Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Moving Like a French Woman
I was re-reading a chapter of French Women Don’t Get Fat today. It was chapter 10 - ‘Moving like a French woman’. In it she makes some interesting points about French women and exercise.
Mireille says traditional exercise where you change into your workout gear doesn’t go with being French. She describes it as a great, joyless effort cutting two hours out of your day to travel, change, learning and waiting to use machines, showering, drying your hair and so on. And you have to pay for it. I couldn’t have written it better myself. She describes exactly why I am not a gym bunny anymore.
She also mentions an ‘overheated’ workout can do the opposite for you than a milder exertion. It revs up your appetite so you eat more afterwards. And if you decide all that energy expenditure is just too much to put up with, you quit. It can encourage the ‘all or nothing’ mindset.
I couldn’t agree more. I remember some particularly high-energy aerobics classes when I left the gym on a Saturday morning literally shaking. And I was ravenously hungry. My poor body, all churned up. And then I looked around for the nearest horse to eat...
I think it comes down to what suits you. Some people thrive on high-energy workouts but I know for myself they are counter-productive to my health and tranquillity. I much prefer gentle exercise as part of how I live my life.
Walking outside either at a fast-paced clip or a leisurely meander depending on my mood, how much time I have and whether I feel tired or energised that day is my favourite form of exercise. I also feel really fortunate that I have found an enjoyable yoga class to add to my walking.
Yesterday our teacher echoed my walking philosophy. She said you will have days when you have lots of energy and feel great, and days when you feel tired and want to be more gentle on yourself. On these types of days it’s hard to even find your balance, you’re wobbling all over the place (in yoga at least). And it’s true!
In the past I’ve felt guilty if I’ve had a ‘slack’ gym workout and either pushed myself to try harder or left the gym feeling guilty because I didn't take full advantage of my workout time. Now how much fun does that sound? Again, it’s down to the individual – there are plenty of people who enjoy the high-octane effort of a gym workout, but I’m not one of them.
My husband and I have had this conversation a few times – he knows how much I enjoy my gentle pursuits of walking and yoga, and he’s told me how much enjoyment he gets from his hard-out cardio and weights gym sessions 3-4 times per week.
In her book, Mireille encourages us to increase our walking by adding regular ‘dedicated’ walks to our day. Start small and make smart strolls a part of each day. It could be walking part way to work (I drive, but often walk to the bank, post office or library during the day. When I worked in the city I would use my lunch hour to walk from the bottom of town to the top to visit the library or just for a stroll) or walking for 20 minutes after dinner to aid digestion and wind down before bed.
Of course you won’t want to wear stilettos, but you don’t have to wear chunky sports shoes either. There are many styles of comfortable flats which allow you to be comfortable and look good in your normal day clothes too.
When I travelled to London, I had a number of days where I was a sightseeing group of one. It was lovely to have the day to myself, but to have friends to meet up with at night (they were working). One of the days I caught the tube to Chelsea/Sloane Square area and just walked around imagining I lived in one of the gorgeous pastel coloured terrace houses and eventually made my way to a shopping area and another tube station where I rode back to my friend’s home later in the afternoon. Not a typical touristy outing but I’ve always enjoyed seeing how people live, and not just gawping through the gates of Buckingham Palace (although I did that too of course).
I’ve done this a few times in my own city. I think I’ll do it again soon. The area we live in is pretty boring and out of the way, and not really suitable for walking, but I can drive to a lovely, older area and park the car. Then the plan is to walk as if I lived there and enjoy the beautiful homes, perhaps stop in a cafe or window-shop. Enjoyable exercise is what I’m all about.