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It took recording my fitness to start seeing progress

Kelly Tompkins

You should do it too.

Photo by Andy Lee on Unsplash

I’ve been weight lifting off and on(mostly on, I swear!) for about three and a half years. It was something that I did when my boyfriend and I started dating. It’s actually kind of funny; he invited me once and when I saw how much I could lift in the beginning, I was hooked. It didn’t hurt that it was something I could do with someone that I was starting to get really interested in that didn’t involve sitting at a bar. It’d be a win-win for me because I’d get gains and find out more about this special human.

I was so jaded by a culture that spent more time recording their experiences than living them that I didn’t see other possibilities.

We went to the gym three times a week in the beginning and have kept that up for our entire relationship.

As everyone knows, there’s a special type of person who also works out at the gym. They spend the entire time on their phones, taking selfies or recording themselves for the internet. They’d be that dude bro, or dude chick, who would stand in front of the mirror after a lift and record themselves flexing or doing a fitness pose. They would be the people that wouldn’t be caught wearing baggy sweatpants or a stained shirt from a trip to Hawaii three years ago.

I never considered recording myself because I didn’t want to be that person. Those people were just full of themselves, right?

If I could go back in time and tell myself what a mistake that was, I totally would. It was a narrow mindset to think that recording would always only equal a massive ego. I was so jaded by a culture that spent more time recording their experiences than living them that I didn’t see other possibilities. I could have gotten a lot stronger and wouldn’t have wrecked my back like I did doing deadlifts a year ago. I still can’t lift as much as I want because of that injury. If I had recorded myself, I could have seen that I rounded my back a little too much and I could have prevented all of it. Maybe.

But this isn’t about regrets. This is about the huge gains I’ve seen once I started recording my workouts. I even started an Instagram account so that I could see in one place how much I’ve achieved.

I’m going to be up front about my weight lifting experience. When I started, my squat game was not great. Even my boyfriend was surprised because he thought I would have been able to lift a lot on my first attempt. I had some beefy legs from years of playing tennis and Dance Dance Revolution so I was also pretty surprised. Three years later and I could not get above 100 pounds.

Until I started recording. I immediately saw a few things that I had been doing wrong with my squat. The biggest mistakes were rounding my back a little and not keeping my wrists straight. And guess what? I started correcting those mistakes and now I’m at 135 pounds. Still not great for three years of lifting but I’m comfortable knowing that I’m not going to injure myself.

It’s a little boost to my ego too to look at past recordings where I was struggling to even get 95 pounds and see myself easily(ha) doing 135. Sometimes we can get caught up on getting better and lose sight of the progress we’ve made. But there’s my Instagram account, letting me know that I’m not only getting stronger, I’m looking stronger too.

I also made it a personal goal to be able to do one unassisted pull up and dip. I’ve been doing workouts to progress to one and I’ve been recording it as well. Dips started with two resistance bands and I’ve already moved to just one.

This also comes from posting to Instagram but recording your workouts makes you want to get better. I didn’t want to keep posting the same recording of me doing dips with two resistance bands, I wanted to show progress. Even if I didn’t think I could do it, I still wanted to show that I was trying so I removed one of the bands. And I got it. I’m now on one band and hope to move down to a lower resistance band soon.

But it isn’t just weight lifting, I also record my bouldering attempts. I’m at a point in bouldering that I need to work on my technique more than strength. Seeing those videos helps me pinpoint the little things that I could improve that would go a long way. It can feel like something’s off and once you see it on video, it’s easy to pick out what went wrong.

It’s not a requirement that you record your workouts. I would have kept progressing, albeit slowly, even without recording myself. But you’ll get faster gains if you do. It also doesn’t hurt seeing the videos of your progression. They will give you an ego boost in the moments when you feel like you haven’t done enough.

My biggest advice: don’t be like me and get worked up over the idea that only narcissistic people record themselves working out. And try to stay positive when you record yourself. It can be easy to pick every video apart and find all of the things that are wrong about what you’re doing or what you look like. You’re doing this for you though, you need to keep that in mind. It doesn’t matter what people think when they see you doing it. Notice that you’re progressing every time you look at a recording of yourself.

I can’t wait to see what you’re capable of.

Original author: Kelly Tompkins
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