If you are woman over 50, the past 25 years or so of your life are probably, like mine, strewn with gym memberships, taken out at substantial cost, used for three weeks and then abandoned when going every other day got too much to fit in, or you simply decided you hated the whole narcissistic gym “thing”.
I have, literally, lost count of the number of times I have joined a gym, stayed with the programme for anything from two weeks to half a year, and then just let my membership lapse
For the past 12 years I have kept reasonably fit walking once or twice a week – serious stuff, six to 20 miles a time – and supplementing it on weekdays by getting off the Underground a stop early to extend my walk to the office, and by walking between appointments.
Then, my 60th birthday came along and I realised that what I was doing wasn’t enough to maintain flexibility, aerobic fitness, muscle strength and bone density – all the stuff you can take for granted at 25 and even, if you eat well and don’t drink to excess or smoke (at all) – at 45. But not at 60. The way we move defines how old we look, almost more than our hair colour or the lines on our face – which is why ballerinas and dancers look so young, because they look supple. Suddenly, the possibility of losing flexibility and strength became a very real possibility, so it was back to the gym.
But this time, I know that going regularly is not optional; it needs to become as much a part of my life as sleeping and eating, so I really need to enjoy it. The first thing was to get a personal trainer. But I needed one who understands that I am in it for the long-haul. I don’t need to lose weight (though a bit of firming up won’t do me any harm), and want to build my fitness, strength and stamina SLOWLY. No “going for the burn” or “no pain without gain”. Laura at Esporta, Friern Barnet, seems to understand and empathise; she has made it fun, too, with some boxing to supplement the other, more conventional, elements of a workout.
So, I’m seeing her once a week. But I need to go for a second workout each week, and the thought of slogging round the gym – treadmill, rowing machine, cross-trainer, resistance machines – frankly horrified me. Instead, I have taken to the pool. Just swimming lengths – which I could do for hours, if required – is so tedious, that I need some variety. I have, therefore, created my own “water workout”: six lengths to warm up, then a circuit of the “resistance” exercises I learned when I went to a spa about a thousand years ago, giving arms, waist, shoulders and legs a real workout; then the whole thing repeated until I had been in the pool for 40 minutes, and felt stretched, toned, exhilarated and ready for a huge breakfast.
The only issue now is my hair – if I’m going to the gym, and getting in the pool on a regular basis, my sleek look is going to have to go. I’ll let you know how it goes…