I don’t much care for running. ‘What? Are you clinically insane? Running is the only and best exercise there is on the planet!!’ I hear people scream as they are momentarily interrupted from posting today’s ‘map my run’ on Facebook. And yet, I don’t care for it. Running is dull. I used to do the whole running thing when it was trendy. I did the ‘work-your-way-up-from-couch-potato-to-3k’ regime the way everybody else did. I used to get up at four or five in the morning just to get my run in for the day. But I was never very good at it. I never got any better. I guess my stamina improved, because I could run a bit further, but not much further. And I never got any faster. In fact, I’d say I got slower. Over a series of years, my ‘Race for Life’ times became longer and longer as time went on. And I was always bloody injured! Shin splints, sore achilles, dodgy knees. So then my fitness would be lost whilst trying to recuperate. Running just didn’t interest me – and I didn’t really want to do it. No matter how much I tried to zone out and power on through, I just wanted that run to be over – to be doing something else.
Look, I’m not being disparaging about running. For some people, it is the only and best exercise they can do. It’s cheap, you can largely run whenever you want to, it can be a solitary occupation – or you can run with friends to add a bit of interest. But running isn’t for everybody. Six years ago, I decided it was not for me. For exercise to be a lifelong commitment (and exercise has to be just that if you want it to do you any good), you have to like it, or you simply aint’ gonna’ do it.
So, like I say, I decided to hang up my running shoes and do something else. But what else? What should that exercise be? Running was out, I’d probably kill myself let loose on a bike, and I couldn’t swim for toffee. But I’d always had a bit of a penchant for aerobics. Ever since the 90s, I’d owned all the Cindy Crawford videos, which I did sporadically. I had a thing for the Reebok Classics, and the funky leotards and brightly-coloured leg-warmers. I used to attend the odd class too – where my main aim was to be the best attired in the room. All the gear, absolutely no idea.
In 2011, six months before my 40th birthday, feeling frumpy and knowing I was well over my body mass index, I decided to re-purchase all my Cindy Crawford videos on DVD (my husband also tried to download and stream them for me, but there’s just no substitution for sticking something in a machine and instantly having Cindy on tap). And I religiously undertook those exercise routines (varying from 40 to 60 minutes long), three times a week. And do you know what? Six years later, I’m still doing them. Three times a week – unless I’m ill or injured (and I’m rarely injured), that is what you will find me doing every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday morning. I actually enjoy it (me – enjoying regular exercise- who ‘da thunk it?).
The physical changes in me are immeasurable. I mean, I’m still a work in progress, perhaps I always will be – but I’m certainly on the right path to achieving the body I always wanted (y’know, for a forty-five-year old,). I have never wanted to be skinny. I have always wanted to be fit. I wanted the kind of body that the women athletes at the Olympics have; the female tennis players at Wimbledon. I’ve always wanted to look like that. I have abs now. I really do. With the amount of sit-ups I do per session, I bloody well deserve them. And my arms have real definition; actual muscles. Again, I lift dumbbells on a regular basis, so I’ve worked for them. My legs could be better; sometimes I think that’s just bad genetics, or maybe there’s no substitute for running to achieve great legs – but bugger that. I’ve just intensified my lunges by adding bigger weights or kettle-bells, and using a yoga band to add resistance to side leg raises – which seems to be helping. And my cardiovascular fitness could probably do with a bit more work. The other day I had to run for a train across three platforms carrying a heavy suitcase and I very nearly threw up. But I’m physically stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m not exactly buff, but I’m getting there.
Sometimes I think I’d like to attend some aerobics classes for a bit of company, or go to the gym to intensify the weight-training, but I find it so hard to find the time outside my busy life. And this is why the aerobics DVDs work for me. I get up early and they are done, it can be pissing-it-down outside, but that has no affect on me. And I’ve been reading up on strength training (did I mention that I lifted a sh*t-load of heavy dumbbells?) – it really is the way to go.
‘A regular strength training program helps you reduce body fat and burn calories more efficiently, which can result in healthy weight loss. Strength training helps preserve and enhance your muscle mass and bone mass, regardless of your age.’ Health Line 9 Jun 2016
Yep, when I’m an old lady, I will still be able to get up the stairs! If I do enough pelvic floor exercises, I might not even be incontinant either! Boo-ya! Okay, I’m currently a couple of kilograms over my ideal weight (a weight target I have met a trillion times before) but that’s because I’ve been hitting the birthday cake a bit hard this month – it’s July, everybody is born in July it seems. And exercise without healthy eating just isn’t enough (but that’s a whole different blog post…which I’ve already written). Do I look like a lady tennis player now? Well, no. My 20s and 30s were entirely misspent, I’ve had two kids, and I only started a fitness regime in earnest when I was 39. Damage was done. But I’m fairly happy with the way I am. I guess what I’m trying to get across here is that running is not the only fruit, running isn’t the new black. Or if it is, there are other shades of black out there too. If jogging is your bag and it works for you, then all power to you. Keep doing that. But if you don’t like running now, then you probably never will. Do something you enjoy, or it just won’t be sustainable. And if it isn’t sustainable, then there’s just no point.