It’s never enough, never, never, never enough, never, never….this seems to be a constant refrain in life. But I’m not just talking about the Greatest Showman soundtrack, although I could – I totally could. I’m talking about exercise and the amount of information I feel like I’m drowning in. There are too many should s and shouldn’ts – words I wish to remove from my vocabulary. Besides often being unhelpful, guilt-inducing or unattainable, these should’s and shouldn’ts in regard to exercise also have a tendency to be contradictory.
When exercise is not something you are not naturally inclined to enjoy – does anyone? – but rather something one approaches reluctantly in the pursuit of that rare quality known as ‘fitness’ what I need is easy to follow advice and specific goals. At the very least I need information that has an agreed consensus and advice I can tailor to my specific needs.
Having never been naturally what one would call ‘athletic’, I spent a large amount of my school career inventing excuses to avoid the dreaded specter known as physical education. In fact, I should probably be grateful for PE lessons. Where they failed to instill in me a love of exercise or team sport, they certainly challenged me to think creatively.
Since my school days I have discovered that not all exercise is awful. This being a statement that a younger me would have met with scorn, derision and an unhelpful dose of sarcasm. For those of you who know me, I’ll pause so you can lift your jaw off the floor. Who’d have thought those words would ever leave me mouth?!?!? No, me neither.
An Exercise Saga – The Beginning
And yet, I now find myself committed to a regular schedule of exercise. I’ve finally – for the most part- worked out what works for me. But the truth is this has taken time. And it’s ongoing. I’ve had to chop and change what and when to suit my lifestyle, my calendar and not least my attention span.
I started by taking the plunge and joining a gym. I had considered this fairly obvious move a few times in the past. And decided for the amount of time I was likely to attend I might as well just burn some cash in my garden. But I took the plunge.
People always recommend joining the gym like it’s an easy thing to do. And on the one hand it is. Most gyms are fairly easy to sign up for, provided you can find one that works for you. That’s where you may hit the first obstacle. I’m lucky that there’s a local gym on my way home from work. I know myself well enough that if I go home first, I’m not going out again. I also lucky in that it’s not extortionate and I am able to afford it. There’s also class I’m interested in and at least two of them fall in slots which I can make.
But there’s also the anxiety or worries which come with attending a gym. It’s easy to look at everyone else and feel like they are running faster, lifting heavier or going for longer. You may notice people coming together and chatting which can make you feel alone. The opposite may also happen. People may talk to you when you just want to focus or don’t feel like meeting new people, half nude in the changing room and sweating profusely. Then there’s also navigating the machines. What do they do? How long should I be on them for? What settings should I use?
I finally settled on some classes at the gym. I started going to yoga once a week, I’m a fan of kundalini yoga; the yoga of awareness (for thoughts on the importance of breath click here). Don’t let the soothing meditation and small movements fool you. I frequently feel sore in places I didn’t know I had after the class. But I also feel more relaxed and stretched. At the same time, I started Zumba twice a week. We had an incredible instructor who made me feel really great about myself and there was a real feel of community and friendship in the group.
An Exercise Saga – The Middle
But things changed. The Zumba instructor left and the new one was great but it wasn’t the same. I was losing momentum so I changed it up. I kept going to yoga and Zumba once a week and added in time on the treadmill and some weight machines. This worked for a while. I’d download some Podcasts or new music to listen to and found I could focus better and was less aware of running.
Running is not something I’ve ever really enjoyed. I started looking into it a bit more. And even thought about running outdoors locally in the summer. Suddenly I was determined to start doing some short races and maybe even building up towards a bigger race. My imagination raced ahead and I thought about all the new possibilities before me.
I think we all know where this is heading, it didn’t stick. I needed to explore other options. If I gave up running and didn’t replace it with different activity I’d stop moving forward.
Enter YouTube. Perfect for evening months particularly when it gets dark early or busy weeks. I started dabbling online and seeing what I could find. I often work evenings or weekends which is when I usually exercise meaning I sometimes miss my gym classes. Sometimes social arrangements get in the way or I’m not feeling well. Knowing I can replace a workout with one at home when I’ve got half an hour is a huge relief. But it’s also okay if I skip a workout here and there. It’s part of being kind to myself.
The Exercise Saga – The End
This is a saga, so there’s not really an end insight. It’s going to go on and on. But I won’t bore you. Let’s just say I’ve now found a schedule that works for me. I try and walk to work 3-4 times a week. It gets me outdoors, it’s a nice way to start the day and it prevents me killing the environment by driving. I’m still going to my yoga and Zumba classes once a week where possible. When I don’t make it I’ve found great YouTube channels. I’d recommend SarahBethYoga or Yoga With Adriene and The Fitness Marshal for dance.
I’ve also added some weight lifting into my workouts. If you’re interested in getting started I suggest you look into it to ensure you practice safely and start with small weights and work upwards. I spoke to a fitness instructor before I got started. Some YouTube channels I use for this are PopSugarFitness which are great for all kinds of workouts and BodyFit by Amy. Some weeks I’ll try and do another cardio workout of some description from these channels. I’m a big fan of cardio kickboxing type workouts.
I am getting there. I know that. But I’m always looking to move onwards and upwards. My go-to is often to look online for reliable information. Even when I find articles from reputable companies or organisations. So much of the information is conflicting. So, what’s a girl to do?
What I’ve learnt is that working out is subjective. It’s going to depend on not just your physical attributes but also your lifestyle. Some people have more or less time to give to workouts. We will all start in different places. There’s also a matter of resources, not just time but also money. At the end of the day it has to be right for you. Only by doing will we work out what does and doesn’t work for us.
I tried treadmills and weight machines but they failed to keep my attention and I wasn’t motivated. I tried the gym twice a week but found out the once a week fits my schedule better. A mix of home and gym seems to fit me well. Different kinds of workouts, walking, yoga, cardio and weights help mix it up. Variety stops me from getting bored.
What are your thoughts? Do you find exercise a minefield of information? What works for you and how did you work it out?
Have you checked out my other articles? Here’s one on self-care