You have signed up but now comes the critical question: what to wear to the gym?
Becoming someone who goes to the gym after several decades of being someone who never goes to the gym is quite a change. At the start of this year, I was not a gym goer. Some people just aren’t, or at least that’s how we think of ourselves, and it feels like a fixed characteristic. As a non-gym goer, you don’t know how to behave in a gym, you don’t know what to wear to the gym or what to bring with you. I didn’t know any of those things six months ago, and now I do. And in fact, I feel so comfortable with it that after six months I don’t feel like an imposter any more and I’m used to the routine: scheduling my classes, washing my kit, filling my water bottle.
What happened? First off, I signed up to one of F45’s challenges. Reluctantly, but out of a sense that something needed to change. A working at home routine can quickly become an entirely sedentary existence and the risks of this kind of lifestyle are well-documented: basically you’re looking at deteriorating health and an early death. My gym classes get me out of the house and, six months in, I’m feeling stronger and more energetic – and regular body scans are showing a significant decrease in my body fat percentage, including – crucially – my visceral fat level.
There’s no denying that a programme of regular resistance exercise and lifting weights is a positive and even essential lifestyle choice for women in middle age – and there are mental benefits too. In fact, psychologically it’s quite a shift. I no longer regard all forms of exercise as esoteric pursuits for other people, and this has an effect on my wider sense of identity – which is something that strikes me as I find myself, for the first time in my life, inside Sweaty Betty. Until very recently I did not own a sports bra, or any gym kit. I could manage a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, but not ones in performance fabrics, and not matching, and I realise that having the right kit not only make you feel like you belong but also has practical benefits. A top that doesn’t ride up, for instance, and leggings that don’t fall down. A sports bra is a game-changer. Gym shorts for hot days are breezier than leggings. The old adage “dress for the job you want” applies here too: dress for the fitness level you’re hoping for. In my new uniform I barely recognise myself. If I can get this far, then anyone can.