Forgive me for taking a momentary trip down memory lane, but I remember my mother going to a ‘keep fit’ class. It was, in fact all that was on offer. A generic term, granted, and these classes were a little samey. If you could master a grapevine step, you were pretty much sorted and would feel confident to attend ‘keep fit’ in any hall in the country. Cue Abba and leotard action – simple!
So when did it all get so darned complicated? I had the same thought when I returned to work after a 5 year career break when my children were born. As a broadcast journalist, I worked with a pen, paper, a desk telephone and a good old fashioned phone book. I re-entered the world of work to find everyone glaring at computer screens, expert in Excel, all speaking ‘netlingo’. I craved the comfort of my Yellow pages but no joy, progress is progress.
And so it is with fitness. The days of ‘keep fit’ are long gone. I sympathise if you feel bewildered with the vast array of classes on offer. Body pump, body conditioning, body attack, booty slide… really? Booty slide? Is this not just a ‘cheeky’ way of getting clients to polish the floor? Perhaps you like to dance? Take your pick…. You have cardio groove, bollywood funk, clubbercise, ballet fitness or maybe you’re more sergeant major – bootcamp – even this is delivered in multiple ways, teen bootcamp, aqua bootcamp, salsa bootcamp. Oh yes, and then there’s spin, if you’re not already in one. This is but a fraction of what’s actually on offer. Even yoga comes in 14 styles. Tree pose anyone?
On a more serious note, it’s not just the overwhelming and seemingly never ending list of classes available, it’s knowing what’s right for your current level of fitness. I don’t wish to see anyone begging for mercy and tummy sliding shamefully out of a Metafit class after two Tabata sequences of burpees. Likewise, if you haven’t performed a headstand since you were 8yrs old, it might be wise to check out which yoga class you sign up for. As for the aforementioned spinning, I taught it for a year and trust me, it’s not for the faint hearted. If you like the idea of tottering out on jelly legs with a face like a burst beetroot – don’t let me stop you. It’s a great class, if you don’t need to swing by the supermarket on the way home.
How about a gym? The fact that 80% of the New Year’s resolution gang drop out by the first week of February says something I guess? Once again, a learning curve is required. I’ll make an admission. I’m not overly keen on putting air in my car tyres in a petrol station. I’m terrified I’ll end up with a tyre looking like a deflated balloon or going the other way and losing an eye when it over inflates and smacks me in the face. I’m not proud of that admission but it’s a sorry fact. None of us like to look incompetent. Gyms are theatres of incompetent displays – I worked in one for a year and became a prime diplomat in stepping in to avoid a 999 call. All these machines, heavy weights, set up instructions. Jeez. Press the wrong button on the treadmill and you’ll be sprinting like Usain Bolt before being spat off the back in an undignified heap. The fact that the person next to you is jogging casually, watching Eastenders and taking a selfie is only adding insult to injury. Gyms take some mastery and whilst they serve a great purpose, you’d be wise to take notes during your induction and do some practice runs at 6am if your aim is to hop on and off the machines like the tight bunned gym bunny you aspire to be.
I’m not done yet and I’m not even going to touch the Couch to 5k or running. How about body resistance exercises and free weights? Nope, this isn’t the easy opt out – this doesn’t suit you if your body is resistant to exercise and you seek zero cost weights. This is about using your own body weight to exercise. It’s absurdly challenging. When I did my training, I became an expert in drawing stick figures because once again, the sheer number of moves and all their requisite names! My 42yr old brain was working harder than all body parts combined at times just to remember the right technique for all the squats, lunges, planks, press ups, isolated exercises, compound exercises, how to use weights, repetitions… it’s mind boggling.
The problem is that all of the above information (and I’ve not even spoken about exercise in relation to weight loss) is freely available to all and sundry at one click of the mouse. TMI springs to mind and beware the source of any information you choose to read. It’s an absolute minefield for women who want to become more active. You can take a leap of faith but I won’t advise it. It’s far too easy to end up with knee or lower back pain and then you’re a step back from where you were. Many women come to me in the first instance because they’ve suffered an injury attempting to get back to fitness without support. Building a strong body is always the priority and it needn’t be complicated. We’ve come leaps, bounds and star jumps from the days of 8 v-steps to Dancing Queen but I’m still for ‘keeping fit simple’ all the way…