It’s one of those words that fill some people with utter dread. Cycling, swimming, running, spin class, jazzercise – it doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it’s still exercise.
And no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape it. It’s mentioned all the time; on TV, on the radio, in classrooms, by your doctor, as suggested apps on your bloody phone…
Whether we’re pleading with our kids to get off their screens and go outside for some fresh air and exercise, or we’re encouraging our elderly relatives to ‘join a class and get some exercise’, it’s always there, hovering around like a bad smell. Exercise, exercise, exercise. It’s bloody everywhere.
Personally, I’ve never really been into exercise. I mean, I know it’s good for you, and I’m aware of the benefits, but I never really got involved in that scene. I couldn’t be bothered.
I also, stupidly, thought that thanks to the fabulous genes handed down to me by my parents, I didn’t need to worry about my weight, or my health. I could pretty much eat what I wanted, do the minimum amount of exercise and still stay relatively healthy…or so I thought. How naive I was back then; so young and so stupid.
Don’t get me wrong, I dabbled. In fact, when my husband and I first moved in together, both with good jobs, no kids and more money than sense, we did what any self-respecting twenty-something-year-old couple with too much money would do…we got ourselves a joint gym membership at the Hilton… Of course we did.
But in all honesty, looking back now, I wasn’t really in it to get fit. Not really. Yes I donned the Lycra and the sweatbands, and yes I worked that cross-trainer like a boss, but it had nothing to do with fitness. It was all about the image; the lifestyle; the scene. I was exercising; getting fit; keeping healthy; buying ‘active wear’… but it was just utter shit.
I’d rush into the office at ten past nine and casually say, “sorry, I’ve been at the gym…” Or I’d announce that I was “…taking a long lunch…” so that I could “…pop to the gym…” God, what a tit…
Then my kids came along, and not only did I have no time or money to go to the gym, I had no bloody energy! I was having a full work-out every day without even realising it. And again, those genes were doing me proud and I was back to my normal, pre-baby weight within a few months, and feeling great.
And we all lived happily ever after.
Well, actually, no. Not the end. Because something happened a couple of years ago, that changed everything.
I turned 40. (Turning 40 brings with it its own fresh Hell, but that’s a story for another day.)
And for some reason, as soon as I turned 40, those genes, those fantastic genes that had been my saviour all these years, were starting to let me down, big style!
I suddenly started to notice changes; little changes, but changes all the same. My jeans became a little neater around the waist; my dresses seemed a little tighter around the middle; my bras decided that two boobs weren’t enough – four was obviously far more appealing (you know what I mean, right?).
Then there was the lack of energy. Finally getting the kids to bed, realising it was 9.30pm and, despite the 101 things knew I could and should have been doing, instead all I wanted to do was veg on the sofa and eat.
Wait, what? What do you mean I can’t now eat a whole bar of Dairy Milk and half a glass of wine on a Monday night and still have a flat stomach in the morning?
This getting old lark was starting to get on my tits. All four of them.
It was time to do something about it. Not just for the sake of my bulging bras and distressed dresses, but for my health, and for the health of my children; because as easy as it is to be flippant about the whole ‘I hate exercise’ thing, our kids are little sponges. They see, hear and absorb everything. They take it all in and store it away for the future.
So as a family, we started making changes – more salads; fewer takeaways; more home-cooked meals; walks at the weekends; walking/cycling to school. Little things that would not only make a difference to me as a forty two year old, but which would also instill in my children a basic knowledge of good health; teaching them that being fit and healthy is important, but that it can also be fun…
And then something else cropped up, which spurred me on to take the whole ‘exercise’ thing even further.
Some of you may know that I do a bit of extras work – you know those people in the background in films, TV programmes and adverts? The ones who don’t say anything? Well, I’m one of those.
I’ve always loved the idea of being an actress; learning lines; dressing up; pretending to be someone else – it’s always been a dream of mine (a BBC period drama is my ultimate goal!). But when you have two young children and live in the north of Scotland, it’s not that easy to find (paid) work… So I joined an extras agency, and so far I have been in a BBC detective show, a South Korean crime documentary and an Indonesian film. Brilliant.
Then I got a call about another job. An advert for Aldi. Woohoo – sounded great. I’m an Aldi girl, so I jumped at the chance. “Yep”, I said. “I’m available for that one.”
Then the message came back – “There will be some light, fun jogging involved…”
Now, here’s the thing. I very rarely use the words ‘fun’ and ‘jogging’ in the same sentence, and I almost changed my mind. But instead, I took myself off to Primark, bought the cheapest, most basic Active Wear I could find, and off I went.
The filming was great and I loved every minute (and I’m sure one day that will be another story…!) but it also surprised me. I actually enjoyed the running part! Like, really enjoyed it. How odd?
So, the final chapter of my exercise story is that in the last nine days, I’ve gone for a run FIVE times. Nothing too fancy or extravagant, but I’ve been exercising and I’ve been enjoying it.
I started slowly, taking it easy and eventually working up to 2.74km just the other day. Me – 2.74km! Who’d have thought…?
Each morning, I wake up early, creep around while the family are still asleep, pull on my cheap Primark gear, set up my Run Tracker, and off I go. And I tell you, there’s nothing better than listening to bird song, with the warm sun on your back, your heart pumping, and knowing that you’re doing something good; something positive. It sets you up for the rest of the day. It’s just about finding the right thing for you.
So now, I’m not exercising to be trendy, to be cool, or part of a scene. I’m exercising because my body needed it. I’m exercising because I know it’s good for me. I’m exercising because I know my children are watching, and I can’t very well get on at them for spending too much time on the Xbox and not enough time outside getting fresh air and exercise if I’m not doing it either.
I’m exercising because I enjoy it.
And at this rate I’ll be running a Marathon…well, one step at a time eh?