If I had to pick one word to describe my fitness regimen, it would be “inconsistent”.
To be perfectly honest, walking is the only exercise I do regularly. I squeeze in a few good walks a week, and mostly spend my weekends traipsing around on foot, but that’s basically it.
The thing is, I used to be fairly fit — at one point I was playing basketball and netball and taking gym classes a few times a week. But then uni and full-time work started eating my time, and I well and truly dropped the ball.
Since then, exercise has been an on-off kind of thing for me — a trampoline class here, a red-hot go at Barre Body there, and then there’s my ongoing turbulent relationship with zero to five kilometre running apps.
I wasn't too worried about all this until last year when I started playing netball again. Despite not having stepped foot on a court for seven years, I figured I could just pick up the ol' Goal Attack bib where I left off.
Well, nope. Halfway through my first game I was dizzy, had this weird 'rushing' sensation in my ears, and started seeing double. This had never happened before, so I was a little freaked and sat the second half out.
Something similar happened about a month ago, when I participated in a boxing-style class before work one morning. By the end of the (fairly intensive) 7:30am session, everyone else in the class was looking sweaty and a little red in the face, while I was whiter than a bed-sheet and hugging the toilet bowl.
Now, I'm no fitness expert, as you've probably figured out, but it's patently clear I went a little too hard too fast. Greg Stark, owner and founder of Better Being Personal Training, says this is quite common, and that when you're getting back on the fitness wagon it's best to take the fabled "slow and steady" approach.
"I see guys who come in and remember how hard they could push 10 years ago at the peak of their fitness, and they expect to walk in and continue at that level even though they haven't trained before," Stark, who's also an ambassador for lululemon Ivy, says.
"It's natural human behaviour that we want the results yesterday, and we figure we have to push as hard as we can but it doesn't always happen that way ... The key to success is acknowledging the fact that by moving and exercising you're creating benefits." (Post continues after gallery.)
It can be daunting to throw yourself back into exercise when you've all but abandoned it, but Stark says simply addressing this one aspect of your health can have a positive domino effect — you'll sleep better, you'll make better decisions about what you eat, and your long-term health will benefit.
For fitness rookies, simply adding what Stark calls a 'Regenerate activity' to your day can be enough to start this chain reaction.
"They're low intensity activities that you need to be doing every day for at least half an hour every day, like walking. Walking is one of the easiest, most affordable ways to exercise," Stark explains.