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Going South: Strength and the city

January 23rd 2015 / Imogen Edwards-Jones


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Imogen Edwards-Jones experiences her first HIIT strength-training workout, because being weak is not an option

There comes a moment in every girl’s life when she realises that being weak and feeble and not being able to open things, pick up things or carry things to the car is no longer sweet, or endearing, or feminine; in fact it is just not very cool.

Being puffed out on a walk? Not able to swim any distance? Saying “that’s better” every time you sit down? None of these things are terribly attractive.

In fact a while ago, I remember going to stay with a girlfriend of mine in New York (Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame since you ask; I know you didn’t, but I am throwing it in anyway, because it is relevant) who was super, super skinny and very, very glamorous. (You see, relevant!) Anyway, she was doing a reading at a Barnes and Noble bookstore when one of her many legions of fans asked her what shoes she was wearing. And so my friend tried to lift her leg off the ground to show the assembled throng. Only she barely manage to get her skinny little foot off the floor.

“Oh gawd, sorry,” she drawled at the time. “I am just not very strong. Manolos, did you see?” She managed to blurt out before her leg collapsed down to the ground. Afterwards, she confessed she had been a little shocked at how useless and withered she was. Fast-forward a few years, and now my friend has thighs of steel, a core of rock and buns you can crack walnuts with. She rides horses every day, has discovered Pilates, and has probably lengthened her life by another twenty years which is good news for all fans of her super sharp, extremely witty, finely honed prose!

So suddenly when I found myself unable to get off the sofa the other day without making a lot of noise, or preferring to take the lift rather than the stairs, or worst of all unable to execute the Beyoncé squat, sway signature move to “All the Single Ladies” at a recent Christmas party without the need of leverage from a nearby armchair, I had a thought: What would the Bushnell do? The Bushnell would sort it, because sorting is what the Bushnell does.

Enter: Joslyn Thompson Rule from One Personal Training who, even at 8 months pregnant, looks like she’s just had a spot of lunch. Now Joslyn has many strings to her bow, obviously, but one of which is she’s developed a strength programme using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Strength and muscle mass are, apparently, the top two biomarkers of health and longevity and being a chain-smoking, vodka-swilling, squat-shy, jogging-shirker of the highest order, I obviously, clearly, have neither.

Weirdly, in the days of yore, when Christ was alive, mint Aero was the coolest sweet and people called each other ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’ I was super-sporty. I played in all the school teams; I was captain of gymnastics and could nail an arab-spring flick-flack without buggering up my root perm. Then I discovered the two things that napalm all female sporting talent – boys and booze – and I never so much as broke a sweat again.

MORE GLOSS: 9 HIIT workouts to get you fitter, faster

Except now I have to. As my bone density nose-dives to that of a matchstick – it is now or never. So whatever Joslyn asks of me, I am determined to execute with good grace.

And weirdly, she asks the oddest things. She starts with inchworms to warm up the body and mobilise the joints. They involve curling down and up the body and crawling along the floor in a slightly simian fashion. Next there were single squats, slowly followed by full squats, and a Plank Row, which stabilises the shoulders and the belly while working on the upper and lower back.

For someone so traumatised by the idea of the cross country run that I have been known to cry when faced with the mere concept of jogging, all Joslyn’s moves were manageable and not so repetitive that all you can hear as you fall asleep is someone barking up to ten in your left ear. We used the floor, a chair and the rug. So no need for any expensive retail. In fact, my first session was delightful and appeared to be easy.

And the high intensity bonus? When done correctly, using the proper muscles, it will carrying on working you out long after you’ve left the gym and are sitting in a café shovelling down a donut (joke! I don’t even know what those things look like!).

Did I say my first session was easy? What a mistake! Deceptively easy, stealth easy – because the very next day I couldn’t walk, laugh, eat my lunch, move, get in to the car, out of the car, open a bottle of wine. My goodness it was painful. But good pain. Productive pain. The pain of, fingers crossed, progress. And next week there’s more!


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