I never thought I’d feel this way again.
As a teenager I used to exercise like, er a teenager. I had all the energy and flexibility of a young person and I never used to creak when I bent, I could also breathe and run at the same time. They really were the wonder years and when I look back at them it’s no wonder I enjoyed exercising.
Many years have passed since I donned a leotard and legwarmers (the official active wear of the 1980’s) and I have tried, albeit quite intermittently, to replicate those halcyon days of looking forward to going to the gym.
Too much time had lapsed, I realised, between gym classes and when I went back to aerobics as an adult I realised I had absolutely no coordination. It wasn’t that I wasn’t able to kick out my right leg at the same time as raising my left arm — it’s just that I didn’t know which arm was which. And by the time I worked out the sequence the rest of the class were on to another exercise. Added to that there was a huge language barrier — all of a sudden the instructors were talking about grapevines, turning steps and double stags and I still only understood English.
For a time I went to Pump classes and I fancied myself a bit of a weightlifter, although I’m sure there are not many weightlifters working with 2.5kilo dumbbells. The problem was I had no form at all and routinely hurt myself, this does not include the day after muscle pain where I was rendered useless from flailing about with a dumbbell thinking I was Zhou Lulu (he’s a famous weightlifter according to Google).
I jumped on to the Curves train. Remember how that was all the rage for about 18 minutes? Aside from the fact that the instructor seemed to spend a lot of the time trying to sell the accompanying diet, I did not click with the Curves routine. I was the youngest person there, which should have been a delight but was actually quite depressing and the whole thing petered out quite rapidly for me.
I went to yoga and I fell in love with the instructor’s voice and the music she played in the background. My brain thought I was a skilled yogi but my body did not. After I attempted a shoulder stand and a backbend in one class I could barely stand, much less go back to classes. I miss the music and the instructor’s voice but I quite like not having a sore back.
Options had not run out and I thought I had enough experience to join a gym and create my own workout routine. I started to pay a big gym fortnightly and sometimes I would put on my active wear, walk on the treadmill and pretend not to be intimidated by the burly men on the machines. Turns out I was actually intimidated and seldom went near the machines and I could walk outside instead of paying to walk indoors on a machine.
And then something magical happened. A reformer pilates studio opened in my neighbourhood. I had read that pilates would give me a lean, long dancer’s body, that it would make me flexible, coordinated and balanced. They had me at long and lean. And balanced. And the fact that the exercise is performed on a (reformer) bed. I do love being in bed. Turns out I even like a reformer bed.
I tried a class and I loved it. When it ended I felt deflated. I wanted more. And so I went back. And then again and again and again.
At 50 I have found the exercise I love. I have been going at least four times a week for the last three months. And I still love it. I love the stretchiness and the variety. I love the fact that the people are all around my age except the instructors who are about my son’s age but warm and kind and encouraging and not even a little bit condescending.
I love the fact that during the class the only thing I think about is my breath and my core and how sore I am going to be the next day. My arms are showing some definition, my thighs are tight (in the good way) and my core is attempting to make itself felt although it is still very safely buried.
It would be wrong to say I feel like a teenager again because I have just come out of a class and I feel like I can hardly move. But when everyone around me is talking about menopause and hot flushes and osteoporosis and I am talking about how I love exercising, I think that’s a great thing.