Some unexpected things happened during my fitness journey.
I was initially doing it to get rid of body fat and tone up, but about a month into it, after doing hard cardio almost 6 days a week, I found my energy levels had massively increased. I’d work out and then have just as much and sometimes even more energy afterwards than when I began.
The second thing was the stress release. OH. MY. GOD. The stress release, there is nothing like it. Cardiovascular exercise gets the heart pumping and the body sweating. It counteracts cortisol, the stress hormone, and releases feel good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
When you reach a certain level of intensity in cardio (the level differs person to person), the brain releases endorphins, its natural painkillers, and that’s when you experience the fabled ‘runners high’.
Endorphin release can be addictive (psychologically, rather than chemically), it’s the same chemical that opiates stimulate, and exercise can become psychologically addictive because of the natural release of these chemicals in the brain. They feel so good when you experience them during exercise that you want to experience them again. Or, at least, I did.
I became quite addicted to working out, but it levelled me out – released all the negativity and stress from daily life, gave me more energy than I ever thought possible and as an added bonus, gave me a fairly nice-ish physique.
The most unexpected thing to me, however, was how my muscles changed their response to exercise after about 6 months.
Muscle memory is a known and documented phenomenon. Through repeated action, neural links, motor skills and processes of muscle movement strengthen until those movements can be carried out with little thought or effort. In this case, the muscles will respond as they did to the movement through the power of sheer repetition.
In other words, I worked out often enough that my muscles began remembering how to best cope with the movements while still gaining the most benefit from them. In fitness circles, this process is often known to take 6 months or so.
The practical effect is that now, even though I don’t workout as much as I used to, when I do exercise, my muscles go back to what they were (the photo on the right at the top of this page) very, very quickly.
This is the essence of muscle memory in working out. I now have to put in minimal effort to get the same result. A result which once took me 6 months of hard graft and dedication to achieve I can now achieve again in 2–3 weeks.
Of course, I must mention here, if I want to improve my physique in a way I haven’t yet already done, such as bulk up, I’ll have to do something I haven’t done before and train my muscles again, which will again take 6 months of repetition and process.
Personal Fitness Goals
Everyone has a slightly different notion of their ideal body type.
I wanted to be lean and cut. Some want to add body mass and have huge muscles. Some want to get fit for endurance’s sake to run marathons. Some want pure strength without a care for how their physique looks.
Before embarking on any kind of fitness journey, it’s useful to ask oneself;
‘What is my ideal fitness level?’
Then speak to people in the field who know what they’re talking about. Don’t just talk to one personal trainer and dive in head first. Speak to trainers, nutritionists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, anyone with professional knowledge.
I was lucky. I have a friend who’s a personal trainer, my mum’s a dietitian and I see an osteopath who has 30 years experience in fitness and sports injuries.
We are all different. Everyones body, strengths, needs and goals are different and the best approach, by far, is an individualised one.
I did the Insanity Workout, yes, but I mixed it with bodyweight strength training (chin ups and dips), yoga and pilates. I did so on the advice of people who had professional knowledge, who looked at my body and my movements and advised the best course of action.