OK. So you know you should do more exercise, but the anticipation and fear keep stopping you from starting. Every week you make a firm promise that instead of watching soaps on the TV, you WILL go out for a walk. But you made yourself that promise months ago, and you have yet to buy some suitable walking shoes.
You notice there is a new yoga class starting in your local village hall and you stick the details on the fridge door, ready for the first class. However, when the first class comes around, you are overcome with anxiety at been the ‘new girl at the back’. So you end up staying in, eating Pringles instead.
You like the sound of the local gym but can’t even bring yourself to attend the open day, as you are overwhelmed with feelings of doubt. What if they are all size six, willowly women who wouldn’t look out of place on a catwalk ? What if the men have toned bodies with six packs and I turn up with flabby arms and a spare tyre around my middle ? And the worst fear ever …. what if they all laugh at me ? What if ….. and so it goes on.
OK, let’s be clear. Exercise for beginners is not easy, especially if you are over a certain age and haven’t exercised in a long time. It may be that your last venture into any physical exercise was at school, forty years ago, when you tried vaulting over a wooden horse ! Oh, I have fond memories of that wooden horse at school ! Not !
Perhaps you were a sporty person in your early twenties when you were single and child free. Then you had children and your priorities changed. Let’s face it, after childbirth your body changed and morphed into some alien cocoon that craved rest. You certainly didn’t want to bounce round the gym every night. Our exercise as young mothers consisted of pushing the pram and chasing toddlers round the house. I was a regular club tennis player for many years, but then when I had my third child at the age of thirty, I started to run out of steam, literally. Having three daughters under the age of seven was all the exercise I needed, thank you very much.
And there was my mistake. I slid into a world of non exercise, and as a consequence my physical and mental health started to suffer. I put weight on and as a result my self confidence also plummeted. After years of excuses I found myself heading into menopause. I was unfit, overweight and most importantly living an unhealthy lifestyle. Now, after much soul searching, I am back in the world of fitness and living the healthiest life I have led, in MANY years. To read my recent blog about my personal health journey please click here.
So, if you are a beginner to exercise and are nervous, even scared about how to start, then you have my genuine sympathy. I know how hard it can be. However, sympathy is not enough to get you motivated, so I will give you my honest thoughts on how you can start now and get back into exercise. YES ! I said NOW ! There is no time like the present to start on your new path to a healthier lifestyle. No more excuses. Today is the day to start. ( Obviously please check with your GP or family doctor before starting any new exercise regime )
So here are my top tips and ideas for starting your new exercise plan.
Walking is so simple and such a great way to exercise and yet many of us still don’t walk enough. We prefer to jump in the car as it is convenient and saves time. There are many car journeys we make that could be changed to a nice brisk walk instead.
Perhaps you work in an office block and always use the lift ? Why not take the stairs instead and give your legs and heart a good workout. Once you have done it a few times you will notice the difference, as it becomes easier on each climb you make.
Do you usually collapse in front of the TV on an evening, after dinner ? I know just how easy it is to do that. After a hard day at work. all you want to do is lay on the sofa with your feet up. I understand how tempting that is. But it becomes a habit quite quickly and you find that years pass by. And as long as you keep lazing on that sofa, your health keeps on deteriorating too.
Instead of giving in to the call of the warm, cosy sofa, how about going out for a nice brisk walk ? OK, here in the UK, I know the weather can be unpredictable, but you can wrap up warm or take an umbrella with you. I promise you, once you go out for a walk, you will feel energised and revitalised. Once you make your evening walk a regular habit, that cosy sofa won’t seem so cosy after all.
If you enjoy walking and would like to make new friends, then why not think of joining a walking group ? Walking groups are so popular in many towns as they are a great way to keep fit and make new friends. Have a look in your local library, newspaper or on the internet for more details.
JOIN A GYM
As you know I am a big advocate of gyms as I have been a member of my local David Lloyd Club for five months. I love the community feel to the club and I have made friends there, which always adds to the quality of life.
Organised gyms also have the benefit of personal trainers who can help ease you in to your new fitness regime. Knowing where to start can be quite daunting, especially if you have been away from fitness for many years. I have had a few personal fitness sessions and it has been invaluable to me. By having a programme set for me I have a focus to work towards. To be honest I have reached my goals quicker and easier because of this.
Please don’t think that gyms are full of slim young women and body builders lifting weights heavier than you and I ! Most gyms are welcoming places, with many ordinary people seeking fitness and a healthier lifestyle. Don’t forget that EVERYONE started out the same. We were all beginners at some stage. Please read my recent blog post about my own experiences at the David Lloyd Club, when I joined five months ago. Please click here for a link to my blog post.
Most towns have a swimming pool which is normally run by the local Council. Alternatively, many gyms have their own pools, which is great as you can tie this in with a gym session. Swimming is a fabulous way to get fit as it is good for overall health. Swimming is a good sport if you are a beginner as the water supports your weight, making it less strenuous. There are many fitness classes that take place in the pool too, so look out for them. I know my David Lloyd Club has an Aquafit class which is a great workout in the pool.
Nordic Walking is a relatively new fitness regime in the UK. It is now so popular that there are many groups all over the country. Nordic Walking is basically a walking activity outdoors using specially designed walking poles ( which look a little like ski poles ). The idea of using the poles means the upper body receives a work out as well as the lower body. The poles also help propel the walker along, but also gives stability, so the walker feels more supported. After a long period of illness I used Nordic Walking as part of my rehabilitation and I enjoyed it very much. Having the poles as support meant I felt safer and more supported.
Cycling is a very gentle way to get involved in fitness. It also gets you outdoors and out exploring your local area. I find cycling gives me a sense of freedom, especially if I am riding in the countryside. The best thing about cycling is that you don’t have to be super fit to enjoy it. OK, it may have been thirty years since you rode a bike, but once you have been on the bike a short time then it will all come back to you !
If you don’t have a bike, then look on Ebay and buy a second hand one. There are plenty around for sale, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money. If cycling on a road fills you with panic ( as it does for me ) then simply pop your bike in the car and drive somewhere quiet, so you don’t have to worry about traffic.
As most of you know I am a keen tennis player. I started playing at 11 and within a few years I had joined a club and was playing competitive tennis. Tennis is a great community sport and most towns and villages have tennis clubs with club sessions for all ages and abilities. Within tennis clubs you generally find that they have other social activities, which can also be a way of making new friends. My previous clubs have all had a fantastic social calendar, including quiz nights, curry nights and Sunday afternoon BBQ’s.
I love Tai Chi as I find it so gentle but energising. It is a perfect activity for beginners and is suitable for any age and fitness level. Tai Chi is a combination of deep breathing, relaxation and slow flowing movements. Recent studies have shown that Tai Chi helps improves posture, reduces stress, improves mobility and balance and helps revive muscle tone. I found that Tai Chi gave me a great sense of calm and greatly helped my sense of balance, which can be challenging some days due to my Meniere’s Disease.
I have included golf here as I think it is a fabulous way to increase exercise without you actually realising you are exercising ( if you understand what I mean ! ) Golf is a great all round fitness activity for all levels, but especially beginners. Golf clubs are wonderful places to make new friends and most golf clubs have a varied social calendar. You can actually go to a golf club on your own and tag onto other golfers groups so you are always meeting new people. Most clubs have a golf professional so you can book a round of lessons to help you improve your game. Plus you are outdoors while playing, so while having fun, you are also enjoying plenty of fresh air.
I attend a weekly yoga class at my local gym and I absolutely love it. It gives me a full body workout, increases my suppleness, helps my aching joints and gives me a wonderful sense of calm. There is usually a relaxation / meditation session in every yoga class which I find so useful in helping me release the stresses of the day. As yoga is so gentle, it is perfect for beginners new to exercise. It is great to see men now enjoying yoga classes too as it used to be a female dominated activity. It really is for everyone to enjoy and I cannot recommend yoga enough, especially if you are nervous about starting a new exercise regime.
Oh my ! I LOVE Zumba. It is my favourite fitness activity. I do love to dance though, as I find the combination of movement and music is very uplifting and a great way to de-stress. Zumba is so popular that you will find classes in most towns. You don’t need any experience to join in. Just follow the teacher as she explains the different moves and you will find your own level soon enough.
For those of you who want to start at a more gentle pace, then look for a Zumba Gold class, as this is a lower and slower impact form of Zumba and great for complete beginners. I have seen ladies well over the age of seventy doing Zumba classes who are amazing. They are fit and healthy and don’t let their age stop them. They say dancing is good for the soul and it certainly lifts my spirits and gives me a feeling of positivity.
FITNESS / ACTIVITY CLASSES
I have only chosen a small selection of fitness activities but there are plenty more that may be more suited to you. So have a look around your area for a fitness class that interests you. Look in village halls, community centres and sports centres for more information. Alternatively ring up your local Council as they will almost certainly have details of classes in your area. I recently came across the U3A in my local area and discovered this is a fabulous group for retired and semi retired people of all ages. It may be that they run fitness classes that interest you, so it is worth a call to them.
There is always something that you can do to improve your overall fitness and health. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is ourselves ? We all make excuses ( me included ) about why we can’t do exercise. We are too busy, too tired, no money, and our joints are aching ! Unless you have a serious debilitating illness then ANYONE can include some form of exercise into their daily life. There are even fitness classes for wheelchair users and those with severe disabilities so there really is no barrier to exercise. And if you ever needed more motivation, then go watch the Paralympics on You Tube for inspiration. Seriously, those Paralympians will give you the inspiration you need to get you started.
Research has shown that just thirty minutes a day of exercise can have a profound, positive effect on our health. Once you start regular exercise then you will never look back. I promise you. You will feel and look better in such a short space of time, that you will regret not starting years ago.
Never underestimate the power of exercise and how it can bring so many positive changes into your life. Today is the day to start. So why not go out for a gentle walk, breathe in the fresh air and take time out for you. Walking is just the beginning, and in no time at all you may find that you are keen to explore other activities.
Please comment below and let me know your thoughts on exercise. Are you a complete beginner to exercise ? Are you already exercising ? And if so, what is your favourite form of exercise ?
Please see your GP before you start any exercise or activity.
Until next time dear friends