Recently I was asked to speak at an event on lifelong fitness at the amazing raw food cafe Tanya’s cafe in Chelsea. It was the hottest day of the year, I had sunburn and public speaking is not really my jam but it was a fantastic evening and I loved speaking about something so close to my heart.
After years in the fitness industry working with a predominantly female audience I decided to focus my talk on being fit for life, not just for one season/holiday/wedding/break up. I was so inspired by the questions it brought out of the audience. As women we are constantly, through advertising/social media/body shaming, under great pressure to look amazing at all times – holidays and special events only up this pressure. We must work really hard to change our mindset from effectively binge exercising and yoyo fitness and instead aim for a constant base level of fitness throughout life.
Here are my top 7 tips on how to do just that!
1 – Athletics not aesthetics – Start to think about what your body can do, not what it looks like. We often judge our bodies on aesthetic markers such as dress size when really we should judge it on it’s ability to perform. What does our body need? What pressure is it under physically, mentally and emotionally and how is it coping? Once we start to check in with how our body is performing we are kinder, more nurturing to it and the positive benefits are wide reaching. Aim for a strong, healthy, functional, injury-free body rather than simply a skinny one.
2 – Posture not popularity – If you know a Pilates instructor/physio/osteopath/chiropractor they are usually trained to assess postural issues and muscle imbalances. Ask them to assess you and educate you on your posture and any potential muscle imbalances. Knowing how your body moves and what it needs should help you choose what type of exercise is best for it rather than what exercise is popular at the moment. Muscle imbalances that are not corrected, or worse still increased through repetitive training, can cause painful joint problems and postural issues that are really hard to fix.
3 – Lose a stone in a day – It really isn’t going to work I’m afraid. How many ridiculous diets have we seen over the years with massively exaggerated claims and dodgy testimonials. If its sounds to good to be true…..well you know the rest. Unfortunately these short-term binge diets and intense training programs are simply not sustainable or realistic. We need to think instead of long-term change that has no end date, no time frame, no rules that are hard to abide by. If we have a flexible, long-term view of improving our fitness we are less likely to beat ourselves up if we skip a day’s exercise and there’s no wagon to fall off.
4 – Exercise because you love your body, not hate it – Try to treat your body like you would your lover/best friend/child. I often hear women saying “I hate my bum”, “I hate my tummy”, “I really don’t like how fat my arms are”. Imagine if you constantly listed all the things you hated about your partner. They’d probably leave you. Unfortunately you don’t have that luxury and if you keep insulting yourself you will become ever more self conscious and disappointed. Be kind to yourself. Exercise because you want to look after and love your body. Remind yourself how amazing your body is for simply getting you through each day/giving birth/healing itself/ and give it a break if it’s not ‘industry perfect’ (read airbrushed).
5 – Consider fitness that benefits others – When I was 21 I cycled from John O Groats to Lands End on a tandem bike (don’t ask) and at 24 I ran (walked/staggered/cried) from one side of England to the other (7 marathons in 7 days). Both of these efforts were for charity and the training process was horrific. Whilst running home from work each day in rain, wind and then extreme heat (thanks England) it genuinely helped knowing that this was for someone else’s benefit. I wasn’t trying to lose weight or get ready for my next holiday – I was trying to raise as much money as possible to help terminally ill children enjoy their last few months (I can’t recommend The Rainbow Trust children’s charity enough). Seriously consider it, no matter how big or small the event it’s wise to remember there are more always more important things, and more important challenges faced each day by others than simply dropping a dress size.
6 – Kiss a few frogs – So you went spinning once and hated it. Your doctor recommended you do Pilates to strengthen your core but you went twice and it was too boring. Just like partners’ there is a fitness discipline out there for everyone. If you only pop your trainers on post – Christmas binge and can’t face jumping around in a room full of strangers don’t worry. You aren’t alone – but don’t give up. There really is a class for everyone so try as many as you can, try different instructors and don’t stop until you find ‘the one’. That way you’ll be itching to get the trainers on and will see fitness as a positive event rather than a negative chore.
7 – Social media cull – Social media has done wonders for the fitness industry and I love a #fitspo search every now and again. It’s a very visual industry and it’s great that we can get an idea of what a class will be like without even leaving our front door. However with great power comes great responsibility and unfortunately not everyone’s social media plan is to inspire or motivate others. Fitness is big business and just like the beauty industry there are companies who create a body ‘problem’ or goal simply to offer up the cure. Spend 10 minutes on your social media and really think about how it’s making you feel. If any accounts make you feel bad about your body or have you thinking you aren’t good enough – delete them! Social media should offer advice, tips and inspiration, not promote body shaming. Protect yourself and surround yourself with positive role models in both life and online.
I really hope this has helped empower you to think about the health benefits of fitness. If you have any advice you’d like to add to the list please do comment below – I’d love to know all your ideas.