It’s February. Fitness motivation is waning. Pancake Day was a glorious time of over-eating a plethora of sweet, and savoury carby-goodness; it was a day when you thought ‘this is better than the gym’. It is true, pancakes are often better than working out, but when the classic treadmill and a few free weight sessions lose their gloss, there are other ways to reinvigorate your relationship with exercise. This is when you need to incorporate some new activities. In doing so you can bring back that endorphin rush, pushing past that cardio plateau. Here are some ways, in the words of Mel C, to ‘spice up your life’:
Give the TRX a go. It may look weird, but it is a fun and challenging way to add some variety. Put your feet in the straps and improve your core stability and upper body strength with some knee tucks and some pikes. Pikes especially will help you if you are interested in improving or starting to practise hand-stands, they will improve your core, and help you practise taking almost your entire body-weight through your arms. Use the chin-up machine. You can set it to take whatever amount of weight you want, making this tough move an achievable goal.
Rock climbing is incredibly challenging, but it’s balanced out by being fun—so fun in fact that you forget you are exercising. Also, the fact that if you fail you will fall, and potentially (but not really; you are attached to ropes) die, stops you from thinking about exercise. Climbing engages you cognitively and physically – your forearms will ache like you never thought possible the next day, but the sense of achievement after reaching the top of the wall for the first time will be worth it.
Bouldering is climbing without the ropes. The walls are not as high, but the increased fear of falling forces you to be stronger than you thought you could be. It is thrilling and makes you feel like a member of the Cirque du Soleil. The CSE has a fantastic climbing wall and bouldering room and if you are not a member already, you can get a pass for £8 which includes all the equipment you will need.
Feeling frustrated? Why not go to a Muay Thai class and kick and punch someone? Muay Thai is basically kickboxing, the difference being that in Muay Thai you get to elbow and knee people too. It sounds vicious, but in beginner’s classes you will only kick/punch pads rather than spar. I took up Muay Thai in the summer and I was hooked straight away. An hour long session will have you sweating and panting on the floor, but you will not know how because you were enjoying kicking out all that frustration so much. If you go regularly, you will get to know your fellow fighters and the enjoyment will only increase.
Boxing and kicking are excellent forms of core and upper-body workouts – your obliques will be rock solid – and it works as a form of self-defence too (use wisely). The two Muay Thai gyms I have gone to have been predominantly male, though I never felt out of place being female. If you say what you are and are not comfortable with, they respect you totally. There is a Muay Thai Society as well as a Kickboxing Society at the University, and alternative clubs around Edinburgh.
Finish your regular workout with 10 minutes of handstands, or at least attempting a handstand. Use any free wall space, start off with a handstand from standing, and once you are happy with that try and progress to one from the floor, which will engage your core and shoulders more. Don’t be disheartened if you can not do it straight away. Once you are successfully against the wall, increase your shoulder and back strength by timing your stand. This is when a minute will seem like a bloody long time. Headstands are a lot easier than they look; all you need to start off with is a good mat/cushion under your head to prevent injury, and a wall against which to balance. Place the crown of your head on the mat, with the palms of your hands just in front, to the sides of your head, straighten your back and walk your toes, with straight legs, towards your face. When you’re quite close it will feel natural to lift your feet off the ground, with bent knees raise your legs till you are in a headstand. Easy as that.
Image: [Pixabay] cegoh