Q: What do Gyms and Puppies Have in Common?

A: Like puppies, gyms should be for life – not just for Christmas (or, for the purposes of this blog post, January).

Over the Christmas holidays, as I was midway through my second helping of bubble and squeak (whilst simultaneously eyeing up the chocolate log and mince pies) my mother unsubtly dropped into conversation – with a meaningful stare – that her diary for that same day the previous year documented that I had completed an 11 mile run. I lowered my fork momentarily and glared at her over the mound of food between us, feeling thoroughly hard done by – I had, after all, had to pull out of the marathon I’d been training for with nine days to go, after suffering a prolapsed disc, so it was hardly appropriate to make me feel bad about it, especially at Christmas. Honestly.

But, much as I hate to admit it, Mum was right to bring my lack of exercise up. True, I did have a nasty injury that required several months of physiotherapy (although if I’m honest I can only blame myself, seeing as it was the result of overtraining – a concept that right now seems entirely alien), but the physio ended with the summer, and even my physiotherapist told me I was ready to get back to exercising – so why didn’t I? Because I was afraid – of how much I had lost my fitness, and of how much work I would have to do to get even a fraction of it back again.

Fortunately the new year has, for me as well as thousands of others, brought with it fresh resolve. No more the upward creeping of the scales, whilst my blind eye is turned the other way. It’s time to face my fears and get my thigh gap back. It is also, I have decided, the year I manage to prove my abdominal muscles really do exist – no small goal. There shall be no excuses, just regular exercise and a predominantly healthy eating regime. If I can train up to 17 miles for a marathon I can surely claw back some of that enthusiasm now?

So, I’ve joined a gym, which is conveniently located about a minute’s walk from my front door (greatly helping with the ‘no excuses’ side of things). And so far this year (today being the 12th of January) I’ve been a whopping SEVEN times (never mind that two of those times involved the sum total of about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise – everyone has to start somewhere, right?) But this post is not intended as a gloat-fest, I actually wanted to discuss something that has been amusing me no end since I joined, and that is ll the New Year Resolution gym goers (I realise I could well be placed into that category given my recent hiatus, but trust me, I know I’m in this for the long haul).

I’d genuinely forgotten how hilarious these people are. The other day, for example, I saw a man on the step machine who, instead of using the machine correctly and stepping as if stepping on air, was just standing on the floor and lifting each step up in turn beneath his feet. Not far away another man was using a weight machine on the lowest possible weight setting (which would barely develop muscles in an ant), and another still (this one VERY overweight after the festive season’s over-indulgence) was cycling at the most leisurely pace possible on the sit-down bike – whilst reading his book.

My favourite new-year-resolutioner of all was the girl who came to the gym in full make up and an outfit that would have been more appropriate in a bar, and proceeded to spend ten minutes pulling the bar of the rowing machine with as much gusto as a weak fart, before getting up and leaving. It really is no wonder these transitional folk don’t last beyond the first couple of months of the year – with such minimal exertion they can’t possibly see any results. Maybe they’d have more luck with a puppy…

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Sunday, 9am

It’s 9am on Sunday morning and my feet are already pounding the pavement. It wasn’t easy getting out here, but now I am I’m revelling in the coolness of the air, the absence of cars and other people. I run on through the concrete jungle, noting all the signs of last night’s excesses; a used condom outside a pub, a pool of vomit by a telephone box. The perpetrators of these crimes are long gone, most likely now lying in a bed that isn’t their own beneath a blanket of self-loathing. One group of young adults are still partying on a rooftop, cans of lager clasped in their hands, teetering on the brink.

I run onto the common, relishing the green space even though it’s flanked on all sides by road. There was a festival here last night and there’s still a trace of sweat and booze and hot dogs in the air. Men in orange jackets clear the remnants as occasional dog walkers and clusters of military fitness groups pass by. Everyone is resolute and unswerving in their purpose, like worker bees. I take a lungful of damp air and look up at the grey sky overhead. My feet splash through puddles, catapulting splodges of mud onto my calves.

I run on.

Belle’s Top Internet Tips

For today’s post I’m going to give you all a break from the minutiae of my daily life and instead let you into a few of my best kept internet secrets. So if, like me, you’re partial to some fitness tips, like to be ‘in the know’ about great places to frequent in London and love a good bargain (especially if it helps people in need) I invite you to read on…

For aspiring health/fitness freaks

A lot of the emails that flood my inbox are deemed as junk and deleted without a moment’s hesitation. But the one I’ll never delete is from Real Buzz. Packed full of useful dietary and exercise tips, I find something of interest in almost every update – definitely one to sign up to.

For London socialites

You’ve probably already heard about The Nudge, London’s hottest newsletter updating city dwellers of the coolest places to hang out (also, incidentally, where I first heard of seasonal rooftop supperclub Forza Winter and the much acclaimed Hot Tub Cinema). But I’ll hazard a guess not many of you have heard of Great Little Place. Billed as “a guide to Planet Earth’s charming spots” and a mission statement of “death to dull chains,” this is the site where you’ll find all manner of quirky and interesting restaurants, bars and shops – perfect to impress on a first (or second, third or fourth) date.

For discerning fashionistas on a budget

If you’ve always hankered after a Mulberry bag or a pair of Celine boots but simply can’t afford to take the financial hit, then fashion redistribution business Chic and Seek is for you. The company was founded in 2009 by Tara Nash, whose aim was to make designer fashion affordable for the masses. She personally meets and selects “the chicest women in London” before bringing the wares back to her gorgeous mews house in Notting Hill and uploading them onto the website. She also hosts the occasional event at the house where customers can pop in and peruse the items in person. Not to be missed if you want to pick up a gorgeous designer bargain at a fraction of the cost!

For fashionistas with a conscience

A friend recently made me aware that Oxfam Shop, where you can purchase second-hand clothes, books and vintage items, along with charity gifts from Oxfam Unwrapped. Every penny spent helps to support Oxfam’s work around the world. You can browse through more than 100,000 donated and vintage items, happy in the knowledge that your money will be going to a good cause and not just into a high street retailer’s pocket. Now if that’s not a reason to get shopping I don’t know what is…

No need to thank me.

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Shoes glorious shoes…

 

Best foot forward

Tonight, after a day of attempting to eat healthily but still succumbing to several Reese’s peanut butter cups and a handful of Minstrels (what? I’m the new girl, I couldn’t possibly say no on day two; that way enemies lie), I decided enough was enough and hauled my super-sized arse (New York has a lot to answer for) to running club for my first run since the sixteen mile hell run a week and a half ago. I was dreading it, but as soon as I got there and saw some familiar faces I was – as always – fine. Despite talking the whole way (and taking on a sizeable hill) we even managed the 8k distance in a respectable 46 minutes.

Since I got back I’ve been ruminating on how great it is to be part of a club, which is ironic as at school I was always the fat kid who had no interest whatsoever in being part of anything remotely club-like, especially if it involved physical exercise. But the more I go to my running club the more I feel inspired to keep on going. Not only is it great motivation to know other people will be there and you won’t be exercising alone, my club is also free-and they provide juice, fig rolls and custard creams (also for free) at the end, which is obviously a huge bonus in my (and anyone’s?) books.

So now my first big run is behind me I have no intention of quitting running club; far from it. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in September so will soon be training again, and in the meantime I’ll continue to attend the club and keep my motivation as well as (hopefully) motivating others.

My other motive for continuing to attend running club is the cost. Much as I love being a member of a gym it’s pretty expensive in London, and now I’ve started a new job where I’ll be earning – in the short term at least – considerably less (not that you’d know it from my spending spree in NYC and today’s post-work shoe shopping binge) I’m not sure gym membership is a priority over, say, eating. Actually, I’m quite certain it’s not. So, for the time being as I concentrate on reducing my outgoings and paying off my now sizeable credit card debt I think I’ll keep up running as a reliable, sociable and free means of keeping fit. And I’ll also keep praying one day soon it might be warm enough to do it without being swaddled in ten layers of clothing…