Health

It’s Monday and I’m going to the gym (no, really)

It’s not the first Monday of the year but the last. The first being January the 5th. But, like always, I’m going to attempt a health kick. And I always like to start those on Mondays. It makes my little brain happy. You’d think that starting something on January the 1st would make my silly little brain explode with happiness. Right? WRONG!

Why? Because I’m a resolutions snob. And am also increasingly aware of my own fallibility. So I’ve created a ‘clever’ get out clause whereby I start my health kick in December thus avoiding the branding of a New Year’s Resolution.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a resolution. Nothing wrong at all. In fact, anything that encourages people to embrace healthier lifestyle choices or improve their career prospects or anything positive like that has got to be a great thing. But I’ve just failed at so many so many times. I just can’t do it to myself to jump on the doomed wagon. So instead, I’ll start on January the 29th. Boom. Job’s a good ‘un.

I also like to delude myself that this means when I strut into the gym today my fellow gym goers will gift me with a brief nod of the head and we’ll all know that we are morally superior for being here in December not January.

My plan is to chat to as many people as possible – you know, get my face out there – that they’ll all erroneously think that they already know me (since I’m being so familiar) so that when January the 1st or the 5th swing round and I’m at the gym, we can all share our morally superior smiles while watching newbies fall off the back of treadmills. Amateurs.

I’m aiming to further cement my veteran gym status by wearing really really REALLY old gear. Maybe I’ll even hit up a few charity shops for some old London Marathon t-shirts. As long as they’re post 2000 then I figure that’s plausible. As long as no one actually watches me run.

I suppose I should add for honesty’s sake that the old capri pants I’m planning on wearing aren’t actually a deliberate style choice. More that I refuse to spend good money on clothes that I can’t enjoy wearing. And if they happen to go see-through as I crouch down for some squats, well then, I’ll just have to wear some big black granny pants and make sure I’m facing the wall, won’t I?

On that note, it’s time for me to pull on those unreliable Lycra butt huggers, climb into that poorly engineered sports bra and throw on that (legitimately earned, for a change) Great North Run t-shirt. First one to slide backwards off the treadmill is the loser. See you there!

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Health

How do I exercise? Tell me, please!

Please excuse any veering off into ranting, but I’m currently suffering from bafflement and irritation in equal measure. Why? Exercise, that’s why.

I am not a natural exerciser, nor a loyal one, but every now and then, the urge comes along to do something, and then, in my geeky fashion, I set about researching my options.

So here’s where all that has brought me:

I had to stop kickboxing because I kept aggravating my shoulder which has a tendency to dislocate. So that’s out.

Then there was running, which I was enjoying, and even completed the Great North Run, but ended in agony because I’d developed shin splints. So that’s out.

And because of the shin splints, I now have to be very careful about impact exercising, so that meant my second attempt at Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred ended in failure.

So then there was swimming. Which I still enjoy, greatly. But, I was getting into a bit of a rut, and finding that I was becoming bored, which I was very keen to avoid, as so far it’s the only form of exercise I can still do. So I thought, why not mix it up a bit?

I thought I could swim intensely for twenty minutes or so, and then spend another twenty minutes working on my legs, or my arms, or my abs in the gym, on their machines. But then I did some research on the gym machines, and at best, they appear to be fairly useless, and at worst, actually damaging.

Free weights, it would seem, are the way forward, but unless you’ve got your technique spot on, then the same applies – useless and damaging.

And then I came across tabata, which is (or was, it’s probably terribly passé by now) the new thing – where you exercise intensely for 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat for eight times. You complete one to four full sets of this (so 20 minutes in total) and apparently, this intense exercise gives you as good a result (arguably better) than an hour’s run.

I suppose I can get my head around that, but then you’ve got to work out which exercises to do in your bursts. Do you opt for cardio, such as burpees (shudder…and not great for shin splints) and jumping jacks (ditto)? Or do you throw in some leg action – squats and lunges – or some arm work – push ups and bicep curls – or ab work – bicycle crunches and toe touches? I imagine you’re meant to throw a bit of everything in there, but somehow, I feel poleaxed by the sheer choice out there. At least in the gym, you can go from one machine to the next, finish them all, and feel like you’re somehow complete. Or I can swim a mile, and feel like I’ve ticked a box.

So now I’m just confused. And not exercising.

My problem is I need structure, and even more importantly, I need to feel I’ve had an expert telling me what to do. So, tell me – keep swimming and swimming alone? Combine intense swimming with gym machines? Combine swimming with some sort of mastery of free weights at the gym? Designate swimming a pleasure activity (instead of ‘exercise’, which probably means I won’t bother at all…), and concentrate on at home tabata instead?

Sometimes, I get all doom and gloom that my body will just throw up another injury regardless of what I do or I convince myself that it doesn’t matter because I’ll get bored in a few months and give up anyway…

I find fitness blogs fascinating because these women (and men) genuinely seem to adore exercising, and they’re clearly experts in their fields – the passion just shines out of them – but I’ve yet to find what really works for me. I know exercise is really important for my physical health, and I also know it’s vital for my mental health, but I’m currently all at sea.

And don’t even get me started on healthy eating, and whether that really is more important than exercising in losing weight, which, to my mind, rather renders this whole rant moot…

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