THE BLOG

A Second Chance For New Year's Resolutions

06/02/2014 17:28 GMT | Updated 08/04/2014 10:59 BST

Last night our local grocer in Shanghai -- known affectionately as the 'Avocado lady' -- rolled up her shutters after the week-long New Year's break and began unpacking her greens. A sure sign that 2014 in China has officially begun.

Lucky for us, Chinese expats have an extra month to decide what their New Year's resolutions should be.

For me, this was the first year they weren't going to include anything fitness related.

A year ago my physiotherapist gave up on my limbs. After seven years of suffering increasingly stabby pains in my hips, my latest specialist finally admitted that no amount of sitting on a tennis ball at my desk was likely to help.

Time to get high-tech, in the form of an MRI, which confirmed my troubles were the result of a pair of malformed hip sockets. At an age when 'hip' should only ever be conjoined with 'ster', my joints needed complete surgical remodelling.

I went from a woman with a personal trainer, to a barely mobile wreck.

Looking back at my time of physical freedom, I wonder why I ever wasted my body's ability to move on tedious, vanity projects dressed up as healthy living targets.

Deep down, I'd always focused on how my exercise regime would help me to look, rather than feel. Running was about burning calories to slim my thighs. Yoga was a shortcut to ensuring that I would look 40 when I reached 60. And I'd expected Pilates to organise my stomach muscles into a bikini-ready arrangement.

Instead of feeling liberated and peaceful while practising yoga, I'd simply stare enviously at the teacher's hand-span hips, taut muscles and smug, self-satisfied smile.

Exercise was also exploited to adjust the scales of self-indulgence. Like a hundred 'Hail Mary's, my long nights at the pub, glugging wine and eating crisps, could be weighed against body balance classes, memorising the sanskrit for 'downward dog', and jogging off a hangover.

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Ironically, while I recuperated from my hip arthroscopy in my childhood bedroom last summer, I lost weight. Living with two proper grown-ups who ate small portions, drank moderately at dinner and went to bed early was all I needed to drop a dress size.

Now I'm just 10 weeks away from the operation on the other hip, and I spend every single day looking forward to exercise, while feeling sick at the prospect of enforced physical incarceration, again.

In the space between being not being able to walk, and being able to walk, I learned that the ability to move is a gift, and should never be used as a weapon in a moral crusade against yourself.

When I go for a walk now, I look like a toddler who's been let off her reins. You can't stop this girl from zig-zagging crazily through parks, bouncing merrily around art galleries and walking home the long way round, with a post-rehab-style spring in her step.

Once you've had your mobility taken away- be it for a week, or a lifetime- it doesn't take long to wish everyone who describes moving around as a curse, be sent to a boot camp... where the boots are made of concrete.

So, for all those who are now contemplating spending every night this week curled up in front of Orange Is The New Breaking Bad after 'not going to the gym', I can only suggest that you're missing a trick by not exercising your right to exercise.

And if you've failed in your goals for January, take this piece of Chinese New Year, New You advice:

Stop worrying about how long you can do a plank, whether you're a bad person for having not run a marathon and if a 10-week course of daily water aerobics could fundamentally change your body shape. Instead, think about how good it feels when you get up from your desk and stretch.

When it comes to being fit, all you need to do is get your heart rate up every day for 30 minutes. So why not just walk quickly towards something that interests you each lunchtime? Or even skip.