Heidi Klein bikini, available at Liberty
Who doesn’t get excited about summer? Long days, sunny skies, picnics, sun hats, floaty dresses, Pimm’s – there’s an awful lot to enjoy. There is one thing, though, that can cloud even the bluest sky: digging your old bikinis out of the wardrobe and coming to the horrifying realisation that pretty soon you’ll be having to appear semi-naked. In public. In full, unforgiving daylight. It’s at this point I either: 1. bless the English weather which means that ‘summer’ lasts about a week or 2. consider visiting all my friends in Australia and welcoming a second winter with open arms.
In January, however, I decided that 2012 would be the year I’d get fit. Although I am most definitely not any kind of fitness expert whatsoever, and still have a long way to go in meeting my own fitness goals, I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve found really helpful, many of which I wish I’d known a long time ago. I am, of course, assuming my readers aren’t all Elizabeth Hurley look-a-likes and may also be going through bikini panic this time of year. At the very least, I hope I can provide a little bit of encouragement for you to be the fittest version of yourself you can be!
My Top Five Fitness tips:
1. Get Motivated (this is the single most important step).
Talking about getting fit used to be one of my very favourite pastimes. There was nothing I liked better than a proper girly natter with friends (preferably over a bottle of wine and a big bowl of pasta), going over latest fitness fads and diets. “I really need to start a diet tomorrow.” (slurping up some more carbonara sauce); “A friend of mine is on a diet at the moment – apparently you can eat as many potatoes as you want on it.” “Really? That can’t be right…”; “What’s this dance thing that’s all the rage – zumba – have you tried it? Is it any good?” “I don’t know, I hear it’s all about shaking your stuff. Meant to be a good workout though.” “Hmmm, maybe I’ll try running.” Etc. etc….
Lately, we’re invited to get fit “because of the Olympics.” I must admit, this reasoning surprises me a little, I suppose because when I look at an Olympic athlete, I don’t see a level of fitness I could conceivably ever attain. Wherever you draw inspiration from though, the key is that it gets you motivated to make exercise a part of your regular routine. The inspiration that got me from talking to walking, as it were, was suddenly waking up to the fact that, if I wasn’t fit at 25, when on earth was I planning on getting that toned body I’d always wanted? When I was married, with kids to feed, laundry to do and a full-time job with a bunch of other responsibilities? Doesn’t sound likely, does it?
I’d also, I must admit, grown a little tired of the attitude a lot of single girls in their 20s seem to take; being either to sit about endlessly bemoaning their singledom in a Bridget-Jones-without-the-humour kind of way, or galvanizing into an exhausting life-style of rushing from bar to bar, man to man, night after night, desperate to find the next boyfriend that would stick. I’d taken a rather different attitude on becoming single: I’d realised that this was a time I could concentrate all my energy on ME. The notion was intoxicating. Now, I find I have to fight my tendency to become a bit of a fitness Nazi, I feel the urge to yell “put down the ice-cream / vodka! get to the gym! these are your golden years! stop wasting them! you’re in your 20s for goodness’ sake – you’re in no way in danger of becoming a cat lady. quit moaning and work on your own awesomeness!”
In all seriousness, though, at whatever age and whatever your relationship status, I firmly believe that making your mental and physical health a priority for a period of time each day is of paramount importance. It’s ok to be selfish sometimes. Not only will you look and feel great, you’ll be setting an example of health and fitness to those closest to you. I certainly know that, if I ever am a mother, it’ll be much easier to bring up my children to be aware of the importance of a healthy diet and adequate exercise if I already have such fitness patterns in place for myself.
2. Find your Tracy Anderson.
You must decide what form of exercise suits you best. Think about what you enjoy doing, what would keep you motivated and interested, and also, think about the type of body you want to have and what form of exercise will get you that body. The answer isn’t always to join a gym, or, if you do join one, don’t feel bad about just using it for the fitness classes or the swimming pool. Also, be realistic: I hate running even to catch a train, so the idea of turning out to run voluntarily in all forms of weather…well, it would just never happen. Actually, generally just getting my foot out the door is often pretty much impossible after a long hard day at work, so when I hit on the idea of exercising at home, I never looked back.
I’m now a devoted follower of the Tracy Anderson Method, currently working my way steadily through her metamorphosis ‘abcentric’ DVDs. I know that all sounds gobble-de-gook, but really the premise is quite simple. The ‘metamorphosis’ DVDs are each a 90 day program, tailored to specific body types (abcentric for those who put on weight round their middle, hipcentric if you put weight on your hips and thighs, glutecentric if you have J-Lo tendencies and omnicentric if you want to lose weight everywhere, or if you’re already fit and want to maintain your general muscle tone). You do half an hour of muscular structure work (mat work and light weights) and half an hour of dance cardio 6 days a week. I love this form of exercise because I adore dancing, and because I wanted to build a very specific type of muscle: long and lean and ballerina style. I used to do hours and hours of ballet a week when I was younger, so I knew exactly how I wanted my arms and legs to look once again. Fortunately, the ballerina look is precisely what following the Tracy Anderson Method gets you. If you’re interested in trying out some typical Tracy moves, then have a look at my Pinterest board.
Whatever your ‘Tracy Anderson,’ is though, be it running, yoga, pilates, swimming or dance, make sure it’s something you can be passionate about and which will endlessly challenge you.
3. Workout AT LEAST 4 days a week, preferably 5 and ideally 6.
You must be really strict with yourself in following this rule. The more you work out, the quicker you’ll see results. Make sure you make social arrangements fit around your fitness routine, not the other way round. Meet people for a quick drink rather than supper; if you know that one day in the week will see you bounding from one appointment to another, make that your exercise ‘rest day.’ It’s generally a good idea always to workout on the weekend when you have a lot more time and save your rest day for some time in the week. My rest day is most often on a Friday, when I’m exhausted from work and generally want to see friends.
At the same time, it is important to remember that life isn’t perfect. In the long run, it doesn’t matter if you get sick / life gets crazy / you go on holiday and have to take a week off exercising. What’s important is you get right back to it as soon as possible.
4. Always incorporate muscle toning AND cardiovascular exercise into your workout.
Don’t just run. Running will certainly burn up the calories, but it won’t give you beautifully toned arms. On the other hand, you can’t just do gentle yoga. To lose weight and burn off calories quickly, you must do something that really gets your heart pumping and the sweat running.
5. Accept the that fact that life as you know it is over.
Ok, that sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s true. In one way, you’re going to be a completely different person. You could well become one of those crazy people you see who go for a run on Christmas Day. You’ll start annoying people by saying things like “I just cannot go to bed unless I’ve at least done some stomach crunches.” Committing to becoming the fittest version of yourself that you can be doesn’t mean you workout until you lose those 10lbs, then go back to putting your feet up and watching TV every night. It means incorporating fitness into your lifestyle for the rest of your life. After all, who doesn’t want to look incredible at 45 (and beyond)?
I do hope these tips strike a chord with some of my readers. I’m thinking of making “Fitness Friday” posts a regular feature, if only for my own motivation / inspiration! I’d also love to hear your favourite methods to keep fit and what motivates you to get moving.
Have a happy and healthy weekend, everyone!