The absolute golden rule – at any age, but especially after 40 – is keep on movin’. Many of us have got into the habit of working out, over the years, because we wanted still to be able to zip up a favourite pair of jeans, or to make sure the waistband of our favourite Little Black Dress didn’t get too tight. And yes, of course that’s still important! But there is another really good reason to work out: if we keep at it, exercise keeps us flexible and strong. You know how little old ladies tend to fall over straight, like ninepins? That’s because when you’re stiff, you fall over like a toy soldier – and that’s when bones and hips get broken. If you’re flexible, you fall in a completely different way. Depressing to think about? Well, a wee bit, of course, but I certainly don’t plan to be relying on a stick or a Zimmer frame in my old age, honey. Not a good look, on stage!
In that past I’ve done Jane Fonda’s aerobics – and been burned out by the boredom. I’ve been a serious gym bunny and done circuit training (and I still work out a couple of times a week on a treadmill, and do some weights, for stamina, as you’ll see in a minute). I’ve gone running – till my knees squealed in protest. Basically, now I mostly do a combination of Yoga, some weights and walking – my dogs make sure I do plenty of that. (If you haven’t got the motivation to get yourself out of the house, get a dog! Best trainer you can have!) And because I’m incapable of keeping my feet still for long, I dance, dance, dance.
I love to dance. On-stage, off-stage, in my bedroom, at parties. Of course I used to jive when I was younger. I remember many years ago I went to a club with a whole load of actors, and we danced together – and I just got my feet trodden on all night! Did I care? No, because I’ve always loved the idea of dancing with a partner. Still, that bruised-toe episode made me determined to learn to dance properly one day. So last year I did exactly that and took up salsa. So romantic! So sensual! So good for the hips and waist and thighs…!
This is not something you’re going to be able to learn at home with a DVD, though. You need to sign up for lessons, at a dance school, in a church hall – honestly, like Yoga, there are classes all over the place. And as with just about any form of exercise, it’s great to go with a friend – for the laughter factor, when you catch each other’s eye across the room. Makes it more fun, somehow, and a good laugh releases all the tension.
Maybe you don’t want to learn salsa, but you rather like the idea of line-dancing, or rock ‘n’ roll, or even (after all those Saturday nights in front of Strictly Come Dancing) the foxtrot or the quickstep. It doesn’t matter. It gets you on your feet, and your heart pumping, and fills you with pure, unadulterated joy when you finally get a few steps right.
My salsa classes actually inspired me to take my dancing a stage further: some American girlfriends and I booked in for ‘Dance Week’ at the Canyon Ranch spa in the US. We did four or five hours of dance a day, which was completely fabulous – a total treat, even though I fell into bed utterly exhausted at the end of the day, and slept like a baby. I’m not a ballet person, so I did hip-hop, I had a Michael Jackson class, rock and jazz – and at the end of it we learned a piece to perform (which let me tell you, even for someone who’s used to getting up on stage was a pretty scary thing!) But as vacations go, it beat lying on a beach hands down. Action. Fun. Movement. Loads and loads and loads of laughter. And thousands of calories burned! I plan to do it every year from now on.
If you think about it, there’s probably an all-action, keep-you-fit holiday you’d enjoy, too, which will enhance and build your fitness much better than lounging on a recliner drinking Pina Coladas. (Though we all have to do that, from time to time). Just remember to pack your dancing shoes…!
Music while you work (out)
When I go to the gym, I work out to these…
- B In The Mix (The Remixes) – Britney Spears
- Forever – Chris Brown
- Good Girl Gone Bad (The Remixes) – Rihanna
- Timbaland Presents Shock Value – Timbaland
- Will.i.am – will.i.am
- Kylie X – Kylie Minogue
- The Duchess – Fergie
- Blackout – Britney Spears
- Year of the Gentleman – Ne-yo