It’s a freezing cold Sunday morning in January. I’m in a line with 10 other women, facing 10 women on the other side. We’re in formation, holding ourselves in a plank position, cold hands pressing into the spiky pavement of Finsbury Park. I can feel every ridge pressing into the skin of my hands, icy and sharp. I pull my sleeves down. My upper arms start to burn. And then it starts.
If you saw my last post, you’ll know that one of my January goals is to complete Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga challenge.
I’d always thought yoga wasn’t really for me. My mind moves fast – I like to be busy, can find it hard to really switch off, and struggle a little bit with feeling the pressure to be totally zen and wear hemp trousers that I used to associate with yoga.
I’m also not what you’d call bendy – I’m more the kind of woman known to grown when I have to pick my keys up off the floor. I did do an amazing Ashtanga Yoga session at Shambala festival a couple of years ago, which I found relatively straightforward, but I’m quite sure that was because I was possibly (read definitely) still a teeny, tiny bit shitfaced from the night before and feeling a bit gung ho about it all.
New Year’s Day. We force one eye open, groan, and look down to see if we fell asleep in our clothes. We inspect the room for the tell-tale polystyrene carton strewn with leftover lettuce and a smearing of guilt. Bacon happens. Eggs happen. Hollandaise is bound to happen.
The guilt sets in. This year, THIS YEAR, it will all be different. I will be different. I will force myself to develop superhuman willpower, find previous un-knowable universes of spare-time and waterfalls of untapped potential I never knew existed.
I will run marathons, climb mountains, do a triathlon, win tough mudder and be able to casually do the splits whenever I damn well LIKE. On the bus, in The Club, on the petrol station forecourt, etc etc.
AND I WILL DO IT ALL IN JANUARY.
January. Without a doubt, one of the most depressing times of year. I’m broke, you’re broke, it’s as cold as a witches tit outside and it’s dark by 4pm. We’re riding a post-Christmas wave of nausea as we remember we have to work for a living and that there’s four months ’til Easter. Creme eggs provide some consolation, but it’s minimal.
Let’s keep it real here. This is not the month to overhaul your whole life. So let’s take a deep breath and reboot.
I’ve just finished a 30 -minute YouTube workout in my bedroom. My face is its usual shade of post-workout mahagony and I’m feeling grateful that my window isn’t overlooked. Hauling myself into a downward dog in knickers, trainers and half-rolled up Karrimor t-shirt isn’t my best look.
I’m also on day 5 of Paul McKenna’s hypnotic weight-loss app plan, teamed with his book ‘I can make you thin’. Having to disguise his beaky-faced book cover and hope the size 16 Arial isn’t as easily readable on the tube as I think it is bad enough. But I’m also working through feeling guilty if I chew my food less than 20 times (muesli is MUSH, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!) or because I accidentally didn’t leave any of the delicious pasta I made for dinner on my plate like a reformed character.
This is the latest in what I jokingly call my ‘weight-loss fads’ to friends and colleagues. Though Paul disagrees – he (and many of his formerly fat and disturbingly convincing Amazon reviewers) says it’s a total change in your attitude to food. We’ll see how I’m getting on after 21 days of falling asleep to Paul’s hypnotic trance – spoken in tones not dissimilar to The Fast Show’s Swiss Tony. I half expect him to kick off with ‘losing weight is a bit like making love to a beautiful woman’. But alas, I remain disappointed.
Monday morning. I found myself on a miserable two hour
journey across London, hit at every turn in my trip by an obstacle;
5 full buses drove straight past me, I took a bus going in the
wrong direction after missing the tube that would get me to my
destination on time.
I turned up at the house of one of my donors
feeling stressed out and frankly a bit fed up. We got in the car
and headed to Birmingham, where my donor was to lead a workshop
with some disadvantaged young people with the aim of raising their
aspirations and challenging perceptions about what women can
achieve – particularly those who have had a tougher than average
start in life.
These young people were part of a programme that I
talk about all the time to individuals when I’m trying to encourage
them to give their money, time and expertise to support our work.
They are ‘the most marginalised in the UK’, ‘facing three or more
serious barriers such as homeless, mental health or drug abuse
I talk about how 75% of them go on to do something
positive after the programme; return to education, get a job or
embark on training. I talk about young people all day every day.
I’ve met many of them in the 18 months I’ve worked for our charity,
but those I met today I won’t forget in a very long time.
Exercise and I have never been close bedfellows. I spent most of my P.E. lessons at school sneaking off with to loiter on benches in the woods during cross country, making fart noises from the sidelines as the other girls scissored over the high jump bar, or – on one occasion – getting sent home for sort-of-inadvertently throwing a javelin in the general direction of our Mrs. Trunchbull-esque, obese, teacher, after she failed to respond to my requests to demonstrate a suitable overarm technique.
And things didn’t really improve from there. I think it’s safe to say that sport at my school wasn’t a particular priority; we were allowed to spend our GCSE year either doing sport or getting changed into jeans (a true thrill for a 16 year old girl trying to get attention from the local acne-covered talent) and heading to the bowling alley up the road to fling the balls down as quick as we could before congregating at the local McDonalds. Ah, the heady days before Jamie Oliver lisped himself into a frenzy, when it was perfectly acceptable that our school canteen stopped selling home cooked meals and turned swiftly into a (undoubtedly horsemeat-laden) burger bar.
I find myself infuriatingly attached to my smartphone. I pay it more attention than I pay my health, spend longer looking at it every week than I probably do looking at a book (shameful I know), and enter a state of sheer panic in those few horrifying moments when I think it’s somehow escaped my line of sight or grasp long enough to be stolen – only for it to turn up moments later in the depths of my permanently overloaded handbag.