Gym Rats Who Used to Be Lazy Explain How They Started Working Out

gym rat
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Gym rats aren't born. Nor are they mutated from a pile of radioactive waste in a sewer. That would be too easy.

See, gym rats aren't magical creatures who simply don't know what "lazy" even means. No, these ridiculously capable men and women just hit a wall one day and made a decision to be better. Here's how a few of them did it.

Big life changes lead to more big life changes

One of the research papers I wrote while finishing my master's degree in exercise science pointed pretty convincingly to how, during times of major life change, it's possible to ingrain new habits, whether healthy or unhealthy. Going away to college, starting a new job, getting married, having a baby -- all of these upheavals are opportunities for personal reinvention, and they're often the times when people take on or break bad health habits.

Tiffany Trill, an account executive in South Florida, has seen both sides of the coin. "My senior year of college consisted of free beer, meal plans at my sorority house, and late-night pizza runs. I wasn't looking my best to say the least! After I graduated, I moved to South Florida, where most girls seem to weigh 2lb. That, combined with the year-round bathing suit season, and I was ready to make a change."

It was then she made a decision to commit to the gym, although she admits at first it wasn't easy. "I joined Orangetheory Fitness. It was a long road, and I'm not going to lie, I was absolutely miserable the first two months. I was mainly motivated from the results I saw -- I was able to fit into my old clothes again, didn't have to ask friends to edit pictures, and my confidence went up all around. It's been a year, and I've dropped almost 20lb!"

Now, she's not just motivated by the personal improvements she's experienced, but by the people she's surrounded by during her workouts. "The 'squad' and I are constantly pushing each other to reach that new goal and be the best we can be in the gym. The trainers, fellow gym-goers, and the results I've experienced all combine to give me the strength to keep going at 6:30am each morning."

Never underestimate the power of Facebook memories

Some of the absolute best, card-carrying lazy people weren't always lazy. Just think about a few of the contestants from The Biggest Loser -- former Olympic athletes and NFL stars who hung up their uniforms and headed straight to the couch. Not a bad gig if you can get it, but not exactly great for the abs, either.

Consider Ty Gates, a 25-year-old PR executive, among this crowd. "I was in the best shape of my life after I graduated college in 2014. I worked out religiously six days a week from 2014 to 2015 while holding a full-time job in fashion."

That changed in 2016 when he relocated for a tech-focused job in San Francisco, where work began to consume his life. "My evenings transitioned from running a mile and working out for an hour to binge-watching Mad Men and drinking craft beer. If I wasn't finishing client work, I was out with my friends."

It wasn't until Facebook served him a memory of his ripped, college-days body that he decided enough was enough. "Following a solid five minutes of crying in front of the mirror, I bought a gym membership."

The one true advantage he had? He was a former gym rat. "Thankfully, 'college me' documented all my workouts and monthly recaps (weight, areas to improve, and cardio I liked), so I opened up my notes and was able to get back to what I was doing before." These days, he's spending more time doing high-intensity workouts, such as plyometrics, along with recovery routines, including stretching, than lifting weights, but he's back to a steady habit, and that's what really matters.

Sometimes it's all about finding the right goals

The #bodylove revolution has been a wonderful thing. It's given men and women the confidence to love and appreciate themselves at any size, shape, or fitness level. That's a good thing.

Self-confidence is wonderful, but there's a potential side effect: If you think you look pretty good (and I hope you do!), you may not be as motivated to work out if your motivations are typically grounded in the physical benefits of fitness.

That's more or less the experience of Lia, a San Francisco Bay Area travel blogger. "I always wanted to develop a gym habit, I'd just never been able to stick to it. There was literally a free gym in my building for me to use whenever I wanted, and I still didn't use it for years. Previously, my goal for going to the gym was the basic lose weight/feel better/be healthier schlep that everyone knows they should do but nobody actually cares enough to do. Besides, wanting to look better isn't terribly motivating when you already think you're attractive."

Lia changed her mindset when she decided she wanted to be stronger so she could do more fun things, like hiking, rock climbing, and surfing. "I gave myself goals to train for, gains to make rather than weight to lose, and that was much more exciting for me. I took up powerlifting and found that it was insanely addictive and so much fun! When you first start out, everything feels heavy, even the bar, but every time you lift it successfully, your body adapts to be a little bit stronger, and the next time you work out, you're able to lift more."

It didn't take long before Lia was hooked. "Before I knew it, I was hitting the gym five days a week, loading on as much protein as I could, and looking forward to my workout as the highlight of my day." She explains that she also found a workout schedule that worked for her lifestyle. "I started working out at lunch, during a time slot I'd otherwise just be sitting at a desk, shoving food in my face. This way I didn't have to wake up early and I didn't have to give up my nightly Netflix-and-chill habit. I'd drink pre-workout at 11:30, lift like crazy in the gym for an hour, and cram protein while sitting on my desk and working after lunch."

At the end of the day, it's the results that keep her in the gym... and the results she's referring to have nothing to do with weight. "I love flexing and seeing my new muscles pop out. My body looks and feels incredibly different. I love the feeling of power and strength, and I love challenging myself outside the gym with harder hikes and physically demanding activities."

And really, that's the whole point. Being fit isn't about fitting into a certain size, but about fitting into the life you've always dreamed of.

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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and fitness writer who, once upon a time, spent her free time reading books and stuffing her face with pounds of pretzels. No exaggeration. There were witnesses. Now you can connect with her on Twitter @girlsgonesporty.