I’ve never been an enthusiastic exerciser, at least not exercising for the sake of it. I’ve always enjoyed walking and cycling, but as a beneficial by-product of going somewhere interesting and enjoying the outdoors. Apart from a brief period of running while I was at Oxford, and practising Tae Kwon Do in my teens, I have never really done an organised exercise program. That wasn’t too much of a problem while I could be active as part of my normal day, but during lockdown, that outlet mostly disappeared. In truth, I had already started to realise that as I was getting older, I needed to get serious about doing more weight-bearing exercises to prevent my muscles from wasting away. Predictably, my plans to do something about that always started tomorrow.
A few weeks into lockdown, I started looking around in earnest for a suitable weight training program. I needed something that would require minimal equipment (given that it was so difficult to get hold of workout equipment at the time), and not too much space (since all of our rooms are fairly small and somewhat cluttered with furniture and piles of books). I also didn’t want something marketed at men who wanted ‘ripped abs’ or whatever, or which was punctuated with a “Woohoo!! Yeah! You’re amazing!” style of motivation. We’ve already established that I’m not a fan of exercise, so I want to be left in peace to grimly grind through the required exercises without a personal cheerleader.
After reading a review of the app by someone who sounded just as unenthusiastic about exercise as me1, I ended up trying out Sweat app, and after the trial period, committing to a year’s subscription. There are a number of different kinds of programs (for fat loss, strength, body building etc.) and several have variants for either gym use (where you have lots of equipment available) or home use (where you don’t). The slightly unusual part is that all the programs are designed for women, and all the trainers are women. The app also includes weekly meal plans, which I ignore completely: I figured it was going to be hard enough summoning the discipline to work out regularly without trying to change my diet at the same time. Besides, I was more interested in getting stronger than losing weight, even though I do really need to lose some weight. One thing at a time…
The program I ended up following was PWR At Home with Kelsey Wells. I’m pretty happy with my choice as the focus on strength and variety of the exercises works well for me. I did the 4-week beginner version initially, and this week I am on to the eighth week of the 12 week PWR At Home 1.0. No-one is more amazed than me to find that I am still sticking to the program. I’m certainly not a convert, but I doggedly do the recommended exercises each week, which at this point is five resistance sessions, three low-impact cardio (I do a brisk 35 minute walk outside), and one recovery session with a foam roller. There’s also one recommended rest day, which I am always very happy to take.
I’m glad to say that all this work is starting to pay off. I definitely feel stronger, and exercises that were nigh on impossible for me at the start (I’m glaring at you, tricep dips and commandos!) are now possible, and I can manage to do nearly all the reps required. I am starting to get better muscle tone and definition, albeit slightly hidden under a padded layer of fat. My balance and flexibility has also improved considerably. While I often have to really drag myself into my exercise gear, I always feel better afterwards, even if it is just to be able to think thank goodness that unpleasantness is over for another day!
I still can’t do a really decent press-up, and I loathe and detest burpees, but it is undeniably the longest that I have ever stuck to a structured exercise program. Who knows if I will be able to keep it up once some semblance of normality eventually returns to all our lives. I’m hopeful that I will though. It only takes about 40 minutes, and not having to go anywhere else or get into workout clothes that are suitable for public display really reduces the inertia that might otherwise arise. I’ve even ordered a suspension trainer to enable me to perform a greater range of exercises using my body weight, and also to take with me whenever I am able to travel again.
- I really wish I could remember where I read the review, as it was great, but I can’t and searching didn’t turn it up either. If I ever find it, I’ll update the post. ↩