Sunday, 15 September 2013

Just Do It? Me and exercise

I think I’ve started and quit gym regimes as many times as I tried and failed to quit smoking.
I don’t know about you but incorporating gym visits into my life has been a big, big challenge. And of course going isn’t enough. You can’t just sit around watching MTV Debase Yourself. You actually have to, you know, work out and stuff.

I was really active as a kid. I loved athletics and would run everywhere. When my mum sent me to post a letter I used to try and run there and back so quickly that should think that I couldn’t have possibly have been.

I loved school sports days. Well, I like the ones we had at secondary school. At primary school, the whole non-competitive events thing made literally no sense to me. What was the point, to feel good about myself? No. I wanted to be the fastest kid in my year. And I was for a while, well, except Mark Norcott who I never quite managed to beat. I was a regular Forrest Gump (but black and a girl… and not American)

I went to an all-girls secondary school where there seemed to be two camps towards sports. Girls who couldn’t do anything because they seemed to be on a year-long period and lesbians. Lesbians were girls who happened to like sports. You didn’t have to be gay to get called a lesbo in my school. Doing your homework or liking sport was more than enough.

There was one particularly bleak sports day where the classes had to compete against each other and in my class I think I may have been one of three ‘lesbians’ so I ended up putting my name down for about five running events. I calculated that if I completed them all I’d have run about 3600metres.

By the end of that day I learned one important thing. 1000metres is a fuck of a long way when you’re 13. My technique was basically to run as fast as I could til I was exhausted then walk until I saw someone was catching up to me. I continued this for the 3 and a bit laps of the track. It must have looked ridiculous. Needless to say I didn’t win as I’m not built for this type of activity. I was a sprinter and at one point there was even some loose talk about me joining an athletics club but, ironically, despite my love of running, I was a very lazy kid and I couldn’t be arsed to make the 2 mile journey to the Terrance McMillan stadium so I didn’t bother.

After leaving school I replaced my entire exercise schedule with drinking and partying and it wasn’t until I started dating this guy who actually liked working out that I got back into it… in a big way. I started going to the gym, took tennis lessons, even learned to dive. Though the relationship didn’t work, I was glad I met him because I realized quite how lazy I’d become. At the weekends, I wouldn’t get up until about 1, would have a fry up, go back to bed then get up later just to get ready to go out partying. That was pretty much every weekend.

From then on, I fell in and out love with working out. I’ve done aerobics classes, I’ve ‘spun’, even took up capoeira at one point but the problem I’ve always had is that eventually, be it after one month or three months, the frequency of my work outs dwindles until they become non-existent. I get disheartened by not being able to see any weight loss.

This is my first mistake of course. Muscle weights more than fat so it’s possible I wouldn’t see any drop in my weight for some time.

But the biggest problem is, I don’t think of it as being part of my life long term. I see it as something I do to get a particular result. i.e. the body I want.  The problem is, when I don’t feel like I’m getting the results I give up. I am, more than a little impatient.

I started to wonder if the first change I had to make was my attitude and start to think about what can be incorporated long term, something that’s sustainable, easy to do and isn’t about giving myself a hard time.

The challenges for me are I get bored really easily. I go running but find it bloody tedious. The gym is also super boring because it’s just doing the same movements over and over and it feels like dead time.

The capoeira was great but I had to travel a long way for the classes so it sometimes took up half a day to attend a class.

And I HATE yoga. If there was an Oscar for most boring exercise and I was the entire voting committee, you wouldn’t even need to open the envelope.

And I don’t have a lot of time. My last gym was a drive away which is RIDUCULOUS but if I’d run there I’d have been exhausted before I’d arrived and I don’t know if I mentioned but jogging is BORING.

So I tried a personal trainer. BORING. I want to work out when I wanted to not because I’d made an appointment… and she talked to much. Lovely lady but blimey.

So then I start to read articles about how doing long cardio vascular work outs, like running and cycling aren’t particularly great for weight loss and body sculpting and that actually, short bursts of anaerobic exercise, the type you do in boot camp or circuit training are infinitely more effective. Tell me more….

I start to do a little digging and found more articles that supported the claim. After a little net surfing I came across a program online that only required a 20 minutes routine,  6 days a week for great results.

So I start the program. I manage about two weeks before I was utterly bored again. Damn it.
At the start of this year I reluctantly started back at the gym hoping that being in LA would inspire me to continue but not even glitzy Hollywood  with it’s gorgeous people and it’s kale obsession could stem the tide of bodywork boredom.

So last week, I came up with a new plan incorporating all the things I need, i.e convenient, fun, not location-specific, short -  I’ve decided to create my own, made up program.

Here’s the key. To get me to just do it, as Nike have always insisted, I’m going to start working out every day adding one minute to my routine every week – starting with one minute.
I’ll do the exercise at home and it’ll be high intensity (this is supposed to be the most effective). Every week, I’ll add one minute until I’m up to 20 minutes.

Here’s my logic, even the most resistant person can’t grumble about doing 1 minute a day. We can all find time for that. And 2 minutes, that’s not even a commercial break.

And hopefully by the time I get to 20 minutes, I’ll have been doing it for 5 months and it’ll have become totally habitual.

I’m taking my inspiration from all those infomercials, gym classes and circuit training I’ve done in the past and the one minute workouts are proving to be really fun. Basically, all I have to do is a few jumping jacks or squat thrusts in the living room. Who can’t managed that? I’m not even bothering to get changed!

Obviously when the workout gets to 5 minutes I’ll have to start giving it some thought and plan but that’s weeks away. Even after just a week of doing it, I no longer feel guilty for not doing any exercise. A minute is a minute. Yesterday I watched TV and did 60 seconds of pushups. Easy.
The important thing is to be doing something. Even if it’s taking the stairs rather than the lift, taking time to think about your body and giving it some exercise is not only beneficial physically but mentally and emotionally too. All the evidence is there and taking a few minutes a day to be really active, accumulatively over time. It’s bound to make a difference.

This could be the way forward. Watch out for the DVD and book!


  1. Another interesting blog and quite a coincidence as I've just started a health kick myself. As kids we are naturally active, I honestly don't think my 7yr old even knows how to walk, buy as we get older it gets harder to commit to regular exercise for many of us. When I was at school I was a sprinter as well, anything over 200m just seemed like hard work. The problem of course is when school finishes and college life begins, sport isn't compulsory then and there are too many other distraction (partying, girls etc) plus when we are young we really don't stop and think about what we are doing to our bodies long term.I too struggle to commit to regular fitness regimes as they are boring there's no escaping it. 2 weeks ago I saw a flyer at work though for a challenge to use the stairs instead of the lift for a month (not much use to those on the first floor) and given that I'm on the fourth floor I decided to give it a go. The first few days were tough but I stuck with it and now its like second nature so I really agree with your theory of "programming" yourself. I think I will try a minute a day and build it up over time, and if you bring out a DVD please don't wear lycra

    1. Good luck. Keep me posted. Today I go up to 3 minutes/ day :)

    2. 3 minutes a day is good, I'm on 1 minute a day of sit ups but I will increase to 2 mins for next week. The jogging is going good as well its actually quite enjoyable being out in the early morning air, or maybe that's just me :-)

  2. I'm watching the Great North run and its really inspiring me, im going to take up running of a morning. I've always wanted to but always found an excuse to get out if it. I think now is the time to get myself out there though. Wish me luck

  3. What about those people who manage to combine their exercise with their housework?

  4. I wasn't into working out in high school because the jocks in my class were sociopaths, but that's another story. When I first quit smoking in my 20's, I did it by furiously working out. As time went on, I learned how to work out. Now, when I spot someone doing bicep curls with their feet or something I think, "Yeah, I used to look that stupid."

    I pretty much kept it up throughout my 20's and 30's, but now that I'm 42, and exercise is more important than ever, I've started smoking again and become a lazy slob. I always thought that as long as my pechs extended beyond my gut, that I'm still in good shape (as long as they didn't turn into tits). But it's gotten to the point where my flabbiness has become awkward, and I really need to do something about it.

    I'm sorry, I thought this comment was going to be much more interesting. I like your idea and I think I'm going to try it too. But I'm going to start with 10 minutes before work and build from there. Also, when I want a cigarette, I'm going to do 20 push ups instead. I'm beginning this journey tomorrow, so wish me luck, and I'll send positive thoughts your way as well.

    One last thing. Unlike Mr. Lake (above), I'm perfectly okay with you wearing lycra.

    1. Good luck. Let me know how you get on. I couldn't start with 10 minutes!. I'm now on 3 minutes/ day as of today :)

    2. Good luck. Let me know how you get on. I couldn't start with 10 minutes!. I'm now on 3 minutes/ day as of today :)

  5. Everybody wears Lycra.....its time for change

  6. Heya Andi, just watched you on live at the apollo and I googled you because I thought you looked unreal! like soo toned! NO way have you gotten to that from a 3 minute work out....

    1. Ha. Sometimes, I don't workout at all!
      I have to thank DNA and some supremely good spanx xx


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