Exercise doesn't have to be competitiveI’ve never been much of a sports fan – I’m not really that interested in watching it and I certainly wasn’t a fan of getting involved in it.  I always told myself that this was because I was more of an artsy type and that I didn’t have the competitive drive needed to excel at sport.

Now I realise I was lying to myself.  I didn’t avoid sport because I lacked a competitive streak – I avoided it because I’m too competitive to want to do something I’m no good at.

Yep, somehow I had failed to notice that whatever I did, I was in it to win it.  Not necessarily at the expense of someone else – I didn’t want a good grade at school to beat someone else, I just wanted the best grade possible.  But, whether it was a game of trivial pursuit or even writing a blog post, I wanted to do the Best Job Ever.

So, sports and me were natural enemies.  I couldn’t run fast, I wasn’t flexible and I had no noticeable hand-eye, foot-eye or general co-ordination.  I could drop a ball like it was going out of fashion, but throwing one was beyond me.  You get the picture – I’m not talented in sporting terms.

And the real problem for me was that sport = exercise so therefore exercise must = sport.  PE lessons at school where I was picked last left their mark.  For years I avoided exercise, because if I was bad at sport I must be bad at exercise too.

I didn’t do nothing – but my exercise was limited to walking to where I needed to go (work, the shops, cinema).  While I know that’s a good thing, it’s far less impressive when you know that I live in the middle of a small city and everywhere I need to go is just a 10 minute walk away.

And that’s why signing up for this China trek has been such a good thing for me personally.  Needing to get fit has shown me that I don’t need to take part in a race or a team sport to get the exercise I need.  And now that the competitive element is removed – I only have myself to beat, no one else is judging me – I’m finding that I love the feeling I get after exercise.

I’d encourage anyone who knows they need to shape up, but is dreading the “School PE Effect” to just got to the gym, just once for half an hour.  Make sure you do something that makes you breathless and gets your heart pumping for the whole time – never mind if that’s just going at a slow pace on a treadmill.

Try out a few different machines to see which one you like the best – the step machine has won my heart and I like a good workout on the exercise bikes but I avoid the cross trainer.  Or if you’d rather not try a gym, pick a pretty spot for a brisk walk in the fresh air, or dance around your bedroom with the music turned up loud.  Whatever it is just do it for half an hour, and see how you feel afterwards.

Ok, immediately afterwards you’ll probably feel hot, sweaty and in need of a drink and a sit down – but what about later on?  Do you feel energised later that night?  The next morning did you find you slept better?  Yes, you might be a bit achey, but that’s what hot baths are for!  When you think back to how you felt while you were exercising, did you find it harder to concentrate on the little stresses and worries that niggle at you?

If you said yes to even one of those questions, imagine how good you’ll feel if you do another half an hour of exercise and another and another.  When it comes to getting fit, you don’t need to compete with any sporting superstars or run any marathons, just take it half an hour at a time.

*Image from the comic artist and tshirt seller at Toothpaste for Dinner.