I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate the importance of incorporating some healthy movement into our daily lives. Humans, like pretty much every other mammal on the planet, were not designed to be sedentary.
Which brings us to the exciting topic of joining gyms, or not …
A good while ago I joined a local gym/acquatic centre because while I have cardio equipment, weights and workout dvds at home, surprisingly there’s no 25m heated indoor pool tucked away in the corner of the garden – and swimming is one of my favourite things to do, for many reasons.
But it turned out the pool was a seriously awkward commute, especially when it came to getting home again. Plus there’s heaps of swim squad work in there from the minute it opens so getting space in a lane is tricky. Of course, it didn’t help that I kept getting sick/injured, but the inconvenience of access was definitely harshing my squee. The thought of dealing with the crappy traffic and the crowded venue was turning me off the notion of swimming at all.
Cue a friend being enthusiastic at me about a different gym that not only has an indoor heated pool but is much closer to home and totally simple to commute to and from. So on Friday I wandered down to check it out and I was utterly gobsmacked by not only the lovely, lovely pool, but the facilities and range of fitness classes/equipment/training on offer.
Surprise, surprise: I switched gyms.
Crack of dawn this morning I had my first swim (Oh, bliss. A lane all to myself!) and clocked up a steady 1/2 km, or 20 laps. The goal is to increase the distance slowly until I hit the 1 km mark, and hold there while focusing on speed and efficiency and incorporating strokes other than freestyle. Then maybe at some point I’ll push one swim a week to a couple of kms for some long slow distance work.
I’ve also booked in to pilates, because that is brilliant at strengthening the core which in turn protects your back. I so need to protect my stupid back. In time I’ll work my way up to a few of the different classes they offer, like boxing and spinning and other stuff that I’m either not fit enough for now, or that my stupid elbow won’t like while it’s in recovery.
The other thing I’ve started, very very slowly, is a couch to 5k jogging program. 3 times a week I’m turning on the treadmill to walk 5 mins, then jog 1/walk 3 until I hit 2 kms distance, then cool down with a walk. I don’t care how long it takes me until I can run the full 5 km. There is no deadline and nothing to prove. My speed is only slightly above a fast walk, which is what comes recommended by one of the best running books I’ve ever met: Run, Fat Bitch, Run. Yes, it’s a confronting title, but it’s a fabulous book. Very inspiring. Highly, highly recommended!
I know this might all sound like a crazy amount of exercise, but in fact I used to be this active on a regular basis. When I had horses, I was riding a couple of hours a day before getting stuck into the hugely physical job of taking care of said horses – another couple of hours of slog, what with grooming and mucking out stables and muck-picking in paddocks and lugging feed buckets and water buckets and on and on …
Imagine this: when I was working in a professional racing yard near Reading, in the UK, we used to have to empty our wheelbarrow of dung/ruined straw by aiming said wheelbarrow at a 1-foot wide plank leading up to the back of a huge container at a 45 degree angle, and then running the loaded, really heavy wheelbarrow up the plank, tipping out the muck, and guiding the wheelbarrow down again. Up to 2 barrow loads of muck per stable, 10 stables a piece, 6 days a week. We did this in rain, in snow, in semi-darkness, no excuses.
Yes. I was crazy. Your point? *g* My point is, a bit of swimming and slow jogging and hefting a couple of light dumb-bells is really nothing.
It’s also important to remember that writing is a shatteringly sedentary job, even more so than the average office job – and that’s saying something. I really need to counteract that, because the fitter I am, the better I write.
All this means my current plan is to mix cardio with weight training, and add in some flexibility/core work to make sure I’m safeguarding my future health. And my hope is that because I’ve been fit in the past, I’ll regain that fitness a little more quickly.
Of course, what they say about food and exercise is sadly true – you can’t out-train a bad diet. Which means I need to monitor my intake very carefully. Stay low carb and avoid temptation, avoid the trap of thinking I can burn off sugar and excessive fat with some exercise.
Which brings us to this week’s experiment: salad. Shudder. I really don’t enjoy cold green leaves. I wish I did, but I don’t. Actually, I don’t enjoy cold food full stop. Never have, never will. But I also know that eating salad, with an array of good foliage, brightly coloured raw veg like red and yellow and orange capsicum, and tomato and mushrooms, some healthy fat like avocado, and some lean protein like smoked chicken breast or cold cooked prawns, really is a potent weapon in the de-flabbifying wars.
So for this week I am going to have salad every day for lunch. Boiled eggs and a green banana for breakfast (green bananas are a brilliant source of resistant starch, which is hugely important for gut health); salad for lunch; some kind of hot protein and hot veg for dinner. As much water as I can suck down. And we’ll see what the scales say at the end of the week! Of course, the downside is that if this works I’ll be stuck with salad for the foreseeable future …
But I guess that other thing they say is true too. No pain, no gain! Or loss, as the case may be.
How about everyone else? What are you up to, exercise wise? How do you balance the need to enjoy your food and the desire not to be so restricted that it sends you into a huge craving-induced binge? And does anyone have any totally stupendous salad recipes that might make the pain less painful?