150 Gym Session Challenge
By Joanne Mallon
Like many people, in the year before I turned 40 I took stock of my physical self. I’d dabbled with exercise for years, doing occasional gym sessions but slightly kidding myself that I was exercising more than I actually was.
So I set myself a goal of doing 150 gym sessions in that year. It sounds a lot, but it’s really just 3 times a week for 50 weeks, with two weeks off. I logged every session in my diary and added it up each month to make sure that I was keeping on track to hit my goal.
Exercising 3 times a week is often bandied about as the optimum amount, but it’s easier said than done when you have two children, a job and a pretty full-on life already.
And what I discovered is that it’s really frickin’ hard to stick to. Life is full of calls on your time.
Another stumbling block was realising that many of the things you can do in a gym can be pretty boring. To keep going with exercise, you have to want to do it, and I didn’t want to do the cross trainer or treadmill.
I spent a month trying out all the gym classes, and discovered BodyCombat, which involves lots of kicking and punching to remixes of the likes of Foo Fighters and Patti Smith. Then there was BodyPump – I loved lifting weights and doing press ups to Smells Like Teen Spirit, the unlikeliest exercise soundtrack. So those two became my exercise of choice.
And in the end, I did it, and four years (or 600 gym sessions) later I’m still doing it.
As well as actually carving out the time to exercise, there have been two hard parts to my fitness journey:
1: Accepting that it won’t make me thin – Turns out you have to diet as well, but life’s too short for that. I’ve dropped a dress size or two, but I’m not skinny. What I am is strong, and I like that. My wobbly bits are all rock hard bits now.
2: Accepting that I will never get fit – I realised that fitness is a journey, not a destination. Fit isn’t something you ‘get’ and then stop and feel pleased with yourself when you’ve got it. If deep down you hate your gym time and can’t face doing it for the rest of your life, find another fitness journey to travel on. If you’re doing it right, it should be enjoyable, not a chore. Otherwise, what’s the point?
There have been multiple physical benefits: I don’t get sick, not even colds. I sleep well and have plenty of energy. The dimply cellulite that gathered on the back of my legs after I had my kids has gone and been replaced by smooth muscle. It’s great for mental clarity – I get my best ideas in my gym class. And I can power through exercise when all around me people half my age are flaking out.
So this is why I keep doing it, and the 150 session gym challenge has become a regular yearly goal. My daughter is now approaching her teens, and I think a lot about what kind of role model I am to her. I want to show her that the body is remarkable, and should be cherished; that strength has value, regardless of what you look like; and that exercise, like a puppy, is for life.
Joanne Mallon is a mother of two, life coach and author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual who blogs at Joanne the Coach and with her daughter at Eljae. You can find her on Twitter @joannemallon She also runs the online community for women in media, MediaWomenUK