One morning last week as I pulled on my trainers, I realised that I have been exercising for 36 years. Not non stop of course, (!) but at least 3 times a week.
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, children always picked teams. I was always picked last. I was the ‘not wanted’ one on the team and was 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 backstop! My new found sports acumen didn’t last long though, 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 give at least some credit to Jane for 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 still 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. It’s hilarious!!
Later, in the 1990’s, I followed the pregnancy DVDs of Kathy Smith and I absolutely credit her videos with allowing my body to snap back to pre pregnancy weight within a few weeks.
The confidence gained from feeling 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 day 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
Fast forward to the 200’s and I had moved on to Davina (McCall) and I think, quickly collected every dvd she released. I loved Davina, she doesn’t pretend to be perfect and she is very self deprecating. Sometimes she looked even more exhausted than me. Which is always encouraging.
It’s funny now when I look back I realise I have changed my workout habits approximately every ten years and since about 2012 I have been in my ‘treadmill’ phase. I found the years of doing aerobics videos were starting to have an effect on my knees and lower back, so I splashed out on a treadmill and now spend 3 mornings a week doing either light jogging or uphill walking for 75 minutes.
In 2020 I belatedly found Yoga and now practice for an hour twice a week alongside my treadmill workouts. Of all the exercise regimes I have ever followed, probably yoga gives me the most. It puts me in touch with my body like no other exercise has, and has banished my neck and lower back problems. I have written about my experiences with yoga – please have a read : Never Too Late To Start …YOGA
So there you have it! A life time of exercise. The key is to 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 personally prefer to get up early and do it, I can’t imagine working out in the evening, but each to his own.
Yes, its tough at 6am on a January morning when you drag yourself out of bed, 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. So, if you are thinking of taking up exercise, any exercise, please please go for it. I promise you will never look back.
“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness” – Edward Stanley