As many of you know, I have been teaching the Exercise4happiness classes for over 4 years now (apart from in lockdown when we moved online). I can’t quite believe where the time has gone. Maybe because it has been such a wonderful thing to do and I’ve been enjoying myself so much that time has whizzed by so quickly. Exercising regularly does wonders for our long term mental health and in addition, doing it with others improves it further as does exercising outdoors.
Although I teach classes indoors, I like to get outside as much as possible and over the last 18 months, I’ve become one of thousands of people taking up the seemingly latest trend of wild swimming (a fancy, possibly middle-class term for describing swimming anywhere but a pool .. but really, it’s just swimming).
Last month, just before Christmas, I was asked why I swim in cold water on freezing cold days … and today was certainly one of them! With an air temperature of 1 degC, it was warmer (relatively) in than out and the river was cloaked in mist. At the time I was asked that question, I think I gave the short reply that I just love the buzz that I get from wild swimming. This is, of course, very true but on reflection there’s more to it than that. I’ll endeavour to explain here why I started and why I’m still doing it.
I began in late August 2020 having spent the summer in land locked Cambridgeshire. My childhood was spent on the coast but as an adult I moved away from my family home. With the arrival of the pandemic, the lockdown restrictions had meant my visits to the coast had been few and far between and I was missing that connection with nature…my summer dips in the sea.
I’d grown up believing that swimming in inland waters was dangerous and largely forbidden (with scary public service broadcasts like Dark & Lonely Water etc … remember that one ?). So imagine how curious I was when I watched a beautiful programme about wild swimming with Alice Roberts. I yearned to give it a try. I searched on Facebook for local groups and I was up and swimming. That first autumn was about learning to be brave; learning to deal with the somatic anxiety that brewed in my guts before every swim in weather that was not remotely tropical. This swimming anxiety partnered up with my usual, annual autumn anxiety and every trip to the river was a mental battle (this changed … keep reading). Just as I was winning, it all came to a grinding halt when the Nov/Dec lockdown was announced. I didn’t swim again until the end of March 21. That spring, I recommenced my swimming with a lighter heart because I knew summer was on its way and the temperature was only going to get warmer. My plan was to swim through the summer and swim “down the temperatures” through autumn and hopefully into winter, leaving the addition of my wetsuit as late as possible. I had a magical summer. With no holiday abroad, I revelled in the cooling water of the River Nene. As the days grew shorter, I continued one swim at a time. Milestones passed… Harvest Moon swim, Autumn Equinox swim, Halloween swim and then finally a December swim. All these swims without a hint of visceral disturbance. The anxiety had gone. It was replaced with an excitement, an unexplained pull, a need to get in the cold water that was almost spiritual. Winter swimming isn’t about knocking out the distance, it’s something else. Something that is unique to each swimmer. And it’s difficult to explain, you have to know it yourself and there’s only one way to do that.
I’m still not a fan of autumn or Christmas come to that, but winter swimming has given me something to look forward to each and every time it comes around now. I think I possess a mental toughness that I didn’t have before. I leave the water each time feeling braver, stronger and that I can face anything… because if I can swim in freezing cold water, I can do anything.
In finishing, I must add that swimming in any outdoor body of water needs to be carried out safely and carefully. Cold water can be dangerous. Take advice from and go with people who are already experienced. There are lots of groups out there ready to help you start your swimming journey and help you find your own Exercise4happiness. Stay safe
Yes I realise that it's been nearly two years since I last blogged for my website. Any social media guru will tell you that that certainly isn't the way to build followers. I'm really okay with that. If anyone happens upon my meanderings, I hope they find them useful, thought provoking or even inspiring. Sometimes, the blogs are just a way for me to empty my brain and stop the incessant chatter.
The Lap of Anglia 2018 was the last long distance multi day cycling event that I trained seriously for. Since then, 2019 saw one 100 mile overnight Summer Solstice ride but that's been it. This recent winter has seen me shy away from riding my bike due to high winds and weekends of endless rain. However, in my desperation to at least do something, 2020 saw me embark on a new form of exercise ... Jeffing!
What the eff is Jeffing? I hear you ask. Well, let me explain ... named after Olympic 10,000m runner Jeff Galloway, Jeffing is a Run-Walk-Run method that he designed so that more people could take part in running events and enjoy them. You don't just start walking when you're too tired to run anymore, you set an interval timer to strictly adjust your pace from running to walking. So, for example ... run 30secs then walk 30secs ...from the VERY START of the race. The theory being that it is less stressful on the body and allows for a quicker recovery.
I first heard of Jeffing from my local village run leader who was planning on completing the London Marathon using this method ... this was before the cancellation due to coronavirus. Being an advocate of exercising for happiness, I decided to give it a go as my cycle training was going nowhere fast due to my reluctance to be anything but a fair weather rider. My running history consisted of training on and off for three half marathons and a couple of 10Ks over the years prior to menopausal joint pain (hip and knee) and a bunion forced me to focus solely on cycling from around 2013/2014. I used to love running as there is far less faffage involved than cycling and it can be done quickly, fitting into an early morning exercise routine. I was somewhat sceptical about it being less stressful on my joints than continuous jogging which I had tried but always ended up in pain.
So, in January 2020 when everyone set off on their new fitness regimens, I started my Jeffing adventure very cautiously. I found an interval training app that I set for 30secs hard (the running part) and 30secs easy (the walking part). It gave me three loud beeps at the transitions which allowed me to perfect the "glide" from running to walking and vice-versa. Setting out up the road before sunrise, I would walk for about 5 mins and then set my timer. Off I went ... I couldn't remember how to run! How fast did I used to go? How can I change my style so my knees don't hurt ..BEEP BEEP BEEP ... before I'd even had time to think this through I was walking. BEEP BEEP BEEP time to run again ... soft knees Stephanie relax, focus on small strides, push the ground away behind you ...BEEP BEEP BEEP ...phew time to walk again....BEEP BEEP BEEP ... glide into that run and remember to breathe girl, don't just pant, blimey I don't remember it being this hard, maybe I'm going too fast...BEEP BEEP BEEP...glide into the walk, don't pull up abruptly ...BEEP BEEP BEEP .... this thing's a Jeffin slave driver! ...BEEP BEEP BEEP oh good there's the tree I can turn back now. BEEP BEEP BEEP .. running again oh it's slightly downhill no wonder it was hard going the other way, so just run faster then ...NO!... BEEP BEEP BEEP ...walking again ..how am I supposed to walk ..do I wiggle like the race walkers? On it went ... for 10 minutes. Seemed like ages, but it was just 10 measly minutes and I'd not even managed a mile. And so it went on. Usually 4 times a week I'd go out and I stuck to it. Amazingly and somewhat miraculously in my eyes, on most occasions I had almost zero joint pain. Some days I got the odd niggle but nothing that a day off didn't sort and none of it impacted on my ability to teach my aerobic routines to my classes.
Three months down the line and I'm only just completing over 1.5 miles in around 15 minutes (which isn't actually a bad pace). Unusually for me, I have listened to my body and have increased distances so gradually I've hardly noticed. I've changed my intervals now to 45 secs run and 30 secs walk. But, I can tell you, when the 45 secs run is up, I'm relieved to walk. I am wondering whether I will ever be able to run continuously again or whether Jeffing will be my modus operandi going forward. I don't know. All I can say is that Jeffing is an enjoyable thing to do and if I can keep doing it through my later years, I will know that I'll always have it in me to run for that bus!
Yours in exercise4happiness
PS Here's the link if any of you would like some further reading on Jeff's method.
All smiles at the start, the Helipad, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
I love to teach exercise classes and I hope I make people happy. I have come to the conclusion recently that making people feel happy while they are exercising is my purpose in life. However, sometimes the happiness comes afterwards .. sometimes a long time afterwards. I remember in my childhood, going out jogging with my father. It really felt as if I was banging my head against a brick wall ... nice when I stopped! Well, this last week I have experienced the pain while exercising all over again.... and it really was heaven when it stopped. You know that my go-to exercise is cycling and so for the fourth year, my Other Half (OH) and I rode the annual Lap of Anglia (LOA) ...a 422 mile trip (it turned into 430 this year ... read on to find out why) around the perimeter of East Anglia in 4 days to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Free wheeling with tail wind around Norfolk - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
We started out in fine form with spirits as sunny as the weather. The first day around the coast of Norfolk from Kings Lynn to Walcott was a true delight .. and as a bonus we had a bit of a tail wind to boot. We left the coast and pedalled our way to Norwich to our hotel for the night ... with little knowledge of what was to come save for an inkling on the BBC's weather app.
Climbing Harvey Lane, Norwich in the rain Day 2 - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
Every time I have done LOA , it has rained on Day 2 just as we leave Norwich and this year was no exception. We climbed Harvey Lane (11% gradient) in a fine but constant drizzle and sweaty waterproofs. As an aside here, the phrase "breathable waterproof " is certainly an oxymoron ... I've not known one to ever exist except in a glossy advert selling the things. When we got to Wroxham for our first break at the ubiquitous Roys of Wroxham, the rain had eased slightly and we did the next stint in our jerseys. And this is where it started to go wrong ... first, my phone fell out of my jersey back pocket when I went for a surreptitious wee behind a bush in a farmer's field. I didn't notice it was missing until 4 miles down the road resulting in one return trip of 8 miles to save it from being churned up by the combine harvester. Now you know where the extra mileage on the lap came from. I was in the dog house with my darling OH as we spent the rest of the day trying to catch up with the others and the rain got steadily worse.
One of many flooded roads we tackled - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
After our lunch in Lowestoft we battled heavy rain all the way to Ipswich. The water was running off the hard baked soil in the fields and straight onto the roads .. in torrents! We crossed flooded dips where the muddy water reached up to our cranks. Trying to keep my feet dry was impossible (hitherto my over-boots were doing a stalwart job!) and there was always the underlying concern that lurking in the muddy waters were large potholes. I decided to stick to the centre of the road in the hope that, as was the usual case in the dry, there were fewer potholes ... the rest was down to luck. By this stage, we were very wet and my shorts were sodden causing my saddle to rub ... my delicate backside never really recovered over the next 3 days. As the mega metropolis of Ipswich loomed into view we could taste our longed for evening meal ...we were that close, when sadly, darling OH punctured! Oh the desire to just leave him to get on and mend it himself was overwhelming, but when I saw him shaking with near hypothermia and struggling to lever off the tyre with freezing cold hands, my heart won over and I stayed with him sheltering in a doorway being about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Fortunately, our friend in our little group, Paul stayed too and together they got the bike back on the road. The hotel was a welcome sight that night having been out on the road for more than 12 hours.
Crossing the permanent ford, Kersey- photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
Day 3 dawned sunny and warm. All of us were misled .. again! Was Michael Fish in charge of the BBC's weather app I wonder? Sunshine and showers were forecast ... for the afternoon ...the afternoon my dear reader! All our waterproofs were in the van and the plan was to retrieve them at lunchtime. But those sneaky little showers got blown along on a fast southwesterly breeze and caught us out. We sheltered under some trees in the vain hope that the rain would blow over and when we thought it had eased off we made a break for it. It got worse! Thunderstorms! No jacket, no waterproof gloves and no over-boots... and a downhill run into Saffron Walden so no chance of keeping warm. In fact we were freezing, again.. it was hard to hold onto the handlebars and operate the brake levers .. dangerous. Those were the longest 10 miles to lunch I have ever ridden. When we got to our stop at the local Tesco, I grabbed my waterproof jacket and took myself off into the ladies toilets and monopolised the hand dryer for the next half hour. This time it was me who was shaking involuntarily. I was not going anywhere until the sun came out even if it meant arriving at our evening destination in the dark. In fact, I was all set to catch a bus or a train ... it was the closest I came to giving up the whole thing. The only dry thing I had to hand was my short sleeve gilet which I put on next to my skin but over the top of my sopping wet sports bra. I managed to dry out my arm warmers (sort of) which I put back on so I looked like a soggy Audrey Hepburn in bike gear. With a hot coffee inside me, a dry upper body and soaking wet shorts, legs, socks and shoes I hobbled out of the ladies and immediately hit the cold air mass of the air conditioned supermarket at large .... just how hot had I made those loos? Shivering again, I stood for the next half hour under the warm blast of air at the store's main entrance ...you know, the one that you feel when you first go in and you think 'blimey, are they heating the whole town?'. Eventually, it did stop raining and I felt brave enough to get back on the bike.
Hill climbing dressed as Audrey Hepburn - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
The next stint to Letchworth Garden City was nothing if not gorgeous. High up in the hills of North Hertfordshire, crossing the Icknield Way, the panoramic views were aided by crystal clear visibility but we could see the approaching thunderstorms circling us like horse-backed Apaches around a cowboy campfire. There was no time to admire ... we needed to get to Morrisons! And we did ... just before the heavens opened ...again. More coffee ... and hot chips this time and we went into the store and both bought new socks ...ahhh dry socks! Even with wet shoes, you've no idea just how pleasurable it is to put on dry socks ... two pairs to avoid the rub!
The final leg of the day was to Luton and it's usually the bit that we all dread because of the hills as we go into the Chilterns around the back of Luton Airport. But to be honest with you, this time, this leg was predictable ....the hills don't change, they don't throw up any surprises, you've just got to get up them. Pick a gear for the gradient and keep pushing it round. Job done. As we entered Luton, on a Friday evening with the setting sun shining straight into our eyes and those of the motorists behind us, you bet we saw that town at its very best!
A well deserved break at The Shuttleworth Collection, Bedfordshire - photo courtesy my phone.
Day 4 started with me bumping my head on the door of our Travelodge bathroom .... note to self : keep helmet on when in small conveniences. Only 114 miles to the finish and half of that was across the Fens and by and large we had a tailwind. Good weather and good spirits distracted me from my sore backside. The last of the hills are just at the A1(M) ... only a mile from our house ...and I was tempted to turn right at Glatton. But my conscience made me carry on and our house melted into the distant background as we cycled further into Flatlandria.
Bombing down Upper Sundon Hill 15% - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
Approaching Kings Lynn, Flatlandria starts to play tricks on the brain. You can see the power station looming in the distance but it never seems to get any closer. Instead it likes to move across from left to right just like a ship on the sea's horizon. The main reason for this is that the roads are so straight (as they align with the fields) that you seem to cycle for miles before you can turn a corner and you pass by your destination before you can turn and head towards it. When you've nothing left in the tank to give, this is a cruel twist of topography. At this point, our two fellow riders had gone on ahead of us so my darling OH and I were alone and it felt eerie. Were we the last? Had everyone else finished and gone home ... there was no one in sight. Our minds were put to rest as, unbelievably, when we rounded one of the few corners, we got a cheer from some supporters on the roadside ... an truly unexpected but motivating sight. Thank you, whoever you were!
And then, as quick as that, it was all over. We met up with the other 44 cyclists, signed a jersey and rode back up to the helipad at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where it had all started. After a few emotional speeches, hugs and kisses, we were back in our van on our way to collect our son. It seems like a dream now. I can't physically comprehend the enormity of cycling the huge distances that I did. Even though it is the fourth time I've done it. Goes to show what can be achieved if you tackle things a bit (20 miles in this case) at a time. Maybe that's the takeaway message here, you can do anything if you break it down into manageable chunks. Yeah I know it's the old trite saying 'how do you eat an elephant' but sometimes you have to live it to believe it.
Thank you to absolutely everyone who made this epic adventure happen. Perversely, because it was at times terrifying, frustrating and doggedly tiring, somehow for me, it was the best of the four LOAs I've done. I'd especially like to thank my darling OH, Brian for keeping me sane, keeping me going and keeping me safe. Here's to more adventures in the future.
Back where we began 4 days earlier - photo courtesy Lap of Anglia
Oh my goodness! Some mornings, just some mornings, there is that urge to pull the duvet over my head and ignore the little voice inside me that's saying "Get up Stephanie, get up!". I guess the fact that I still have that voice in my head means that I'm still up for living life ... because it would be so easy to just give in and give up wouldn't it? We have a fight on our hands don't we? The tiredness that sneaks up on us as we get older is a villain of the sneakiest variety. One day at a time, it saps us of a little more energy in the hope that the day will come when we just give up and take our last breath....
But STOP right there! It doesn't have to be like that. We can fight the beast ... if we choose to. It struck me the other day that old age is going to be hard work for us all. If it were any other challenge we were taking on in life we would do some serious training for it. After all, when I decided to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, I spent a whole year training to be fit enough to do it. So why do we not take the same attitude to the challenge of old age? Do we subconsciously buy into the stereotypes of being old? And therefore act old? I know some people who do. Or do we just neglect our nutrition and exercise programmes until it's too late and we realise that we should have started years ago.
The lifestyle diseases of our time make popular television viewing right now ...with many a celebrity chef having a go at the government for "allowing" us to get so out of shape. But is diabetes and obesity really the fault of the powers that be ? What's next? Are we going to petition the government for allowing us to grow old? You may disagree with me here ... a lot ... but I don't like being a victim. I believe I make my own choices about what happens to my body. I don't blame anyone else for the state it's in - good or bad. I see old age over the horizon for me (still) and I am damned if it's going to be anything other than the most active one I can make it!
If old age is going to be a challenge then we need to start getting in shape for it. As you probably know, I teach exercise to music to seniors and although I'm teaching them, they are also teaching me. From the limited time I've been with them so far, I have found them to be the most inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Aged from 40 to 83 years of age their attitudes are keeping them going. To a person they all say " you have to keep moving even if it hurts a bit" and "you mustn't give in to it". Yes they have their aches and pains, good days and bad days but their overall philosophy is to keep moving.
Have we forgotten that it really is that simple? It doesn't have to be some convoluted exercise plan designed by the latest fitness guru with sets and reps and time spent in the target heart rate zone nor does it have to be some "clean eating plan" (oh how I loathe that term) when you can only eat things like Mediterranean seaweed with purple Nepalese salt! Just go for a walk for 10 minutes a day - EVERYDAY (come on you can do this ... yes you can ... take some responsibility) and just cut down on the stuff with the sugar and salt in it (notice I said down not out). Cutting things out leads you to crave what is forbidden so just moderate your intake of them ... and I know that sounds so incredibly dull but that's what will see you through for the long haul ... and that's what we want don't we? To be here for the long haul? I'm not sure about you but I'm not bothered too much about showing off ripped abs in a bikini when I'm 80... what I am bothered about is being able to ride my bike, walk up the hill, climb the stairs in my house, get off the chair without using my arms to push myself off and of course, get out of bed.
Better start now then Stephanie ... so get up!
This is a copy of an article that I wrote for LinkedIn but the message applies equally to this time of year (not long after Easter) as it does in the New Year.......
Do you ever just exercise for the fun of it? Or is it laden with guilt as a chore you have to do because you've over indulged during this festive period? I honestly can't remember how I felt when I first started "keeping fit" as I began when I was just 11 years old by going out jogging with my father. But during my years as a personal trainer I came across many folk who paid me merely to make them "do it" as it was such an alien thing for them to be doing. And this time of year, business always boomed!
Actually doing something that you may not want to do but know that you need to do always boils down to "why?" Why do you want to exercise? When the "why?" is strong the "how?" is easy. The most motivated individuals I ever trained were those who had been told by the doctor that they needed to ....or else. These people were far more committed than those who wished to have a bikini body. The bikini body just fell into the category of "it would be nice if". "It would be nice if " doesn't cut it when the going gets tough. Ask yourself "if it doesn't happen does it matter?" Those told to exercise by their doctor answered with a resounding "yes definitely!"
So does this mean then that if our reason why isn't strong enough we won't stick with the exercise plan? Well yes ..... and no. Yes, if we solely focus on the outcome. If the results don't happen fast enough or we fall off the wagon, we lose motivation to continue. But no, if we focus on the journey, the activity, the exercise itself. This is the missing piece of the puzzle. What if we focus on how much fun we are having while we are exercising instead of seeing it as a painful chore we have to do to get to where we want to be?
Having a goal to enjoy the exercise itself involves taking a long term approach that is exercising for life not just until the beach holiday or wedding. This means taking a more gradual route instead of crashing and burning.
Every New Year, many people jump on the latest fitness craze to get a quick result. Social media is awash with punishing "insanity boot camp" style workouts where the concept of very high intensity exercise done in the shortest possible time is sold as the way to shed pounds. Maybe these are okay if you're very fit already and under 30... but the thought of all those burp-pees and squat thrusts makes me want to eat a creme egg (they're in the shops at New Year aren't they?). For the more mature folk among us ..ahem .. we can find ourselves back at the chiropractor and it is game over.
So instead of the "no pain no gain" mantra how about "by enjoying the movement, I'll make some improvement" (that's mine..yes I just made that up!). Find an activity that you love to do, something that raises your heart rate a bit and involves all the large muscle groups and do more of it. Gradually do it more frequently, gradually do it more vigorously and gradually do it for longer. Finally, be mindful as you exercise. Be there. Be in the moment. Focus on the joy of being able to move. Notice your breathing, your sweating, your surroundings. Pretty soon you will find you've developed the exercise for life habit and will still be going strong long after the New Year resolutions have faded away ..because you're enjoying yourself! Your body has to last so remember .... exercise is for life not just a six pack.
Hello and Happy New Year! I wish you all the very best for 2018 and may you find happiness in your exercising! I was inspired to write this blog today after a short talk I was invited to do at my local Link4Business networking event about how to fit exercise into our daily lives.
If, like many people, one of your New Year's resolutions is to make 2018 THE year you actually get fitter and healthier then how are you proposing to make this year any different from any other year that you wanted the same thing?
The trouble is that we run out of time to do things in our lives, we're all so busy! If we're lucky, we sleep 8 hours a day. If we're lucky, we work only 8 hours a day, and if we're lucky, we commute or spend less than 2 hours travelling each day. We probably spend a couple of hours a day planning, shopping and preparing meals and then flop in front of the TV exhausted for the last couple of hours trying to get some well earned R&R. That only leaves 2 hours to go to the gym or sports club. Some of you may think "well that's still enough time .. 2 hours .. I only have a one hour's gym programme to do ..so no problem". But by the time you've factored in the what I call "faffage factor" ...i.e travelling to the gym, getting changed, showering after, getting changed again, doing your hair etc, at least 2 hours have passed! Now, I have a theory ...it's an unsubstantiated hypothesis, but go with it ... the higher the faffage factor, the lower the likelihood of the exercise session. Take my favourite form of exercise as an example, cycling. If I want to go for ride I have to get my bike out of the garage, check the tyres, chain and brakes etc, pump up the tyres usually, lube the chain and cogs, squeeze into copious amounts of tight Lycra if it's cold or slather on tons of sunscreen if it's hot. If I don't go out for at least an hour and a half, it's hardly worth the effort!
So if we can reduce the faffage factor, maybe we can find the time to squeeze some exercise into our lives perhaps? The thing is, we tend to compartmentalise our lives. At work we think "this is when I work" and at the gym, we think "this is where I exercise". But what if we could mix it up? Can we exercise at work in the office or at home? The answer is yes definitely.
Ever heard of NEAT? NEAT stands for Non Exercising Activity Thermogenesis and it's the energy we expend on activity that isn't sleeping, eating or gym/sport/exercise based. Every time you move a muscle your body expends energy, burns calories in other words. It maybe a tiny tiny amount but as a supermarket giant says in their advertising "every little helps!". I'll give you a basic example.....standing verses sitting. On average standing burns 50 calories per hour more than sitting. So if we can stand for say an extra 15 mins per hour over 10 hours (I'm making the maths easy for me here) , that's 2.5 hours standing which is 125 calories extra a day!! Just standing more! Over a 5 day working week (I'll let you slob out at the weekend), that's 625 calories, and over a year that's 32,500 calories which is equivalent to about 8lbs fat or the number of calories expended running 10 marathons!! And all because we've stood up a bit more.
Of course the reverse is also true... as we get older we tend to slow down more, sit about a bit more, maybe eat an extra biscuit or two and that extra energy appears around our waistline and we wonder where it came from? "I'm still eating the same as before" we say. Of course, the physiology is a bit more complicated than that but NEAT is well substantiated in the scientific literature. We just need to fidget more. So here are a few ideas we came up with at my networking group ...
Cue standing up ... everytime you text, or press send on an email, or answer the phone or just set an alarm on your phone.
Make your meeting a "walking" meeting.
Do some squats while cleaning your teeth.
Put music on and dance while you're cooking or cleaning the house.
Swap your comfy office chair for a fitball and have a bounce on it every now and then.
Walk up all stairs.
Sit on the floor when watching TV and do some yoga stretches.
Don't leave things at the bottom of the stairs to take up later, take them up now and do separate journeys.
If you're techy, get a Fitbit or equivalent. But don't cheat and just shake it about to register your steps!
There were lots more but incorporating more of these seemingly pointless movement tasks, will see you making a dent in your calorie expenditure for the year. Fidget your way to fitness ... now that's NEAT!
The end of October marked the start of the new Exercise4Seniors classes in Titchmarsh, Alconbury and Great Gidding to add to the already successful Super Seniors class running in Sawtry. But, if there's one question I am asked over and over again it is "what is a senior?". You wouldn't believe the brainstorming I had to do to come up with a name that would describe the people I wanted to teach. The last thing I wanted to do was refer to them as OAPs .. good grief, what an awful title! Plus there are some very fit older adults out there and conversely some very unfit young adults out there too. I'm mid 50s and happy to be known as a senior but not because of my age or fitness ability but because I've lived long enough to know what I want from an exercise session ... and it's not Zumba or Bootcamp! Super Seniors in Sawtry was a great name for starters ... but to be honest, I nicked it from a friend's class so it isn't part of my Exercise4... brand and although happy to use it "in house" at our local leisure centre, I want to feel a sense of ownership for the classes I am bringing into the hearts of local communities. So in the end, after much contemplation, I plumped for Exercise4Seniors and so we're back to the question ... who is a senior? Well, in the Super Seniors class I have people as young as 40 attending and some in their late 60s. In some of the new classes I have people over 80 years of age who move with an inspiring sprightliness! My tag line is "..for people who can move ..and want to keep moving!". So there we go...if you can move and want to keep moving then you're very welcome, whatever your age ... and if you've ever caught yourself making one of those "oof" noises as you bend down to pick anything up off the floor or to get up from your chair then you need to come!
I'm so excited as this autumn sees the launch of the Exercise4Seniors programme on 30th October following a very successful pre-launch class known as Super Seniors at Sawtry Leisure Centre. Exercise4Seniors will follow the same format as Super Seniors with the addition of free tea and coffee and a time for a chat afterwards.
These classes are what I like to call "Old School" exercise to music classes and although mainly attended by women we do have a few men on board. The choreography is fairly simple ( I am not a dancer) but the basic steps build up into a complete short routine which does require a little brain power to remember...but that's all part of it ... challenging the brain with new movement patterns encourages the growth of new neural connections which is healthy for all of us. If you're a fan of Davina's DVDs then you may like this (I've been told I do similar stuff).
Of course you go at your own pace, taking a break when you feel too puffed. The moves are all low impact which is kinder to our joints although there maybe the odd little "skippity skip" bit which does help to load our bones to help prevent bone loss. After the warm up, the main aerobic routine lasts about 30 mins and then we do some strength and balance work using light hand held weights or resistance bands, finishing the class with some stretches. All exercises are done standing or with the support of a chair, we don't get down on the floor as some people have difficulty in getting back up again!
I love to play music from my "era" namely, from the 60s,70s and 80s but I am not averse to some modern stuff too. In fact, you should hear my latest 60s stuff ... it's 60s mixed with euro pop plus someone who sounds like Shaggy (Mr Boombastic)..... (and yes it's all PPL free ...if any of the licencing people are reading this!).
Above all, we have a laugh. I can't take it all too seriously, we all need a break from serious stuff of life now and again. So please take a chance ... come and join in. Just bring your training shoes and your sense of fun, don't worry if you go wrong you will pick it up after a week or two if you stick with it ... and you'll make some new friends too.
Please allow me to tell you a little story. A couple of months ago my lovely step grandad sadly passed away. He was an amazing man, one of the last surviving Far East Prisoners of War and lived to be 102! I loved him and will really miss him.
Just before he died, he gave me a little monetary gift which sat for quite a while in my bank account doing absolutely nothing. My partner had been nagging me for some time to "do" something with it less it be frittered away with nothing to show for it. He was right, of course. But I was scared to spend it on me. I felt guilty about treating myself to something.
I had been going on about getting a new bike at "some point" but had never made the commitment .. there were always other things to spend money on: the house, the car, the business etc. My existing bike at the time had done nearly ten thousand miles in the four years I had owned her (she is female ... Juliet is her name) so I really was ready for a new one.
To cut a long story very short, my partner gave me the push I needed. He went to the bike shop and ordered the one I'd been hankering over! With a few bespoke alterations, there it was ... all mine! But it is male ... it is still a female spec bike but it has a male personality ... I know, I'm weird ..but then again I am someone who sees the days of the week as colours ..... his name is Lennie (you can guess who I've named him after) and every time I go out for a ride I think of him whilst I am thoroughly enjoying myself...and isn't that what he would have wanted? Me, to be happy ... and what better way could I be happy than out riding a bike which brings a smile to my face every time I race down or climb up a glorious hill ... an investment in my health and a legacy to remind me of a very brave and dear man.
I don't know what comes over me sometimes ... it was 20 years ago that I used to do circus trapeze. Not the flying type, but the static sort ... you know the lady who does all the twizzles and upside down hanging from the bar suspended way up in the air. Now, don't misunderstand me here, I was never at a performance standard. Indeed the only VHS recording I have of one of my routines, shows me falling flat on my face after I had neglected to point my toes hard enough! I was only about 10 feet up and fell on a mattress so I came to no harm ... only hurt pride. Anyway, yesterday I decided to give it another whirl ...after 20 years!! Why? Because it used to make me so very happy. I loved doing it and I loved the muscles I developed from doing it. #exercise4happiness is where it is at. So, fast forward 20 years ... yes a whole 20 remember that .... and there I am so very excited waiting for my class to begin.
I was the oldest person there ... and that never bothers me but after I had done the warm up it did. Now was I old or just not fit? Yes I am bike fit, swim fit, walk fit, gym weights fit but it appears I am not sprint fit, bunny hop fit, monkey hop fit, cat crawl fit, wheelbarrow fit, in fact not anything fit when it comes to using my arms to support my body weight. You see one of the principles of fitness is that it is specific ... a ballet dancer does not a good rugby player make and vice versa.... and since most of my training involves my legs ... that warm up finished me off. And to make matters worse, these damn menopausal hot flushes just kick in at random and I look a million times worse than I feel. Although I did feel dizzy and nauseous after rolling around on the carpet ... but anyway, it was fun .... if you were 12 ... but for me the dizziness made me appreciate that when I'm teaching older adults, getting up and down from the floor can feel like that all the time ... it is just something that happens to your baroreceptors (the cells that keep your blood pressure constant as you move about) over time.
When I did eventually make it to the trapeze, I was rather knackered ... but excited and keen to get on with it. I had a lovely one on one session with a very patient teacher called Helen. However, the mind was willing but the body was weak. It came as quite a shock when I couldn't do some of the basic moves because I had lost strength in my core and my arms. In my excitement, I did too much and had to call time on myself with about 15 mins of the lesson remaining. I had almost hit the wall, the bonk, burn-out whatever you call it. I arrived home and immediately had a sugary snack and drink and just about stopped myself from tipping over the edge when going straight to bed is the only cure. I cooked the family dinner in a sort of zombie state, ate it, then had an early night.
And this morning, yes this morning ... I hurt in places I had forgotten about but guess what? Just like women who go on to have more children so that the human race can continue in spite of the painful experience each childbirth is, I want to go back and do more. But this time I will find myself a nice beginners' course and take it one step at a time....because? Because it makes me so very very happy ;)
I am an exercise4happiness specialist. Forget the bikini body or the 6 pack, exercising to feel good is where it's at! Join me in my adventures in happiness, on the bike, in the studio, or in the classroom and I will infect you with my enthusiasm to get out there and be active too! You will feel good, I promise you.