I know how lucky I am with the sea over the road, it’s the first time ever in my life and unfortunately not for too much longer, but I do know how that in itself is great for calming my mind. A stint living on a coast is highly recommended!


        • That’s probably why most people migrate to the coast for their holidays. So good for body and soul on many levels.

          At least you’ve appreciated it while it’s been so near. I hope you love your next home town as much, even if it’s for different reasons.


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