I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Seeing as it’s the start of all that ‘new year, new me’ bollocks, I figure now is as good a time as any to tell you how I got fit at 50. I use the word ‘fit’ loosely, and not in the ‘You’re fit, but my gosh, don’t you know it?’ way, more in the ‘I don’t get back ache, I don’t feel sluggish and I lost a lot of my dough belly’ sense.
Let’s start at the beginning. I turned 50 in January last year, but it was around October 2022 that I thought I really needed to do something about my overall health and fitness before it just got worse, and we KNOW it will get worse, even if we try to deny the ageing process.
I was always one of those annoying people who could eat what they wanted and seemingly not put on weight. I hated exercise (still do really, but more on that later) and I love cheese, chocolate and wine. That’s all fine when you’re 20, 30 or even 40, but once the hormones started going, things changed. Also, the pandemic and my nightly ritual of one or two glasses of wine at the stroke of 6pm didn’t help either. My favourite jeans didn’t fit anymore and, for me, if there is one motivation to get fit, it’s my clothes not fitting. We all know how I love my clothes.
So, I started to try to walk 10, 000 steps a day, which is not that hard when you have a dog and you live in London; in fact, I walk most places when I’m in town. It’s also a good excuse for buying more trainers, right? But the main thing I did was start strength-training sessions twice a week – two 1‑hour sessions with a personal trainer. It’s not cheap (the average price for an hour one-on-one PT session in London is £40–50), and you can join a gym for WAY less than that or get a programme from the internet. But for me I knew the only way I would do it is if I had someone telling me exactly what to do and I had a set time each week in which to do it. Luckily, I REALLY like my PT. Naheed has become a good friend and we put the world to rights during the 2 hours a week that we spend together so it doesn’t feel too much like a chore.
Strength training is what it says it is. Lifting weights, the dreaded squats, kettle bell swings, pull-ups, all those really enjoyable things, but it WORKS. There are so many reasons why it’s perfect for women of a certain age. I’d like to point out at this juncture that I’m not an expert, but this is what I have found…
- It stimulates muscle-building. As oestrogen drops, the ability to keep healthy muscle mass also drops. We need muscles to basically help us get off the floor, get out bed, even walk properly as we age. You don’t need to be hench, you just need to build them up again around menopause.
- It ups your metabolic rate. This also drops off around menopause, which is why lots of us can no longer eat what we like without putting on weight.
- It builds bone. Resistance training helps build stronger bones. Again, that bastard menopause is to blame, with up to 20 per cent of a woman’s bone loss happening during this time of life.
- It improves your cardiovascular and general health. Strength training improves insulin sensitivity, lowers blood pressure, reduces deep belly fat and improves immunity. We need to look after all of these.
The other thing I started doing last year was intermittent fasting. I hate diets and never count calories, so this was a good option. I try to do the 16:8 method. This basically means I aim to eat all my food during an 8‑hour window and then I don’t eat for 16 hours. It’s easier than it sounds, I promise. You’re asleep for half of that time, if you’re lucky. I have coffee first thing, I miss breakfast and have my lunch around 12 to 1pm. Then I try to eat dinner before 8pm.
If I’m at home, I usually have a protein-heavy lunch. Eggs are my friend here: omelettes, frittatas, and Jamie Oliver’s ‘popovers’ are my favourite, so easy and filling. If I’m out, I’ll have a chicken wrap, or an egg sandwich or some kind of couscous thing from M&S. I have a regular evening meal with the family. All bets are off for that one – we eat whatever we fancy. I stopped my regular 6pm double wine every night, and I try to give that a break Monday to Thursday, but if I’m going out of course I will have a drink. Life is too short to stick with the rules all the time.
I should say this plan was not a quick fix: it took 8 to 10 months of this to lose 2 inches from my waist and drop a dress size. I have lost over a stone, but I don’t weigh myself very often as I don’t think that should be a measure of success. It should be how you look at yourself in the mirror and, more importantly, how you feel. I feel stronger, leaner and I actually had to sell those jeans that didn’t fit me in the end because they were TOO BIG.
Now, as this is still a fashion blog, not a fitness journal, here’s a selection of my favourite workout gear.
MY FAVOURITE SPORTS BRA
I don’t have very big boobs so I don’t need huge amounts of support in that department. I’ve tried a few sports bras, some of them are a right bigger to get on and off, I don’t have patience for them. I tend to wear these cheap ones from Amazon, but for a ‘proper’ supportive one I favour this one from Lululemon.
- Anine Bing logo sweatshirt
- Lululemon soft embroidered baseball cap
- Lululemon energy longline medium support bra
- Adidas classic 3 stripe leggings
- Adidas archive waist bag
- Nike blazer low 77 trainers
THE BEST LEGGINGS
I have tried a fair few of sports leggings and I always go back to the full length power leggings from Sweaty Betty. Wear with your trusty no show knickers. A good (cheaper) alternative to work out t shirts are the Uniqlo mens Airism T shirts. They are good for sweat as they keep you cool and wash really well.
- Uniqlo Airism cotton oversized t shirt
- Uniqlo relax wireless bra
- H&M Drymove fleece zip up sports top
- Sweaty Betty power leggings
- Innersy seam-free no vpl pants
- Nike Air Jordan 1 trainers
THE TRAINERS I WEAR
The right trainers all depends on what form of exercise you’re doing. For strength training it’s a good idea to have ankle support, so I tend to wear my trusty Nike Blazers.
- Ganni printed stretch recycled polyester bra
- Sporty & Rich Wellness sweatshirt
- Ganni Stretch logo leggings
- John Lewis ANYDAY leak proof water bottle
- Ivy Ellis cotton sports socks
- Nike Blazer mid 77 trainers
MORE EXCELLENT LEGGINGS
My other favourite brand for leggings is PE Nation. I seek them out in the sales as I don’t care if I’m getting this seasons style. They are very nice and thick and supportive. Good winter gym leggings. For summer I wear these shorts with the double layer.
- PE Nation stretch bra top
- Adidas + Wales Bonner colour block t shirt
- PE Nation Upward workout leggings
- Chilly’s series 2 water bottle
- Adidas tie dye sports socks
- Hoff City leather and suede trainers
My goal, to feel more like a grown up, is to have a few gym sets that actually match. I’m a bit haphazard currently. Varley do some really lovely activewear, and the colours all work together.
- Falke core panelled stretch jersey sports bra
- Regatta Bampton round neck stretch top
- Falke panelled stretch jersey leggings
- Uniqlo round min shoulder bag
- Varley Posey sherpa zip jacket
- Adidas hoops 3 lifestyle high top trainers
I hope this has given you some kind of New Years fitness inspiration. I never would have thought I’d be extolling the benefits of going to the gym, but here we are. Don’t panic, we will be back to regular clothes next week.