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My fitness goal 2024: Strength, cross-training and adventures

Written by Fiona

February 05 2024

When I was younger I would launch myself into new activities and try new sports regimes with almost thoughtless enthusiasm. I felt fit and able to join friends for a spontaneous game of tennis, to run a half marathon, to try a gymnastics class for adults, to return to a judo mat, to play five-a-side football and to decide that snowboarding was my new passion. 

I am now 55, which still feels young to me, but these days I have to take more care with new sports and challenges. I will give you some examples: Recently, I decided to have a game of badminton and I ended up badly spraining my ankle. It turns out it was about 25 years since I had last played badminton and I went at it with too much energy and not enough skill (or the right shoes).

I also built up too quickly and with too much focus on speed for an ultra distance running race that led to a damaged glute muscle. I tried sprinting at a track session and damaged by Achilles tendon.

What I have found is that I need to start more slowly these days, build up carefully and execute my new sport or activity with more thought than simply physical zeal. 

And this is why I have been working on my overall body strength. As I have aged, I have lost muscle mass and my joints and ligaments often feel tight and sometimes sore. I find HRT, including testosterone, has been a benefit for strength, energy and relieving some joint pain, but the key, I believe, is to maintain strength – and to keep on building this strength.

Here’s my weekly schedule:

Garage circuits and daily press ups 

I am fortunate to have a garage that is large enough to house a small gym set up. It’s nothing fancy but it does include a place to do body weight training, plus weighted exercises with a selection of weights, both dumbbells and kettlebells. I also make use of a punch bag, skipping rope, pull-up bar and wooden box.

The best way for me to motivate myself to do an hour of circuit training is to invite a friend, Izzie, to join me. Weekly, Izzie and I start with a focused abs workout, then we complete two or three rounds of one-minute sets of exercises, such as bicep curls, press-ups, tricep dips, squats, lunges, calf raises, bridges etc, interspersed with skipping and boxing.

We have both seen improvements in both strength and mobility.

I also do 100 press ups daily and each month I add another exercise. This month it has been 100 press ups and 100 ab curls daily. In February, it is 100 press ups and 100 ab curls, then a day-by-day increase of pull ups. I can manage only four pull ups in one go – and 10 in a set – just now but when I started doing press ups I could mange only 10 without a rest and now I can do sets of 40 at one time.

Again, as motivation I have paired up with a friend. Fraser and I do our daily press ups in our own homes but we message each other to say what we have done and to make each other accountable. It has worked a treat because neither of us wants to let the other down by breaking the daily routine.

If I can add in another circuits session each week I do. It its sometimes a kettlebell session at the local leisure centre or I he’d out to the garage myself for another circuits round.

Mixing running and walking

Running every day only leads to injury for me. Some people find they can run day after day but I need to rest every other day at least. I have also been advised by medical expert that women in peri and menopause need more time for their bodies, especially the collagen, to recover between running sessions.

I enjoy running and it is both a form of exercise and a social activity. So, in between running or when I am injured, I walk. 

I like to keep track of the miles whether I am walking, running or doing other activities such as swimming and kayaking.

At weekends I do both running and walking. One day might be a sociable longer run, while the other could be a hike of a Munro, Corbett or a Fiona. A smart watch with GPS is also useful for navigating, although a map and compass are vital kit, too.

A blowy day for a loch swim.

More focus on cross training

I had become someone who ran or walked, but didn’t do many other sports. In years past, I was a keen triathlete and enjoyed running and cycling and “endured” the swimming. I have more recently returned to the cross-training benefits of including other sports and this winter I have been adding in turbo sessions and spin at the leisure centre.

For turbo, I have a Kickr Core, plus the Zwift training app and bluetooth headphones (so no one else in my home has to hear my exercise session or music).

I also go for cold water dips in a local loch and I aim to swim in a pool once a week. Amazingly, now that I am not training for a triathlon, I enjoy the swimming.

I usually swim with friends and, again, I find that if I set a date and time to meet them, I am far more likely to do the activity. It’s all too easy in winter to find an excuse not to do some form of exercise because it is too much of an effort to leave the warm house.

A bit more stretching

I have never been very good at stretching sessions but when I make the effort I always feel better for it. I am aiming to do several simple yoga routines each week. These are so easy to do at home, but one of the first things that gets ditched when I am busy.

Adventures with friends.

Adventures not races

I used to take part in races but I find the pressure to train and perform overwhelms me. I am not someone who can take part in an event without proper focus and a target of doing the best I possibly can.

Instead, I prefer to adventure. I like adventures that are fairly spontaneous and with friends. It could be kayaking, hiking, running, cycling, skiing or wild swimming. My aim is to be fit enough, where possible, to enjoy all kinds of adventures, especially in Scotland, whenever they are suggested or I have a new idea.

In 2024, my goal is to keep up the mix of training and to build strength while trying to avoid injury by over-doing things – and to adventure more…

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