Hello. I’ve fallen back in love with exercise. I’ve sorely missed it over the past year and right at this moment I’m dizzily high on my own endorphins, admiring my own quads and polishing my kettlebell until it gleams. I’m feeling stronger than I have in ages, feeling a little bit spiffy in my clothes and no longer having to do ‘resigned face’ when I look in the mirror. This isn’t really because I’ve lost loads of weight (well, it’s a little bit about being slimmer than I was, I just wanted to sound like a really well-adjusted person incapable of vanity). I like not bulging out of my clothes and putting undue strain on the elastic in my knickers, but more than that I’ve got back on the bandwagon of lycra-clad pain because I want to be super strong and glossily, enviously healthy. In the words of my wonderful Twitter friend Lizzie, I’d like to be able to ‘bench press a sofa’ and live to be 130.
My fondness for exercise is a fairly recent concept in the grand old timeline of my life. We walked a lot as a family and always played outside, but the idea of organised sport always left me cold. With that terrible all-or-nothing part of my personality that I have tried to tame over the years, I thought that if you couldn’t be olympically wonderful at a thing, there wasn’t any point. My parents had both set some pretty amazing precedents in that arena, so I figured that since there was no likelihood of me representing my county or my country at anything, there wasn’t any point. Added to which, it seems a common theme among many of my friends that we detested PE at school. Like, physically loathed it and all it represented. It will paint a very accurate picture of me if I tell you that my three favourite sporting moments at school were an interpretative dance class where we did a robot routine to Axel F; a lone aerobics class in sixth form where I got to grapevine to the Prodigy; and a game my friend Selina and I made up called ‘colonial tennis’. It involved a lot of shouting and gesturing and very little hitting. My sporting life, people.
When I went away to uni, I put on the eminently predictable two stone that came hand in hand with drinking every day and subsisting entirely on carbs and fat. It sort of crept on and I didn’t notice until I sort of stopped one day and looked into my cruel mirror and realised I had become pudgy. Sort of sluggish looking and a bit grey. I did that dreadful and very British thing for a while of wearing the size of clothes you wish you were rather than the size you actually are, and looked way more horrendous than I would have done in jeans say, two or three sizes bigger. My friend Anna and I embarked on my first ever diet. Well, it was more than a diet, it was a colour-coded series of lists and checkboxes designed to revolutionise our whole life. Foolproof.
I tried a few things exercise-wise until I finally joined a gym, a place I thought was for saddos and people with body hang-ups. Despite fitting neatly into both these categories (I unsurprisingly went through a hazy, not-sure-if-it’s-finished yet period of complete body dysmorphia in my early twenties and took most of my anger and fear out on the way I looked or thought I did. Ugh. Getting older’s good isn’t it?) I found I really enjoyed myself. Something clicked and I found what I liked – it wasn’t competitive sport, it was exercising ALL BY MYSELF.
I’m a horribly competitive person. Losing at Scrabble or cards makes me a bit sad, but in terms of physical stuff I hate competing with other people (unless of course, they don’t know I am doing it, in which case it’s wonderful and YAY I WIN I WIN I WIN). Maybe I don’t have much confidence in my own abilities, or maybe I’m just scared to see how many people on a netball team would die if I really got going but it doesn’t float my boat. Running, however, or going to the gym, or swearing at workout dvds in my lounge, that’s totally my bag. Beating the crap out of a punchbag, doing some really good press-ups or sprinting until I do a little bit of metallic-tasting spitty sick; that’s when I feel all alive and super. And now it feels important, because although it was only about six or seven years ago that I didn’t want to exist at all, now I want to be here forever. To qualify that, I’d really like to be here, in as good nick and as sane as possible, for a very long time. That’s a nice ambition, isn’t it? On my count, let’s all do squats.