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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

It's crunch time: get back in the gym or give up for good

The trick is to stop seeing exercise as something that’s optional - it has to become a set, non-negotiable part of your week

Inside Fitness First gym Courtesy Fitness First  
Inside Fitness First gym Courtesy Fitness First  

My personal trainer and I have been estranged for the best part of a year. I use the word estranged on purpose – the relationship that one develops with one’s personal trainer is oddly intimate, with its own set of highs, lows, hidden power plays, individual frustrations and shared victories, so it is not to be treated lightly.

Prior to said estrangement, I would see my trainer twice a week, religiously. I credit him for getting me fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro, and for helping me battle the aches, pains and weight gain that come with being in your mid-to-late 30s and leading an almost entirely sedentary lifestyle. And then a year ago, things got really, really busy, and it became almost impossible to slot our twice-weekly meetings into my increasingly unpredictable schedule. And so we slowly began to drift apart.

I imagine I am not alone in having the very best of intentions when it comes to exercising regularly – I start every week with grand plans to work out three or four times over the coming days. I check the class schedule at my local Fitness First and message the aforementioned personal trainer to find out what evening slots he might have free. I read articles about the latest exercise trends and make a mental note to try out a new workout or two. And then life gets in the way. Long hours in the office, a daily two-hour commute, other unmovable commitments and the desire to have some semblance of a social life all interfere with my efforts to maintain a regular exercise routine.

My personal trainer is unswayed by these excuses. “Ms Denman, put your gym bag in the car and head

to the gym whenever you have any spare time, even if it’s half and hour, even if it’s on the weekend,” he tells me sternly.

Another personal trainer that I interviewed recently for a story made a similar point that stuck with me. “Everybody has the same amount of time, so time is not a great excuse,” James Heagney, founder and head coach at DIFC’s D5 Executive Gym, told me. “If I said: ‘If you can get up an hour earlier for one month solid, I’ll double your salary for a year’, I guarantee every single person would do it. Everybody does have time, they just choose not to spend it exercising.”

The trick, I imagine, is to stop seeing exercise as something that’s optional. It has to become a set, non-negotiable part of your week. Your friends may want to meet for dinner on Tuesday – but if Tuesday is your Body Combat day, or your Zumba day, or your yoga day, then you have to make it clear that dinner is a no-go. If you can also find a way to stop seeing exercise as a chore, but rather as something enjoyable, so much the better.

I know from experience that once you are in the “zone” – working out regularly, making your fitness and, by extension, health, a priority – then it’s easy to stay in the zone. But I’m always astounded by how easy it is to fall out of the zone and, once that momentum is lost, how difficult it is to get back in the swing of things. Lethargy sinks in and excuses are easy to come by.

So this week, it was with some trepidation that I skulked back into the gym for a session with my trainer, with every intention of making our meetings semi-regular again. As anticipated, the experience was hideous. Beyond the discomfort of trying to force long-inactive muscles to squat, lunge and lift, and convince lungs not to cave in after that first seemingly unending session on the treadmill, I had to battle an overwhelming sense of frustration. How had I let things get so bad?

And now it’s crunch time. With my muscles still aching and pride still punctured, I have a choice to make. I can force myself back into the gym for the next horribly unpleasant session, and the one after that, and the one after that, or I can revert to sedentary mode. I know that if I can just get through a few more sessions, I’ll be back in some kind of flow but it will require a measure of commitment in the coming days.

So, with my no-longer-estranged trainer’s advice in my ear, I have put my gym bag in the back of the car. Fingers crossed.

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Read more of Selina's thoughts:

Planning another getaway can help banish post-holiday blues

Missing out on family milestone events. Is this the real expat tax?

Beach holidays: a major bore or the ultimate escape? I'm about to find out

Bluntness in the UAE: 'No children ma'am, but you are not young?!'

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