- Exercise & Fitness
Do You Need To Get Fit?
Exercise Isn't My Favourite Pastime!
A few years ago, after being taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack (it wasn't), I decided it was time to do something about my fitness level.
This was partly because I needed to get fit, and partly because a doctor commented to me, "You're very unfit, aren't you?", after I couldn't do the stress test on the treadmill! I got so hot and out of breath, it was scary. Since I was (and am) a little overweight as well, it was really time to deal with my lack of fitness!
Since I'm in my sixties, I guess I'm in the danger zone for problems, so getting fit might stop them before they develop. This is the ongoing story, and I hope it will help you with your fitness motivation too.
Finding The Right Gym
After deciding to attack my lack of fitness, it was time to decide which local gym would be getting my business. There are quite a few within a 10 minute drive, so there was a lot of choice.
I've actually been a gym member at a couple of places in the past, but hadn't stayed longer than a couple of years with either of them. One became too expensive, and the staff at the other weren't exactly helpful, so I knew what I was looking for this time.
At first, I just checked the local gyms out online, and narrowed it down to three. One was the local franchise of a women's only gym, but that was eliminated because it was only open for certain hours.
The next gym I considered was a very inexpensive 24/7 place, which didn't have membership, but just a set fee per visit. After checking it out, I decided it was too crowded, the equipment was too close together, and there was a lack of staff on the floor to assist people.
This left the local council leisure centre, so I made enquiries, and discovered that I needed a medical certificate to attend there, due to my age. At least this showed that they had some concern for one's welfare!
After a few hitches with blood tests,etc., my doctor cleared me for the gym, and an assessment was arranged, to see what my fitness level was.
Finally it was time to go along to the local fitness centre, to have my assessment, and to get my programme made up.
For oldies like me, there are a couple of set times a week when we can go along to the centre, and have a dedicated staff member to look after us. Although we all have our own fitness charts to follow, we have a trainer to help with the equipment and see we are doing ok. The person who does your assessment is one of those staff members.
The assessment started off with filling out forms, age, weight, health problems, and all that other important stuff. Once that was done, we discussed my aims for my health, then went out into the gymnasium area to see which equipment would be best for me.
To start with, we decided on the exercise cycle, then on to the treadmill. This gave a really good warm up, then it was on to the resistance machines.
There were three pieces of equipment to strengthen my arms, and another three for my legs. There were a certain number of repeats to be done on each machine, and the number would increase gradually to 36 repeats on each piece of equipment. These were to be done in groups of 12.
After the circuit was completed, there was a group of seven stretches to be done, then a cool down for ten minutes on either the bikes or the treadmill. I felt exhausted just thinking about it.
Equipment I Use
The machines I use at the gym are :
- Exercise Bike
- Leg Press
- Leg Extension
- Leg Curl
- Chest Press
- Seated Row
- Lateral Pull Down
- Upper Body Ergonometer
These cover quite a few muscles, and since I am so unfit, sometimes I work up quite a sweat. Along with the stretches (seven) I do, it takes just under an hour. I go quite slowly!
Do you think you are fit?
The Road To Fitness Begins
The week after my assessment, off I went to the gym, feeling a little nervous, for my first full workout. That week, I only did 12 repeats on each resistance machine, and will take some time to get up to the full 36 repeats planned for.
After the bike and the treadmill, I was ready to go home already, and the heart-rate was going up. (The machines have a metal grip you can hold which measures your pulse.) For me, the treadmill was a lot harder than the bike, and I'm only doing a very low speed. That doctor was right, I am totally unfit!
It took me quite a while to get through my resistance workout and the stretches, and I have to admit to wanting to leave out the cool down on the bike altogether, but managed to get it all done.
Lucky I took the car, because I don't think walking home was a good idea. I have to go through this twice a week? Sigh....... oh well, that's why I took out a membership, not a pay as you go, because then I'd make myself get there. Sometimes I think I'm crazy.
Get Yourself Some Good Shoes
If you're going to be walking, running, or working out at the gym, you'll need to have some really good shoes. It's important that they fit properly, and are the right type for the exercises you'll be doing.
My personal preference for trainers is Saucony, although I also like Brooks and Mizuno. It's worth paying a little more for a really good pair.
Have to admit that Saucony are my favourite cross trainer shoes - so comfortable and lightweight.
Three Months On
After three months, I was still at the same weight as when I started, but consoled myself with the thought that I was building muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat.
There hasn't been any weight loss yet, but I can feel a difference in my fitness level. With the leg exercises, I can do 36 repeats in lots of 12 with no problems. The arms are another story.
Years ago, I developed RSI, and doing the exercises has caused a lot of pain, so currently, I'm not doing anything with the arm strengthening equipment, while waiting for the pain to die down. After discussing it with the trainer, we decided it was best to stay with the cardio and leg work only for the time being. We'll re-introduce the arm work very slowly in the future.
On the positive side, one of the stretches which I couldn't do at the beginning is now easier, and soon I'll be able to get my arm behind my head while doing it, instead of in front. Progress comes in small stages.
A Few Months Later
More improvements, I'm pleased to say. I can now do all the stretches properly, including getting my feet up to the parallel bar, which I couldn't do at the beginning, only about two thirds of the way up. Now I can get the foot up there, and feel the hamstrings working!
The weight is pretty much the same, only 1 kg (2 lb) down, but that's at least in the right direction.
There is some progress in other ways too, as on the treadmill and the exercise bike, I can set them faster, and with more resistance. The heart rate doesn't seem to be much better though, and my doctor still says the blood pressure is a bit high, and takes it several times during a consultation. This getting fit stuff is harder than you'd think.
The picture is Mt Franklin, an extinct volcano. Last year I puffed and panted up this track to the rim, with lots of stops, but this year was able to walk right up there, slowly, but I made it! It's steeper than it looks!
Even More Improvement
More success, even though it's still in little ways. I've lost another kilo, but since the loss has been so slow, it's probably going to stay off. Now if only I could lose that sweet tooth, especially for the chocolate........
The exercises are becoming easier to do, and I've started doing a very few repeats on the arm strengthening machines again, but once a week only. Have also started using another machine which has a wheel filled with water, and you push or pull in a circle. That one really gives my arms a workout, but for only one minute each way once a week. Slow and steady will be best for me.
Another sign of progress in the fitness plan - this week I went to the doctor for my yearly flu shot, and when he took my blood pressure, he just said "Good" and only took it once. Now that's progress! :-)
It seems that fitness is something that I'll have to keep working at forever, but I have to admit that I feel much better than I did 10 months ago.
The gym has recently started an exercise program for seniors - 30 minutes once or twice a week, so now I sometimes go to that instead of the resistance machines. I'll have to leave you now - I'm off to the gym!
Further Down The Track
Well over a year into my fitness program now, and I have to admit to losing some motivation. Still going to the gym regularly though I do miss a day every so often, not without feeling really guilty however. :-(
The program has been changed a little for our seniors group - On our Wednesday visits, we now do a 30 minute exercise session in a hall, instead of spending the whole time in the gym on the machines. It certainly makes it more interesting, and enjoyable. It's also more sociable and we get to chat a little more while gathering before the class.
From the fitness point of view, I'm a little fitter than I used to be, and can do more physically. Here's a photo of me in Fiji, kayaking.
Tips For Finding YOUR Gym
It's best to find a fitness centre close to home, so that you won't be spending a long time getting there. This can tend to put you off after a while.
Select two or three places for your short list, then go and check them out. Most gyms will be glad to let you look around or give you a tour of the facilities.
Some fitness centres will give you a free pass to try them out. I was lucky, as a friend gave me a month's trial ticket, which was really helpful.
When you visit your short listed facilities, see if they have the programmes you're interested in, and if there is any extra cost involved.
How do the staff treat you? Are they interested in your motivation? Is there a good staff-to-client ratio? Clean facilities and change rooms? Do they have a swimming pool and spa? Are there programmes for your age group?
If everything looks satisfactory, you feel comfortable, and you like the staff, then you've most likely found YOUR gym!
This is for those in my age group and older - don't try to do it all at once