So over the weekend Dan and I went on a visit to Cornwall with a friend of his from work and his wife. The boys wanted to play golf and figured they could take the wives along for a spa weekend while they play. Brilliant!
Through various reasons I ended up being super active across the weekend as well as enjoying the spa. It got me thinking about how my attitude to exercise and physical activity has changed over the last 10-15 years, completely.
When I was at school I was quite considerably overweight. See the photo below if you don’t believe me. I was not a fan of sport. I hated PE at school and the only active thing I did in my own time was dancing.
I went through my exams and my university years hating my body and hating the way that I looked. But looking back I can see that I wasn’t willing to do anything to change it.
The year before Dan proposed it finally got too much. I went on a hen weekend to Go Ape (treetop/high lines) and was put into the largest men’s size harness (so embarrassing). And then on the last activity I got stuck! We had to do a Tarzan swing across to a rope net and pull ourselves up. But after an hour or so of climbing and huffing and puffing I was completely exhausted. I had no strength left in my arms to pull myself up.
It was the most cringeworthy experience ever. While I dangled there helplessly, a queue began to form behind me as people waited for me to get out of the way. People below began to point at the fat woman swinging there. It was mortifying. Eventually a worker came along and I had to be winched up onto the level. It was awful.
Combine that with Dan and I climbing Pen-y-fan a few weeks later (in which I struggled so much to get up that bloody hill while my husband looked at me like I was holding him back), and I knew that I had to make a change in my life. A week after we got back from Wales I joined weight watchers. That was fairly easy, I enjoyed the freedom to eat a variety of things. But the biggest change came in the form of the workouts I started doing.
A few years previously I had purchased Insanity from Beachbody. It was reported as the hardest workout ever recorded on DVD. But hating exercise I had only ever done one or two of the DVDs. But now, with renewed purpose and vigour I started doing those workouts religiously. I also did couch to 5k.
All of a sudden the weight started falling off and I was feeling more energetic, more positive and more alive! I couldn’t believe the changed in me. In six weeks (over the summer holidays) I lost 37lbs. And all of a sudden I was obsessed with working out.
I managed to lose another 28lbs before my wedding.
Flash forward 2 years and I have put a fair bit back on through some hormonal problems and post wedding bliss. But I have not lost my enjoyment for exercise. If I go for too long without swimming, working out or running, I do start to get a little bit twitchy.
I feel like I have really grown to learn more about myself through my workouts:
1. I am more competitive that I know. I am terrible at thinking that I won’t be able to do something before I try. But once I get going it’s like I’m in competition with myself. I set myself a target and whatever happens I have to reach that target. For example if I start running I will say to myself, “Eugh, I’m not feeling this today. I will just run a quick 2k.” But then I will reach 2k and think “aw well I’ve done that much, I might as well keep going”. I’ll eventually reach 5,6 or 7km. I love those days- you really feel like you’ve achieved.
2. The human body is amazing. Sometime I look back on those days when I struggled to climb Pen-y-fan and think about my body then and now look at myself today, easily running or swimming 10km a week, and wonder how my body has changed so much to allow me to do that!
3. I need to cut myself some slack. As any of my friends will tell you- I do get a little obsessed with my exercise now. I do beat myself up if I don’t work out regularly or if I don’t manage to make the distance or pace that I’m aiming for. But it’s so important to allow for rest and recovery – it helps you to keep going instead of crashing and burning.
My figure and my weight has always been a big issue for me. I have hated the way that I look for so long. And since the wedding I have been trying to get back to my wedding figure with not much success. I have sadly become quite hung up on the scales, or the sad step as Joe Wicks, the body coach, likes to call it.
When the number on the scale is moving I am a different person, motivated, hardworking, loving life. But when it stops (which it has seemed to do a lot lately!) I am low, miserable and convinced that I am going to be fat and bloated forever.
But I am teaching myself to not sweat the small stuff. I am so pleased with my progress – I can run and swim further, my endurance has increased. I am slowly learning though that fit and healthy trumps slim or skinny any day of the week. It is about learning to embrace your body, wobbly bits and all, and enjoying the journey.
So next time I have a really good workout I will remember that the sweat and effort is changing my body from the inside…and I won’t get too worried about an occasional glass of wine!