Taking one rep at a time by Rory Finn
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Rory Finn, Trans Can Sport Co-founder and Trans Awareness Manager discusses fitness, motivation and why there's no such thing as a bad workout.
There’s a motivational slogan painted on the wall of my gym, ‘the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do’. As corporate motivational quotes go, it’s a good one. Often I don’t feel all that comfortable in the gym, especially if it’s busy, so reading that slogan whilst I’m on the mat having a warm-up stretch keeps me focused and I think to myself, “Making it here was an achievement, well done me. I’ll do a few dumbbell presses and then I’m done. At least I’ll have done something”. Forty-five minutes later and several unplanned exercises under my belt, I realise I feel a bit better. Not only have I done a complete workout despite feeling rubbish, but now the endorphins have made an appearance and a sense of calm has come over me.
The power of exercise on my mental health and wellbeing has been the prime motivation for me to keep active. I notice it if I don’t do anything for a while. It usually takes a week of not exercising for me to become noticeably agitated or sad without a reason and life becomes more testing. That’s when I know I need to get moving.
These days people see me as quite a sporty person, but despite that I still really struggle to get going sometimes. I dare say that pressure actually helps me return to the gym as I need to keep up appearances. A kind of positive shaming. But as appearances go, it’s a more healthy habit in the grand scheme of things. It’s become a hobby of mine. Something to do of a Monday evening or a Saturday morning. When I work out with a buddy it’s a place to socialise. When I go along to a Trans Can Sport session it’s a place to try something new and not feel so different to everyone else. When I am being active I get into a zone. That focus, be it on my breathing, counting, balance or laughing with my friends, helps me step out of my anxiety head for a moment. My heart is beating and the blood is pumping around my body and I know I’m alive. That being connected to my body is a really powerful thing. It’s taken a long time to start loving my body. Shots of testosterone and surgery has been crucial in achieving this, but by no means the only thing.
I find sport to be very empowering. Knowing I that I am getting stronger and fitter. I’m setting goals and working towards them. I find I am standing taller, with more confidence than I used to. It helps me to feel my worth. And in small ways it helps me support others, like spotting my buddy as they do bench press or holding the pads for someone to pound out a few punches. That teamwork connects us. I’ve become a role model to friends too. It’s a strange place to be for me, given I spent years being unfit and unhealthy; exercise was lifting pints in the pub. I certainly didn’t eat well and my mental health has been up and mostly down for as long as I can remember.
The road to changing all that has been challenging. I love a competition, even with myself, so I’ve built up a system of mental gymnastics to keep me going.
Firstly, in the back of my head I have a parent telling me to go, that it’ll be good for me. This is proven every time I do anything (notwithstanding injuries, which seem to be an inevitable as I age!) I can’t recall a single time when getting active has made me feel worse. Granted sometimes my mood doesn’t improve, but I’ve not lost anything, bar a few calories (which will come in handy later).
I try to keep things down to small manageable chunks. For example my cycle home from work last week. It had been an unproductive day and I was stressed. It’s a quick ten minutes along the seafront. But instead of turning off at Grand Avenue, I thought I would continue on to the King Alfred centre, which then became Hove Lagoon and before I knew it I was all the way down at Shoreham Power station. My short cycle home now had become a ten mile cycle in the sunshine and I felt so much better for it. If I’m in the gym and I’m not feeling it, I’ll set myself the goal of five minutes on a cardio machine. That is usually enough to get me thinking, “Well I’m here now, I may as well do one other thing...”
Finally I don’t beat myself up if I don’t feel up to it. As long as I’ve tried then there’s no failure. A walk to and from work counts. Even a quick walk to Tesco for a pint of milk and a chocolate bar counts (which those lost calories can help pay for!)
I have to keep pushing myself and be responsible for my wellbeing. No one else is going to do it for me. I do exercise primarily for my mental health and everything else that comes with it is a bonus. So now I’m definitely of the opinion, the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do.