Shaver starts going to the gym, staying healthy

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Reprinted with permission from Sydney Shaver

Shaver takes a picture at the gym to see her progress and feel more confident. “I’ve been trying to focus less on observing physical progress in my body and more on if I can lift heavier weight as the weeks progress and if I feel stronger and more energized in my everyday life. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to see a physical transformation, which can create a toxic relationship to fitness. I take these pictures to feel confident in how hard I’ve worked,” Shaver said.

Riley Thompson, Page Editor

Staying healthy, physically and mentally, alongside eating well are all very important to senior Sydney Shaver. Being stuck at home due to COVID-19, Shaver has found a new love for working out and taking care of her body. Her main goal right now is to continue building muscle and getting stronger. 

“At first, [I started working out] for more of the appearance, but then I realized that that’s not good enough and [my thinking] switched to just become stronger,” Shaver said. “For a lot of people that start exercising, especially girls in high school, they normally have a lot of body dysmorphia and that’s definitely what I was going through. So that sort of blurred, why I was doing it. I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons but then it sort of became the opposite and I wanted to become stronger and feel more confident.”

Shaver started out at home, just testing out new at home workouts and utilizing with what she had. This summer, she got a gym membership which really helped Shaver to build muscle that she couldn’t at home. 

“I would just do at home workouts at first, but then I realized that I really wanted to get into a gym, so I could actually lift heavier weights. Mostly it was just so I could get stronger and build muscle,” Shaver said. “I started doing consistent workouts during the summer. I got a gym membership in August, and that has been a way better workout grind than at home workouts.”

Becoming less intimidated by other people in the gym was a struggle for Shaver, but seeing other people doing it and succeeding, helped push Shaver to become more comfortable. 

“I just started following people on Instagram and TikTok that are just badass women influencers for fitness and doing that really helped boost my confidence, especially with working out in front of guys because you can feel really judged a lot of the time. They seem to run the gym, but you just sort of have to get over that and it’s so much easier,” Shaver said. 

As well as starting to go to the gym, Shaver also started to change her eating habits. One of the major changes she made was reducing her dairy intake and eating more food that helped her gain muscle, and fuel her body for her next workout.  

“The first thing I started to do was eat less dairy, which is crazy how much you feel better after doing that. I’ve just done a lot of research on food. I always make sure I eat a really big breakfast first. That is the most important meal so you need to make sure that you have enough fuel to get you through the first couple hours of the day. If you’re working out you are burning a lot of calories and you’re tearing muscle fiber so you need to replenish your body after. I’ve been eating bigger meals that have more carbs and more protein, because carbs are not going to make you overweight, they just fuel your body,” Shaver said. 

Taking a different perspective on food has also been crucial for Shaver. Eating at every meal time and making sure to eat healthy has helped Shaver gain muscle and give her fuel to go to the gym. 

“I realized that food is fuel. I feel like a lot of people struggle with that or they try to eat less, but since I’ve started lifting weights, I will never skip a meal. You will never see me skip a meal, even if I am not hungry, I will always eat. I’ve just gained a lot more confidence mentally over food,” Shaver said. 

Shaver’s workout routine doesn’t just focus on one area of her body, rather she tries to have a day to focus on all different parts of her body to gain strength overall. 

“I try to hit a little bit of everything, instead of just abs or legs. I’m trying to really gain strength overall throughout my whole body,” Shaver said. “I have leg days, back and chest days and push and pull days. Push days are shoulders, chest, etc and pull days are back and biceps.  I also have a cardio and abs day. [As well as] two rest days during the week.” 

Enjoying different exercises she hadn’t before has become very exciting for Shaver. One of the biggest ones is how she used to like leg day the best and it has now become arm day which is really exciting for her. 

“[My favorite workout day] used to be leg day, but now it’s becoming arm day, which is really exciting. Not a lot of girls go into the weight section because guys just sort of act like they own it and it’s scary sometimes but when I started going in there and acting and knowing what I was doing it just sort of became something that’s really fun to do and I didn’t ever think it’d be that fun,” Shaver said. 

Staying motivated to go workout everyday is one of the most difficult things for Shaver, especially with everything going on right now around us. Managing school and making time for a workout can also be challenging. 

“Sometimes [the hardest part about working out] is staying motivated. Some days, especially with everything going on, it’s hard to have good mental days, where you can get out of bed and feel super productive. So sometimes it was just reminding myself that it’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay to not want to work out and just to get through the day. But if you just keep on going and you make sort of a routine and make a little balance where you don’t have to go every day. It helps with it a lot,” Shaver said. 

Planning her days and having a schedule helps Shaver stay on track. Making sure she knows the important things she has to get done as well as when her workout will be that day, especially helps her. 

“I always plan out my days beforehand, I don’t make strict plans for every hour, so I don’t feel like I failed if I don’t get everything done, but just sort of highlighting things that I really want to get done really helps me,” Shaver said

Even though everyone is so busy right now between school, work and other activities, Shaver still stresses the importance of finding at least an hour or less to do some exercise or yoga. 

“I would say just make a place for [your workout] in your schedule. I know some people aren’t planners, but if you plan out your day, or you just have a quick idea of what your week is going to look like just making sure you set aside an hour each day. I know people are busy but even if it’s not at the gym, just grab a yoga mat and do some yoga. Just making time in your schedule to do that [is so important],” Shaver said. 

Staying in a good place mentally is also very important to staying healthy and Shaver’s workouts. This is especially hard due to the isolation from COVID-19. 

“I’m a really extroverted person, so being so cut off especially right now I’m feeling a little isolated. I realized going to therapy and talking to a counselor, it could be a school counselor, it could be a counselor not in school, really helps people that are thinking that they need some extra help, it’s so worth it,” Shaver said. 

Being able to see results from going to the gym has been one of the most rewarding parts for Shaver. Going consistently and making it a habit is the main way she has achieved these results. 

“Seeing improvements [has been the most rewarding part of working out consistently]. I’ve been doing this for over six months, having a gym membership not counting my at home workouts, and I go consistently four or five days a week,” Shaver said. “And maybe I don’t necessarily always see improvements, but sometimes my friends will be like, ‘dang girl your legs look strong’ or ‘your arms [look strong]’ and that’s super reassuring because I do work my butt off for this. Even though I see my body every day, it’s hard to really recognize huge improvements but getting hype from other people is really rewarding.”

Staying consistent and adding more weights as she gets stronger has allowed Shaver to lift heavier. 

“I’ve definitely been able to lift heavier weights [from going consistently]. Squatting the bar is already 45 pounds, but then adding plates on, [adds more weights]. At first I could maybe do 25 pound plates and I was like this is so hard to do, but now I’m using 45 pound plates and it feels like nothing. You can literally see how strong you’ve gotten, and it’s super reassuring,” Shaver said. 

Going vegan is something she has thought about doing for a while now. Trying to find healthier substitutes for foods she normally eats is important to Shaver. Going vegan and continuing to lift heavier are her biggest goals for staying healthy for the future. 

“I’ve been doing a lot of research, but I’m really trying to go vegan or more plant based in general. It’s a big goal to have. It’s hard especially when you live with your parents and they go grocery shopping for you. Finding little substitutes for things that are dairy, [for example] almond milk and soy milk [instead of whole milk], and almond milk tastes 1,000% better anyways. Just little things like that,” Shaver said. “I’m trying to lift heavier and keep track of when I was lifting this amount and just seeing improvements over time, because I really do just want to build muscle and get stronger.”

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