We know that exercise should be an integral part of our lives. It boosts energy, relieves stress, releases feel-good chemicals in our brain, and builds the immune system. Fortunately, we live in what can only be described as a playground for the sports enthusiast, with a wealth of organised events and outdoor activities (for all speeds) at our back door ... but where to begin?
• Start slow
Often when people start exercising they go too hard, too fast and end up injuring themselves due to beginner enthusiasm. Build your fitness level gradually and give your body time to adapt to the changes that are happening.
• Build a foundation
I always recommend starting with exercises that focus on the “Core” – all the muscles from the shoulders to the hips that help to provide support and stability for your body. The majority of Pilates exercises are on a floor mat concentrating on your mid-section, with great attention given to form. Yoga is similar but also increases flexibility to keep your muscles supple, helping to prevent injury.
• Plan your fitness
We all have busy schedules but think of this as investing time in both your physical and mental health. Make a plan in advance (perhaps Sunday evening) and you’re less likely to opt out at the last minute. Can you get up a little earlier? Is there any time at lunch or can you take a class on your way home from work (keep a set of workout clothes in the car)? Making a commitment to a friend or signing up for a class in advance is an even bigger incentive to show up!
• Be kind to yourself
If you miss out on a training session or class don’t beat yourself up or give up. Start anew the next day, take a deep breath and try again.
• Mix it up
Variety is the spice of life and that goes for fitness, too. Mixing up your routine not only keeps boredom at bay but also changes the muscle groups you’re using, preventing repetitive strain and injuries while building a more balanced body. Remember to include lots of stretching after a workout to prepare your body for your next session.
• Set a goal
Whether signing up for a race or making a pact between friends, goal setting keeps you on track and means you’re less likely to skip out on a session. Share your goal with others and that extra little pressure will further drive you. Give yourself a reward when you reach your goal and then set your next one.
• Have fun!
Fitness is really just playtime for adults and should be fun. With exercise, like quitting smoking if there’s no will, then there’s no way. Combine fitness with socialising: join friends or take a group class. Enjoy the feeling of getting fitter, stronger and boosting your confidence. You may even improve your French along the way.
Get active locally
• Easy: A 12km walk on the beautiful Nice Promenade des Anglais, from Nice Port to the airport in all. An easy ramble or a power-walk on a flat smooth path with spectacular views and great for people watching.
• Medium: A wonderful 10km walk around St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The path (with some steps) takes you around the edge of the Cap and past the lighthouse with stunning views of Nice, Beaulieu and Monaco.
• Hard: A hike from Eze-sur-Mer to Eze Village is a 3-hour round trip (430m height from sea level) with several hundred steps. The easy smooth path at the start turns into a climb of old Roman steps and a magical, topsy-turvy stony trail winding it’s way up to Eze Village.
• Run & Style (www.runandstyle.fr) in Nice has a free women’s run (with a couple of sit-ups thrown in) Tuesday nights at 7pm. There’s music and great ambience – and all levels and ages participate.
• Riviera Hash House Harriers (celebrating their 25th year; www.rivierahhh.com) run every second Sunday of the month and attract a very international group. €5/run or €15/year.
• For info on regional slopes see frenchriviera-mountain.com Ligne d’Azur (www.lignesdazur.com) has a new daily service Bus 100% Neige so you can spend an entire day skiing in Auron, Isola 2000 Valberg, la Colmiane, Roubion and le Boréon. Book online for special €4/journey fare.
• Cyclists have an ever-increasing network of designated bike paths (pistes cyclables) connecting Nice with St-Laurent-du-Var, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villeneuve Loubet and Antibes. An active way of getting round is to jump on a Vélo Bleu.
• Cycle Cote d’Azur (www.cyclecotedazur.com) has Beginner Rides in English to give you the skills and knowledge to confidently ride in a group or on your own up and down hills.
Clubs & Classes
• For a twist on yoga and pilates try Barbara McDonnell’s Ballet Tone class in Nice (06 60 17 95 23). Fitlane (www.fitlane.com) now has 7 fitness clubs in the region.
• A low-impact activity that you can do your whole life, and you can exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort or joint or muscle pain. If the Med’s too cold, swim at your local pool. See locations and rates at www.guide-piscine.fr/alpes-maritimes