The first time I did hot yoga, I thought I was going to die. It is, let’s just say, one of those things that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s not just hot – it’s hot hot. You do endless bendy things for 90 minutes (which seems like forever) and you have to concentrate hard, because the instructor talks you through the exercises, instead of showing you them. It means you have to try and remember your left from your right, which – you may laugh – can be bloody hard when sweat is dripping off you in rivers, you’ve just caught sight of your tummy rolls in the mirror and you've also just realised the new top you’re wearing is see-through.
There are two good things about hot yoga, though. Firstly, your survival instinct kicks in and you are so busy “surviving” you don't care what you look like. The second is that the room is filled with different-shaped bodies – tall, short, long-limbed, short-limbed, athletic and stiff, naturally supple – and, because of this, one physique may not be able to do a pose that another physique would find easy. This is what makes yoga so democratic and it's one of the reasons why I like it. I can think of no other exercise that is so inclusive – you don’t have to be good at it, because there’s no specific defined benchmark of what’s “good”.
While hot yoga may be my latest love, I'll also admit that it may also be just a phase. There is a very real possibility I might abandon it for something else in a few months’ time. At the moment, I am finding it challenging and am determined for it not to beat me, but if it does, who’s judging? Not me. I’ve learnt one important lesson when it comes to exercise – and that's not to care.
I’ve learnt one important lesson when it comes to exercise – and that's not to care
I don't care that I am a flibbertigibbet and flit between every workout craze. As a relative late-life exerciser (I only really took up any kind of physical exertion when I reached my late thirties), I enjoy flinging myself into most things in an almost Eddie The Eagle-like fashion: running, cycling, Pilates, swimming, glow yoga and, now, Bikram yoga.
I really don’t give two hoots whether I’m good or bad at any of these, or whether my feet touch the floor when doing the downward dog, or that I can do front crawl in a straight line. It also doesn't bother me if I don't look the part. I have a busy job and a family and a basket of fitness gear under my bed. I pull things out and wear what is clean. If it matches, it's a miracle.
There is one thing I do care about though – and that's the buzz and the achievement I get from doing sport. And, yes, I am *that* woman in the yellow vest who puffs up the hill in Sport England's This Girl Can adverts, the one who, when she finally gets to the top, punches the air and shouts, “Yes!” (to a bunch of squirrels, usually).
Exercise should be empowering, exhilarating and satisfying, and it should be fun. When a certain workout stops being that, move on and try something else.
Don't set yourself unrealistic targets and also don’t beat yourself up about how much you do. Most weekdays, I will optimistically lug a bag of gym gear into the office only to have to abandon plans when work gets busy. When that happens, I just bring the bag in the next day, and the next, and the next. Eventually, there will be a day when I will find some time to take myself off to a class.
Last but not least, ignore Mr or Mrs Self-doubt when they come a-calling. My first foray into exercise was running and, when I started shuffling around the streets, I always seemed to be overtaken by a woman my age who was faster and better dressed than me. In my mind’s eye, she was a whippet-thin club runner in jazzy workout gear, who would zoom past me with a scowl and pursed lips, leaving behind a trail of silent judgement and criticisms – little voices telling me I wasn’t good enough to try. No one else could see her of course, only me. She existed only in my head, a figment of my self-doubt who appeared every time my confidence was knocked.
I don't think I'm alone. Many people have someone like this who comes out to play on their insecurities – the yogi who can do the pose you find impossible; the swimmer who cuts through the water like a knife. They might be very real to you, but the more you fling yourself into things, the less you will see her or him. Remember that you have just as much right to be there as the next person. You are doing as much as you can. You are just having a go. In my book, that's so much more important than being "good" at anything.
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