Gym and Diet Journey Pt.1 (Gym)

Gym dictionary

db = dumbbell

bb = barbell

SS = superset

rom = range of motion

rdl = romanian deadlift

pr = personal record

AMRAP = as many reps as possible

tut = time under tension

doms = delayed onset muscle soreness

HIIT = high intensity interval training

LISS = low intensity steady state

I've avoided going to the gym my entire life because I find it so boring to run in place or in circles, and lift weights. I was much more of a sports gal - I preferred being outside and doing something interactive. But now that I have a desk job I've been trying to find a fitness method that helps me keep in shape and actually enjoy it. I feel like I've tried every form of fitness ever and finally found something that works for me, for now. Below are some learnings and tips.

Most common fitness methods

Barry's / HIIT / Rumble

  • what: heavy cardio style, high rep weights

  • pros: 1) peer pressure to work hard 2) sunk monetary cost, you have to do the workout because someone is yelling at you 3) can buy expensive smoothies after

  • cons: 1) expensive (~$40/class!) 2) cardio focused

Solidcore / Pilates

  • what: LISS style workouts focused on lighter weights and more holding positions and maintaining tension

  • pros: 1) good for toning and building strength slowly 2) much more low intensity

  • cons: 1) expensive (~$45+/class!) 2) learning curve to figuring out all the machines and how to do the exercises properly

No equipment / light weights at home work outs

  • what: following app-based or youtube-based workouts (s/o to Kayla ItSines the OG lol)

  • pros: 1) super accessible time-wise and money-wise 2) can choose difficulty and type

  • cons: 1) needs high level of self motivation 2) hard to follow a program


  • what: pretty self explanatory

  • pros: best at building muscle

  • cons: 1) weightlifting area is scary / don't know how to use weights and machines 2) hard to find a program that suits you

Incline walking

  • what: the famous 12-3-30 pioneered by Lauren Giraldo or tbh any form of incline walking (12 incline, speed 3, for 30 minutes)

  • pros: 1) low intensity cardio, better for cortisol level management 2) accessible as long as you have a treadmill

  • cons: 1) low key tough on the knees 2) cardio focused

I basically tried all of the above in that order. I didn't like Barry's because I was spending way too much money and I honestly hate cardio. I was trying very hard for MONTHS to convince myself I could do it and even paid the literal price. I tried Solidcore / Pilates too in hopes it would be more suitable and I definitely liked it more but the pricing is kind of ridiculous because I wanted to work out more than once a week without lighting my wallet on fire. Also, I fell asleep during a session because I don't think I was doing the exercises right. At home exercises honestly required way too much self discipline - I realized I'd just shut off the Youtube after 10 minutes because I was always tired. This brings me to what worked for me: weightlifting and walking!

I was initially nervous to try weightlifting because I didn't know how any machine worked. I didn't care as much about how the room was mostly guys - my whole life I've been in male dominated arenas.

My weightlifting tips

You're not going to get jacked in 2 seconds and look like a male weight lifter calm down.

Weightlifting comes in many shapes and forms. You have to eat a very specific clean diet and follow a program in order to end up looking like a weightlifter after at least half a year. I work a desk job and don't have that much time and also do not want to live that kind of life. I've been doing weightlifting for maybe 5 ish months and have definitely gained strength and muscle tone but am no where NEAR looking "jacked". Don't use this as an excuse!

Follow a program to give yourself some structure.

I downloaded the Sweat app to follow a program and give me a structure in the gym so I wasn't awkwardly sitting or standing there. Over time I deleted the app because I knew of the exercises that worked best for me. I also watched tons of youtube videos and Tik toks to get ideas of what to do and different variations of exercises. On leg days try to do the same thing and slowly increase your weights (called compound overload) - same with arm days, back days, etc. I will say on this topic, girls / guys super into weightlifting will tell you to keep progressing. That is possible if you eat properly and consistently work out. Don't be discouraged if you are not “progressing as quickly” as people you see on social media - everyone's lifestyles are different!

Pick exercises that work for you.

Not all exercises work best for you and it is okay to pick ones you like. I do not like lunges because they hurt my knees but a lot of people say it's great for leg days. I'd alter lunges to goblet squats, etc.

If you are shy, start with dumbbell oriented exercises near a bench.

If you are shy like me, start off doing dumbbell oriented exercises near a bench. You can stay in 1 place and get a good workout in too! I figured out how to use machines very gradually in times when the gym was more empty but I wish I was more shameless. My favorite db exercises: rows, triceps, bench press, arnold press, bicep curls, side and front raises, sumo squat, RDL, hip thrusts, bulgarians, step ups, goblet squats, lateral lunges, weighted ab exercises. Easiest machines to use: smith machine / free squat machine, squat press machine, ropes and bars to push and pull.

Form over weight.

Seriously. It's fun increasing the weight because it is easy to track progress. But if your posture is shit because you're not actually ready to go up in weights then you'll injure yourself and that sucks WAY more.

Abs are built in the kitchen and via engaging your core while doing other exercises.

Tensing your abs while doing exercises for your legs / arms / back etc. will build your abs without actually doing a formal ab circuit. You don't actually need to do targeted abs exercises and I personally don't like to but they're good for some quick tone up. Some Youtubers I like are Pamela Reif, Daisy Keech, and Lily Sabri. 10 minutes a couple times a week and I have abs!

You need to do days targeting your arms / back to build a well rounded toned figure.

Constantly hitting leg day is not really going to get you anywhere. Plus, I find upper body days tangentially help my abs more.

It is important to switch up your routine and increase weights over time (called compound overload).

This is the whole point of weightlifting and building muscle. Every 6-8 weeks try a new routine whether it's focusing on new exercises, higher reps, etc. Your body gets used to a type of exercise and will plateau over time even if you are not necessarily trying to aim to constantly build muscle. It's kinda like how flu vaccines change over time because the flu virus adapts.

Rest days are super important!

Don't hit arm day or leg day 5 days in a row. Your muscles need time to recover, repair, and grow. If you're constantly pulling and tearing at muscle you'll actually find your progress significantly slower than if you just did arm or leg day 2-3 times a week max.

Recovery, mobility, and warm up are KEY.

I used to not care much about this but not only am I older, I feel like my body is creaking. If you don't do some stretches and warm up before or after your sessions you will build muscle slower AND on top of tight joints and probably injure yourself at some point. Not worth it. Also good if you sit in front of a desk all day which I do. You can search up some online mobility exercises to help with warming up your muscles and hips before starting squats and presses.

When you do cardio matters.

Doing cardio before can be a great warm up and way to get your heart rate up. Doing it after, however, helps burn fat a lot more effectively. I tend to do it after, and I do incline walking because I freaking hate running and have pretty bad cardiovascular strength. I'm much better at walking and find it much more enjoyable. I'd like to say I do 12-3-30 every time but honestly I do not - it's more 12-3-15 on average.

Walking is life!

If you can't work out or don't want to, and it's the weekend, just try to walk as much as possible. Tons of people lose weight walking, but even beyond that it's just a great exercise that you can get in very easily and not feel like it's a "workout". Especially if you can walk a dog or get some Vitamin D, it is just super healthy for you. I would say target 10k steps a day but honestly a bit unrealistic if you have a demanding corporate job so just do what you can!

Motivation sometimes requires fun workout gear, or whatever you need to get your butt in the gym.

I used to wear bleh clothes but once I got some cute ones from Amazon I felt a lot more excited to go the gym and flex in the mirror with all the bros. lol jk

Gym etiquette.

Honestly a lot of people don't have it. Don't linger around someone waiting for them to be done with their sets - ask them if you really want to. Put away your gear when you're done and wipe them down. Don't take up 5000 square feet of space. Don't be loudly calling someone while other people are trying to be in the zone. Of course you could just not give a shit but then everyone will hate you so.

Muscle building requires a good diet. This brings me to my next section!

Suggestions for ways to start getting active

  • Classpass - easy way to try different classes

  • Gym membership / Equinox (worth if you plan on basically living and showering at the gym haha!)

  • Building Gym - yes this increases your rent but if you go a lot, then you actually save money and time

  • Yoga mat + free weights + bala (to make yourself feel cool and hip)

  • Youtube

I'd say though - health is 70% diet and 30% fitness.