I’ve never been much of a one for exercise, throughout my 20s and 30s the pattern remained the same – I’d join a gym or a class, go a few times then take six months off before moving onto the next thing. And I got away with it, because I was young, I was living in London and relatively active.
Then I moved to Bournemouth, started working from home and had two babies. And what tenuous connections I had to fitness completely collapsed. Instead of racing through tube stations every day I was putting on my extra cosy slippers and going to my office downstairs three days a week. And as for that old cliché of “keeping fit by running around after the kids” – it just doesn’t seem to apply. A trip to the corner shop with my son involves stopping every 15 seconds to examine cracks in the pavement, stray dandelions and the visibility of the moon.
Which is why when I was sent details of Even The Stiffest People Can Do The Splits, by Japanese yoga guru Eiko I fired off an email to Good Housekeeping volunteering to do a feature. You can read about how I got on in the January 2018 issue (spoiler alert: I don’t look anything like Eiko’s picture) but here are a few extra things I learned…
1: You need a yoga mat. For a while I used the kids’ jigsaw puzzle play mat but it’s not something you can swan into a yoga class with. I bought myself the second-cheapest one as I thought the extra outlay would motivate me to keep going after the splits challenge ended.
2: Yoga classes are pretty egalitarian. Yes, there were some human pretzels in the classes I attended but there were also plenty of wobbly groaning people just like me and it was really welcoming. I got chatting to lots of lovely people in the changing room including Sabi Phagura, aka Fitlass whose blog is inspiring me to keep exercising.
3: Hot yoga is great. Honestly, I thought I’d hate it but it’s like yoga on steroids and afterwards I felt like I’d actually achieved something. Yes, the studio smells a bit iffy but it’s a small price to pay. In fact, I couldn’t have done it without Yoga Lounge in Bournemouth and their Fierce Grace classes. They taught me to stretch safely and to be realistic, but I also surprised myself with the stuff I could do.
I surprised myself with the stuff I could do
4: YouTube is great for yoga. I got completely addicted to this class from Yoga With Adriene, which focuses on deep hip stretches and finishes on an attempted splits. I can recite it word for word. Hi Benji!
5: I am not a domestic goddess. I spent a LOT of time lying on the floor during this challenge and was constantly distracted by the dust bunnies, junk mail and stray toys which had found their way under the bed or sofa.
6: Fitness is like writing a book. Reading about it, writing about it and tweeting about it carry no value whatsoever. The only way to get fit/write a book is to actually do it. Ever since my challenge I’ve tried to do yoga three times a week – even if it’s just my old faithful Deep Stretch with Adriene. It’s not perfect – I still have weeks when I realise I haven’t done enough – but it’s better than putting on my slippers, sitting downstairs and slowly stiffening up again.