My interest in fitness came to me rather late. At school, it was all about academia for me; I was the girl who was never picked for a sports team, who couldn’t score goals in hockey or hit the ball in tennis. PE lessons were something to be dreaded, and that dislike of exercise continued until my late thirties. By then I was travelling the world as a TV news reporter, working long hours six or seven days a week, and there was simply no time or place in my life for “keeping fit”.
Then I realised I was starting to put on weight and, more significantly, beginning to struggle with stress and lack of energy. I’d heard so much about the benefits of exercise for both mental and physical wellbeing – was it time to give it a go?
I decided that maybe it was, and so I bought a few exercise DVDs and began, very gradually, to make some changes. And then I discovered running, and a passion for fitness that I would never have thought possible back in my teens. Fast forward fifteen years or so and I can honestly say that in my fifties I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.
Nowadays, exercise and running in particular is an absolute priority (some might say an obsession!) for me; in 2019 I ran 1,000 miles for charity, the equivalent of 38 marathons or 76 half marathons, doing crazy things like running a marathon and two half marathons in the space of one week to fit it all in. 2020 was a bit of a write-off in terms of running events for obvious reasons, so I’m hoping to take on more challenges in 2021.
But it’s not just about challenging myself; I know that if I feel anxious or stressed, I will always, ALWAYS feel better if I can go out for a run. I try to fit in a couple of strength sessions a week too, to keep my upper body and core strong.
It’s hard to fit it all in around everything else I do, but it’s so important to me that I make the time, even if that means getting up at 5am (much easier in the summer, and luckily, I’m an early bird by nature!)
I don’t like running on roads, and I’m lucky that I live in the Cotswolds so I have some wonderful hills, fields and canal routes on my doorstep – if you follow me on social media you’ll see that I often stop to take photos too! Being fit seems to make everything in life easier to cope with, calms my busy mind and helps me keep on top of anxiety, something I’ve begun to struggle with in recent years.
Of course not everyone wants to run marathons, and even when you love your sport as much as I do there are days when it’s too cold, or I’m too tired, or I just really can’t get motivated. So if you’re trying to make a few changes and get a bit fitter in 2021, here are a few of my top tips!
- Find an activity you really enjoy, whether that’s walking, running, cycling, kick boxing or just dancing around your living room. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick to it.
Schedule your weekly workouts into your diary, as you would any other important appointment. I do this two weeks ahead, and it really helps. If it’s in the diary, it must be done! I prefer to work out alone, but not everyone does, so if that’s you try to find a like-minded friend to join you.
- Exercise outside whenever you can, whether that’s in the countryside, a local park or green space or just the back garden. There are so many studies about the benefits of getting outside, even in winter – you’ll soon warm up when you start moving!
- You don’t need to spend loads of money to get fit. I’ve never joined a gym in my life. There are tonnes of great, free work-out videos online, and all you need is a few basic pieces of equipment, some of which you will already have at home. For example, you can use bottles of water or cans of beans as light hand weights. If you want to invest a little money, QVC has some great options. I like Davina McCall’s dumbbell set and the Chair Gym Total Body Exercise System for a full body work-out without leaving your living room!
- If you find exercise boring, listen to podcasts, music or an audiobook to distract you. I use Aftershokz headphones, which are AMAZING. They’re bone-conducting (it’s like magic!) so they sit on your cheekbones, which means you can hear your music etc. while still being fully aware of everything going on around you – traffic, people and so on.
We are living in strange times, and I can honestly say that exercise has been one of the things which has helped me the most over the past year, in terms of helping me cope with all the worry and anxiety the pandemic has brought. Here’s to brighter times ahead!
Love Jackie x
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