6 Truths I Wish I Knew When I Started Working Out


When I first started going to the gym my workouts would comprise of mainly two things: cardio machines and ab workouts. This was all I knew and no, I never did get those shredded abs (which obviously was my goal at 17).

Fast forward over a decade and my training couldn’t be further from where I started. Not only am I physically stronger, but I feel I’ve achieved that “toned” look I desired (still no abs I’m afraid). I’m also mentally much more satisfied with who I am. Of course some of this just comes with age, but I’d argue that the gym has really been the place that has fostered a lot of this emotional growth.

I would have loved more information whilst I was trying to figure out what worked for my body. Nowadays we have SO much information that it is even harder to figure out what works.

So I thought I’d help a sister out and give you some tips on things I wish I knew when I started..

  1. Light weights won’t “tone” you.

    When you’re a beginner, light weights will help you create some strength and muscle but squatting with 3kg weights 4 months on is NOT going to create the progressive overload** you actually want, and need, to get results (the “tone” you desire). Lifting at a resistance that is physically challenging is what will help you, I’m talking red-faced, sweating and out of breath. You need muscle to look toned and those light weights aren’t going to help you get that muscle. Walk away from the pink weights, trust me.

    NOTE: There is no ‘toning zone’, no ‘toning exercises’, no ‘toning foods’ to eat and no, doing really high reps won’t get you ‘toned’ either. Muscle - fat = tone. That’s it.

  2. You are not just legs, abs and a booty - TRAIN EVERYTHING

    I get it, as women we have areas we’d like to improve so we think we should only target these areas. We also think that if we trained our upper body we’d walk out of the gym looking super masculine. Training your whole body is necessary to not only use more energy (the more muscles you recruit the more energy used) but to create a BALANCED individual. Plus, we all want good posture right? Ain’t nobody want to be the hunchback of Notre Dame when they’re 80 and you can’t help those rounded shoulders by doing pulse lunges.. Sorry.

  3. In order to get results, you have to EAT

    This is still a difficult one to process for many.. “But if I don’t eat a lot then I will lose weight right?” Wrong. When you’re lifting weights (which is what you’ll be doing, right?) you aim to break down muscle fibres. Your body will go about repairing these and making them stronger IF you fuel it with what it needs. Plus, your body needs calories to live. Period. Speaking of period, if you’re exercising excessively and not eating? Your period might be something that you lose. (Despite how annoying they are we kind of want them to hang around).

  4. Targeting your ‘problem’ areas isn’t a thing…

    Firstly, yes it’s natural to have areas of ourselves that we’d like to improve on. That’s awesome you want to change and grow! But speaking negatively about yourself over and over again can be really unhealthy and begin to seep into other areas of your life.

    Secondly, we can’t just do 1000 ab exercises and expect we’ll get a 6 pack (hard pill to swallow I know). Each individual is going to hold onto fat in different areas, genetics has a LOT to do with this. But, if you train your whole body with resistance that challenges your muscles, then your bodies going to work at burning more energy and hopefully, that may reduce fat in areas your body is holding it in excess.

  5. Cardio is great, but it’s not everything.

    Lets just have a little think about your body. You are a skeleton, that is connected by hundreds of muscles, ligaments and tendons all holding us together. Wouldn’t you want this partnership to be really strong to support your structure? If you have cardio goals (you want to run a half marathon?) then training with weights is going to HELP your muscles support your skeleton as you pound the pavement.

  6. Not all exercises are created equal.

    There is no “best” way to train but there are definitely “better” ways to approach exercise. At Treign we like to think of our end goal as being ‘hard to kill’. So what does that mean? We do exercises that help us be the strongest and most resilient human we can be. We lift weights at varying rep and weight ranges, combined with movements that challenge our cardiovascular system both anaerobic (power, speed) and aerobic (endurance). Doing only yoga or a bodyweight bikini guide can be great if you enjoy them, but it’s just not enough when it comes to the longevity of your health.

As with most things, you have to experience it for yourself for truths to really kick in. I wish I knew these things when I was younger. It took me years to finally pick up any weights, and more years on top of that to turn it up a notch and add some weight to a barbell. But it’s also never too late to decide that being strong and capable is not only what you desire but a necessity for a healthy life.

** Progressive Overload: In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.

Peta X

Melanie Corlett