Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The reluctant exerciser

I usually write this with a nice glass of wine, or an even nicer tumbler of whisky, by my side. After a long day at work I find a touch of alcohol helps the creative muscles to flex. But this evening I've got nothing stronger than a big glass of water, because I've decided May is going to be a healthy month.
Two bank holidays in a row resulted in me throwing all thoughts of self-control to the wind as far as food, drink and fags were concerned. I now feel like one of those pictures where someone has made a face out of vegetables, except it's my whole body, and instead of vegetables it's crisps, chocolate, cider, wine, tequila and cigarette butts.
So with a couple of family celebrations coming up at the end of the month, followed by a two week holiday by the sea in France, it's time to get healthy. I've decided to stop smoking the occassional social roll-up I too often enjoy (and which can easily turn into a whole packet of tobacco), improve my diet and cut down on the drinking (I'm not cutting it out altogether, I'm not a masochist).
But most of all, I'm upping the exercise ante. I'm not a natural athlete and spent my teenage years avoiding all physical activity except dancing. But in the past couple of years I've come to accept that if I want to eat more than a few oatcakes a day, I need to find a way to burn it off. I've also realised, reluctantly, that when I exercise I do actually feel better - eventually.
The problem initially was finding something that I enjoyed, and would actually go to. Classes work better for me than the gym or running, because I can't give up after 10 minutes, and I've found it's best to have a selection of different classes throughout the week that I can pick and choose from, so if I'm busy a couple of night I don't have an excuse not to do any exercise at all that week.
Because I did a lot of ballet when I was younger, that seemed like a good place to start when I moved to Bristol.
I've been to adult ballet classes in other cities I've lived in, but I really struggled to find one here that suited me. I've been through two ballet schools in the past year and managed to leave both under something of a cloud (I'm really not a troublemaker, but something about ballet teachers seems to bring out my rebellious side). Then I discovered that non-students can attend the classes at Bristol University, which are perfect because there's a range of levels and you can just drop in, rather than signing up for a term. So I now happily prance around there, trying to keep myself out of trouble.
I also love the slightly ramshackle Community Dance Centre on Jacobs Wells Road, where you can work up a sweat in a variety of  dance-related ways, from Hip Hop to Flamenco.
And Bristol University Gym has provided me with Body Combat and Body Pump, which are great if you want to imagine either that you're punching everyone who's pissed you off during the day, or that you're a strongman in a circus (and who doesn't want to do both?)
The key, I've found, is to mix it up, don't give yourself excuses not to go, and keep your mind on the end goal. In my case, a passable bikini body and the sweet, sweet taste of practically guilt-free cider and crepes for the duration of my holiday in Brittany.

The Community Dance Centre on Jacobs Wells Road

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