My journey to exercise

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that there's been a pretty big new addition into my schedule over the last few months: exercise.

I've never been someone that 'worked out'. I didn't like P.E. and Games at school, I wasn't on sports teams (apart from the rounders team in Year 7) and I wouldn't choose to go out for a run or even a walk.

I've dabbled in certain things over the years - horse riding when I was about seven, a long-ish stint of swimming at primary school and short phases of becoming obsessed with a particular workout video, but nothing really stuck.

The one thread that ran throughout, certainly since the beginning of high school, was dancing. That kept me moving, and walking to and from school and university did the same, but it was one particular type of movement and exercise, and by the time I left university that had pretty much stopped, too.


I think my story is a fairly common one: I didn't enjoy the 'conventional' team sports at school, so just never really thought of exercise as being for me. By the time I got to university and beyond and realised it might actually benefit my health to work out, I felt so far out of the loop I just didn't know where to begin.

Motivation was the other tricky factor - I knew I could watch an exercise video and follow along, but after half an hour or a week I had lost all interest and would be coming up with excuses to skip my new little routine.

Finally, something has clicked.

In April of this year, I realised that I needed to support the progress I was making with my mental health with looking after my body physically, both with nutrition and exercise. Nutrition we'll talk about another day, but here I've listed five things/people or groups that have helped to transform the way I see exercise and fitness.


Yoga

This may seem an odd one to start with, as it's not something you'd necessarily class as 'working out', but through my yoga sessions this year - you can read about those here - I learned to respect my body, to listen to my body and to stop comparing myself to others. Those have all proven to be vital as I've worked on my own routines.

Running groups

During my period back at home for the first half of this year, I (finally, after being prompted by my mum many, many times - sorry. mum!) joined a local running group to take part in their latest Couch to 5K programme. I've never, ever been a runner before and in April could genuinely only run for about 20 seconds at a time. After eight weeks of Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions with a friendly, supportive group, I found myself running a whole 5K. And continuing to do so twice a week.

Now I've moved, I've been heading to my local Parkrun on a Saturday morning, which has the most amazing atmosphere, and I'm about to join another group who meet to run on a weekday evening each week. I've found running in a group is a great way to keep me motivated, make sure I turn up because I have a set time to be there, and it doesn't hurt to have people cheering you over the finish line!

Ginny - personal trainer extraordinaire

Ginny and I went to school together but never really crossed paths - in fact, I can't remember ever actually having a conversation at school! In early April, as I was realising I needed to get my physical fitness up higher on my agenda, her name popped back into my life. Not only was she now a personal trainer, but she'd been through her own journey with mental health, which meant we connected on that other level, too.

Ginny introduced me to a way of exercising I'd never done before. Through strength and circuit training, she helped me realise what my body could actually do and we began to see changes QUICKLY. Suddenly, I had muscles in my arms. My mum said my legs looked toned in my jeans. And, for the first time, I was feeling strong.

Now I've moved house we're not doing our regular sessions any more, but she's still someone I talk to daily and someone I love now having as a close friend as well as my food and fitness guide.

YouTube

I'm such a fan of YouTube in general, but especially when it comes to great workouts you can do at home. Channels I turn to regularly are Tone It Up, Carly Rowena, Lucy Wyndham-Read, PopSugar, BeFit and Lumowell. I love the fact I can choose a style and length of workout to suit me on whatever day I need it, and I don't have to pay anything or leave my front room.

Add to that the motivation and discipline I've gained from yoga, personal training and running, and I'm finding I can really push myself and get great benefits from those at-home workouts.

Kettlebells

Now I've moved, I'm throwing a new addition into the mix: kettlebells. I found a dance studio close to where I live who offer all sorts of classes, and decided the first I would try would be kettlebells. I'm not going to lie, it's HARD. It's an intense hour of extreme cardio, but I absolutely love the atmosphere and the loud music, and that was somehow enough to get me through the feelings of nausea and the need to pass out in the first class I tried! I'm looking forward to feeling my strength and stamina grow in those classes, and already planning to throw more of their classes into the mix as it's such a great studio.


So there we have it! A bit of a long one but that's what I've been up to and it's been pretty life-changing. I went from zero to one hundred, from no working out at all to about five times a week, but something finally clicked because I found what worked for me.

I'd love to hear any more ideas of things I could be trying out...



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