Thursday, 29 April 2010

Fighting Fit

After many weeks of anxious yet excited waiting, 300 copies of "Spring to Mind" were delivered to my neighbour yesterday.

Sounds like I have a huge fan, eh?

Well, she might yet be, but at the time she was innocently and very kindly taking in 17 boxes to save the delivery man a return trip next week. As I have said in a previous post - and my words inevitably come back to haunt me - one has no control over delivery men; Ocado (Waitrose affiliated delivery company) being a notable exception.

So apart from my sheer delight in having my books in hand, I was very glad to be in peak physical condition to lug those boxes to my shopping trolley (I mean pushchair, crowd rammer and bloated-tummy disguiser) and cart 128 kilos of books down to my apartment.

Now I have the lesser task of selling them. I have found so far that carrying one or two around - something I prepared earlier - and casually throwing it into the conversation, can work. Ok, it's only day one, admittedly...

Nevertheless, I was well aware during that slog to move the stockpile that had I not been in such an amazing state of fitness, this task might have seemed daunting without a large palette, very strong man or complex pulley system to help. Let me just say though, for the avoidance of doubt (drafters of turgid tax legislation love throwing that old phrase in - "for the avoidance of doubt" - which really means - "yes we know this is very unclear and you, dear reader, will be exploiting this loophole forthwith, but just be warned that we know this part of the law, nay, all of it, is a quagmire of confused, antiquated and impenetrable rules, but the Revenue will not be taken for a fool, again"), that I am being facetious. I have come to realise that my fitness is in fact far from at optimum levels.

Tempting as it is to turn this post into a bellyache about ageing - a post scheduled for next month - or the myriad ways in which modern life conspires to make one fat and unfit, I will keep this post upbeat and optimistic. After all we are all people of the world here. We know that skinny muffins are laden in hydrogenated fat and emulsifiers in order to compensate for lack of butter and taste. We know that a regular large glass of wine will add inches to our hips while taking months off our lives, even if red and full of anti-oxidants. We are good friends with all the "hidden" calories in our day; the half masticated bread sticks and rice cakes we have to force down our throats on buses, in church and during class assembly where no imaginative person has yet to install a bin, the crusts off the morning toast, the "it's not hot, try it" testing mouthfuls of lasagne and curry, the here-a-chip-there-a-chip-everywhere-a-chip-chip sides in kid-friendly restaurants, the extra spoonful of sugar in the coffee. We are surrounded by wicked temptations. Who can resist a chip? Who doesn't treat themselves to a nice glass of something chilled come Saturday afternoon? Hell, it's not like we don't deserve it. And protest as we might, kid oriented snack foods are tasty after three loads of washing, an argument with a teacher/postman/checkout operator/child/husband. Just one won't hurt...

But the impact as we age is severe.

And it's no easier in the city where sophisticated cuisine, alcohol and imported chocolate handed out free with morning coffee at the better cafes wreak their own havoc. Perhaps in the fast lane though, the damage can be mitigated. Working all night, running adrenaline fuelled deals and meetings, rushing around town in search of coffee and adversaries' offices, and around one's own ill-designed office in search of relief after too much of that coffee or just too much of life in a fishbowl, can burn off a lot of energy.

So, I know I am preaching to the converted when I say that keeping fit and trim can be a war of attrition. But I have discovered and dare I say, developed, some techniques for winning that battle. It may be only a pyrrhic victory, but the aching hamstrings will be convinced.

So - I give you Springgirl's Non-definitive Guide to Feeling Fit this Spring.

Remember that there are two underlying principles to feeling fit.
First, if you are fitter than the next person you will feel fit.
Second, if its worth doing, its worth pretending you did it.

1.Talk yourself up. No one ever felt fit thinking they were fat and frumpy. You have to believe you can be fit in order to take the steps needed to feel fit. Fitness hates defeatism. Feeling fit is all about ego. You have to be vain and selfish, even if for the sake of your health rather than purely your appearance. You have to want to wear tight white jeans with panache.

2. Start caring. Join a gym - you will care about the money you waste if you never go. Buy a bike or expensive golf equipment - again you will care more if it costs you more.

3. If stress helps you shed weight, increase your stress. Kill two birds with one stone and buy a power plate machine - the expense of this will be such as to guarantee stress induced use. This will also help you tone your muscles in front of the telly and burn off that lager and curry faster. Note: you will need to reinforce your floor, sound proof your exercise area and take out a loan or get a second job - all statistically likely to increase stress.

4. Buy the best gym clothes. You need to look good to feel fit. No one ever felt good in baggy, saggy, dog-hair covered sweat pants - did they? A good looking outfit will pep you up, inspire you and impress and intimidate the other gym users, runners, walkers, shoppers, soccer mums, cyclists, coffee shop queuers... Walking the walk is half the battle.

5. If you are a gym user, always work out in front of the the mirrors. This means you can preen and admire yourself, adjust your blond ponytail often and generally induce hatred and envy in the hearts of the other attendees.  The aim is to intimidate. Since fitness is not an absolute - but a relative thing - if everyone resents or loathes you (and let's face it, no one hates the unco nerd trundling along the treadmill at a snail's pace) you will deservedly feel fit and strong.

6. Attend classes often and suck up to and joke around with the instructor. This has two main benefits. It may put the more competitive punters off their game in the class, thereby making you look and feel better - clearly you are fit if you know the moves, rarely break a sweat and can ask after Camp Cameron's chihuahua. Alternatively it can work to increase the standard in the room as the competitive punters try ever harder to keep pace with you. You in turn will work that bit harder as well.

7. Join a running club. Everyone knows runners are obsessed with their sport. Cyclists are too for that matter, but as they are more cliquey and often ride on scary roads or for long distances it is harder to fake it. If you live and breathe running you can't feel unfit even if you only go to club runs once a month and hold up the bar afterwards. You will have a sense of belonging and community - two keys elements of a happy and engaged life. If you are happy and engaged you will not mind so much that you are not fit. And in truth how could you not join in occasionally - they make it look so easy and effortless...

8. Vary your routine. Remember the old adage about spice? Your fitness will plateau and your workout become stale if you never mix things up. Look for ways to use new muscle groups. For example, if you usually shower, take a bath. If you prefer the bus, try the train for a change (all those steps!). Cross the road to avoid people, rather than stop and chat. Use the self checkouts, sleep on the other side of the bed, eat dinner in a different place, sit on the floor to read the kids their bedtime story (great for the butt as you clamber up afterwards), or just tackle something you have been putting off for a long time - like dusting those high shelves. If you have to pant to get a bit of housework done you will surely feel fitter for the effort!

9. Try yoga but don't buy into all the lingo and concepts like "listen to your body" and "this is not a race". It is essential you treat it as a bitter competition in order to get that warrior pose lower and stronger. Remember, there are no prizes for knowing how to breathe.

10. Finally, just do it.

I am off now to vary my routine. I think I will have peppermint tea instead of regular, brush my teeth left handed, lay out my new designer gym kit for the morning and sleep at the foot of my bed. I am anticipating some aches tomorrow after the hard session at the gym today. I had to work very hard to keep up with that blonde chic channelling Carrie Bradshaw all through Total Body Conditioning. Who knew we had muscles in those places?

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