I’m not a gym babe, and I never will be! However, I have been consistently going to the gym for about 15 months, usually attending seven days a week.

Statistically, most people who join a gym quit within three months.

The gym isn’t my natural habitat, for all sorts of reasons, however I do know that humans are creatures of habit and that if you commit to something it can become like second nature. But it’s more than that for me. Not just habit, but discipline.

I was inspired to join the gym after watching how my teenage daughters’ bodies changed. They’d been attending regularly for about a year before I joined.

Physically, I often feel like I’m going through life with the brakes on. Both shoulders can dislocate at the drop of a hat, and my coccyx has dislocated three times. To say I’m both wary and conscious of every movement I make is an understatement. Various underlying endocrine issues can cause my energy levels to fluctuate quite a lot. None of these things get in the way of my daily discipline. I go to the gym as much for my body as for my mind (and my writer’s bum!).

The gym has become a spiritual learning ground for me.

I am constantly facing my judgements:

His sweat stinks! Doesn’t he know that his crappy diet makes him smell that way?

That man groans too much! He’s only doing a quarter of the weights I’m doing! What’s all the fuss about?

Would they turn that horrible music down? Aghh. It’s not even music.

His voice is awful to listen to. He really needs vocal coaching.

Why is it so damn cold in here?

Why isn’t that person practising gym etiquette and returning equipment?

If that female personal trainer has any more plastic surgery she’ll melt when the heating goes on.

The list is endless, really. I even said “Jesus” this morning when a class full of high school students came barrelling into the fitness suite just five minutes shy of the end of my workout. Getting religious in my old age! It was clearly a lesson in surrendering to the moment and letting go of the need to do some more exercises. You see, flexibility isn’t just about how we move the body. It’s in our attitude, too.

Seriously, though, my hour in the gym each day is a time to go within and I spend it dreaming up writing ideas, practising forgiveness, enjoying music in my headphones or a podcast, and sometimes just clearing my mind of thoughts (and judgements!).

It is a time to really listen to my body. What does it need? How far can I go? Why is it that yesterday I sweated like I was in Africa, and today, doing the same exercise, I’m shivering on behalf of the Eskimos?

I’m not skinny, far from it. I have learnt, though, that being strong is what matters. The stronger my body feels, the stronger I am as a person.

My preferred forms of exercise are Yin Yoga, Pilates and walking in the woods. They nourish me in a way that is deeply fulfilling. I can see though, that these allow me to indulge in selfishness.

Exercising in the fitness suite is a lesson in mindfulness and deep spirituality ~ I have to access places of deep tolerance and understanding, not just for those people around me, but for myself.


Enjoying a rainbow while on the bike.

Enjoying a rainbow while on the bike.


The dread of many women when trying to look great in a sleeveless dress or shirt: bingo wings. They’re the flabby bits that hang from the bottom of your upper arm.


I watch women at the gym working hard to erase these wings, trying every trick in the personal trainer’s kit to get rid of the tell-tale flab. Here’s the thing your personal trainer won’t tell you (because the odds are good that he doesn’t know!): bingo wings are not caused through lack of muscle or laziness or poor gym discipline.

Bingo wings are a symptom of low progesterone.

This hormone decreases from about the age of 35 as we start the trek through peri-menopause heading towards menopause aged around 50.

During the peri and post menopausal years, our adrenals steal progesterone to help us deal with life’s stresses.

The lower your progesterone, the higher your oestrogen.

When this is out of balance, that’s when women experience things like PMT, hot flushes, weight gain (especially around the abdomen and hips), night sweats, moodiness, insomnia, depression, and so on. Oestrogen likes fat, and the litter rotter creates more fat. Oestrogen is like an out-of-control kid in a candy store ~ it just takes more and more and more. Unless you can get your progesterone levels to a healthy level, then oestrogen will dominate your hormones and keep progesterone hiding in the corner.

No matter how many upper-arm exercises you do, you won’t see results (that is, flab gone) until your hormones are balanced. This doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t build muscle or create a better tone, but don’t expect miracles to happen just because you’re paying a PT £30 a week or more. Bingo wings are a hormonal issue, not a personal training one.