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That time when I discovered that exercise is amazing

As a young person, I loved to move around. A lot. But I was also rebellious, so aside from dancing in nightclubs that I was far too young to be in (I love you Bristol), I ignored all forms of exercise during education, only discovering the gym in my late teens. I loved classes, and decided to qualify as an aerobics instructor (yes this is really true) at the age of 17 and set up my own gym one day. Strangely though, once I had the qualification, I never ended up teaching. Instead I moved to London to start University, and set up camp for the rest of my adult life so far.

I joined and left gyms over the years, always with the best of intentions, but my infatuation was almost always short lived. Until now. Now exercise is as much a part of my daily life as eating and sleeping. So how did I get there? Little by little. You can’t swallow the watermelon whole, you have to cut it into slices (favourite saying alert!).

We get used to what we are living in, and so do our bodies. Ultimately, exercise is hard work, and when we are used to taking it easy, our bodies become greedy in that sense, and want us to stay that way. Falling in love with movement has been a gradual process for me, a gradual build up of activity. Start small. You might just love it and keep adding bits in. That’s what happened for me.

I’ve told you all about my weight loss, and how I always thought that being slim, confident and happy with my body was something that only ‘other people’ could be. Well, even when I lost the weight, I never believed that I would ever have a ‘fit body’. Other people had abs and toned limbs, not me. It was therefore never an aim, because I simply didn’t think it was even an option.

At first my movement took the form of walking. A lot. To and from work (where I could), 3 hour walks around London. Whatever it was, I walked it.

In 2012, once the dust had settled post divorce, I fell in love with dancing again. It became my mission to dance as much as possible. Dance for me is almost always solo, and is the time when I feel truly free. I also love watching others dance. Learning routines has never been my thing, for me its about free movement, whatever that looks like. I dance wherever I can and like no one is watching – in the street, on the bus, at a gig, in my house, basically anywhere.

In love with movement again, this time last year, I started to discover other forms of exercise. My inspiration this time came in the form of my now friend, Knolly. We met in passing at the Tabernacle, and he invited me to join his new Monday night boxing circuits class, BoxWest. I went, and fell in love with their family style, full of love approach to working out, cheering each other on. They quickly adopted me as one of their own. The class is brutal but wonderful, I have never left one without a huge smile plastered across my face.

Around this time, various people had been talking to me about cycling. Cycling had always felt to me like something ‘other, braver people do’, but my interest had been piqued. It was my friend Clarissa who encouraged me to get on a Boris bike, early one Sunday morning in May. I was smitten. I spent the next 8 weeks Boris biking to work, and finally got my own bicycle. I love it, it makes me feel truly alive. It’s also helped me to overcome my intimidation of being on the roads in general, so now feel much more confident about driving than I ever did before. I cycle as often as I am able – even with the challenges of cycling vs hairstyles (= true commitment).

I decided around this time, that I want to be as fit and strong as I can possibly be. The best possible physical version of myself. Inspired by a number of people I met who worked out regularly, I joined Portobello Green gym. There I discovered 2 important new loves: Capoeira and Ashtanga yoga. This gym is awesome. I pay under £30 a month for unlimited classes. And in both of these new activities I discovered 2 new families.

Capoeira, I adore. The training is very tough but the experience is wonderful. For those that don’t know what it is, check out this Wiki link. My group is Abada Capoeira, led by Nelio Rodrigues. The group quickly adopted me and, true to Capoeira tradition, gave me the nickname of  Peaches (due to me announcing one day that I bruise like a peach). Sadly, I suffered a knee injury in practice last year that I am still recovering from, so I have been out of practice for 6 months. But I will be back.

Ashtanga Yoga has absolutely been the right yoga for me, but everyone is different. It’s incredibly dynamic, and very challenging, but from joining this class (led by Nils Thomas), I was inspired to start to learn self practice, so that I can do yoga whenever I want to. I have been learning since last summer and am still very much a beginner, I but I am overwhelmed and inspired by how far my practice has come within that time. I practice 2-3 times a week on average.

Next came Kayla Itsines. Another introduction via Clarissa. Kayla is a wonder woman from Australia, and her inspirational movement and fitness programme is followed by millions of women worldwide. I was already fit, but the strength I have gained through doing her programme each week has been awesome. It’s essentially circuits, on a handy e-book that I keep on my phone. I do 3-4 sessions a week and have done so since last summer.

They work for me because you can do them anywhere and they only take 40 ish mins. You don’t even need all the kit if you don’t have it, I just started where I was with what I had. Most of the stuff is using your own body weight to train you, so that’s all you really need to get going. I wake up early, and most days do the circuits in my own front room, before getting ready and heading to work. Yes folks, it really is that straight forward, but don’t be fooled; the sessions are hard.

In writing this I can’t fail to notice the common thread here – families. I have unearthed little pockets of love, that I can choose to be engulfed in, whenever I need to. I had a terrible day at work last week, and heading to boxing with Knolly and the boys literally changed my whole perspective again.

So whether you want to join a gym, or whether you prefer to be outside or inside, there really is something for everyone out there. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You will meet new people, and people you might never have met otherwise. An jnd if that isn’t your thing, maybe walk more, maybe cycle, or maybe try Kayla at home. Find your groove, whatever that is, and revel in it.

If any of you would love to move around more, and want to ask me any questions about literally ANYTHING here, please get in touch. I’d be delighted to help you however I can.