Do Elegant Women Exercise?
What do pearls, perfume and posture have in common with sweat and hours a week spent at the gym?
I was both surprised and delighted when I read of how elegant, slim women in France didn’t go to the gym or work out. Sweating was unpleasant. They walked, took the stairs and ate smaller portions of wonderful food to control their weight. That concept resonated with me.
Recently I reflected on the Queen of England who has turned 90. She doesn’t go to the gym. She rides horses and walks with her dogs. She has always been active and no doubt has to climb her fair share of stairs in the palaces and castles she visits, along with her royal duties. She has an active life.
I then thought about my grandmother, parents and other relatives who lived long and full lives but never exercised for the sake of it. They lived active lives, ate well, laughed heartily and didn’t die unnecessarily through being overweight or unfit. The idea struck me soundly, what if I never go to the gym again? What if I never exercised but just continued to live an active life?
The thought was like blasphemy. Are we allowed to say such things out loud?
When I was young, I never saw people running for the sake of it. If someone was running, there was an emergency. They were either in a hurry to get to somewhere or away from someone. Exercise referred to playing actively. Other vigorous activity was work.
But then in the 1960’s and 1970’s Arthur Lydiard developed some new training methods involving slow running, for serious athletes which lead to them winning gold medals at the Olympics. The word “jogging” was invented. It led to a world-wide phenomenon of a focus on running, along with a whole industry of shoes, clothes and gym equipment.
I’ve jogged around the streets in the early mornings, and in the gym on a treadmill, but I’ve never reached the place where I enjoyed it. I thought a personal trainer might help, so I worked with a trainer a few times a week. That kept me attending the gym and becoming fitter was a side benefit, but I mostly enjoyed talking with the trainer.
My mind was always elsewhere, in my real life, with my real set of goals that still required activity. I would rather have climbed up and down a ladder to paint my ceilings, hang wallpaper, clean windows, work in the garden or mow the grass. Or clean the car, the house, shop for a dinner party or walk on the beach. The fact that I managed to fit these things in as well as the gym, was an exhausting feat.
Don’t get me wrong, being supple and fit makes me feel good. I can get up and down and up again without effort. When I get an ache or pain that isn’t fleeting, I make an effort to change it. I look at what I’m doing that might be causing it.
For instance, I recently swapped my handbag to the other shoulder and found it was incredibly heavy. But I was used to it and didn’t give credit to the back and neck strain it was causing. I then used a backpack for a week or so, emptied my bag of unnecessary weight, and have found my back pain has completely gone. I walk a lot every day and this has made a delightful difference.
Another happy discovery was eliminating all sugar and starches from my diet for a couple of weeks. Virtually no carbs at all. After 3 or 4 days, a long time ache in my hips vanished completely. I had tried many things to stop the ache without success. Then after my change in diet, I woke every day, got out of bed bright and fresh, eager to get into my day with no stiffness or aches. At first I was surprised. Could this have cured my aches? Several months later, (and not strictly following the diet plan) it is now an expectation to feel this way. For me, a high carb diet, with sugar and bread, causes unnecessary aches and pains. An easy adjustment to try.
I’ve created a list of ways you can stay active and supple, while looking elegant and beautiful, that also has a minimum of sweating, but maybe a lovely glow. I hope this may inspire you also.
Take the dog for a walk
Join in with the kids or grandchildren and their activities – Frisbee, trampoline or kick the ball
Ride a bicycle
Take the stairs instead of the elevator – even if it is just for a couple of levels
Get off the bus a little earlier
Pilates and yoga are great for keeping supple – you could join a local class
Dancing, this is a fun way to keep fit and I always feel happier for the experience
Wash the car, mow the lawn, spring cleaning, DIY
Ice skating, Inline skating
Indoor snow skiing, snow boarding
Table tennis (good for the brain as well)
Croquet on the lawn
Indoor bowls or Pétanque
Swimming, Body board surfing
Kayaking, Rowing or Sailing
Snorkelling, scuba diving, underwater photography
Fishing, including fly fishing
Rock wall climbing
Think in terms of elegance and wearing the right clothing to enhance the experience to feel sleek and lovely.