Has watching a TV diet of sport, sport and more sport inspired you to get out of your armchair and exercise? Thought not! But never fear, even the most exercise-phobic can be inspired to get fitter, you might not win a gold medal, but you’ll most certainly feel better for it. I should know because I’ve managed to keep up a fitness regime, as in 4/5 times a week of sporting-level activity, for the last 15 years; more if you count my five years age 19-23 hitting the uni and college gyms.
I won’t lie, it’s not been easy. Staying motivated when you’re not a professional athlete with a livelihood at stake can be almost impossible. But I think I’ve cracked it, and anyone reading this who knows me will testify.
I was originally inspired to exercise after watching Madonna live in her Who’s That Girl tour when I was 17. I was impressed with then 30 year-old’s slim but strong physique. She’d apparently embarked on her intensive exercise routine after feeling so unfit during her first tour, and had vowed to be able to carry a set and keep up with her dancers and never feel breathless half way through a song again.
For about three years I exercised 3 times a week in the college gym or doing aerobics and step classes, a new thing then, up until I was 23. Then my career and the long hours of a trainee journalist and later financial reporter saw my routine slide. It wasn’t till I was 29, and had broken up with my boyfriend, that I made a promise to get fit again. It was sort of a millenium resolution. I joined a gym and my skinny 8.5 stone body got bigger and bigger until 2 years later I was weighing in at 11stone.
At 5′7″ and a small frame I was actually slightly overweight, despite going to the gym and doing yoga four to five times a week. How had that happened?
I discovered just how when I decided to change my routine – I’d been doing the same thing for two years – and go to a spin class. It was sooo hard but I realised that I simply had not been challenging myself enough and my body and my mind were bored. The gym membership which I’d been about to ditch was renewed and I regularly saw a personal trainer and used the advice of a gym instructor to keep my routine fresh.
I’ve never looked back, apart from the three months of pregnancy when I decided I really did need a break, and even now I actually regret that.
So how do and did I stay motivated? Remember to ask a GP before you embark on any exercise routine, and remember that although I am fit, I’m not a fitness expert.
1) Have a goal. At the moment I’m using my gym’s Olympic challenge of cycling 60k (not in one go I might add). Having a distance to go means you stop looking at the clock and concentrate on what you have to do, and – because no one wants to spend all day at the gym – you end up doing it quicker! Another example 1km on a rower, or 100 floors on the step machine.
Other goals could be – to finish a Race for Life 10k, or cycle London to Brighton.
2) Have an achievable goal. If you’ve never exercised before start small that way you won’t feel disappointed and you won’t give up so quickly. 500 metres could be a marathon if you’ve never run before.
3) Mix it up. Don’t just run or cycle, do weights (get an instructor to give you a routine and change it every six weeks) do a class.
4) Do stretching/flexible stuff. Exercise isn’t just about burning calories or losing weight it’s about being able to be lithe and enter old age able to touch your toes. Doing yoga, pilates or body balance means your muscles get the stretching they need – for me it’s about de-stressing and making sure my tight hip flexors don’t affect my ability to exercise.
5) Get a fitness buddy or fitness muse. Okay mine was Madonna, and when she started doing yoga so did I. Now I use an app which can track my progress so I can be inspired by myself.
6) Don’t watch what you eat. Okay I’m blessed here, as I’m one of those people who can’t sit still but everything in moderation and if you are exercising you’ll get to know your body and it’s needs (yoga is great for this). I eat everything (apart from meat) and I love my occasional chocolate treat. But I also love the feeling I get when I drink enough water and eat healthily.
7) Don’t fall for fads. the only thing that really works is good old fashioned aerobic exercise, i.e getting off the sofa and getting sweaty.
Make time. When I have weeks I can’t get to the gym I aim to do a DVD (Tracey Anderson’s dance cardio is great – but tricky) or – as I did one week – put weights on my ankles and used my walk to and from the station and tube stations as my aerobic exercise session. I’ve also got resistance bands and a kettle ball (currently a door stop) which I also use when gym deprived.I’ve also been known to go running at 5.30am (before Andrew leaves for work).
And don’t forget to reward yourself, it can be food, a facial, a new book or face cream.
If all this sounds too much, remember once you get that energy, you will want it forever.