I'm pretty sure I've spoken before on this blog about about my dramatic weight loss in my early twenties!
Between the ages of 20-22 I lost a whopping 30kgs (just shy of five stone) and more importantly, went from an extremely unfit couch potato to someone who actually actively enjoys exercise.
This dramatic loss was prompted by health concerns and a number of personal circumstances. I must stress that a person's weight doesn't determine their self worth (whatever size you are, you deserve to feel fantastic).
However I would be lying if I said that I don't have a complex relationship with my body image, exercise and food.
I am now at a place though where I exercise for my health and wellbeing, rather than to look good for other people.
Alongside increasing my physical strength and stamina, exercise has become one of my main tools for controlling depression and anxiety. I can not stress enough how much going for a run, or even a long walk, can help when you're feeling low.
During the summer I try to make the most of the good weather and lighter evenings by running as much as I can. This usually manifests weekly as one long run out of York, following the river Ouse (10k), and a couple of shorter circuits around the city (5k). I then augment this with a session or two of strength training and swimming where possible.
As Autumn descends, I'm starting to move my routine back indoors alongside brining in more of a focus on functional strength and stamina.
Running is great for cardio, but it's easy to plateau at a certain level, especially when you live in the extremely flat valley of York and your opportunity for hills are somewhat diminished.
In light of all the above, this is my current routine:
1. 10,000 Steps, daily
I measure my step count using my Fitbit, which is reasonably accurate and aim for the recommended 10,000 daily steps.
I generally manage to hit my target every day through my other workouts and incorporating other walking activities into my daily routine - e.g. heading out on foot to grab lunch at work.
If I find myself dipping under, I generally try to make this up by heading out for an evening walk the next day. As long as I've hit 70,000 steps by the end of the week, I'm happy!
2. Body Pump, 2x a week
I have been taking bi-weekly Body Pump classes for a couple of months now and have seriously noticed an improvement in both my general body strength and muscle tone.
BodyPump is an exercise-to-music fitness program developed by Les Mills which uses free weights-plates, barbells and an aerobic step.
I take my classes down at my local gym. They usually last an hour and focuses on working major muscle groups via series of compound and isolation-based exercises including squats, presses, dead lifts. The programme changes every couple of months with the release of new routines and music tracks.
Whilst I'm not convinced I'm getting an extreme aerobic workout here, I do think Body Pump is an amazing route for people to introduce weight training into their regime. You are in complete control of how much weight you choose to use, which means beginners can tailor the programme to their needs. You can also scale up as your fitness progresses.
I can foresee a day where I "outgrow" the classes, as I will probably want to move onto the free weights area and work independently. For now though, I'm still seeing a real improvement!
3. Body Combat, 1x a week
I never really realised *quite* how uncoordinated I am until I took a Body Combat class last week.
Body Combat is pretty much the same format as Body Pump (developed by the same company) however it involves a high-energy martial arts-inspired workout that is completely non-contact.
Basically It's kind of like dancing, but with the addition of lots of punches and high kicks.
I've only taken a few classes so far, but I can already tell they will completely transform my aerobic tolerance. It's one of the few exercises I've done in the past few years where I've left feeling physically sick and exhausted (it even triggered a flashback to year 7 cross country P.E. lessons).
For my own personal goals, one class a week is more than enough, as it takes me a couple of days to recover. I'm hoping that alongside improving my cardiovascular strength, I will also see some much needed improvements in my co-ordination!
4. Run (5-10k) or Swim (60-80 lengths)
Running really was my first love when it comes to exercise. When I started my original fitness regime aged 20, it was the first exercise I became really hooked on.
I loved that fact that I could see improvements almost daily, as I was able to run 100m continuously, then 200m, then 1k, then 5k... etc. Honestly if you are looking to start building your fitness, I can recommend nothing better than a simple jog a couple times a week
I've now pretty much hit my limit when it comes to boredom and running, which has plateaued out at a very respectable 10k. To be honest, I really don't have the patience to push any further than an hour, so I generally use it as a maintenance tool rather than a method of improving my fitness.
That said, I am really keen to start interval training to try and push down my 10k time. I suspect I will have to fit this around the weather, as I'm not a big fan of the freezing run.
As the weather and darker nights restrict my window of running opportunity (I much prefer to head out of the city on country lanes) I have started to build more swimming into my routine.
Again, I treat this as a maintinence exercise, rather than one that pushes boundaries. There's something so relaxing though about developing a solid rhythm and breathing pattern in the water - It's a great stress buster after a hard day at work!