With a string of abandoned gym memberships behind her and summer looming. Jessica Hough searches for a fun fitness solution.
Fad diets don’t interest me, neither does looking like a rake. I’m after the kind of Jennifer Aniston-esque toned physique that screams health. Actually, I am after a physique, full. stop. But standing between me and my sculpted form is a dislike for all things gym-related. And the fact that I’m more ‘go-out’ than workout.
If the key to recovery is acceptance, I was ready for this years ago. I’ve been a January Joiner of every major gym chain in London and consequently managed to break my way of each contract I’ve signed before it’s even skirt weather. However, I recently got the push I needed when my long-term sofa partner, aka the boyfriend, suddenly got fit. It came fro nowhere. One minute we were debating the merits of eco-houses on grand Designs, the next I was a cycling widow. Our weekly Saturday morning eggs ritual was involuntarily swapped for waking up on my own to the faint sound of Lycra shimmying down the stairs at 7am. It turns out there’s no greater motivator than feeling like the unattractive one in a relationship. I accepted the time to get fit had come.
The thing I can’t stand about exercise is the pomp of it all and the boastfulness of announcing to all just how hard you’ve worked out. And now it’s not just the office bores. Facebook’s given this seemingly martyrdom a whole new platform with status updates from people I actually like saying ‘Phew! A two-hour run and I’m glad to be home,’ Or ‘Can’t believe I’m off to the gym on a Friday night.’ You know who you are.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
I’m on the spectrum of fit, but really it’s a case of clinging onto the lower end of the scale by my fingernails, I practice yoga because my inner hippie says it will make me more spiritual (it hasn’t), and I run on the days when I deem the weather conditions perfect ( you’d be surprised how few there are). But neither of these noticeably improve my physical fitness.
It’s a dinner the following week when I quiz my friends on their relationships with exercise that I get some much-needed female perspective.
The first one has corporate gym membership and goes at least once a week, motivated by a combination of duty to keep in shape and feelings of guilt because she has already paid the money.
The second (who is still my friend despite being picked for all the teams at school and reaching the dizzy heights of games captain) is convinced that there is a sport for everyone. ‘It’s simply common sense that being active makes your body create endorphins, which make you feel happy,’ she says, ‘It’s just a case of finding the right form of exercise for you.’ I can see the merits of this theory but I’m quick to point out that as a representative from the non-active party, this appears about as easy as finding your soulmate.
The last of them is a fellow gym-phobe, but has recently started dance classes where she’s forking out more money each month than she would for a top-class gym package, but her justification is ‘I’m finally having fun with exercise.’
I want what she’s having, so I decide to start with what I know and advance to Bikram ‘hot’ yoga. The fashion luvvies swear by it for their minuscule frames and it’s supposed to help get all those nasties out of your pores, which is reason enough for me.
It’s as I reach to open the door that I’m knocked off balance by a man bundling into the street. His face is red and strained as if he’s suffering a mild attack. Inside, other crimson faces stare out at me, collapsed on the concrete stairs, and I have no idea what I’ve just walked into. Through the 45 degree C haze of the studio, I make out row upon row of semi-naked bodies lying motionless on mats. Sixty five to be exact. ‘How gross’ I think, but my anti-nudity vow lasts all of five minutes before peeling down to my sports bra to join them. Staying in a hot room for 90 minutes is a task in itself.I have no doubt it gets results , but I am adamant that life is just to short to stick to Bikram yoga. I also tried pilates, which I enjoyed, and I am noticeably more flexible, but if I’m serious about improving my fitness, shouldn’t I have to physically exhaust myself in some way or other?
THE ARMY PHYSICAL
Full of sudden enthusiasm, I decide to sign up for New You Boot Camp a whole day of fitness training at Richmond Park. Obviously I’m not about to go through this sort of torment on my own so I drag a friend along with me on the promise of a congratulatory white wine spritzer afterwards. Accompanied by a combination of macho men and brides-to-be on a mission, we begin with some simple jogging and stretching, then move quickly on to some more intensive sprinting exercises. The mood is much light than I’d envisaged and the team games are reminiscent of school sports days, though sadly minus the beanbag racing. The army element is more motivating than humiliating, but with the customary punishments of any hands spotted on hips earning everyone in the group five push-ups and being last to the tree costing ten push-ups on your own.
We leave at the end of the day barely able to walk, but with the glow of superiority that only a grueling workout can bring. That night, with trophy spritzer in hand, I even start waxing lyrical about the day’s trials but thankfully I hear myself in time and quickly reign it back in. Through even amid all the endorphin induced smugness. Continued….*