I’m sure you have all been there – that moment when you get a burst of motivation to begin a new fitness regime. We may set high expectations and goals for ourselves, work ourselves to the bone to try get immediate results, and before we know it, we’re hurting and disappointed by the lack of change. And we quit!
I think this definitely applies to me, and is part of the reason that I have never managed a long-lasting relationship with fitness. But I think I have finally cracked the code! I go to the gym regularly and I love it!
Looking back, I first started to exercise regularly when I had my son Colin in 1981. He was born in May and in that summer, I began attending aerobics classes at the local community centre. I’ve always loved aerobics, exercising to music and it was very popular in the 1980s, as was step aerobics. This was the era of Jane Fonda, the Green Goddess, leotards and leg warmers! The classes were not only very enjoyable, but they enabled me to manage my weight, as well as maintain good energy levels and to have the odd treat or two; the classes were sociable too, a chance to catch up with the regulars who attended and chat about what their week had been like.
Fast forward a few decades and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a good aerobics or step aerobics class, alas. Over the years, I have joined various gyms, including Nuffield and local authority gyms, but I would, after a short while, begin to make excuses for not going, because I was bored stiff or I couldn’t get into the class I wanted to do. More often than not, there was some issue that prevented me going. The final straw that led to me cancelling my membership at my local authority gym was when they painted it dark grey. It looked like a cave – dark, drab and uninviting. I also got sick and tired of all the rules and regulations! I find that as I get older in the tooth, my tolerance levels get shorter, well towards certain things, one being over-regulation. I think it has something to do with me being a free-spirited Aquarian.
In May of this year, I went away for a week to Fit Farms in Derbyshire. You can read more about my experience here. I was so motivated to exercise whilst at Fit Farms that I began looking at gyms again in my local area and I came across a website for a ladies-only gym, just down the road from where I live. Of course I already knew about this gym. It’s been there a long time and I’ve lived in the area for nearly thirty years. The reason I’d never checked it out before was because I thought they only had what are called multi-functional Motor Tone machines. This is what they look like.
But it turns out that there are classes there too! I am now a fully-fledged member and I have certainly found my happy exercising place at this gym. It’s owned by Debbie who runs it alongside her daughter, Nicole. They take the exercise classes, together with three female personal trainers and I don’t think they would mind me telling you that their ages are mid to late 50s. They also offer diet and lifestyle advice.
The average age of the members is 60, with many members in their 70s, 80s and a few in their early 90s. I find these women such an inspiration. Many of them live alone, having lost their husbands/partners, friends and some have lost children, but they refuse to become victims. They are very stoic in their attitude towards life, and they understand the importance of keeping fit and well to enable them to remain independent.
Many of the women who attend the gym are war babies, born just before, during or just after World War II. They are the ‘make do and mend’ generation and like me, remember a time where we had no central heating, no double glazing, no fitted carpets, no automatic washing machines/dryers, microwaves, electric kettles etc. Sue (in the middle on the photo) is 75 years old, a brain haemorrhage and stroke survivor, has arthritic knees, and osteoporosis. Sadly, she lost her husband during one of the lockdowns. He died without her by his side. But she hasn’t given up, and is still making the most of her life. Very inspiring!
Many of these women don’t bother going into the exercise room and doing the aerobic/cardio/boot camp/circuit type exercises, as they are quite happy with the motorised machines. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete a full round on the machines, but if it’s not busy, you can double up and do around 40 minutes. I couldn’t help but notice that these women well into their 60s, 70s and 80s have trim, muscly legs and arms (that’s the physiotherapist in me noticing posture and muscle tone) and yes, they may have a stomach that protrudes a little, but don’t all women of a certain age? My little grand-daughter loves my soft tummy. She puts her head on it and goes to sleep. I don’t want to have an abdomen like a washboard, hard and unyielding. I don’t mind having a few soft parts, as long as I’m fit and healthy.
The women at the gym understand the importance of maintaining muscle tone and strength, especially when living alone. Elderly, frail individuals are more prone to falls and hip fractures and invariably end up in hospital where they might develop pneumonia, e-coli, covid or sepsis! Not just that, the gym is also a very social place. Many of the women have been members for a long time and they all know each other pretty well. That being said, I don’t find it cliquey at all, not that this would bother me anyway. I’m quite happy with my own company. Everyone is happy to say hello and pass the time of the day. Some of the women have a wicked sense of humour. You can’t beat having a good laugh, can you?
Before we begin our exercise class, we sit in the reception area, having a natter. I find it so refreshing to talk about what colour nail gel you’re having for the holidays, or wondering about having your eyelashes permed, and laughing about how you always take too many clothes on holiday! I spend most of my days and some nights discussing women’s health and how it can be improved, especially digestive, gut and bladder health, so talking about mundane things like the price of washing powder and how M&S bras don’t fit any longer is lovely. Don’t get me wrong, I love helping women improve their health and wellbeing, but we all need a break, don’t we?
I hope I will still be attending this gym into my 70s, 80s and beyond and be as fit, slim and healthy as the lovely ladies who currently attend.
If you aren’t already a member of a gym, or exercising regularly, what are you waiting for? No more excuses! Time to get off the sofa and put your trainers on! Your older self will thank you.