A Realistic Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle in 2021 (as told by a fellow 40-something woman)

12th January 2021

I feel awesome today! Loose limbed, lithe, no aches or pain; I can fling myself forward to touch my toes and spring back up. Crossing to the mirror, I gaze at my reflection with joy and not the memory of last night’s pack of digestives or bottle of wine.  

Oh, and my pelvic floor is so strong that I can jump on a trampoline with the boldness of a kangaroo on a sugar high without worrying that I’ll pee myself! 

Hot flushes, memory blanks, constant anxiety, low confidence, menopause symptoms, flashes of anger so overwhelming they take my breath away? Can’t relate!

Said no woman ever! And quite a few men as well (minus the menopause symptoms).

Most women are going to experience at least one, if not multiple disruptions to their health at some point in their lives – both mental and physical.

As we get older, nothing prepares us for the changes we encounter – beside the celebratory adages Naughty Forties, Frisky Fifties, Sexy Sixties and so forth, many women have a growing sense of losing control, becoming invisible or growing old not-so-gracefully.

It breaks my heart when I see adverts for the latest weight loss shake, juice plan, or fast encouraging women to shrink themselves and the space that they occupy. This messaging is fed to us both subtly in media representations or more overtly in female diet culture. As women, the consistent enforcing of the ideal standards of a woman (slim, toned and at least 10 years younger than you) can be incredibly damaging to self-esteem and self-worth.

With all my knowledge and expertise as a Rehab Therapist, Personal Trainer, Strength & Conditioning Coach and Clinical Pilates instructor, even I am not immune to this perpetual message! Recently, I was approached by an online coach who “helped business women achieve their dream body”. To say I was irritated that this coach was preying on vulnerability was an understatement. I am not a confrontational person so I simply chose to delete them from my network but inside I was furious: they were preying on low body confidence and benefiting from the commodification of the ‘dream body’!

At Balanced Bodies Injury Rehabilitation, we wanted to create a space for women to feel strong and celebrate their abilities not conform to a specific body stereotype. Strong Bodies is a class which promotes health over looks, values character over size and focuses on the real reasons for exercising (note: not to find your ‘dream body’ in 7 days).

We believe exercising is about building stronger muscles that support aching joints, improving mobility, banishing pain, promoting positive mental health, strengthening your hearts and lungs and reducing injury risk. So, our realistic guide to a healthy lifestyle for women of all ages is as follows:

1. Fake it till you make it

Don’t let ‘all the gear and no idea’ get in the way of you donning your favourite workout clothes and moving in any way you can. Some days I can’t bear the thought of moving but on those days, I remind myself how important it is to keep my routine.

I put on my work-out clothes and do simple exercises – I stretch, I go for a walk, I move a little bit more than if I was spending the day on the sofa. These dark days will pass, and you will feel better for doing something, even if it is just stretching! Still unsure of how to get started, then try faking it until you make it in one of our daily Stretchy Bodies sessions.

2. Build up slowly

A large part of my injury rehab work is supporting people who went in too hard, too fast. Find an exercise or activity you enjoy doing and ease yourself into it or start with a form of exercise like Pilates that is relatively gentle and can be adapted to suit your abilities.

3. Get walking

You don’t need to do 10,000 steps a day – research actually shows that 7,500 is optimal for promoting health and anything above this doesn’t contribute much more. Walking is great for getting some fresh air, getting your body moving and it can be transformative for your mental health (especially when you’re stuck working from home).

Personally, I love a longer hike, I might be exhausted by the end of it but my soul is full of joy.

4. Make it fun

Exercise can so often feel like a chore so finding a way to enjoy it means you can benefit from it both physically and mentally. Join a class, walk with friends, or do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Creating a more sustainable approach to healthy living means finding an exercise that works for you – the one you’ll keep coming back to because you enjoy it!

5. Stop comparing yourself to others

Our society is rife with comparison culture as women are continuously pitted against each other in the media. The reality is, their story is different to yours. Their metabolism operates differently. They have different stresses in their life that shape their relationship with food and exercise.

Don’t let size, judgement, or your level of expertise stop you from claiming your space in the gym or an exercise class. You have just as much right to be there as anyone else!

6. Support other women

Supporting other women is one of the most powerful things we can do. Let’s celebrate each other for our achievements, our families, our careers, our wit, our intelligence.

Value is not linked to how we look, your value is your life experience, your knowledge, your kindness and compassion – so, let’s celebrate that in ourselves and in others!

7. Focus on the real reasons

Creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about feeling good when you look in the mirror, it’s about supporting your body and all its incredible functions that keep us alive.

Your heart, your lungs, your gut, your bones and your muscles – these are the real reasons to start living healthier. It’s not about scaremongering but developing a respect for your body and mind for all they can do for you when you give them what they need.

9. Don’t stop eating!

  • Fact 1: Your body needs food to function.
  • Fact 2: Your soul needs your favourite foods to make the world a better place for you.

I would personally rather enjoy a few nice things each day than conform to a body type that would make me miserable in trying to achieve and maintain it.

So, why am I sharing this with you?

Over the last 5 years, my legs have powered me up mountains, my back has helped me pull a 7-person rowing gig, and my bones have allowed me to lift weights I never thought possible due to old back, neck and shoulder injuries.

No alt text provided for this image

I am not an athlete – I didn’t even start properly exercising until my early 30s and it hasn’t come easily to me. Instead, I am an overweight 42-year-old woman, working hard to help others, whilst navigating my way through peri-menopause and holding my own space in a health and fitness arena where I don’t have the ‘ideal’ body type. If I can do it, so can you!

Get strong safely – come to my classes, speak to me about your painful back, neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, feet etc. Let me use my injury rehabilitation therapy experience to help you reclaim your space. I can guide you through the process of developing your strength whilst avoiding injury (whilst I can help you with acute pain, I would much rather help you avoid it in the first place!).

Start now – like right now!

Wherever you’re reading this, stand up and move your body in any way that feels good. Head out for a walk if you can, book a class, or give me a call! Stepping into a new journey can be really daunting – trust me, I know, but I’m here to guide you every step of the way.

Life moves quickly, so make today the day you took your life and health back into your own hands. Let’s grow strong together in 2021 and beyond!

No alt text provided for this image

Check out our January class schedule and get in touch, we have an all NEW site launching in early 2021 to allow you book your slot! In the meantime give me a call. Our classes are open to everyone, so please do come along and start your journey to a healthier and happier 2021 now!