Exercise for Life

One morning last week as I pulled on my trainers, I realised that I have been exercising for 32 years. 32!!

At school I was not interested in any kind of sport or exercise. I don’t know if they still do it now, but at school in PE in the 70’s and 80’s we always had to pick teams. I was always picked last. I was the ‘not wanted’ last one on the team and expected to be rubbish. And rubbish I was, until, one particular day in my final year at junior school, when I found my feet in a rounders game – as the backstop!  My new found sports acumen didn’t last long and it wasn’t until my second year at university in 1986 that I seriously became interested in exercise.

I had become aware of the aerobics phenomenon and purely for weight management reasons, (too many student dinners) I joined a class.   I recall lots of neon leotards, leg warmers and shouts of encouragement as we all breathlessly jumped along to the hits of the day.  It was HARD! Having not really done any exercise up to this point, I was breathless after about a minute, and after five,  thought I was going to be sick. My face was the colour of a beetroot and the next day I could barely get out of bed.   Exercise IS hard, particularly when your body is not used to it, but I persevered and it wasn’t too long before I could get through a whole class without collapsing.

After a while  I decided that going to classes was too inconvenient and I bought my first Jane Fonda workout VHS video. What a revelation! Jane was amazing! Jane was fit! I wanted to BE Jane. Blimey,  she looked amazing in her leotard,  and if I just followed her regime I could look just like her. ( The irony is that she is 30 years older than me and history informs us that she was bulimic at the time)


But I have to credit Jane with my love of exercise which has lasted til the present day. Recently her most popular Videos were re-released as DVD’s and they are still as colourful and cheesey as I remember.  I love her New Workout;  Jane giving us instruction AND running on the spot, then with no explanation at all, a class member Leslie Lilian takes over and not only shouts out instructions regarding what aerobic moves to do next, but also SINGS at the same time.  I wonder where Leslie is now? Jane’s Low Impact DVD features a window cleaner (is he a window cleaner?) joining the class and Jane pretends to look faintly annoyed when he starts singing aloud  to the music.  Jillian Michaels would never allow that.

These days, Davina (McCall) has become my workout DVD of choice. I love Davina, she doesn’t pretend to be perfect and she is very self deprecating (unlike La Michaels).  Sometimes she looks even more exhausted than me. Which is always encouraging.


I started with her High Energy Five Workout and now have about 7 of her DVD’s which I do regularly.   I intersperse them with Nell McAndrews occasionally- Nell doesn’t  do much in terms of instructing, but her trainer Liam Duffy runs the workout like an army boot camp and has a great style with a lot of whistling and shouting encouragement that appeals to me. I have been doing a mixture of Nell and Davina’s workouts since they came out. Every so often a celeb brings out a new fatburning wonder, and I have dabbled with lots of them from Rosemary Conley (too easy) to Tracey Anderson (too hard).

The confidence gained from feeling quite fit generally enabled me to sign up to a Tai Kwan Do class when the kids were young.  My daughter, about 6 at the time, was keen to join – but only if I would. I put aside all my long held school sports fears and we joined together.

We were part of the club for about 2 years and during that time had to undergo “Grading” – going through pre-learnt patterns in front of judges who decided whether you were competent enough to achieve the next grade up. To my absolute amazement, on one such day, I not only achieved the grade but also was presented with The Grading Award which means I had been judged the best on the day, regardless of level. Me! Who had always been picked last at school!  Every time I bring up this story, my kids roll their eyes but it is a perfect reminder for me that you really can achieve ANYTHING if you put your mind to it.

Here is my little plaque that is still a treasured possession for the reasons given above

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness” –  Edward Stanley

So I have tried other activities, (swimming and the gym notably), but always find my way back to my aerobics DVD’s.   I don’t have to go anywhere, put any makeup on or wear the latest gear. It doesn’t cost anything apart from the initial tenner or so for the DVD and I can fit it around my day. I personally prefer to get up early and do it, I can’t imagine working out in the evening, but each to his own.

The key is find something you LIKE doing, be it swimming, running, dance or weights, (you will never stick with anything you don’t like) and do it at a time when you regularly fit it in.

I am still plugging away with Davina and Nell 3 times a week (to be honest I’m afraid to stop after all this time), and although I  don’t work out at Christmas for a week or so and never exercise when we are away on holiday, I generally stick to it.  Yes, its tough at 6am on a January morning when you are pulling your trainers on, thinking WHAT AM I DOING?  But generally I would credit exercise with my stable physical health, steady weight and mental health positivity.  It is a fantastic de-stresser and mood lifter.  Jane is over 80 now and still looks pretty incredible.  I hope I  look like Jane when I am 80.


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