Time to dust down the old trainers? It’s a thought!
Let’s be honest. It’s been a while. You’re more familiar with callanetics than cross fit, the best you can pull up is your own jeans and the last time you performed anything close to a squat was the day you were caught short on the back road to the coast?
It happens slowly, the exercise void. One minute you’re captain of the 2nd X1 hockey team, all legs, teeny waist and master of the ‘look at me’ hair flick. Next minute (okay decade) you’re all cellulite, muffin top and master of using the elevator instead of taking the stairs. University or the first years of work are often a contributing factor to this chasm which opens up between you and ‘fitness’. Young, single and fancy free, the closest you get to running is a swift jog between pubs on a Friday evening… this turns to a slow lunge past midnight. Doesn’t this count? Add in a few bicep curls – pints, hand to mouth? No? Okay, perhaps not. There’s always tomorrow…
If children appear on the scene the whole beautiful relationship – ‘me and my fit body’ goes belly up – literally! It’s not uncommon for another entire decade of fitness intentions to be sucked into the void at this point in life. I always had ridiculous admiration for the mums who set themselves on a mission to look twice as ravishing as they did pre-baby within 6 months of the birth. This was not me. I was lucky if I didn’t walk out the house with my pants outside my trousers for the first few months, as for joining a ‘get fit with baby’ class or jogging round the park in lycra with a souped up stroller, this was but a fantasy. I was active with my kids, always outdoors, we cycled, walked, swam, picnicked and but many years went by where I had no particular focus on my fitness and the slightest hint of a whiff of ‘me’ time didn’t see me dashing to the nearest gym. My bad!
I was 42 when I had a crazy idea. I would qualify as a Personal Trainer! Why not? I certainly didn’t have ‘Insta-abs’ (in fact I wondered if I had anything resembling tummy muscle) but heck, I used to be sporty and I could still learn to coach? I sat in that class of 15 PT trainees, all young and uber fit. I made no excuse for my mid-life crisis, it was plain for all to see. Everyone was very kind and tolerant when I asked things like “what’s an overhead squat please?” I drew pitiful glances the day I froze in a press up position, convinced I’d lose my front teeth or at the least break a rib if I attempted to descend.
This moment though, my ‘press up freeze’ was the turning point for me, the alarm bells rang and a new determination rose in me. I was barely half way through what I wanted to be a fit and healthy life, lived well with family and friends. I watched videos of 90yr old women pulling yoga poses that made my toes curl. I wanted a strong and functional body back. I understood that my tiger stripes tummy wouldn’t miraculously shrink into one fit for a postage stamp sized bikini, I accepted that I wasn’t likely to win ‘rear of the year’ but none of this mattered. My priority was simply to build a capable body, to feel my body working as it should, not aching, not hurting, not huffing and puffing, but serving me well and allowing me to enjoy my 40+ years (hopefully many of them) to the full.
Six years on, two stones lighter and now a Personal Trainer who can happily get down and do many press ups, I use my experience and my journey to support other women returning to fitness. I understand the issues – time, lack of motivation, fear of sauntering into a gym and tripping over the first stray dumbbell or casually entering a YogaLatte class expecting a lie down and a milky coffee. It’s downright intimidating this ‘new world’ of fitness. Much of it is extreme, lots of it isn’t necessary unless you’re aiming for an ultra marathon. It’s confusing and ever so slightly scary. What to do? Couch to 5k? Planks? Metafit? Lift weights, drop medicine balls, swing Kettlebells, hang on a TRX? It’s enough for lots of women to remain in fitness hibernation and stick to seeking out the best in ‘squish me all in please’ underwear.
There is another way… small steps, short bursts of exercise integrated into busy days, steady and manageable gains which are sustainable. Here are a couple of simple things you can do straight away. When you brush your teeth tonight for two minutes, do it standing on one leg – 60 seconds each leg – balance, strength, stability. Next time you go for a cuppa, do ten push ups on the kitchen counter while the kettle boils. Because yes, there is always tomorrow, but nothing beats starting today!