5 ways fitness taught me to love myself

This is a post by PumpUp member Claire Kane (@voltafitness), qualified fitness instructor, sports nutritionist, and the brains behind VoltaFitness

“She Loves Herself” usually has negative connotations; arrogance, a judgmental nature, vain, attention seeking. I think it’s time we changed that, don’t you?

My Fitness Journey, particularly the last 6 or 7 months, has taught me that loving yourself is a positive thing; it makes life more enjoyable, makes it easier to get on with other people and it makes it easier to make decisions that will improve your life.

1.     It taught me how phenomenal my body is

Fitness is a great way to get to know your body. When I say phenomenal I don’t mean “bodacious”. I mean it is an extraordinary and interesting thing that is capable of a lot of movements and reactions, and so is everyone else’s body.

Learning that my body can deadlift a load I would never have thought of attempting to move has made me appreciate it so much more. Learning that feeding it the right foods and training it in the right ways will get to respond the way I want it to has rendered me awestricken. When you think something is awesome or even intriguing you realise how outstanding it is and learn to love it. I can now look in the mirror without dread and shame and trust me, this has been the biggest part of the battle.

2.     It taught me to appreciate the idea of “rest”

Any of my friends, family or colleagues will tell you that I am a worrier; perpetually anxious and almost afraid to not work or do something to keep myself busy. I would socialise, work and write myself into the ground to the point where I could hardly produce the energy to meet friends for coffee.

Learning the importance of “rest and recovery” in training made me realise how important it is in the rest of my life.  That’s why we have annual leave in work, it’s why we take vacations; we need to slow down and take a break from the daily grind regularly to ensure that we are really benefiting from what we are doing. I now make time to read non-fitness and work related books and blogs every night before bed, I pick days when I will promise myself a pamper session or a lazy day and I consciously make more time for the little enjoyable things like watching a TV show or going out with friends and I am so much better for it.

3.     It taught me to be mindful

Fitness is a form of mindfulness, especially strength training. If allows you focus on one thing; getting through your sets and completing each rep. It is the one time in a lot of dedicated trainers’ days when they put their worries behind them and that is honestly the best thing you can do.

Being Mindful is to be consciously aware of how you feel, what you are doing and your surroundings and it is important to practice so you don’t get caught in a whirlwind of negative emotions and anxieties. It is, essentially, one of the most important things you can do to look after yourself.

4.     It taught me to put myself first

Whether as a result of being focused on my goals, the advice of my trainer or the people I have come across on social media I have learned that it is not a bad thing to put yourself first.

I am a firm believer that an inherently good person will always be available to help and to listen when someone needs them. I have learned, however, through fitness in one way or another, that putting yourself first does not make you a bad person either.

It’s ok to say “no” to plans, it’s ok to say you can’t go because you want to train and it is ok to decide you are no longer going to put up with someone or something if it will benefit you.

5.     It made me more aware of my mental health

Ok. Time to get heavy. There was a time when I was only happy during and after a training session. For a while this felt normal, it was a very welcome release, but when I became more aware of the contrast between how I felt when I was training and how I felt the rest of the day I realised there was something else wrong. As well as helping me realise that there was an issue, Fitness kept me going while I tried to figure out what was going on and how I could fix it.

Because I was more aware of my mental health and triggers in my life that made me feel bad, to put it gently, I eventually developed the tools and the wherewithal practice a little self-love, take care of my mind as well as my body and start creating a more positive life for more self.

Has training taught you to appreciate and take care of yourself more?

You can follow my journey, lap up my advice and consider my motivation over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as on my blog www.voltafitness.co and on PumpUp. I’d love to hear from you.