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Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Greener Gym

It's almost a year now since I gave up my gym membership.

It was a difficult decision. Several years ago I joined a private gym on the edge of the town where my children attended dance classes.  It was very lovely - particularly the swimming pool, and I do love swimming.

My main reason for joining the gym was because my children had a dance class or two or three or four most weekday evenings. Although we lift shared with three other families to make the most of the journey, and so we didn't have to spend every evening driving, on the evenings I did my part of the lifts I'd often spend quite a bit of time reading/ lesson planning / going through students' work in the cold in my car.

I sometimes used to take a flask of tea to try to keep me warm, but frozen fingers were a frequent occurrence.   And so I investigated the local gyms.  I wasn't really keen on the idea of exercise machines, but, as I said, I love swimming.  So, gulping at the joining fee, but taking the plunge anyway, I signed up.

It was so nice to be warm and getting some exercise while my children were getting theirs.

But 18 months ago, while on holiday in the Vendee region of France, the daughters - anxious about losing their amazing fitness that comes from 10 hours a week of dancing during term time - suggested we go on 'a nice little family run'.

"Go on, mum!  Give it a try."

So, hearing them promise me that it would only be a little circuit of about 2km and would involve passing the bakery for croissant I hear myself say:

"Go on then.  I'll give it a go."

Boy, was it hard!  I thought I was reasonably fit - I was swimming and walking regularly. But I felt every step of those two kilometres and only the thought of my lovely warm croissant and raspberry jam kept me going.

On balance, though, I felt I'd enjoyed the experience - the running as well as the croissant that is!  And so we did two more  two-kilometer-via-the-boulangerie-back-along-the-sea-front forays.  But then…

In our second week, daughters decided that they needed to up the stakes.  They'd been out and about and noticed a "nice little circuit jogging" that was 5km and still passed the bakery.

Off we set along the sand dunes, with me trying not to get left behind.  Not even half way round my legs felt like lead and I had to stop for a stretch before I could drag myself any further.  I carried on bravely through the forest, up and over the hill until we reached the road.  At that point, I thought,

"Enough's enough.  There are people.  I'm not panting my way past all those people.  I'll catch you up at the bakery." And I did.  And then I ran again the rest of the way along the sea front back to our sunny little terrace for breakfast.  I was secretly quite pleased with myself, even though it had been a struggle (the run not the breakfast) and I'd had to walk part of the way.

Before the week was out, of course, they wanted a second stab at the circuit jogging.  This time I needed tactics!  It was basically a rectangle.  I planned my attack.  I was going to stop at each corner and stretch and hoped that would mean my legs might make the whole 5km. And they did!  It worked.

But then it was time for home.  Our two weeks were over and the return journey awaited us :(

Not, however, without the seeds of a plan being sown.  Back at the gym, I investigated the treadmill and set myself the task of being able to run 5km easily by Christmas.  I did it! By October in fact.

I could run 5km in just over half an hour and I didn't feel like I'd been run over by a bus by the time I'd finished. Result!

Thing is though, although I had a target and a determination to improve at the new game they call running, I wasn't really enjoying it like I'd enjoyed running on the road, like we had on holiday.  And I wasn't going very often.  So Mr Pitt and I started to experiment with running outside instead of on the treadmill.

Now here's the strange bit… It was January.   It was freezing.  On the good days it was -1.  On the bad days it was -4.  With ice and snow all around us, rather than running from home on icy roads we'd run from the ballet studio in town where the increased traffic and footfall cleared the ice.  Gloves and hats kept the cold at bay and we were away!

With the gym membership up for renewal we wanted to prove to ourselves we wouldn't miss it during the winter months.  Now having been running outdoors for a whole year and in to the second winter I can honestly say I enjoy running in winter as much as in summer and running in the rain - well, I admit that it is hard to set out when it is pelting down, but once you are out there, rain just comes as a welcome coolant.  We've had a couple of occasions when we got so wet we had to peel off clothes in the hall, yet it still felt fab.  All those endorphins working their magic.

Gym membership, sorry to say, I don't miss you ;)