A Healthy New You?

A Healthy New You?

Written by Tess Read

Photos by Joe Reed

Like many of us, I have flirted with the concept of a New Year’s resolution to achieve a better body and a healthier lifestyle. It would presumably help with the flirting if nothing else. There is dry January of course – although sadly I am rarely able to carry this out in its entirety because most years, I seem to have a birthday in January. And then when you add a son’s birthday in the month too, there is little of it left to get too thirsty in. But there are the other ways of getting healthier of course, such as gym memberships. Joining a gym in January is not the cheapest thing to do but can be a very worthwhile exercise with obvious benefits. Especially for the profitability of the gym! In my business career in commercial due diligence I came across a gym where in one year as much as 30% of the profit came from people who joined in January, went to the gym around once in the first week, and then went back rarely until their membership lapsed at the end of an entire year. ‘Golden customers’ they were nicknamed, by one ‘wag’ at the company.

Of course joining a gym can be extremely good for you. For example recently my intrepid mother decided that gym membership was for her and another retiree friend and they signed up to a local enterprise which held daily yoga sessions and Zumba classes not to mention spinning and weights. Pretty soon she was regaling me with tales of how she and her friend were stretching and bending and bopping to a disco beat. The fairy tale of the ‘silver exercisers’ ended rather tragi-comically though when her friend tripped going up a step into the changing rooms and found herself in a rather undignified heap on the floor. She laudably laughed it off and little damage was done, other than to her pride. The other casualty of the experience however was the exercise regime for the both of them as no more dance classes were ever attended by either. The gym was good enough to refund her membership; no such luck for my mum who then had the misfortune of becoming a ‘golden customer’ overnight.

The younger generation however are much less accident-prone. My teenage son recently persuaded me to buy him gym membership at Pure Gym in Exeter on a reduced rate two-month trial basis. He has shown commitment to the membership so far, going several times a week for at least the first two weeks. Unsurprisingly he and his friends’ interests lean less towards the Zumba and high energy dance classes, and more towards the uber-competitive bench pressing and dead lifting. What could possibly go wrong? Surely none of them would try to lift weights that were far too heavy for them too early on in the process and would end up walking around my house for days on end with one arm at a perpetual right angle as if in a sling, with a rueful grin on their face and the constant catchphrase of “Oooh it hurts”?! He claimed to his friends at college that he had sustained the handicap while climbing, not wanting to admit it was a self-inflicted gym injury. Sensible boy.

An excellent alternative to joining a gym at a busy time when everyone is trying to be virtuous such as January, is to join in September on National Fitness Day. On this day many gyms waive their joining fees to encourage membership. And so it was, that a bit over a year ago, on that day I joined the rather lovely Exeter Golf and Country Club in a bid to increase my fitness with regular swimming. It has worked spectacularly well and I have clearly been getting faster and building up stamina too. I can now swim at least 10 lengths before I have to take a break in the jacuzzi. Meanwhile my nine-year old has just gained her 1km swimming badge. I know that is entirely within my grasp – merely another 50 continuous lengths. Just last week I was swimming along neck and neck with another lady in the adjacent lane. I could feel her watching me, we were both working out who was going to win in this battle of speed and distance. I am very proud to say that, after several lengths, I pulled clean ahead and was categorically faster and stronger than her. It is true to say that she was at least 85 and was aqua-walking rather than swimming through the water, but the fact still stands – I took her down!

But as well as the high-profile, high commitment ways of keeping fit by joining gyms and swimming clubs, there are the cheap and free ways like cycling or walking, and these I am rather better at doing. One of the huge virtues of living in a small city like Exeter is that we can walk or cycle most places. My feet tramp these streets every day, and I love to do so, whether it is by day amid the hustle and bustle of the high street, or by night past the Cathedral, so atmospherically lit and standing tall in all its architectural magnificence. And the cycle paths around Exeter are such a treasure to have on one’s doorstep that it’s easy to forget how unusual this is – to be able to cycle from the high street to the quay in just a few minutes along the Regency buildings of Southernhay, and then to be whizzing along by the swans of the Exe to not just one waterborne pub at the Double Locks but another at the Turf Locks. Purest heaven, come rain or shine. Although, I’m not going to lie, it is better come shine. There’s something for everyone here and a ton of options when it comes to keeping fit. So whatever floats your boat don’t stress it, just do it!

Tess Read Grow
Sponsors of Health and Wellbeing

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