I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently about my exercise journey and what I do on a daily basis. I’m always slightly nervous of such posts because there’s a risk of coming across either as smug or patronising (or both) and I don’t want to be either. However so many people have asked me to do a post that I thought that I would at least give it a shot. Oh and apologies for the lack of pictures. No-one wants to see pics of me leaping around and I’m nervous of getting sued if I use something that’s unauthorised.
I’ve always loved sport and exercise but I think that between the ages of 22 and 34 it was all a bit hit and miss. I was probably 39 before I got into running again on a regular basis and it’s only the last two years that I’ve seen a real difference in my shape – and that started when I was 44. So all I would say is that no-one is ever too old to start something new, or to change their habits!
In response to the requests that I’ve had, I’ve decided to do two posts – a more general one about exercise and then a more specific one about what I actually do during the course of a week.
Before we even get on to exercise though, just upping our activity levels is a starting point. The first things to ditch are the lifts and escalators. It’s amazing how much of a workout you can give your heart and legs just by going up a few flights of stairs in a shopping centre. And it probably doesn’t take any longer either – and time, as we all know, is often the crux of the exercise problem.
When it comes to exercise, my first observation is that it definitely helps if you love what you do, whether it’s dancing, netball, running, football, tennis, squash, swimming, boxing, Zumba or going to the gym. I think that the only way that anyone keeps motivated or keeps something up, is if it is fun first and exercise second – most of the time. Then it doesn’t really feel like you’re exercising at all. So working out what you like to do when working out is key. And often going back to what you loved when you were younger is a good starting point.
For me, I like to combine seeing my friends with exercising – so basically if I’m chatting I’m happy. Or I like to watch TV (I know, how bad is that?!) Stick me in a British Military Fitness class and you’re likely to find me shouting back at the instructor and stomping off – or just refusing to do it. I like to pit myself against myself and I don’t like being shouted at. What that says about me I’m not sure – but there we go! Also I don’t like the time wasted in driving to a class, sorting myself out, doing a class and driving home. The wasted time makes me really stressed. So I’m not a big fan of classes – but for others they’re a godsend. For me, exercise needs to be both time efficient and enjoyable (most of the time) – oh and cost efficient too.
Identifying when you are at your best and what your windows of opportunity are, are essential. There are points in the day when the thought of exercise couldn’t be further from my mind. I’m hugely admiring of people who are up and out exercising at 5.30am. I just don’t think that I could do that. But then again, if it was my only window of opportunity then perhaps I would do it.
And then you just have to accept that sometimes exercise is purely functional – it’s not necessarily fun, or sociable and it might be uncomfortable and hurt a bit – but the results are worth it and most of those sessions are fairly short lived. Here I’m talking about specific work-outs for abs, or legs, or arms for example. But do a session in front of Broadchurch and it’s all fine. Or do hill sprints with some great music and it makes all the difference. Or just do half a session. A bit of “cheating” is better than not doing it at all. And as for HIIT workouts which are uncomfortable and sweaty – well the feeling afterwards always makes them worthwhile and at most they last 25 minutes. And if you just can’t face it, or feel the need to give up, don’t beat yourself up about it. Some days your body and mind just don’t work as they should and so it’s better to have a rest and try again another day.
But I think that my main advice would be to be kind to yourself and to up your activity or exercise levels slowly. If you chuck yourself into something head first and hate it, it will be demoralising and act as a dis-incentive to keep going. So (power) walk before you run, or do a couch to 5k app, or start with a beginners class, or do it with friends and set realistic, achievable goals for yourself. Or don’t set any goals at all to start with and just see how you feel.
And sometimes when it comes to exercise you just have to be a little bit selfish. Try and make a time commitment and stick to it so that you get a routine going. With young children I know that’s difficult and frustrating. When ours were little the amount of times I had to cancel plans left me feeling disappointed and frustrated but there’s so much that you can do without leaving the house that it doesn’t have to be a problem. But more about that in the next post…