Health Self-Care Stride

American sweat or French élégance: how do you like to exercise?

 

Helena Frith Powell’s amazing book, Two Lipsticks and a Lover, started me thinking. How come French women have the ‘it’ factor so naturally sewn up?

The book is an elegant study of French chic, and in it Frith Powell (who wrote the French Mistress column in the Sunday Times for years!) reveals the simple, effortless beauty secrets every French woman grows up with.

It was during this wonderful read that I realised I wanted to know even more about those well-honed tricks of the French. Just how do they manage to live life so well?

So, our next few blog posts will focus on just that! We’ll be taking a look at some easy Gallic lifestyle changes that contrast directly to the advice inspired by our American cousins…that of hard-hitting exercise and draconian diets.

Let’s start with French-style fitness routines – if you could call them that!

If you were to ask a French woman about her fitness routine, she’d probably laugh. In her book, Frith Powell explains that her friend Sylvie from Montpellier (who has four children and not an ounce of fat on her) says that she has never been to a gym in her life.

“I just move,” Sylvie says. “If it’s a choice between the stairs and a lift, I take the stairs. I get up early and cycle to work instead of driving. Moving is part of my everyday life.”

This is a spectacular example of the serene way in which French women exercise, and it’s completely different from how most of us have been taught. Instead of binge-exercising – going to the gym and training like a lunatic, then doing nothing but eat and drink for the next six days – French women prefer to move naturally. Far more elegant, n’est-ce pas?

French women treat exercise as they do food; little and often every day. If they can, they walk rather than drive, and they sit for as little as possible.

Florence Pernel, a successful French TV actress (think Helen Mirren for her UK equivalent), explains further:

“Essentially, we French women like a nice way of life that does not include the gym and spending hours doing sit-ups. Most French women would say they do not do any particular form of formal exercise – maybe a yoga class, but they all say they move.

They think of their bodies a lot more. Standing up tall, sitting straight, using their stomachs, being aware of how they carry themselves by walking, using the chance, say when they are in a traffic jam, to do some stomach exercises, helping to move logs into the dry store… any excuse to move, they take it.

The result is a firmer body and a clear conscience. Getting rid of that nagging feeling of I must do some exercise.

So many of us are on ‘double duty’ – working harder both inside and outside of the home – more than some of our family members will ever know. Meanwhile, career pressures, personal stress, globalisation and all the common 21st century traps take their toll.

This is the reason why most of the diet and exercise advice we hear is based upon radical programmes that seem to ‘fit in’ with our hectic lifestyles. Often, these programmes are unrealistic, and they are certainly not enjoyable. When it comes to exercise, why can’t we enjoy the process as well as the results?

(This is certainly something we advocate at Simply Stride!)

So much can be learned from the French way of life, because it’s all about rewarding your head and your heart, and living life with pleasure – that magnificent feeling of joie de vivre!

It’s not about ticking boxes for other people, but about owning your life and living from the heart, so you will naturally do things for pleasure and not punishment.

Start your journey towards the French way of life by joining us at Simply Stride, where you will learn easy walking and posture techniques that will allow you to enjoy natural exercise in a friendly group environment. You will learn how you use your body well, and move for pleasure.

In the meantime, why not look out for our next few blog posts, which we’ve put together to help you start feeling better than ever – as well as helping you learn how to move like a véritable French woman!

 

Feel better than ever