Is exercise your best friend or your worst enemy?
Up until the age of 34, I was a couch potato. I had just met my husband (21 years ago!). He was a keen sportsman and loved walking, cycling and playing tennis. I was besotted with him, so I wanted to get fit, fast.
My first introduction to exercise was walking. I bought my first pair of walking boots and climbed many a mountain. It was a challenge to start with. I wasn’t fit, so I developed injuries that I found difficult to resolve. I went out and sought a solution and I found Pilates – Pilates on a mat, then up on a Reformer under the guidance of a qualified Pilates teacher. This keeps my body strong and mostly free of injuries.
I never learnt to ride a bike as a child. So, at the age of 35, I made several attempts to learn, including a tandem! I came off more than I stayed on, so that form of exercise didn’t last long.
I tried running. Music initially kept me motivated, then I started to get bored. I tried listening to educational podcasts to keep me in the zone, but that didn’t motivate me either. I tried setting goals, so that I felt like I was always achieving. That didn’t work either.
I am an extrovert, which means other people give me energy. I thought outdoor exercise classes would be the perfect solution. Adding the social aspect to my exercise regime did give me a boost, but it wasn’t enough. So, I joined a local gym.
I also tried swimming, Zumba, body balance, step classes, yoga and even golf. To push myself just a little bit more, I found a personal trainer. I tend to get bored with the same exercises and this meant variety and he makes me laugh – a lot!
In my early fifties, I started tennis lessons and I was hooked. It ticks so many wellbeing boxes, such as social connectivity, fitness, learning and personal growth. I have surprised myself at how much confidence tennis has given me.
Walking, Pilates, gym and tennis are now part of my healthy lifestyle. I never get tired of them because I have found a variety of physical activities I feel passionate about. Over time, being active has become a routine for me, just like brushing my teeth.
How to kick-start your keep-fit regime
Make it suit you
There is nothing worse than dreading exercise because you don’t enjoy it. Think about what you enjoy and what setting might appeal to you. Start with new activities until you find something that clicks. This way, you can choose which kind of exercise is going to suit you.
Make it convenient
Make your exercise convenient. This will help you to stick to a plan. If you join a gym, make sure it’s nearby, so you’ll be more likely to go. Check that you’ll have plenty of time to get there after work or with your other commitments. You want to cut out as many obstacles as possible.
Make it comfortable
Think about whether you are more comfortable on your own or in a group. Groups can help make time go by, which will help you stick to an exercise programme. Working out with a friend can be both fun and helpful for developing a habit. Check out fitness, yoga or dance classes in your area. Join a club, like those for walkers, runners, or cyclists.
Make it fun
The more you enjoy keeping fit, the better. Do you love loud pumping music, intense sprints and high energy? Then opting for spin class, boot camp or kickboxing will probably be more your speed than Pilates or yoga. If you don’t like it, try something else. Come up with lots of options and switch between activities.
Make it timely
Choose a time that works best for you and stick with it throughout the week. This will help you to create a habit. Set a plan to wake up at the same time each morning, so your body can adjust. If you found a class you love, become a regular at that specific class time and make friends with other regulars. You’ll even reap some social benefits.
Make it your lifestyle
Check in with other lifestyle factors like sleep, diet and stress. These factors could be stopping you from achieving results if there’s an imbalance present.
Reward yourself with the positive feelings and health benefits of physical activity, because you deserve it.