Sunday, 1 January 2012
It’s ‘Join the Gym’ season
For many years, come January, I’d automatically think about joining the gym, again. Alongside the sinking feeling of going back to Weight Watchers came the inevitability of another year's club membership. And many times I followed through and signed up. Inseparable from my determination to lose weight was my promise to myself that this year I would get fit. So, that by the summer I’d be slim, toned, ready for bikinis and the beach.
I can’t tell you how much money I spent over the years on gym memberships. Every time I think about it I cringe at the memory of the time I signed up for a lifetime membership of a gym for £2500! I have also been a member of the local gym here 3 times, I’ve joined LA Fitness and Esporta, I paid a personal trainer, I've bought the kit, made the commitment, promised solemnly to myself that this year would be different, year after year. And then, within a couple of months, I'd give up. I have been through that process so many times I have lost count. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with joining a gym, if you enjoy the things you can do there; the classes, the pool, the fitness machines, why not? The thing is I’ve always hated every single one of those activities. I loathe them. I had to drag, cajole, kid, bully or bribe myself there every single time. Most of the time all I could think of while I was in the gym was how much longer I had to go before I’d be sitting in the the sauna and then standing under the powerful hot shower (the two thing about gyms I loved).
It seems crazy to me that for so many years I fell into the same trap every single January. When I think about it though I realise that I didn’t know there was any other option. I was so caught up in the weight loss game that I did what I knew, diet/gym, over and over again. And I failed, over and over again.
The Move principle is the one that I have struggled with more than any of the others since we created Beyond Chocolate. I took me years, literally about 8 years, to work out how to move in a way that I love, that is sustainable, that is good for my body and, most importantly, that I will actually do willingly. Once I stopped associating exercise with weight loss, once I unhooked from the dieting mentality that had me looking at how many calories this or that exercise would burn, then I was free to explore moving for the sake of enjoyment and overall good health. After much experimenting I got there. And it took lots of experimenting because the shoulds (I should exercise at least 3 times a week, I should sweat or it's not worth it, it should be hard and effortful, I should do something proper... I could go on) were very deeply ingrained. So it wasn't until I really began to question all the beliefs and rules I had about exercise, even the most deeply entrenched ones that I didn't even recognise as rules, that I was free to find something that works for me. When I started with a blank slate, an 'everything is possible' mentality, when I became my own Guru, here’s what I discovered:
I hate joining classes, organisations, gyms or anything formal or regular
I love walking, in the city, in parks and along the beach
I love stretching, on my own in my living room (sort of DIY yoga)
I love dancing, on my own, in my living room
That’s it. Those are the only ways I really enjoy moving. In the summer I quite like a swim in the sea, but nothing too strenuous. I’d rather paddle about on the spot chatting with friends than stick goggles on and actually swim. I quite like the occasional Five Rhythms class, but I’m not very sociable in new groups of people and honestly, I prefer to dance on my own. I’m up for the odd game of badminton or tennis with Ben and the kids. I’m not that great at either, but I’ll have a go for fun.
So those are the things I do. I don’t have a routine or a schedule. I do them when I feel like it, usually that means that I’ll do something two or three times a week. I’d like to do more, I’d like to feel a bit fitter a bit stronger. The menopause has affected my back and my knees and I want to make sure that I stay supple, flexible and strong as I get older.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve started Walking & Talking, both groups and one to one sessions. I wrote about this on the blog a while ago and I’m finally ready. On January 18th 2012 I’ll be running the first Walk & Talk group, we’ll be starting off at Kenwood House at 8.45am and, come rain or shine, snow or sleet, alone or in company, I’ll be Walking and Talking for an hour. (If I'm on my own I'll have to do without the talking, though I'm hoping Audrey will be with me, and I know one or two of you have already expressed and interest). And by offering individual Walk & Talk therapy, I’ll be bringing movement into my working life too. Being a psychotherapist is a very sedentary job. I love it. I am a sitter by nature I reckon (between the option of a walk in the park and a good book by the fire, there's really very little contest.) And, now that I have trained with Natural England as a walk leader, I’m looking forward to taking clients out onto the Heath and talking as we walk. It’s amazing how different sessions can be when we are out in the open, in the fresh air, moving while we talk, think and explore.
If you live anywhere near The Heath, come and join me on the 18th January, I’d love to see you there.