Sheesh, this keeping fit business is hard work. I know I was all delirious just two weeks ago about how well my running was going, and it’s still going well (Race for Life on Saturday, wish me luck!)… but I can’t say it comes naturally.
Sticking to an exercise ‘regime’ for me requires a conscious effort to plan activities on specific evenings, to have a snack at work in the afternoon so I’m not too hungry when I get home, to find time at the weekend before showering but not too soon after eating… Without proper planning, not to mention discipline in sticking to the plan, a whole week can pass without a single session.
Does it really matter if you miss a few sessions here and there? Maybe not, but after not going for a run all week that 10k at the weekend already feels a lot tougher and my legs will suffer the consequences. And even with regular workouts, it’s not like I’ve become some über-fit muscle machine – I look pretty much the same as far as I can tell and still have “moderate amounts of excess fat” as the chart so politely puts it. So if I’m to build, and maintain, some decent level of fitness and muscle tone, I’m going to have to keep the pressure on. (One of the trainers at the gym said that I had a v-shape when I flex my arms, which is good apparently, but I don’t see no v-shape!)
As children, we loved nothing more than to run around, in the house, in the garden, in the park. Everything was more of an effort, too – just climbing a flight of stairs was more of a workout thanks to the relative size of the steps. And at school, we had netball and hockey and tennis and athletics… Staying fit wasn’t really something we thought about. Today, though, most of us lead sedentary lives with office jobs and lazy evenings on the sofa; exercise needs to be a conscious choice.
Sticking to a plan also isn’t made easier by having an irregular schedule. If you have a routine, you can plug your exercise into a regular slot: do your gym workout on the way to work or run to the office and shower when you get there, go for a swim in the evening once your kids are in bed, join a yoga class on Sunday morning before you meet your friends for brunch. With a freelance lifestyle, you’re bound to have down time between projects when you have lots of flexibility and then you have busy periods when you may be commuting to an office and working long hours. If you don’t make exercise a habit, ideally to the point of becoming as natural as brushing your teeth every morning and night, then you have to waste precious energy on negotiating with yourself each time as to whether or not you’ll go ahead and do it.
When I do manage it, by the time I’ve done the commute home, gone to the gym, and had dinner, voilà, it’s 9pm and bedtime! Well, not quite, but I’m pretty exhausted and manage little more than a bit of TV or a few pages of a book. Can someone tell me how you’re supposed to also see your friends, write for your blog, go on dates, do your laundry, pay the bills, and do all those other things you have to – or want to – do?
Maybe the solution is to combine it all? Do a Tough Mudder with a group of friends, play tennis once a week with your boyfriend, date a personal trainer… (– anyone know any good ones? Mine’s a girl.) Integrate exercise into your life as much as possible, so that you’re running or cycling as part of your commute, taking the stairs up to the fourth floor, meeting friends for physical activities rather than the more common social act of eating…
That was definitely my intention behind choosing “being active” as my theme for 2015: having a year so full of exercise that I would miss it if I stopped, programming my mind and body to want to exercise regularly. Having this theme has definitely helped me to focus: when in doubt as to which of two things to prioritise within the limited time available, I know that I should go for the physically active one. But I’m not a gym bunny or a fitness fiend and although I enjoy sport and want to stay fit I have a lot of other interests and I’m not always going to make the same priority calls.
I’ll be travelling quite a bit over the next few months, which means I’m going to need even more discipline to keep up the good work. Of course, I’ll have all those apps to help me, and I also plan to bring my running shoes everywhere I go; running is a great way to explore when you arrive in a new city. Then with my ambition of running a marathon next year, the bar will be raised even further and the amount of time I’ll need to dedicate to exercise will only increase.
Any tips for integrating exercise into your routine? Fun things to do with friends so you don’t have to give up on your social life in the meantime? Let me know in the comments below!