Tired of the Treadmill? Try Strength Training


My Background

Exercise was never a part of my life growing up. As a child, I had two eye surgeries because of complications with which I was born. The surgeries were successful, and although I wear glasses to this day (I’m 23 now), I am an otherwise healthy adult. However, me having to have these surgeries had scared my parents and made them overprotective. I wasn’t allowed on playgrounds, and I never played sports (not even the required classes!) throughout my school years.

My first encounter with exercise

Four years ago, I moved abroad to attend university. Taking two sports classes was part of my graduation requirements. I took swimming and badminton in my first two years, and hated both experiences. I did not have the stamina to keep up with the rest of the students, and I quickly gave up, refusing to challenge myself and even skipping classes just to avoid feeling like I’m failing. Apart from those two requirements, I did not go to the gym or attempt to stay active in my first few years of uni.

My Challenge

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Parallel to my utter lack of physical activity, I was pursuing a film degree. A part of that meant I had to watch a lot of films and analyse them, write scripts and direct actors – but another significant part of my degree required me to be a crew member on film sets.

For anyone not familiar with the operations of a student film set, much like me in the beginning, no matter what your actual role is on the set, be it a director, a producer, or a camera person – you will have to lift things. A fully equipped camera with a long lens, a battery, and a monitor would be anywhere up to 15 pounds. Different stands and rails for tracking shots can be 10-15-20 pounds or more. And above all, to keep equipment grounded and stable – you will always finds sandbags on set. Like, actual textile bags full of sand! The two variations I’ve personally encountered have been 25 and 35 pounds respectively.

The day after my first time on a film set, I woke up in pain.
There wasn’t a muscle in my body, it seemed, which wasn’t sore. I started seriously questioning my career choice and realised that I couldn’t go on like that unless something changed.

The Decision

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

I finally decided to give the gym another try.

I felt completely lost. I had no idea how to use any of the machines or equipment, and I was too shy to ask. I looked around and felt like everyone knew what they were doing, so I decided to act accordingly. For months, I spent most of my time in the gym on the treadmill and the stepping machine. Not only did I not enjoy that – cardio was never my thing – but I also didn’t become much stronger, and my film set experiences remained just as painful.

The Influencers

Then, as I was nearing the end of my studies, lo and behold! The fit girl trope became more and more prevalent on social media, and specifically my favorite Instagram became filled with fit girl accounts. I started following many different fitness accounts and was quite overwhelmed at first. It took a few months of watching the tutorials these women posted and some trial and error until I figured out what worked best for me, but that came too and I soon began building muscle the way I had hoped I would. My work on film sets became much easier and that helped me become more efficient. It also allowed me to focus on the more creative aspects of the job, now that my brain wasn’t busy screaming at me to drop the heavy camera and find a new vocation.

Unexpected Benefits

While strength training helped tremendously with my job, that was hardly the only benefit it had. I became more confident in my own body and observed as it completely transformed and improved. I realised that running on the treadmill is not the only way to get my heart pumping – lifting weights did that as well, but made me way stronger too. I also felt more peaceful and driven – hitting the gym every few days and actually enjoying the experience instead of dreading it was a game changer. It gave me headspace, and a way to “turn off” and give myself a break from whatever is going on in my life at the moment, then come back to it more refreshed and concentrated. I became a more positive person, and I’m certain the endorphin rush had something to do with my overall happiness levels.

Never Too Late

If there is one thing I regret, it is not discovering strength training earlier. I am thankful to my parents for taking care of me when I wasn’t well, but I am also aware that I could’ve been a more healthy and fit version of myself earlier, had I grown up with some element of exercise in my life.

To put a positive spin to that, I firmly believe it’s never too late to start incorporating exercise into our daily lives.

How To Start

The internet is filled with example exercises, video tutorials and the like, and so now it’s easy to start on your own. I have been fortunate enough to have access to my university’s gym, but there are plenty of exercises one can do if armed with just their body weight and some patience. Or, if you still don’t feel motivated enough to make it on your own – find yourself an exercise buddy! Don’t be afraid to chat up other people at the gym about their routines because most people will be friendly if approached in a respectful way.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Unsplash

You can also look into any existing Facebook groups for fitness enthusiasts in your city.

Look into where they gather and what kind of activities they do – be it running together every morning or utilizing any available public work out spaces at a certain time of day. Don’t be afraid to lean on others for motivation; getting into fitness with friends is fun, and making friends through fitness is a whole new world of possibilities!

Why Do This?

Above all, remind yourself of the goal you’re trying to achieve.

It can be as simple as, I want to lift this weight five times and then maybe lift a heavier weight later on in my fitness journey. It can be purely out of motivation to only do a single trip between the car and your home with the groceries; it can be continuing to lift your kids as they keep growing up.

As long as you find meaning in something, and believe that working out can help you with that – you can manage to start and stay on track. A structured work out routine combined with enough rest, balanced nutrition, and an overall healthy approach can turn your life around – it definitely turned mine.

Julia Milenova

I’m a 23 year old video producer and filmmaker who has been studying and living in the UAE for the past four years. Film is my biggest passion but soon after I started pursuing it, I realised there is a lot more to it than just ‘art’ and creativity. A lot of it is just plain hard work, including dragging heavy equipment around the city all by yourself. I decided I needed to become stronger in order to be better at film, which is how I got into fitness and strength training. My main interest in film is documentary, which often boils down to a very journalistic approach to telling real life stories. As a writer, my main interests are human rights, clean eating and plant-based diets, sustainability, and fitness.