A "fair weather" exerciser is the term used by a friend recently to describe my attitude to my fitness regime. In my defence I have to say she was recalling my university years more than three decades ago when a hangover or a piece of chocolate cake would normally be sufficient excuse not to join her for a game of female rugby or a wet and windy run around campus.
Exercise like everything else you develop a passion for in life is generally something that is nurtured. As children my parents always took my sister and I on long walks and encouraged us to pursue a variety of sports, which we did, some with more success than others. To be honest though I am not sure that I actually really "enjoyed" them in the sense that I would wake with a burning passion to go and exercise. I loathed hockey and netball in equal measure, however, I did excel at swimming and as a teenager competed at county level. I do however, think I fell into it by accident rather than intent.
Then on starting work I decided I needed a stress release and took up running with my flat mate at the time and that was my first proper foray into something I loved. I enjoyed the escapism, the euphoria of pushing my body to the limit and ultimately the way it made me feel and look. It became an addiction. Every day, morning or night.
After children I fell out of love with exercise again, simply because time was more pressured. Also I noticed my needs had changed. My knees were really suffering from pounding the streets and I wanted something calmer that focused more on toning and strengthening. After an unsuccessful encounter with Yoga I fell in with Pilates and more recently Barrecore. But what about my heart and my aerobic fitness? I consider myself relatively active. I walk a lot and can run for a bus in an emergency but I don't push myself aerobically beyond those boundaries.
- Live In Fitness
As I approached my 50th birthday I took stock of my exercise regime as part of my Fabulous Fifty resolutions and decided to revisit it. A newcomer to Instagram over Christmas I searched #fitnessat50 and came across the feed for Clare La Terriere aka @Clare_pilatesandposes. Six weeks away from my 50th I was determined to hit the ground running to be the best 50 year old I could be so there was no time like the present, I contacted Clare and we booked in some sessions at her London flat.
Clare is a woman in her fifties and a mother of three grown up children, but looking at her posts she puts the majority of the younger fitness instagrammers to shame with her energy and her incredible abs and I can confirm having since met her that she is just as awe-inspiring in real life!
Clare started her fitness journey aged 28, tired, depressed, plump and pregnant and apart from a period due to injury has never looked back, "I did it for my head, not my heart and I still do, everything else is a bonus" says Clare.
A fully qualified Personal Trainer and Pilates teacher, the turning point for Clare was discovering HIIT, a way of exercising that doesn't take a lot of time and requires minimal space and equipment. HIIT involves short bursts of hard intense exercise followed by rest which forces your body to work anaerobically and thus burn fat and not muscle. Clare's fitness levels went through the roof after taking it up and she now boasts a resting heart rate of 52, which for the uneducated is on a par to most Olympic athletes. Not bad for a woman in her fifties!
Age is not a barrier for fitness in Clare's opinion, she says the biggest challenge facing women in their 50's is actually starting if you have never done it before. Most of the women she sees want to shed a few pounds but haven't a clue how to start and quite simply don't want to go to the gym and be intimidated, so she teaches them how to exercise and reach their goals at home. This provided the inspiration for Live in Fitness, a residential fitness programme, Clare runs from her home in North Norfolk providing clients with a bespoke exercise regime and advice on a healthy eating programme.
- Working Out With Clare
The morning of my first meeting with Clare I was nervous. I am guilty of using my age as an excuse for those things which are outside of my comfort zone and HIIT is definitely in that category. I shouldn't have worried, Clare is a bundle of energy and was quick to put me at my ease as we chatted about all things fitness and 50 related.
Clare firmly believes that "Being 50 doesn't define us anymore, 50 is the new 40" and her mantra is that nothing is impossible as long as you have the confidence and that is why she is there to say "Yes, you can actually do this, go for it!"
After the warm-up, Clare took me through a sequence of 4 different exercises repeated 3 times so that the total routine only took 12 minutes. I say "only". It is hard, there are no two ways about it, but with Clare's natural exuberance and passion for exercise and gentle words of support I made it to the end with maybe just a few co-ordination and balance issues. This routine was then followed by some Pilates exercises and some stretching.
Despite having practised Pilates for more than 10 years, Clare also gave me some top tips for ensuring my core is always fully engaged (ribs down) and introduced me to a truly effective plank hold that knocks socks off the fully extended version.
The day after my first session I am not exaggerating when I say couldn't walk, bend or sit. Barrecore involves a lot of focus on strengthening and toning the legs so I was genuinely surprised to wake the next day feeling like I had run the London marathon without any training. Clare texted me to see how I was feeling, literally as unbeknown to her I was trying with great difficulty to pour myself into a David Bowie style jumpsuit for a party. Needless to say I didn't manage much dancing that night!
The next week Clare was less forgiving and pushed me harder with another set of exercises, reminding me that it was me not her that was supposed to be out of breath and sweating but all in her naturally good-humoured way of course.
Clare's devotion to fitness and client satisfaction is unquestionable. She was careful to make sure that I knew how to correctly carry out all the exercises she had shown me over the two sessions, making sure I recorded her on my phone at the end for my future reference. Clare has kept in touch since and encourages her clients to contact her if they ever need further advice and support.
Since seeing Clare the biggest battle for me has been motivation which as my dear friend would say is evidence of my fair weather approach. I also thrive on having people around me experiencing the same pain I am, BUT to keep me focused at home I switch on Clare's recordings either from our session or on instagram and immediately am transported back to her flat and her warm words of encouragement to get my heart rate up. Clare is full of wise words but on discussing tackling fitness as a 50 year old the words that ring truer than most are "Being 50 is not an issue. It's the not taking responsibility for your own body that is the problem."
Details of Clare's courses can be found on her website www.liveinfitness.co.uk. You can also follow her on youtube and Instagram @Clare_pilatesandposes.
NB: All views in this piece are my own, if you do contact Clare please let her know you read about her here. Thanks.