By Anita Kothari
Back at home one of my weekly joys was meeting up with friends Tracy and Julie for our long and slow Sunday runs. It was a chance to chat about work, family and life with lots of time for cross-interrogation during our hour, or more, together. Often, we followed up with brunch.
It never felt like exercise (ok sometimes it was grueling but the camaraderie was infectious). If convenient we met during the week for shorter runs but often we did those on our own. Last year I’d also started taking a weights-based exercise class at my gym to get in some muscle toning. And that was my weekly exercise regime.
I’ve had to adjust here in London, England where I am spending my sabbatical year. I’ve joined a gym that isn’t a perfect match for my middle-aged self but it’s within walking distance from my home. The toning classes are different…the instructors are obviously trained differently here, and they emphasize different things in their routines. Hey – it’s better than nothing, I thought to myself, and I slowly began to see the advantages to their technique.
What’s different at this gym is that one must sign up online for a class ahead of time. This means that many times my class of choice is at capacity, which in turn means I can’t establish a Mon/Wed kind of pattern like I had before. #firstworldproblem
In terms of running, there’s a terrific little park across the street for short weekday runs. I found parks nearby for long Sunday runs. The sad thing is I haven’t found a running club. I’ve heard rumours of Saturday Park runs across the country where groups of people do 5K together. I can’t figure out how it works. And I’m spoiled for SUNDAYS not Saturdays (Saturday seems to be the long run day here). I’ve been trying oh so hard to keep up my solo Sunday 10Ks. Correction: along with Tracy’s Spotify playlists (thanks Tracy!). I really miss the company of my pals.
Going to the gym this month has been difficult because everyone is going to the gym this month. Experience has taught me that I just need to wait it out – wait till those who aren’t able to keep their New Year’s resolutions for whatever reason stop signing up for MY CLASSES.
I tried a different tactic this Saturday. I saw an early-morning yoga class that requires an extra fee. That, combined with the rain, ought to keep people away, I thought, so I signed up. I haven’t done any yoga in over a year, and although I never got to the point of calling yoga a “practice”, I was excited about doing the class. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear the instructor’s soft-spoken instructions over the loud personal trainer on the other side of the wall. But the magic happened. I grew accustomed to her voice.
Her timing and instructions were excellent, she offered different levels or ways of doing the poses, she demonstrated the poses, and she gently corrected those who needed adjustments. To really enjoy the class I positioned myself away from the mirrors. My middle-aged confidence kicked in so that soon enough my mind was focused on the moves. The hour flew by.
My body ached all over as I walked home. Good aches, in places that don’t normally ache. And how much fun was it to twist and move in different ways than my regular running and toning class motions! The afterglow was exhilarating, really. I hope this experience inspires me (and others) to move out of my comfort zone from time to time. I will remind myself: try something new! Your body can do it!
Anita is a life-loving academic who wants more experiences and fewer things