It’s a horrible feeling turning up to a fitness class that lasts an hour, and 5 minutes in feeling like you might pass out, and that death would probably be preferable to staying for the remaining 55 minutes. You know that you’ll get fitter by doing stuff, but you hurt so much after doing a class or a gym induction that you have no desire ever to put yourself through it again.
And those people who say no pain, no gain? Yeah, they may be missing the point. I mean, yeah, muscles that aren’t used to being used do ache when they start having to do something, but you don’t want to be in agony. You don’t want to feel like your whole body is rebelling against you for the next week to the extent that all your colleagues notice that your walking a bit strangely.
The ideal, the real thing we’re after, is a level of activity that gets you feeling energised and happy. That gets your muscles working WITH you, not against you, that means you want to do it again and again and again, until one day you notice you just ran up the stairs and can don’t need resuscitating at the top, or you can walk further than you ever imagined, or you start thinking that actually adding a bit of running in might be a good idea.
Yeah. It can happen. It happened to me! I was that unfit person. I drove to work, sat at a desk, drove home, sat on the sofa. I tried the odd gym class and hated every second because (in my head at least) nobody else was puffing and panting, nobody else was tomato red in the face, everybody else was effortlessly doing what the instructor said.
So what changed? Well, I accepted that I don’t like normal fitness classes. I don’t like being in a room full of super fit people and feeling inferior. I can’t believe I’m alone in that! So I tried running. Very slowly. I really enjoyed it. Well that was a revelation. Then I tried cycling. I quite enjoyed it. I remembered I had always liked swimming when I was younger, so I gave that another go.
And now? Now I try things that sound like fun. I still don’t like team sports or rooms full of super fit people. They’re not where I feel happy. But they’re great for the people who do like them.
The beauty of it is that just as there is no right or wrong about what activity you discover you enjoy, there is no such thing as too unfit to start. Start with 5 minutes. Then 10. Then 15. Build up slowly. Discover what you enjoy, and equally discover what you don’t enjoy. Try loads of things. With each try, you’ll get a little fitter and each thing will feel slightly easier.