Avid readers of this column/website must have been holding their breath for weeks. The sun’s out; it’s nearly time to get on that beach, running the length of it, Pamela Anderson style, before hurling oneself into the foam, only to re-emerge moments later to the accompaniment of a heavenly choir, congratulating yourself on your perfect bikini body. Yes! It’s almost the holidays and how, I hear you ask, how is MY quest for bikini perfection going? What, you must all be wondering, happened to Operation Arse?
The plan, if you remember, was this. Having lost a couple of stone with marvellous Amelia Freer, and done little exercise save for lifting a glass of wine to my parched lips, I was determined to ditch the weedy, slightly saggy me which finds it a little tricky to open a pot of Marmite and embrace my inner Pam/Elle/any middle-aged-gran-bod-who-looks-good-in-a-two-piece. I was going to pump some iron, develop some muscle, get a little lighter on my feet and turn my A4 sized paper arse cheeks into something resembling a pair of rounded buttocks.
I wasn’t attempting to do the full Kim K – I am a woman who knows her limits. But I was secretly hoping to upgrade from a backside that not so much fails the pencil test, but one where you could happily store a whole set of Caran d’Ache under the loose folds of skin.
So I have been hard at it for weeks. Under the auspices of the super kind and extremely patient, Joslyn Thompson Rule (international trainer for Nike who devises workout programmes for this very site's Project Me guide) I have lunged, squatted and planked my pants off. I have lifted weights, done press ups, stretched out my flanks, done hours of hollow holding, twisted sit ups, and rows with four kilo weights attached to each arm.
And, whisper it quietly, I have enjoyed it. Partly because Joslyn is great company and not one of those shouty bossy types who screams numbers in your ear at extremely close range. Partly also because she trained me on FaceTime which meant that I did not waste hours going to the gym, parking my car and gratuitously showering only to ponder a latte and a bun on the way out. But mainly, I have enjoyed it, because IT WORKS.
Over the decades I have done quite a lot of programmes. I seem to remember spending most of my youth jumping between Jane Fonda and Callanetics, where you moved teeny tiny muscles over and over again. I’ve swum lengths of the pool like I was being chased by a shark, I’ve danced, run, star jumped and skipped my way through various training sessions and not one of them has made a blind bit of difference.
And not only does Joslyn work, she’s quick. Her strength and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) targets the weak spots and works them very hard, for a very short period of time. And weirdly that’s what suits me. I can do anything just so long as I know it is finite. And in Joslyn’s case, brief and finite. Although, it is not quite as brief as you might think. Turns out I am happy to do 48 squats, but disguised as four circuits of eight, I don’t actually notice; until the next morning, when I can’t walk down the stairs.
Except actually now I can. Thanks to Joslyn and her quiet bossing, I can now run both up and downstairs quite easily. I can pick up my own suitcase, carry my five year-old and run after the dog in the park. I would never pretend to have an arse that can crack walnuts, but it has definitely changed shape. It’s less flat and miserable and moribund, slipping down the back of my legs like a blamange off a plate. It can fill a knicker and looks a lot better in a jean. It fact, it now actually exists!
But another thing I have learnt is that fitness begets fitness; and once you are a little fitter and a little stronger and a little more comfortable in your skin, it makes you want to do more. So this summer, instead of lying stock still on my sunbed, in fear of loose fat seepage from my bikini, I shall be doing what every other middle-aged sod does by the Med. I shall be taking up a prime sport on the seashore, putting my pants up my arse-crack and playing bat and ball with my children instead (bikini top entirely optional!).
I can’t help it! Blame Joslyn Thompson Rule.
Joslyn Thompson Rule designed the 24-week exercise plan in our Project Me guide - get yours here.