How to move like a French woman – Part One

As we’ve established in our previous blog post, the gym holds little appeal for most French women.

While exerting yourself physically is completely essential to that age-old ideal of ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, dressing to break a sweat just does not go with being French.

This is partly because it seems like such a joyless effort, to cut two hours out of your precious day – the travel, the changing, the learning how to use machines and then waiting to use them, the showering, the loud, unbearable music, the ‘other people’ sweat, the drying and so-on “…and then, to pay for it!”

(Does any of that sound familiar to you?)

What French women do, they do out of their own desires. Many describe themselves as stubborn individualists; as long as you are doing your own thing, it’s fine.

Whether you are French or not, I think this is something we can all relate to. We all have our own priorities and opinions, so why can’t we move in whatever way we decide?

If you’re playing tennis, swimming, or you prefer running – then that’s great, as long as you’re having fun. Have you ever noticed that as soon as anything becomes ‘mandatory’, the enjoyment of it is lost?

Overloading yourself with exercise you have long stopped enjoying may lead to a sense of defeatism, and even to heartier eating (how many of us have given into our food indulgences after exercise, “to refuel the body”?) By contrast, milder exertion is much easier to maintain and enjoy – for life.

You might have noticed that American women seem to have two default modes – sitting or spinning! While Americans travel naturally less than 10 per cent of the time on average, French women prefer gentler, more regular all-day movement; harnessing the philosophical principle of using your mind with your body.

After all, mindless exercise is almost as bad as mindless eating (more on that later on!) So why not strive to make easy physical movement second-nature in your life?

Start simply, by seeing mild exertion as an integral part of your day. Look at everyday movement – what you would do in your normal clothes – as essential to your overall wellness, rather than confining any kind of physical exertion to the gym.

(If nothing else, you’ll save on all that expensive gym gear!)

Here are some easy suggestions to start you off:

– Begin with regular, dedicated walks. Stroll rather than march, even if it’s just for ten minutes to start with.

– Make your strolls a little longer each day; perhaps walking to work, or parking a little farther away from your workplace!

-While morning walks help preserve brain-space, walking after dinner is brilliant for both digestion and relaxation (particularly good for diabetics).

-Take extra steps throughout the day; if you need to speak to someone, walk over to their desk instead of sending an email.

-Try cycling instead of driving to work, or even ironing your clothes as a break from sitting.

-Hold walking or standing-up meetings at work.

You may have recognised that the general point is to practise as much physical exertion, for as many moments of the day as you can manage. This is the surest way to overcome the mental hurdle that exercise presents to those of us who aren’t French!

Soon, you will reap benefits without any bother, as well as adding around three hours of walking to your week. Très bon!

In addition to these practical ideas, you can reward yourself with time to plan better and longer activity. Instead of trying to save steps, or reduce exertion, you can embrace them instead. You can reconnect with the idea that the journey is the destination, and that time-saved journeys are calories not burned.

If you believe that working at your desk leaves you no time for such things, perhaps realise that stress and fatigue in modern life typically have more to do with a lack of exertion, rather than too much. These French-based principles can help you plan enjoyable activity without adding onerous gym-based events into your diary!

For the whole body, it’s clear that there could be no better exercise – and with the right technique, the cardiovascular benefits of brisk walking have been shown to be as good as those of running, without endangering your joints and without the extra wear and tear.

Why not join us at a friendly Stride session, surrounded by a fun and like-minded group, and see for yourself?

In our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ‘where and how’ aspects of moving like a French woman. Until then, à bientôt!

Feel better than ever