Going to the Gym at 50 (Even though I hate it)

I hate exercising. I’m not one of those evangelical nutcases in spandex extolling the joys of feeling the burn. Also, I am very much not an Instagram influencer, posting shots of my streamlined stomach and rounded backside. Nope. The best you’ll get from me is a picture of my hairy legs – see below.

If you see past posts I’ve written of my (very) slow exercise journey, you will see from my ‘before’ photo that I was very much NOT a person who exercised. The nearest I got was eating toast in front of a Davina fitness DVD.

I’d start the year promising myself I’d do lots of exercising but it never happened. Well certainly not for very long.

The trouble is, suddenly thirty years passed. THIRTY YEARS. I’ve banged on about this before, but I reached a crisis point. The Doc told me I was diabetic. It was a shock, although I knew it was going to happen.

Thankfully, I managed to get enough weight off to bring my sugars down, but I knew I had to change things. So that’s when exercise came in.

I realised today, and it is something I am extraordinarily proud of, I have gone to the gym every week (OK I missed a couple) for two years. I also realised that without being conscious of the change, I have become a bit evangelical about it.

You know they always say if I can do it so can you? Well I really mean it. If I – who have loomed between being six stone over weight to two stone overweight (currently bobbing about between the two extremes) – can now jump on a box, or run for twenty minutes then you definitely can.

I know massive numbers of you are already well ahead of the game and are climbing mountains and jumping out of planes and generally being complete warriors all over the place. You guys are incredible and I take my hat off to you. You don’t need to read this.

I am writing this to me, really; the overweight woman on the sofa who has given up on her body and stuffs in food so they don’t have to think. That person – can be a man or a woman – who feels really crap. All the time. Sick, and stressed, and sweaty and dizzy. I really wish I’d read an article like this ten years ago so I can proudly say now I’ve been to the gym every week for ten years rather than two.

But hey ho. Didn’t happen. Life moves on – no regrets. I’m here now.

I’ve titled this going to the gym but it’s really about exercising. It doesn’t matter where you do it, of course. I am well aware of how lucky I am to have a gym through work, and a reduced deal on a personal training session so when Rob and I go, it only costs us 15 quid each. If you don’t want to do the gym then don’t. But I hope reading on will inspire you to try some exercise if you don’t do any. Trust me. Even if it’s a walk, or climbing up and down the stairs, you will feel a difference. Slowly but surely.

The Gym

Going to the gym can be really intimidating. If you walk into a gym and you feel you shouldn’t be there, or some fit young twat gives you the side-eye, then walk straight out. Keep looking until you see a gym filled with people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels.

If you can, get a trainer. Team up with your partner or a mate – even a couple of mates – to bring the cost down. It makes SUCH a difference as you can have a laugh with them but the trainer will be keeping you interested with a whole host of different things you can do. I say interested, it’s not really that it’s interesting, there is nothing interesting about exercise, it’s just a tad less boring if you do something different each time.

Did you know that you can ask your GP to give you an exercise referral? I’m in the south-east and you can see a document here about how you GP can get you onto a 12 week programme at a local gym for free or a reduced cost. (This is for the south-east but from what I’ve read it’s available across the UK)

I LOVE it when I go to the gym and it’s full of exercise referral people. Mainly because they are usually 70 plus so make me feel like a spring chicken, but also because I feel they are exercising for health and fitness, not so they would look good in an Instagram photo.

Always go early

This is what works for me. I am (clearly!) not a professional. I have to schedule exercise into my calendar. Those times are sacrosanct. I can’t book anything else. I put them in before work because there is no way in God’s Green Earth I am getting off my backside to go to the gym after I get back from work.

You will be amazed at how brilliant you feel when your exercise is done and dusted and you have the whole of the rest of the day not feeling guilty about not doing exercise.

I still can’t believe I go and exercise first thing. I used to be such a slug-a-bed I could sleep until noon, no problem at all. Since I hit 45, though, I find I can’t do that any more. So might as well get the bloody exercise over with.

Also, if you go early, it’s often full of those lovely referral people who are mostly retired and like to get it done before they go to the shops, so you are surrounded by quiet, concentrating nice people rather than over-enthusiastic young fitness freaks taking pictures of their arses.

Put your exercise clothes on the minute you get up

Honestly, this really works. Don’t even think about it. Get those trainers on and walk out the door. I never eat breakfast, I hate exercising on a full stomach but you might be different. Everyone seems to be a bit mixed about this – but that is how I roll.

Exercise clothes. Now there’s an issue. I adopt the sagging leggings with holes in, teamed with an enormous ‘Walking Dead‘ T-Shirt, look.

Today I hit a problem in that all my sagging leggings were in the wash. A good hunt through the drawer unearthed an old pair of purpose built exercise leggings cut off just below the knee.

I pulled them on and was nearly out of the door when I remembered we were in May and I hadn’t shaved my legs since New Year’s Eve. The clock was ticking. Dare I? How bad was it? How bad could it be?

Answer: Pretty damn bad

Oh God!

Now, I am a feminist and I applaud the right of every woman to grow every hair they want. I hate the fact that it bothers me to have hairy legs but it does. Call me a bad feminist, but this was proper, long hair that I could part, plait, and put up into a pony tail. What to do?

Sod it! I thought, running outside. No time, and I know from bitter experience that any procrastination at all would mean I wouldn’t go to the gym. The whole way there I had imaginary muttered conversations with people who might comment on my hairy legs. Looking at the photo, I should have been more concerned by the fact that one of my socks is Daughter’s school sock from year 4, and the other is Rob’s sports sock from Nike. The Nike sports sock I had sworn blind I hadn’t stolen from him.

Don’t be intimidated by others

Sometimes, if my timing is off, the lovely elderly people in the gym are replaced by those women who I find ridiculously intimidating. You know the ones. Women who have spent their lives regularly exercising, watching their weight and dressing in beautiful work out outfits.

There is one in particular who makes me boil with envy. I call her Ms Chic. She is probably early 60’s and has gorgeous, silvery-white hair she has cut into a sharp Eton crop. I read somewhere that as your face gets old and messy your hair should become super sleek, sharp and neat in contrast.

Well this woman has got that nailed. Not that her face is old and messy, but the sharpness of her hairstyle looks fabulously dramatic and never fails to make me feel like a jelly-fish blob of untidiness and split ends.

I don’t have a sharp, chic, Eton crop because if I did, I would look like this.

I see this woman often and I always try and give her a little smile or raised eyebrow, sharing in the horror of exercise as we return dumbbells at the same time.

It never works. She never responds. I have realised I am Not Her Sort and so have stopped smiling wryly at her. I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t really want to make friends with someone who makes me feel sweaty and gargantuan. Not that this poor woman has ever said anything to me. Maybe she’s just deaf or something.

Today was mortifying. As I was cooling down, I stretched out my legs, horrified anew at their hairiness. As I gazed, I noticed an odd lump. ‘Skin Cancer!’, said my hypochondriac brain promptly.

As I’m blind as a bat and not very supple I couldn’t bend over far enough to have a good look. With a shifty glance around the gym I took out my phone to take a picture so I could zoom in and see what it was.

Of course, just as I did this, Ms Chic leaned over me to retrieve a weight from the rack next to me.

I looked up at her, phone camera open and focused on my warty, hairy, pudgy leg. We exchanged a glance. I opened my mouth, searching for any words I could say that could possibly explain what I was doing but found none.

She gave a tiny, almost imperceptible, shake of her head and retreated to the back of the gym.

So. Yes. You may have awkward encounters in the gym, but you can have them anywhere, and being embarrassed won’t kill you. (Whereas a lack of exercise might! Ha!)

Listen to music or watch Netflix

Last week I was so unbelievably gripped by the last episode of season three of Line of Duty I cycled furiously for a full thirty minutes on the exercise bike and didn’t even notice the time passing!

So don’t think there is anything wrong with watching TV while you’re exercising. As long as you peddle hard, you’re still getting the benefit. And the thing is, you’re going to binge watch, why not do it and cycle at the same time?

Music! Music is SO important. Plan it out carefully. I warm up for about 8 minutes on the bike and then speed up for another 10 or 15 minutes or so while catching up on a podcast or watching Netflix. Then I whack on my Exercise play list.

Choose your most favourite, getting on the dance floor, mad out of your head dancing tunes. Start with one that isn’t too fast moving and then choose ones that get quicker and quicker before bringing you back down.

I’m going to share with you my playlist, which is working well for me at the moment… I’d love to hear what tracks get your heart racing.

GOD I love the Britney one. ‘You gotta work, bitch’ she croons in my ear. ‘You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch You want a Lamborghini? Sippin’ martinis? Look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch.’

Crude but it works for me. The Eminem one is good when I’m pounding on the treadmill and need to just keep going. The Malo one is BONKERS and is for peak work out point when I’m truly in the zone. ‘Lightning Bolt’ and Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump it Up’ is also on there, as well as some Pearl Jam of course.

It doesn’t matter what you choose, but it must make you feel up and happy – ready to take on the day.

So Why Exercise When It’s Horrible?

I’m not gonna lie. Exercise is always going to be hard. It will make you look tomato red, and sweaty, and slightly mad. It hurts, sometimes for days afterwards. Being out of breath for an extended period of time is awful.Of course everywhere you look you will find research on how good exercise is for you. ‘Exercise is better than a pill at beating Heart Disease‘ for example. It’s not that I didn’t know any of that, I just wasn’t interested. Blah Blah I’d think.

But then I went to the gym. Ran with Dog. Started doing push ups at home. Let me tell you what happened.

And as I said before, and I’ll say again, if I can do it – honestly, anyone can. I was surprised to find that even the most hardened of gym bunnies have said to me when questioned that they didn’t enjoy exercising. Absolutely none of them wake up and say ‘Hooray! I get to exercise today!’ None of them. It’s not just the old, fat ones like me who hate exercise.

The reason people do it is because of how bloody brilliant it can make you feel.

I woke up this morning and immediately swore. ‘Fuck’s sake,’ I said.

‘What?’ said Rob.

‘I’ve got to go to the gym today.’

‘Oh dear. Sorry I can’t go with you this time, I’ve got a sore throat,’ he said smugly.

I moaned the whole morning. But I went. I had the hairy leg issue, the awkward Ms Chic encounter and I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the treadmill. Honestly, I did. I always get this chest pain When running, which is apparently something to do with my inter-costal muscles bouncing around, but it felt like a heart attack.

Stupidly, I had a blow dry the day before and it was ruined at the gym. No matter what configuration I put my hair in, the sweat still ruined it. In the mirrors of the gym my tubby reflection and grim face stared back at me, ‘you can just stop, you know,’ a little voice kept whispering.


Oh yes but.

When I finished I walked towards the door of the gym. The sun was absolutely flooding in and I could see the blue, blue sky. The 2018 Remaster of Chic’s ‘Le Freak’ started to pound in my ears and in my head I was telling myself, ‘fucking yes! I did it.’

People looked at me oddly as I danced out of the gym, hairy-legged, and dripping with sweat, with the biggest grin on my face but I didn’t care.

I shaved my legs the second I got in the shower.

Exercise gives you a sense of achievement. Every time you go you will be a little stronger and be able to run a little further.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on yourself.

Stronger means if you fall you are less likely to break anything. You don’t have to ask other to help you lift things. You can manhandle your children more easily. You can punch anyone who might attack you. You walk taller. Being able to run a little further means your heart and lungs are working better.

Exercise gives you time just for yourself. You can’t think about anything else except how godawful this exercise is and how much longer it will last for. You don’t think about work, or kids, or partner, or money, or family, bills. Worries you’ve been mulling over often get mysteriously solved when you put them in the back of your mind, girding your loins as you approach the climbing machine.

Exercise helps with middle-aged rage. It really does. Something to do with the hormones released. You can’t be angry if you’re knackered. Personally it sorted (for the most part) my anxiety and hypochondria.

After exercise you can walk into the sun, strong and powerful, the best music in your ears knowing you don’t have to do it again that day. And yes, if you do it often enough, it does make you feel a bit high.

What do you all think? do you exercise – what gets you off the sofa? What music gets you going?

16 thoughts on “Going to the Gym at 50 (Even though I hate it)

  1. I took on dog walking to help with improved exercise. Oh how I was going to be fit and full of fresh air and my circulation will have improved and my muscles toned…


    My full time dog is of a sniff and tinkle every 3 steps sort. Ask me how much exercise I’m getting with him. 🙂 The other dog is 12…she’s…similar. The puppy? He hated the leash and was busy jumping on me to try to reach the leash so he could chew it. Once he figured out walking is more fun, things improved, but that meant only 15 min of cardiovascular exercise instead of at least 30, because he’d still try to chew the leash for at least half the walk…but I took it happily. And then he moved away. 😛
    Love love love your story telling. And you are a brave, inspiring woman to all of us. PS I shave everything every time I’m in the shower. I mean, I used to do only the usual areas, but I moved along and covered, um, everything lately and I love it. Less is more! lol 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bloody dogs! God, My dog was exactly the same as a puppy – always pirouetting around trying to chew the lead – used to drive me mad! They are good for getting you out of the house and I think wrestling with a chewy dog is a pretty good cardio work out. 😂 still although it doesn’t seem loads you are getting off the sofa and that’s the most important thing. I’m impressed by your dedication to complete hair freeness! I really couldn’t be bothered with all of that – I’ll just shave more bits depending on how hot it is and what’s going to be exposed!


  2. No one is looking at you. Seriously. Just go and exercise and leave. Me and my middle age body go into the gym every day. I. D.o.n.t look at anyone. Ever. I just do my thing, drink a ton of water and leave.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good for you going every day! That’s brilliant and I really need to go more often – I think I’m a complete hero if I managed to do three times a week. And you’re absolute right – it’s all about lots and lots of water and not looking at anyone! Lol. Do you find it has had a really positive effect, all that exercise?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On my mind and state of being? Totally!! Am I as thin as I used to be? No. That’s just metabolism post fifty. But I feel better after I’ve worked out. Just go and do your thing!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed this article! I have gained weight since I retired in late December and walking my dog twice a day is not enough. I can’t jog with her as her ADHD would kill me, Traffic! Squirrel! Smell! Pee! You can see the problem, so I am going to start going for my run/walk in the am after I walk her so I already have my warmup done. You keep going to the gym and keep smiling at those other people they will keep wondering what you are up to!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love this post – great kick up the bum talk. Currently we’re on holiday in France, whilst I will walk the legs off a donkey I also need to look at things which drives gravel-guy demented as I realise every three paces there is a new exciting wild flower or “thing”. I think I’ve eaten a goats cheese salad pretty much every day – I love salad but may have actually (finally) reaches my cheese limit. The exercise will continue once I’m home to Scotland- you’ve convinced me

    Oh and hairy legs are nothing, but if it gives you extra space on public transport or at the gym or whatnot – embrace it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my god Chèvre Chaud has got to be my number one favourite thing about being in France. Ooh you’ve made my mouth water thinking about it. Good for you – I want to hear your jumping on a box story! Too true hairy legs just part the waves like the Red Sea 😂


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