Exorcising my Exercise demons 2.0
When 2017 appeared out of nowhere, I was nowhere near ready for the ‘Lean in 2017’ lark. In a tragic turn of events, I’d fallen off the fitness train mid-2016. The reasons were simply beyond my control, the predominant one being my extreme laziness which I’ll ascribe to my genes. Sigh. However, having knocked the drinking on the head (for the time being anyway), I feel compelled to re-evaluate my fitness regime, i.e. finally enact some semblance of one!
The laziness has been a recurring theme for me. I vividly recall my delight when I first heard about vibration plates. My friends and I began to envisage our future selves perched on them 24/7 trucking down wine and nibbles and getting skinnier with every swallow. We could probably sleep on them too! Admittedly, I never got my arse in gear to get my arse onto a vibration plate. Nonetheless, the disappointment I felt on learning that the idea was, indeed, too good to be true was immense. Sob.
But my laziness must be conquered because, like it or lump it, regular exercise is irrefutably good for us. The list of benefits it confers is never-ending. It helps stave off, inter alia, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol problems, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, back pain, brittle bones, risk of falls, dementia, certain cancers (such as those of the breast and colon), depression and other mental health problems. But how much do we really need to do to optimise our health and well-being? And what type and at what intensity?
We are bombarded with photo after photo of ‘ripped’ celebrities as well as Tom, Dick, Harry and their uncle Joe flexing their oiled guns and brandishing gimmicky equipment in tediously-curated rigouts every time we turn around. This phenomenon is juxtaposed with reports of ever-rising obesity rates.
The World Health Organisation defines being overweight as having a Body Mass Index (weight in kg divided by height in metres squared or kg/m2) greater than or equal to 25 and obesity as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980; 2/5 of the Irish adult population is obese. Of course, the BMI is merely a rough guide and common sense must be applied in its interpretation. I employ the eyeball test to great effect: if you look overweight, you probably are.
Now we all know that diet plays a far more significant role in weight regulation, but the importance of exercise cannot be overemphasised, given its far-reaching benefits. The WHO now identifies physical inactivity as the ‘fourth leading risk factor in global mortality’.
The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland recommend ‘at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week)’ for adults. Moderate activity should increase your breathing and heart rate, make you sweat a little but should not render you unable to sustain a conversation. Anything more intense would constitute ‘vigorous’ activity. Examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, medium-paced cycling and swimming of moderate intensity.
Broadly speaking, the WHO, NHS/NICE (UK) and American Heart Association guidelines all echo the 150 minutes per week recommendation. A recently published study undertaken by researchers at Loughborough University in the UK of over 60,000 men and women showed that slotting all of your exercise into the weekend confers almost the same benefits as spreading your sessions throughout the week. Woop!
My fitness resolution for 2017 is to undertake forms of exercise I enjoy at times that suit my lifestyle. Sadly, I’ll only ever be an early morning exerciser in my dreams. Also, no marathons or half-marathons will feature in my (hopefully fit) future as I’ve come to realise that I hate running more than 5K. I don’t particularly like running more than 1K! I’ll never forget the abject glee I felt when I missed a 10K Run in the Dark in Dublin in April 2015. I got a text from my friend Susan saying she was bowing out while I was waiting in Gatwick airport for a flight home after spending a weekend in Kent for a friend’s birthday. Those waiting with me egged me on to run on my lonesome so I kept up the pretence (to myself as well as them). I then heard an announcement that my flight would be delayed. I’d never make it back for the start time! Circumstances beyond my control- perfect! The others didn’t appear to have heard the same announcement so I assumed a poker face and toddled off to change into my running gear. This ensemble included logo-emblazoned neon top which was complimentary for all ‘early bird’ bookers. I must have booked about the time I paid for and downloaded the 5- to 10K app which had to be deleted almost immediately afterwards due to storage constraints on my phone. What can you do?! I received a few nods of acknowledgment from other weary-looking London marathon veterans. The marathon had taken place that very Sunday. I even sent Susan a photo of me in my neon top to prove my resolve to run a race that I never would have been able to finish without an ambulance being summonsed to the sorry scene. To my shame, I even kept my hungover lips zipped when a few passers-by and air hostesses remarked to themselves that I looked quite fresh for one who’d just completed a marathon. Take-home message: nothing more than the (very) occasional 5K for me from here on in!
Yesterday evening, I changed into new (and expensive) lycra gear in preparation for a class at the gym. I’d enrolled for this class on my gym app 48 hours earlier. I’d even received the congratulatory automatic email from the gym so it was truly looking promising. But, low and behold, I didn’t make the class. A sudden-onset fit of laziness descended on me. I figured I’d already exerted myself during the ‘getting ready’ affair. I’d spent an age digging out superfluous gym accessories, thereby ensuring I wouldn’t make the class on time. I’m a stickler for etiquette when it suits me. I’d never deign to disrupt a class that had already started warming up a few minutes prior to my arrival. Wouldn’t dream of it! I dutifully cancelled the class on the same app and promptly installed myself on the couch for a most agreeable evening.
Today’s plan is to bite the bullet tomorrow (!), then strive to keep on keeping on. I’m already in the throes of preparation. Only last week I bought special running gloves and open-toed, open-heeled yoga socks; things I didn’t realise I desperately needed until I entered the shop. And sure I’d be lost without them now, already gathering dust in the back of my wardrobe…
You’ll be thrilled to know I’ve just used my app to book myself into a mixed yoga/pilates class for tomorrow afternoon. Off with you, exercise demons! Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted.
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