Some things that are lost can be regained, and that’s what 2021 proved to me. It gave me the opportunity to regain most of the years’ worth of progress I’ve lost in 2020—in three months! Here’s my journey.
I started documenting my journey in January as I knew I was at the bottom of my fitness. I barely did any exercise since the pandemic started and so my muscles shrank along with my strength. Clothes that used to fit tightly on me became loose. Some things that were easy became heavier. It became obvious when I started returning to the gym as I revered to half the weight I used to start with.
As there was no vaccine yet, I was very cautious and I was only visiting the gym during traditional off-peak times, only twice a week. Each routine reminded me of how much strength I lost so I was just lifting to stop further loss of strength. As I was establishing a weekly routine, the gyms were closed again. Their operations were on and off so it was really a challenge to create a habit.
As I got vaccinated later in the year, my confidence grew and I got motivated to really push myself not just to stop muscle entropy but also regain my strength. It was quite difficult at first as everything felt like it was the first time. I was only really able to discipline myself and go to the gym regularly by the start of the last quarter. I was going at least four times a week—enough to cover my entire body twice.
It was quite a slow start, especially when you keep monitoring after each session. My body fat doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and my strength doesn’t seem to be improving much. What’s worse was having cramps in just about every muscle whenever I try to lift heavier, thus forcing me to stop exercising. But as I was already lifting relatively light weights, I decided to be humble and focus on my execution instead of weight (avoiding “ego lifting”). And then I started changing my routines with those that I used to do, essentially having almost different sets of exercise each time I do a body part. As weeks progress, my cramps eventually went away.
Though I was seeing some subtle changes by November, it wasn’t until December when I really saw improvements, both in my muscle size and strength. I was starting to be able to lift my starting weight pre-pandemic for my last set. Surprisingly, my muscles also grew almost back to their pre-pandemic sizes! By the last week of the year, I was able to lift my pre-pandemic weights in some routines and restored my size! It’s just the fat around my midsection that’s proving to be stubborn.
As my advice to myself and others, “trust the process.” Once you’ve established routines that you know should work, just do the work even if you don’t see immediate results. And relying on discipline and habit worked well over motivation. I can safely say that I had absolutely no motivation in at least half of the times I worked out—it was discipline and force of habit that brought myself into the gym. Once you’re there, what else are you going to do?
2021 isn’t exactly a better year than 2020 but it at least gave us a chance to recover and enjoy some things that the pandemic took away. I’m thankful that I didn’t give up despite losing hope several times in the year, and that fortunately my hard work paid off before the year ended. Hopefully, my momentum continues unimpeded in 2022.