It has been a hectic few months at work, with long hours, short breaks and late finishes. There’s been no time to get outside at lunch-time, and what with traffic jams, domestic chores and sheer exhaustion, no energy to do so in the evening. By the time you get home, all you feel like doing is collapsing on the sofa, reaching for the remote control and opening the takeaway cartons.
At the weekends it is all DIY, well-deserved drinks with friends – and it is raining anyway so who wants to go for a run? And then one day the zips won’t do up, and the mirror is not telling a happy story. You don’t dare try the scales!
Your busy life has caught up with you and something needs to be done, so you decide to take action with some exercise. You look up the website for your local gym – and it is full of pictures of lithe and limber young people, jogging effortlessly on their treadmills, stepping perfectly in their classes or cutting through the water of the pool like sleek dolphins. You feel far too fat and cumbersome to put on exercise gear – who wants to be laughed at or feel like the useless sports person at school again? So the idea goes on the back burner and you are in danger of getting more and more unfit.
Is this ringing any bells? Well, the good news is that there are physical and psychological ways to get yourself over this ‘barrier’ and give your hard-working body the treatment it deserves. Here are some ideas to build your confidence and get you back to an enjoyable exercise habit – or to start one if you haven’t done any sport since it stopped being compulsory at school.
It is worth nothing that if you are very overweight, have health problems or on-going conditions, make an appointment with a doctor to discuss your new exercise plans. The doctor will encourage you to exercise, but will be able to ensure that what you are planning is suitable for you. You may also receive some recommendations for healthy eating if needed.
Choose something that is fun!
No-one sticks at something that they don’t enjoy unless they are paid to do so or forced to do so. If you regard exercise as a chore, you will always find excuses not to do it. So the first step is to think about what you enjoy doing. Many people find dance-based fitness classes so much fun that they completely forget that they are also getting fit. There is a wide choice of dance-style workouts so look for music that appeals to you. If you like the eighties ‘cheese’, this is the time to enjoy it without embarrassment!
Make the best of yourself
Confidence comes from within, they say – but a little help from outside never goes amiss. While you may not want to spend a fortune on exercise clothing (nor be in a position to do so), a little effort to look better will really pay off in how you feel. Wear a t-shirt that fits, not the tatty stretched one from the bottom of the pile, take some time to choose shorts or trousers that flatter and tie long hair back tidily, don’t just knot it. There’s no point wearing makeup for exercise, as it will just get sweated off, but if you wear makeup keep it in your exercise bag for after your shower. If you are swimming, choose a costume that fits, and walk from the changing room with your head high – remember that you are doing something to improve your body and you can be very proud of that.
‘They say? What say they? Let them say!’
So said Lillie Langtry, the unashamed mistress of Edward VII – while her lifestyle might not be too good an example, there is much to be learned from her attitude and her motto. Lillie was happy in her own skin, knew she was loved and refused to be upset by gossip or rude comments about her. If you feel fatter or less fit than the rest, remember that most people are decent and would not dream of saying anything rude, and they are probably concentrating on their own workout and won’t even notice you. If you do come across one of the tiny minority that say something unpleasant, rise above it – you are long past the school bully stage and can treat them with the amused contempt that they deserve.
Have realistic expectations
If you have not done any exercise in a while, don’t ‘beat yourself up’ if you cannot keep up with the pace of the rest of the class, or need to take lots of breaks from the machines in the gym. You might remember being able to do an hour of aerobics easily – but think about it, perhaps that was fifteen years ago? Fitness takes a while to build up, and do make allowances for the fact that you may not be twenty years old now! (If you are twenty years old, congratulate yourself on starting good habits early, and again don’t expect to be instantly super-fit).
Don’t waste any more time – jump that barrier and enjoy yourexercise!