Image: Jo Abi warming up.
The gym has featured in my life on and off for the past twenty years. Why am I not a consistent gym-goer? Because it’s bloody inconvenient. Sure classes only go for around an hour but by the time I get dressed, drive there, do the class and get home, two hours of my day is gone.
I love exercising and when you do manage to get to the gym regularly you start to feel as though it’s the only path to true fitness. But guess what? It’s not. It’s just one path.
Here’s a newsflash – you can be fit and healthy without a gym membership. I’ve done it and so can you.
I cancelled my gym membership earlier this year because I wasn’t using it. I was too busy. I knew that for me to keep up with my exercise, it had to become a fluid part of my day. I don’t have gigantic windows of time in which to exercise. Yes I should be prioritising my health and sure I deserve time to look after my needs but to be honest, if I have two hours free, going to the gym isn’t how I want to spend them.
So I made a major change. I started incorporating incidental exercise into my day. It’s actually quite simple. Incidental exercise is any activity you can fit in without it being a huge inconvenience. You can do it while you’re watching TV, while you’re getting ready for work, while you’re driving the kids around to their many and varied activities and even while you are grocery shopping.
How? Just like this:
Walk absolutely everywhere
Never drive when you can walk, and I mean everywhere. Look at your week. Are you driving down the road for milk? Are you getting a lift to pick up some takeaway? Walk instead. Walking more often is the most effective and meditative change you can make to your day.
By walking, I don’t mean power walking in gym gear while carrying hand weights – although if you get the chance to do this, then go for it. I mean walking to your children’s school to pick them up and then walking back together, walking to the servo for milk, getting off the bus a few stops earlier and walking to work. It is the easiest way to combine your everyday activities with exercise and so amazingly effective.
Play with the kids
I have two boys playing soccer this year which means two nights of training each week. At first I spent the time doing what all the other mums were doing, standing on the sidelines watching and chatting. Then I spotted some mums power walking instead. They were doing laps of the soccer field so they were exercising at the same time as keeping an eye on their kids. Brilliant!
I decided to take it one step further. I downloaded a running app on my phone and jogged laps of the oval instead. Every Tuesday and Thursday nights while the boys train I jog ten laps. I’ve been getting fitter and quicker and have managed to squeeze in an extra two laps lately. Whenever the boys need me for a toilet break, a drink or to attend to an injury I’m there. Then I just keep on jogging.
Stairs are your friend
From now on give travelators, escalators and lifts a big miss. Use the stairs instead. We’ve all got stairwells at work, at our children’s schools and at the shops - so use them. There’s no better butt workout. Don’t worry if you’re wearing heels or you’re carrying heavy bags. That’s even better. And you’re not going to get seriously sweaty because you’re only taking the stairs in short bursts. That’s the beauty of incidental exercise, a little bit of activity here and there all without ruining your hair or your makeup.
My children are all out of their prams now so this is easier for me than some but if you’re still using a pram then opt for travelators, walk to the shops using your pram and have a wander around the shops before sitting down for lunch or getting the groceries. Just get some extra steps in whenever you can, even if it’s not on the stairs.