I came into this world bounding with fizz and energy which probably explains why, from a young age, my exhausted parents packed me off to as many clubs and activities as time and money would allow. Dancing, swimming club, gymnastics, Brownies, netball, badminton, play schemes during the school holidays... The hope was that my energy levels would be sufficiently depleted to allow for a slightly quieter life at home! (Didn't work by the way).
Fast forward three decades and the duracell bunny that is the Ginger Warriors is still going strong. The only difference is that it's now Craigy Boy who packs me off to my clubs and activities!
Fitness plays a HUGE role in my life and on a daily basis. I usually do two hours of physical activity a day apart from a Sunday which is my rest day and allows my battered body to recover and repair. Speaking of which, as I sit writing this I'm aware of a subtle ache in my pecs which means that Monday's weight lifting session did its job!
Now before I proceed any further I want to point out that I am in no way saying "Yay me, I do a ton of exercise, what a fabulous human being!". It's just what works for me and my body and what makes me feel good about myself. And it does tend to make me very sleepy and sedated by 9pm which is undoubtedly a mighty relief for that long-suffering man of mine. ;)
So without further ado here are my top five ways of keeping (relatively) in shape and being (marginally) less hyperactive!
If you'd have said to me a couple of months ago that I'd a) be in attendance at a spinning class and b) actually be enjoying it I would have replied with great indignation: "Not over my exhausted, dead body". And now that's exactly how I feel twice a week and I can't get enough of it!
If you're not entirely sure what Spinning involves then allow me to explain. It's basically a hardcore, exhilarating workout on the back of an exercise bike. The instructor is up front and will guide you through the workout phases which include sprints, hill climbs and HIIT (high intensity interval training). It's not long before your heart is pumping louder and faster than the music! You do have a control resistance on your bike which enables you to increase and decrease your gears meaning you can go at your own pace. But as with anything else you do have to push yourself for maximum effort and, consequently, maximum results. BRING ON THE SPIN!!
The clue is in the name.
This is, quite possibly, the most intense workout going. I mean, there may be something else out there that is even more intense but at this moment in time I'm not remotely interested: Insanity is currently kicking my butt and then some!
In a nutshell it's a total body workout which doesn't require any equipment since your own bodyweight provides all the resistance you need. It's based on a fitness method called "max interval training" which has you working as hard as you can for 3 minute intervals with a short rest of only 30 seconds in between sets. Burpees, push-ups and tuck jumps are on the menu along with a whole host of other exercises straight from the depths of fitness hell. Oh how you relish those 30 seconds when they finally come along!
Due to timetabling at the gym and my other commitments I can only do the 30 minute lunchtime session on a Tuesday by the end of which I'm invariably on my knees with a distinct feeling that I'm going to vomit. It's a shame I can't make the 60 minute session on a Wednesday evening. A real shame...
Zumba Fitness took the world by storm a few years ago and continues to be a mighty popular way of keeping in shape. Most of you will have tried it by now and if you haven't then I would urge you to give it a go! It's basically an hour of dancing to your favourite tunes and some more obscure international music which soon become a part of your favourite playlist! Salsa, merengue, hip-hop, Bollywood, 60's, 70's 80's... as an instructor you can choreograph a routine to any song out there which means this workout never gets old!
I'm in my fourth year of teaching classes and it has been nothing short of a joy to see women (and the occasional man) of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels come to my class and leave with a very red, sweaty face accompanied by a big smile. Fitness really can be fun and Zumba is the ultimate proof!
Forrest Gump did it and he did it for two years straight. Now I'm certainly not that committed to pounding the pavements but I do enjoy my little morning runs, even in the current crispy cold climate. For some reason, however, the mere thought of running is enough to bring some people out in a cold sweat. They deem it too hard, too demanding and something only very fit people do.
Well I strongly and wholeheartedly disagree! Running truly is a one-size-fits-all activity! You might only be able to run for a few minutes the first time you hit the street/treadmill but you have to start somewhere and that right there is the most difficult thing about running: GETTING STARTED. Once you're on your way you'll be amazed at how quickly your stamina increases and before you know it you'll be running half marathons! Ok, so maybe hit the one mile mark to begin with.
In any case, running is great for mind, body and soul and it doesn't require any specialist equipment other than a decent pair of trainers and a sturdy sports bra if you're a bit of a busty Brenda like myself. And the best thing of all? It's freeeeeeee!!! Now what are you waiting for? Get those trainers on and run, run like the freakin' wind!!
P.S. If you're overweight and don't think you could even possibly contemplate running then look no further than my friend Julie Creffield's blog, The Fat Girls Guide to Running. She'll soon have you believing differently and rightly so!
"Weight lifting? But as a woman the last thing I want to do is look all muscly and bulky like a man".
Well, unless you a) actually are a man b) have unusually high levels of testosterone present in your body or c) have a penchant for anabolic steroids then you won't be looking like Arnie anytime soon. But what weight lifting will do for you, according to health experts is:
- help you lose body fat (if performed in conjunction with a healthy diet. My stumbling block right there).
- decrease your risk of osteoporosis
- reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes
- improve your overall athletic performance
- increase your physical strength
- improve your quality of sleep
- help you battle depression, anxiety and low mood
That's a lot of benefits right there and all you have to do is pick up a bunch of weights! Ok, so it's not as easy and straight forward as that, in fact, it can be downright gruelling work both physically and mentally. Sometimes I look at the weights my trainers is expecting me to lift and I think she's having a laugh. But no, she's perfectly serious and when your trainer is a feisty little ball of energy from Zimbabwe you tend to do what you're told, even when your poor muscles are at breaking point. But then comes the reward - the huge, immense satisfaction that you just did something that you didn't think you or your body could do. And that's why I love to lift and think all girls should lift! So go on ladies, give it a try - it'll leave you feeling stronger, confident and more determined and surely that's how we all want to feel.