Fitness is for all – no Lycra required

The surprisingly common reaction I get when introducing myself as a Personal Trainer is: “Oh, fitness. Nah, that’s not for me.” We typically frame fitness as belonging to the Lycra-clad brigade. You know the type, those you see running around super-early on a weekend, bedecked in high-viz, looking like they actually enjoy it.

Tracy's dad Peter displaying his Peter the Painter T-Shirt. Picture: Tim White
Tracy's dad Peter displaying his Peter the Painter T-Shirt. Picture: Tim White

I have news for you, fitness is for everybody. It just depends on how you define it. The dictionary definition is, noun: 1. The condition of being physically fit and healthy 2. The quality of being suitable to fulfil a particular role or task.

Fitness, or being fit for purpose, is how easily something or someone can achieve a goal. It doesn’t matter if the goal is running a marathon or simply being able to walk down your stairs to go to the shop. Fitness means different things to different people, and we need to let go of the preconceived notion that fitness is for other people. Fitness is for every body.

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My father, Peter Griffen, is an Australian abstract artist and part of the reason I started my own PT business. I figured if he could earn a living doing inexplicable art, I could earn a living running around parks. My dad also inspired me to get running as a youngster. He’s not particularly fast, but he is consistent. He loves a steady plod around his local park in Sydney, and it helps his creative process. At the age of 74, he’s just completed a 10km fun run, powered on philosophy, red wine and lots of good food. Peter the painter is not whom you’d consider a ‘typical’ athlete, but running is an essential part of his life. For fans of Japanese literature, you may be aware of Haruki Murakami’s book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” where he muses on exercise assisting the creative process.

You don’t need to run to keep fit. One of my long-term clients is also a favourite – I’ve been training Calum every Wednesday morning for over 16 years. He’s got various ailments, and with autism, a different way of looking at the world. We spend most sessions walking outdoors, and Calum finds exercising in a green space good for his headspace. Fitness pug Coco ‘helps’ us exercise, you can see in the photo. The emphasis is on keeping Calum moving, keeping his blood sugar levels normalised and stretching out his back. We’ve scaled Arthur’s Seat, hired JustEat bikes, worked on hand/eye coordination with tossing a ball and come up with some of our own funky dance moves. I know he looks forward to his weekly session, as I make an effort to think of fun and accessible ways to keep Calum moving.

Sometimes we take movement for granted, this isn’t the case for those with long-term degenerative diseases. For example Jeanette, who I started training over lockdown via Skype: “I've had Relapse Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) for 10 years. I was medically retired three years ago due to MS. Multiple Sclerosis has no cure and plays havoc on your body, mental health, and your life. I see myself as fortunate because I am still mobile and independent with the support of aids and support networks.

"Last year I embarked on an ambitious Alternative Three Peaks Challenge to raise £40,000 for an AltG Anti-Gravity Treadmill for Compass Centre, a Leith-based charity that works with those who are managing neurological conditions.”

Last summer Jeanette scaled Arthur’s Seat (twice!), ascended Cairngorm Mountain and nailed the Lost Valley, Glencoe. Find out more and show your support at www.justgiving.com/campaign/AlterG-AntiGravity-Treadmill. In PT sessions, Jeanette and I focus on balance, single leg strength, core exercises and recovery. Jeanette is very determined, and she shows that you can achieve great things if you work towards a specific goal. Part of her preparation was helping lessen the fear of falling over. Sometime we need to develop confidence in the ability of our bodies to enjoy moving with ease. Practising balance and staying upright is essential as we age. We need to practise being off balance (safely) to enable our body to learn how to balance.

A good example of getting fit to fulfil a purpose is post-Covid rehabilitation, which I have recently qualified in. Many people experience ongoing symptoms of fatigue after a viral infection, but want to get back to their usual busy lifestyle as quickly as possible. It is a good idea to have a fitness professional help you get back in the swing of things, safely and personalised to your own level. Recovery from injury or illness is a personal thing, and everyone progresses at a different rate. It’s important to get the balance between exerting yourself, but not-so-much (especially with Covid) that it hinders recovery. Rest is crucial too.

A barrier to fitness can be low mental health and a lack of motivation. However increasing numbers of GPs are recommending regular measured exercise as a tool to alleviate depression and anxiety. It’s recently been proven that moving your body feedbacks signals to your brain. It’s not just a one-way communication of your brain controlling your body, as what you do with your body can also influence how you think and feel. When feeling blue on a dark dreich day, I personally put on some reggae and do hula hooping to get my mood back up.

Some people feel that exercise is ‘not for them’, as they can’t imagine feeling comfortable enough to exert themselves in public. The best thing is that you don’t need to go to a gym to be fit. If you know how to exercise from home, you can even exercise in your jammies. No Lycra required. Regular exercise can help everything from Diabetes (both Type I and II, as exercise regulates blood sugar levels), osteoporosis, arthritis, high cholesterol and reduces your risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease. Being able to move freely is a great asset for tackling this frenetic world we live in. A brisk walk to do errands means you don’t get stuck in traffic, and you may even get everything done more quickly. Obviously this depends on where you live, but if you sit less and move more, you will feel better.

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Not only can it feel good, but movement is crucial to every body’s well-being. So even if you don’t feel like it, walking up that hill may just improve your mood. Just give it a try, fitness is for every body. Even you. This is your call to action.

Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen runs a private fitness studio just off Leith Walk. She specialises in fitness for ‘reluctant’ exercisers and those coming back from injury or illness. Tracy sees the whole person, with your own personal goals, no matter how ambitious. You can find more information at www.griffenfitness.com or phone / text 07743 741088. Tracy is the author of 'Get Fit and Enjoy It: Learn Effective Exercise Without a Gym' only £7.99 with free UK delivery from www.getfitandenjoyit.com