A Year in the Gym

It's amazing what a year can do. Check out my one year weight training transformation.

In May of 2016 I started on a journey, and little did I know how in that one decision my entire life would change direction and I would feel like I had a purpose again. I’ve talked about how the gym has changed my life so many times on this blog that I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s the truth. Never in my life have I felt happier, more confident, and determined to achieve my goals.

So, here’s the story of how I stopped saying “I wish I had a body like that” to saying “I’m proud of this body that I work for everyday.”

May 2016

My dad had been urging me all semester to get into the weight room. “Stop complaining about the weight you’ve gained and get your a** in the weight room. That’s how you’re going to see results.”

Did I listen? Not at all. I stuck with the elliptical for 45 minutes to an hour at a time hating my life for every single second because I was bored and I wasn’t seeing any progress. Staring at a wall for a prolonged period of time is not entertaining just FYI.

I was unhappy, I was depressed, and I was fat. I’m not ashamed to admit any of that. At that point in my life I was not okay. I’d just finished up my freshman year of college, moved home for the summer, and was about to start a pretty amazing internship.

So, my dad sat me down, said, “we’re getting you a trainer,” and that was that. That week we walked in to a personal training studio here in Knoxville, and he was basically like, “Sign her up.”

The Transformation

In most transformations, there’s a moment in someone’s life where they realize things need to change. For most it comes in the form of a picture where they don’t even recognize who they’d become. That was the same with me.

See that picture right there? Most people would say that I look fine, but in reality I don’t. That dress barely fit, my arms had zero definition, and my face was looking a little chubby. That is the picture that is in my mind whenever I want to quit, whenever I want to give up, and whenever I’ve lost all motivation. That picture is the reason I’m still on my fitness journey today.

Transformations, or just developing into your “fit form” as I like to say, takes a long time. Abs, shoulders, butts, quads, and everything else don’t happen overnight. It’s hard work and dedication.

Fun fact: I weigh more in the May 2017 images than I do in the July 2016 pictures. Shocking, right?

So what did I do to accomplish all of this?

I changed my diet.

I’m not saying I eat super healthy all the time now, but I now choose the healthier choices. Chicken, potatoes, and vegetables are staples in my diet now, and honestly I don’t crave “unhealthy” foods anymore.

I developed and stuck to a gym routine.

My gym routine has definitely changed a lot over the past year. Last summer (July 2016) I was doing strength training and some cardio 3 days a week. In the fall, I upped my gym sessions to 4 days a week and I was also walking 15,000+ steps a day. This spring I upped my gym sessions to 5-6 days a week. In the past month, I’ve continued with my 5-6 days of strength training but I’ve also added 3-ish days of cardio a week.

This picture really got to me. I’ve been really hard on myself for a few months because I haven’t been seeing changes or at least I thought I hadn’t been seeing changes. Looking at this picture shows me that I have made progress, that progress takes time, and that getting down on myself does nothing.

When did I see the biggest changes?

Taking two weeks off in December 2016.

Okay, well maybe it was three weeks, but I had my wisdom teeth removed two days after I came home and then a week later I was on my way to Denver, Colorado, for Christmas.

Tracking macros.

As a child, my mother used to call me the carb queen. I loved and still do love carbs, but I was eating way too many. Tracking my macros opened my eyes to the amount of protein I should be eating and the huge reduction in carbs that I needed.

Moving home for the summer.

Now, I have been doing a slight cut since being home (aka taking in fewer calories than I’m using) to lean out a bit for summer, but even with the few added cardio days a week and a 200 calorie cut, the results I’m seeing aren’t solely related to that. It’s thanks to the reduction of stress. When my body is stressed, it holds on to fat and water like nobody’s business. The entire spring semester I was trying to lean out, and I saw no progress. As soon as finals were over and I was back home in my old bed, the pounds have been coming right off.

Please excuse the blurriness of this photo. That’s what happens when you kill your arms and can barely hold the phone LOL

What I’ve Gained

A sense of confidence.

Y’all I used to be the most timid, shy, insecure person you could probably imagine. Throughout middle school and high school, I never felt accepted and I was always the music nerd. I feel that everyone goes through that in some way or another during their life, and you know what? It sucks. It really makes you feel like sh*t and like you’re worth nothing.

With the gym, it feels good to be one of the few who actually stick with it, and it feels good to be a part of that 1% that didn’t give up when the other 99% of people did. Do I still get picked on for my diet and how passionate I am about the gym? Of course! But I know that what I’m doing makes me happy and I’m doing no harm to anyone else by bettering myself so therefore I don’t care what other people think. After all, typically when people are mean to you, it’s because they’re jealous and I’m 100% okay with that.

I’m proud of who I am, proud of what I’ve achieve, and I’m proud that I can comfortably post gym selfies on Instagram.


Okay as a child my family used to call me T-Rex because I had no upper body strength. You know how T-Rexs have tiny arms? Yeah that was basically the equivalent of my upper body strength.

The shining moment of my year in the gym was when I came home for spring break and could lift my brother without any trouble and he was stunned. That probably makes no sense but eh whatever.

Mental perseverance.

Y’all lifting isn’t easy. Sticking to a gym routine isn’t easy. RESTRICTING MYSELF TO ONE DOUGHNUT ISN’T EASY. There were so many times that I’ve wanted to quit. From wanting to stop a few reps early during a set because the pain was intense or wanting to skip out and stuff my face with chocolate, pasta, and chips when it’s that time of the month, the potential to quit was always there. But I didn’t because my goals aren’t achieved by quitting.

What I’ve Learned

Proper portion sizes.

Do y’all know how small a portion size of pasta or rice is? It’s tiny and the calories are pretty high. Prior to tracking macros and learning the portion sizes of foods, I was eating a solid 3 servings of pasta or rice. That’s insane. Now I’d much rather have a ridiculous amount of vegetables than pasta. Never in my life did I think that’d I’d say that.

One “bad” meal won’t ruin me.

I went through this phase where I was terrified to eat anything outside of basically oatmeal, chicken, rice, veggies, and yogurt. Eating a slice of pizza? I wouldn’t even consider it. I thought I’d blow my entire journey with that one slice of pizza.

Fun fact: that’s not the case and it’s good to have a cheat meal or something different every once in a while. It’s important for your mental sanity.

Gluten and dairy aren’t my friends.

Prior to this semester, I’d eat gluten and dairy on a regular basis. This semester I’ve really cut out gluten and dairy just because I don’t find them necessary in my diet. I don’t try to avoid them, but the foods that I crave and eat on the daily aren’t gluten or dairy based.

Little did I know that after a few months of eating very limited amounts of dairy and gluten that my body would just be like “nope” if I eat it. And lord help me if I eat the two together. Back in April, I tried a tiny bit of this homemade mac-n-cheese that someone brought to our staff meeting, and not even an hour later I was so bloated that I looked 5 months pregnant. Not really a good look for me.

So it’s been a year. Now what?

Here’s the thing. Being healthy and fit is not a “do it for a year and you’re set for life” kinda thing. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. And it’s a lifestyle I hope to continue for the rest of my life.

I still have so many things to learn and so many more challenges to face. I’m nowhere near done.

My goal is to just inspire and motivate people to get into the gym, find something they love to do, and be the healthiest and best version of themselves. If I can just help one person, I’ve achieved more than what I could ever have hoped to achieved.

~abigail gray

  • Your story is so inspiring! I’m so proud of all the things you’ve accomplished in a year. I’m really happy for you! Keep up the good work! 🙂 You’re honestly an inspiration of mine when it comes to all things health/fitness.

    • Two months later and I’m finally getting to these comments…. Thank you so much!! Girl if you ever need any help, motivation, guidance in the fitness realm of life, let me know and I’d be glad you help!

  • Girl, I am SO proud of you! You are truly an inspiration and I love hearing about and seeing your progress. Keep up the amazing work!

    • Two months later but here I am! Thank you so much! Your progress is amazing as well, and I’m so excited to see what you achieve!

  • Girl, you look amazing! And I can tell you feel amazing also, which I think is even more important. It has been awesome to watch you on this journey, and I love how honest and open you have been about the process. You have inspired me to get my butt back into gear fitness wise, and I think I’m going to start working with an online trainer to really take things seriously.

    Colleen | Buckeye Bliss

    • Awww thank you! I know you are now working with a trainer and I’m so excited for you! How’s that going?

      P.S. Sorry this took me 2 months to reply…

      • And two months later….. It went well! I did a 6 week intense plan where I was super committed. It really helped me get back on track fitness and healthy eating wise!