It’s something I can always remember my mum advocating, when I was young – a healthy mind in a healthy body.
I can do the healthy mind bit, no problem. I read a lot, I love doing word puzzles and logic problems, and I play the guitar and piano. My job’s pretty creative, too, so I’d say my grey matter gets plenty of exercise. Stress? Well, yeah – it’s part of life in the twenty-first century. But I have good friends I can talk to when I need to let off steam or bounce some ideas around. Definitely mens sana.
The corpore sano bit is a little trickier. I eat sensibly: I get my five-a-day (a bit more than that, actually), I eat lots of fish and in the main I stay away from refined carbs. But I have a seriously sedentary lifestyle. (Note that all the things I mention above for the healthy mind involve, um, sitting down.) And I’ve seen rather too many documentaries lately about how the chair kills, so I knew it was time to start taking better care of myself.
Now, I hate exercise. Ask me to walk round a museum, stroll along a beach or explore a city, and I’m a happy bunny. In those circumstances, I can walk for miles/hours with no problem. But ask me to run a marathon, play some kind of team sport or get on a bicycle (where the traffic scares me and I’m worried about falling off and hurting myself)… no chance. I was always picked last for school sports teams for a very good reason. And even my DH has been known to sigh, ‘There are people who can play racquet sports – and then there’s you.’ Exercise and me, we’re not buddies. At all.
I’ve been going to ballroom dancing lessons with DH since the beginning of January (originally for research purposes for my February book, Ballroom to Bride and Groom, but we’ve kept it up). It’s a lot of fun, our teacher is lovely, and an hour of quickstep or cha cha cha will definitely get your heart rate up! But doing something once a week isn’t really enough to make a difference.
So I made a list of requirements for the new corpore sano regime. I needed something that wasn’t too far from home (preferably on the way home from the school run) and something that would mean I’d have to put it my diary and turn up. All the exercise classes near me seemed to be mid-morning (meaning I wouldn’t get any work done beforehand, and then I’d stress about deadlines and end up giving up the class) or after dinner (hmm – done that before, failed dismally, and know better now – I’m not going out again if it’s cold and dark and I’m tired).
But then I hit gold. The gym next door to my children’s school happens to offer personal training sessions as part of membership. You can book in a one-to-one session for an hour, up to three times a week. It’s a really nice place with a fantastic atmosphere – very family oriented, catering to all age groups. The staff are encouraging and utterly lovely. (And they know what I do for a living, so they tell me all the science behind what I’m doing because they know I’m interested and it’ll motivate me.)
So, for the last six weeks, my routine has changed. I do the school run in the morning, have a personal training session three mornings a week, and then go home to start work.
It’s been a revelation. I haven’t seen much change on the scales (probably because I’m losing fat but building muscle, which weighs more) but I have seen a change on the tape measure, which is enough to keep my motivation going. I absolutely love doing weight training with the resistance machines. And the cross trainer. (I never, ever thought I’d say that.) I like the pool, too, though that’s not part of my training sessions – it’s what I do sometimes on a ‘rest’ day, and sometimes I’m the only one in the pool and feel really spoiled.
The endorphin effect? I knew the theory. But the practice has been a revelation, too. It’s not just a mood lift: I have more confidence, too. I feel better about myself.
I still have a lot of weight to lose and shape to sort out, but I know now that I’m definitely on my way to mens sana in corpore sano. Better still, I’m actually enjoying it 🙂
What about you? What’s your favourite way to stay physically or mentally healthy?