This Girl Can / This Girl Can't Be Bothered

Which fitness tribe are you in?

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'This Girl Can' by Natalie Lukaitis

I love a challenge. Triathlon? Sign me up. 3k swim? In the bag. Half Ironman? I’m working on it. I guess this makes me something of a fitness fanatic. I just like it, plus I love the bonuses. I want arms like Michelle Obama, a bum like Jessica Alba and abs like Gisele. So if an exercise is on offer, I’ll do it.

It’s not just the physical side of fitness that I love (although being strong enough to carry multiple bags home is a bonus) – it’s the mental side too. When I’m exercising, I feel unstoppable. When it ends, I’m on a massive endorphin high. For me, nothing pays off as consistently as fitness. If I work out, I feel good.

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I suspect the #ELLEfit activities we organise every Wednesday lunchtime are a sly employee improvement initiative by our Editor-in-Chief: increased blood flow means a better functioning brain, so when we exercise, we release a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which acts as a reset switch making us feel at ease and clear-minded post-workout. Those impromptu Wednesday afternoon features ideas are the pay-off. Well done, Lorraine. 

Then there’s the community aspect. I love the camaraderie. I love that strangers encourage one another and friends support each other. It makes me feel electric. You know that annoying person giving a loud ‘whoop’ during your Psycle class? That’s me. The body combatter throwing a punch and a whole lot of sweat like  she’s an extra in Mortal Kombat? Guilty. I even enjoy the pain afterwards. A massage never feels as good as it does the day after you’ve put your body through the wringer. 

I wasn’t always this active though. When I was a kid, my parents made me try every sport known to mankind – power walking included. Without fail, I dropped each one like a hot brick. But when I reached my 20s, I decided to embrace fitness regularly. Once I got into a rhythm, I couldn’t stop.

As the saying goes, ‘To each their own.’ No particular exercise works for everyone. What works for me might not work for you, but I’m a strong believer that it’s a matter of saying yes to new challenges at the beginning and then letting your body find its groove further down the track. More than 38,000 people ran the London Marathon this year, and over the past two years, a quarter of a million women have taken up cycling in the UK. There’s a movement going on, no doubt about it. Question is, who’s going to get involved? I am. 

'This Girl Can't Be Bothered' by Sophie Beresiner

There is a definite divide in the ELLE office. I fall into the ‘whine’ category, as in: please stop emailing me fitness invites. I have an exercise inferiority complex. Also, rhymes with ‘wine’. 
Those can-doers either genuinely enjoy exercise – imagine feeling distressed if you can’t work out every day! – or have a miraculous ability to run and talk at the same time. This is where social exercising falls down for me. I hear everyone say it’s easier with others, it’s more fun, you just have a laugh. But I beg to differ. Running is not conducive to laughing. I cannot waste precious, rasping breaths on expelling a humorous anecdote. This is the least of my worries, however. First, I’d need to concentrate on keeping my bodily functions intact.

There is an element of control freakery in there – I am slightly afraid of failure, I am competitive, and exercising en masse throws up all kinds of social anxieties. And then there’s that: actual throwing up. Now, that’s what I’m afraid of. So  I am a gentle, private exerciser. I go at my pace, I fall in and out of fads and I can go entire winters without so much as walking to the tube (there is a bus option).

But I also feel inspired by the can-doers. Particularly when a bikini holiday might be looming or my jeans feel too tight, let’s be honest. So I really do try. I honestly do, but I do it on my terms. 
I know exercise is important, I want fun in my workout, I need something that boosts my motivation in the absence of a (freakish) natural love of exercise, be that an engrossing app (Zombies, Run!) or some amazing new kit – preferably fluorescent. This girl can’t really be bothered, but she’s still trying, goddammit. 

Photocredit: Luke J Albert

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