For the first six months, I thought that a really smart and not at all unsociable thing to do would be to leave the house at 6am to get to a 7am class. This meant missing breakfast with my husband and any opportunity to use a decent hairdryer but hey, at least I will have had an hour with a man wearing boxing pads shouting at me to “hit them harder you wuss!” to get my day off to a nice mellow start.
Eventually I came to realise that this was an expensive and quite frankly mad way to keep fit. The tipping point was an incident where I managed to forget my work clothes and had to drive into Reading to buy something to wear for my 9.30 meeting. As laid back as my boss was, I think even he would have drawn the line at sweat soaked lycra as appropriate business attire. So I raced into town, and by 8.45 was hopping from foot to foot outside M&S looking very dishelleved and with the mad stare of a woman waiting for the Harrods sale. Despite trying to smile nicely and explain what had happened to the shop assistant as she opened the doors, she became very pre-occupied with getting as far away from me as possible. Understandable given the circumstances.
After the embarrassment and expense of that workout, I cancelled the membership and looked for an alternative way to keep fit. At the weekend we often road our bikes along the Ridgeway and it struck me that with a bit of diary reorganisation I could swap the gym for the countryside and ever since have been enjoying the benefits of outdoor exercise. I knew it was as good for your mental wellbeing as it is your physical, but hadn't anticipated these added extras:
- There is never anyone else’s sweat on your bike seat and you will never find yourself pursued by a woman in a day-glo unitard saying "Aren't you finished on that bike yet? I need it."
- You never have to run / cycle in front of a screen specialising in music videos of men in t-shirts the size of dresses surrounded by greased up women in strips of elastic tempting them with their 'jelly'.
- You don't have to listen to people roaring / huffing / accidentally dropping their guts through the effort of lifting weights the size of a family car.
- You might see a horse but not a man in shorts that are too tight (hopefully).
- You might smell manure but you won’t smell someone else’s B.O.
- It’s free and always open.
So I am sold on outdoor exercise but brilliant as this is, concede there are times when you need a bit of coaching and motivation. The solution lay in the friendly local gym run that runs brilliant classes like Body Attack where you are taught by instructors that also work at the members-only places. It is one of these fantastic ladies that I have to thank for giving me the beginnings of what may be some stomach definition due to her fantastic technique - it's either that or a hernia, I'll let you know what it turns out to be!