How to get back into the exercise habit – eventually

Step by step: Do you really need (or want) a clothes horse in the shape of a treadmill?

The gym can be a life-changer, or it can be an incredible waste of money. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The gym can be a life-changer, or it can be an incredible waste of money. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

 

Exercise is a method of converting fat into pain. And yet, over the next week or two, many people – who really should know better and who probably haven’t exercised in about 11 months – will once again squeeze into sportswear and put new year’s resolutions into practice. But which exercise path should they (briskly) go down?

The gym

The best type of gym would be one with a (proper) bar attached. In the first weeks it would serve only water but, as January and newly joined members wore on, it would begin to stock soft drinks and then alcohol, while treadmills and weights were slowly replaced by couches and tables. We’d call the place Good Intentions.

It’s an honoured Christmas tradition to commit to going to the gym the moment we finish singing Auld Lang Syne.

We join the gym in a haze of determination, quickly running out of steam in body and spirit, before separating our membership keyring from our set of keys because, well, its only function by then is guilt.

What gyms don’t tell you is they don’t expect you to actually attend. In fact, if everyone who was a member turned up a few times each week, there would be no room to sit on the equipment and text your friends.

The gym can be a life-changer, or it can be an incredible waste of money. No first-timer (and particularly no 10th-timer!) should commit to any long-term membership until after a few weeks, at the very least, of regular attendance. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Home gym

This is a serious commitment – not just because of the cost, but do you really need a clothes horse in the shape of a treadmill?

When you’re walking past a dumbbell in June, which you last lifted in April (and that was only because it was in the way), how guilty are you going to feel? How sorry are you going to be that you didn’t simply buy a gym membership and avoid the street where it’s located?

A home gym is amazingly convenient, but also ridiculously easy to come up with excuses to avoid. It is strictly for those rich in space, poor in time and with the single-mindedness to actually get up on a bike machine. The big advantage, of course, is that you can watch your favourite television programme while you exercise, which has all the necessary ingredients of one of our most effective exercise routines: distraction, distraction, distraction. We are big fans of all three.

Walking/running/jogging

Sonia O’Sullivan wrote in her excellent Irish Times column a few weeks ago (December 10th) that “running is the simplest of activities: lace up your shoes, out the door and away you go”. Well, that’s easy for her to say. Us mere mortals spend quite a bit of time staring out the window at the wind and rain, wondering whether we should really leave the couch – even if there’s no actual wind or rain.

If you enjoy getting out into the open air in runners and shorts, well, then that’s great. When I’m jogging I tend to try to drift off – imagining myself somewhere nice, like lying on a couch not jogging.

Personally, the true joy of jogging comes at the end, just after the last step when the target is, hopefully, achieved, and another routine is completed. You don’t have to start at 20km per hour – walking is a perfectly healthy activity and, if you’re not careful, can lead to jogging and running.

Personal trainer

The fundamental flaw with exercise trainers is that they cannot do the exercise for you. Otherwise, hiring someone would be perfect. Painless. Enjoyable even.

They can be rather expensive, though probably worth every cent if you reach your goals. But then, if money is no object, hire someone to follow you around during the evenings, slapping your hand every time you reach for something sweet.

Personal trainers are like dentists – in that there is a sizeable proportion of the public who believe their job satisfaction must come from inflicting pain on others. The simple truth is that they (both professions) are good for you, we just don’t appreciate them.

We have tried personal trainers – but they are not for us. We always got the feeling that they looked at us as such a challenge that we’re not worth the effort.

We feel the same about dentists.

Cycling

There are two types of cycling. One is performed in cities and is such a blood sport that fitness often takes a back seat to simply surviving.

Part of the final test to become a US Marine is to hire a Dublin Bike and cycle down the quays, avoiding buses, car doors opening and vehicles making sudden lane changes.

And there is also cycling in the Irish countryside. There, local authorities, farmers and the public have helpfully left obstacles, potholes and other hazards in order to test every cyclist’s endurance and awareness.

Still, cycling is such a pleasurable, popular and beneficial exercise. And, just as importantly, for those of us who are susceptible to injury, it’s one of the lower impact exercise routines – along with swimming – that doesn’t make the body scream in terror at the thoughts of exercise.

If you’ve made a commitment to begin to exercise this year, cycling is a great way to start. Though just starting is a great way to start.

Pick something (there are other options as well of course) and do it.Best of luck and remember, the most important reason we exercise is so that we can eat chocolates and biscuits, guilt free. 

Step by step
Intellectual approach to losing weight
Most apps on straps are rubbish
My daughter is trying to kill me
It’s not you, it’s me. Hold on, it’s you
You don’t have to turn into an ass
I met my next child’s godfather at a race
It’s tough when momentum runs out
No sweetness, and lite everything
Stopping the treadmill with your tummy
When it’s my turn to make dinner . . .
The kitchen table looks out for us
- Skinny friend eats like an elephant
Tomorrow we diet
How to get back into exercise
At what age do you fall apart?
I’d jog for wine
I’m a binge drinker
- What if losing weight makes you sad?
- 12 months later, time for health tips
- The ultimate global deception

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