Continuing in the My relationship with…. series, this article “Why I love to exercise” looks at my relationship with exercise.

 

I’ve always been a pretty active person, although not necessarily super fit. I’m not the obvious athletic type – being a mere 5ft 2. But since childhood I’ve always practiced a variety of different sports and other activities.

Thanks Mum (and to a lesser extent Dad) for allowing and enabling this.

This has stayed with me in various guises ever since. Exercise remains an important part of my life today, although it competes against many other priories, which I guess has probably always been the way.

Exercise keeps me fit and healthy. It supports my fairly robust immune system. And it keeps my weight under control. But mostly, it serves to keep me sane, whatever else is going on.

This article is all about my relationship with exercise.

Why I love to exercise

Time to get moving

Although I’d always been active, I got into ‘fitness’ when I was at university. Around this time, I was probably at my roundest ever having recently left home, started cooking for myself and discovered beer. I was a pretty normal student of the 90s.

My first 2 years at uni were undoubtedly the heaviest I’ve ever been. OK I wasn’t huge, but I didn’t wear the weight particularly well. Yet, I was fairly active. I recall a lot of walking, some aerobics, lots of dancing and swimming in old-fashioned swimming baths. But my poor eating habits left little to be desired.

Until I spent a “year out” in France, oddly enough.

Year in France

During this time, my body transformed more than ever before (and thankfully for the better). I’m not saying my body shape hasn’t changed since – it’s probably evolved based on whatever exercise I’m doing – but my weight has remained pretty consistent for the last 25 years.

French cuisine is not known for its low-fat options and there was a lot of eating out during that time too – good food, rich food – but I also started consistently doing more exercise. Mainly walking, but also cycling and running. I joined a gym for the first time and used the equipment as well as following classes.

And the weight seemed to come off and stay off.

Return to Blighty

When I returned to the UK for my final year at uni, my desire to stay fit was pretty strong. I also ate a lot more healthily too. Well, as healthy as a student on a budget can.

I lived on the 20th floor of a tower block – such fond memories of that place – and walked up and down the stairs between one and three times daily. This was great for the legs. I ran a little too and I did countless aerobics classes.

By this time, the exercise habit was well and truly formed. I loved the buzz I felt and the effect it had on my mind and body. It made me feel strong, healthy and in control.

And this love has continued for the next 25 years or so.

What exercise do I do?

My preferences have evolved over time, but I’ve always enjoyed walking, running and some kind of cycling.

Other noteworthy activities have included swimming, yoga, football, kickboxing, and climbing. Although thankfully not all at the same time.

How exercise benefits me

OK, so we all know that keeping active is beneficial for various reasons.

Exercise keeps me fit and healthy. It supports my fairly robust immune system. It keeps my weight under control. And it helps to keep me warm most of the year, due to my terrible circulation. But mostly it serves to keep me sane, whatever else is going on.

I’ve remained active through two pregnancies (I did stop running though), enabling a reasonably easy time of it – it’s great how time allows us to wear rose-tinted spectacles – and fairly quick recoveries.

One of the best things I’ve enjoyed about being fit is that it’s enabled me to ‘have a go’ a all kinds things of throughout my life. Even in my mid-forties…I only started kickboxing, for example – one of my current favourites – during the first lockdown.

How I’ve maintained the exercise habit

I’ve adapted my exercise types and frequency through different life phases and due to childcare challenges, injuries, working schedules and seasons. But my underlying desire to remain active and do something pretty much every day – has kept me sane and well.

That something doesn’t have to be huge by the way, as the cumulative impact counts for a lot.

The first lockdown was initially a challenge. One time out per day, that we pretty much used for our evening family walk – a tradition / habit that we’ve continued all year and are still doing now. But we got creative in the garden with the trampoline and the hula hoop etc as well as in the house with hand weights and my stack of workout DVDs. Not to forget the lovely Joe Wicks helping us all to stay fit.

Any downsides

At times, looking back, my desire to exercise has bordered on obsessive (addictive even). My driving thoughts were that I’d worked so hard to a lose weight, get fit and maintain it, that I was scared of this slipping away.

This led to me sometimes pushing through niggles and pains, when I should have rested. And it’s probably made me an anti-social party pooper at times, too. Sorry folks.

However, I now know that through my periods of lower fitness, including the odd injury and pregnancy, that everything works out OK. And that it’s actually possible to build up fitness from base level, to pretty fit by steadily and consistently building things up again. The odd day off makes no difference and taking ‘rest days’ are also actually beneficial when training.

What’s next?

I often reason with myself that I’d like to carry on exercising (walking, running, swimming or whatever) for the rest of my life, so I’m happy to carry on in a moderate way, rather than pushing too hard and risking ‘breaking’ myself. I’m ready and willing to adapt to enable this.

I’ve competed in various events over the years, but not this year, of course. I may well be over that phase now. Let’s wait and see what opportunities 2021 bring us…

 

Wrap-up

Exercise has been a big part of my life since childhood and has stayed with me in various guises ever since. It remains an important part of my life today, although it competes against many other priorities.

Exercise keeps me fit and healthy. It supports my fairly robust immune system. And it keeps my weight under control. But mostly, it serves to keep me sane, whatever else is going on.

I intend to carry on exercising for as long as I’m physically able to and I’m confident this mentally and physical strength will hold me in good stead for the long-term.

 

Thank you for reading! For more on Age Life Balance, browse the blog at www.agelifebalance.com to find out more.