She came, she saw, she ran a bit

I did it.

Despite all the wondering if I still could, it went just fine.

My time was good, better than I had hoped for.

Even if I did get overtaken by someone in a giant bumble bee costume.

It has been three years since I ran in an organised event, and today helped me remember just how much I loved it.

Arriving at the start, number pinned to your shirt.  People watching.  Standing with the crowd, waiting for the signal.  The noise of hundreds of runners all around you, feet pounding on pavements.  Shouts of encouragement from the crowd.  The kindness and generosity of the volunteers.  The last push to the finish line.  Another t-shirt for the collection.

I am back in the game.

Now what can I sign up for next?

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Running. Probably.

I’m doing a run on Saturday. An actual event run.

It’s been nearly three years since I have felt capable to sign up to a proper event. It’s only a 5K.  Not quite the half marathon distance I ran in 2016.  But it’s big to me.

In the Spring of 2016 I was at the peak of my physical fitness. I ticked off my first half, triathlon and long mud run, as well as a couple of other 10Ks. By mid-Summer I was unwell.  The last actual event I entered, I was a DNS. The rest of that year was spent mostly on the sofa.

It’s been a long road to this coming Saturday. I have got back on my bike and back in the gym. I’m regularly taking classes, cycling and lifting weights.  Running however….. that’s still eluding me.  I’m not quite sure if it’s in my legs or in my head, but something that used to be there, just isn’t.

I signed myself up to this event as a challenge to myself. In recent weeks and months, every time I have gone out to run, whether outside or on a treadmill, it has felt like a hard slog. It still does.  An event pushes you out of your comfort zone.  Makes you work harder than you do alone.

If I’m honest, I am dreading Saturday coming around. The prospect of not being able to complete even this short distance is huge.  It is entirely pressure of my own making.  I could just not turn up.  Decide to go to the gym instead.  In the gym, there’s no one to watch you fail.

But.

But.

Only by challenging myself, only by trying and risking the potential of Did Not Finish will I know if I can. If I am truly back to health and self.

Five days and counting……

trainers

Excuses, excuses

My training isn’t going so well. I’m working out but not seeing any noticeable difference to my capability, physical shape or weight.  It’s obviously not my fault.  I haven’t quite decided who or what else I can blame, but I’m working on it.

It is definitely nothing to do with:

  • The amount of wine I drink (and a recent ‘Bottomless Prosecco’ incident).
  • Eating out
  • My diet, which is too heavy in carbs.
  • The lack of water I’m drinking.
  • Prioritising exercises that I like rather than the ones that I need to do.
  • Chocolate.

Once I figure out the real reason I’m not progressing, I’ll let you know……

wine

Exercise, mental health, and me

It’s a Friday afternoon in June 2016. The end of a long week of business travel, including flight delays and lost luggage. 5pm could not come soon enough.  I went home expecting an ordinary kind of evening but instead my marriage ended.

A few weeks later I moved out of my home, taking almost nothing from the dozen or so previous years.

Then a few weeks after that, my dad got diagnosed with cancer.

Then a few weeks after that, my mom got diagnosed with cancer.

Then my wonderful boss left meaning my job changed over night.

And then my brain stopped working.

Rewind.

It’s April 2016 and I am doing my first ever triathlon. Not a bad achievement for a former fat girl.  The following, my first half marathon – the longest I had ever run.  Then in June, before the night that changed everything, my first Tough Mudder.  Two and a half hours of gruelling running and obstacles.  I loved it.

I was at the peak of my mental and physical health. I felt amazing and I was confident in how I looked, possibly for the first time in my life.  Exercise was everything.  My diet was focused, I was totally committed.

Back to August 2016. One night I went to bed, packing my gym bag for the morning as usual, laying out my kit.  My alarm went off at 5.30.  Something wasn’t quite right.  I didn’t get up.  All day.  I told work I had a stomach upset.  Because what else do you say? I told my girlfriends something wasn’t right.  A few hours later, on my doorstep, Julie. With food and wine.  She slept on the sofa and watched me.

I didn’t know then but this was the start of a dark period in my life. Depression and anxiety.  One of the worst things for me during this time was that my desire to exercise disappeared over night.  That thing that was part of who I was, wasn’t.  I went from exercising twice a day to barely moving off the sofa. I lost a lot of things during those few months, and exercise and fitness was one of them.

When you are depressed, people tell you that exercise is a good thing. And it is.  But wanting to do it, finding the energy and the motivation to do it….  That’s something else entirely.  What I wanted to do every day was sit.  Or lie down.  Not run or swim or cycle or lift some heavy stuff.  But for the love of a good man, I might never have moved off the sofa again.

Fast forward.

It’s the Spring of 2018. The Black Dog is mostly vanquished.  The anxiety looks to be a permanent addition to who I am.  The good news is that the exercise is back.  Not at the level it was before, simply because time is more of an issue now.  But if I could I would.  The simple joy of moving, lifting, stretching, cutting through water.  The feeling you get when you put on your kit, get the bike out of the garage, accelerate from a walk into a run.

I read an article this week that said research shows that resistance training weight lifting can be good for your mental health. That is certainly the case in my own experience.  I can’t lift heavy but it makes me feel great all the same. And when the days are difficult, it takes the edge off.

I miss the fitter, thinner, stronger me. I lost her for a while.  But she is in there somewhere.   I did it once and I can do it again, older and wiser this time.  And this time, the exercise isn’t just about getting physically fit but its mental health benefits too.

See you in the gym.

Dry (ish) January

The first (and so far, only) time I completed Dry January, was in 2016.

Now I am known as a girl who likes a glass (or five) of Prosecco. Or a nice crisp, cold French white.  But that year, I was preparing for a number of key events, including my first triathlon and half marathon.  So it seemed like a good way to start my training.

Although if I am completely truthful, that wasn’t the only reason. Over the Christmas holidays I’d seen mention of Dry January on the telebox.  I half-heartedly suggested I might take part.  And my then husband had hysterics at the very idea.  There was no way, in his mind at least, that I could achieve such a thing.  So that became the main aim: prove him wrong.  There is nothing like someone thinking that I can’t to ensure that I can and I will.  Stubborn should have been my middle name.

After the month was out, I got it. I understood why a month of abstinence can make you change your habits for the longer term.

I did miss having a glass of wine. Especially when I went out for a meal.  But, you know, not that much.  And as the month went on, I missed it even less.

After Dry January my drinking habits changed considerably. Where in the past I’d quite often have a glass in the evening or finish off a bottle on a Saturday night, without any real effort or fanfare my drinking dropped down to a glass or two a week.  Add that to the days of abstinence before one of my many events that year, I was barely drinking at all. As a result, I lost weight, had more energy and my skin was better.

But of course, you slip back into bad habits oh so easily. I’ve found of late that it’s getting all too easy to open a bottle mid-week….. and finish it.  One beer with our Friday night pizza becomes two.  From a calorie point of view it all adds up.  From a nutritional point of view, well, there isn’t any.

So it’s going to be another Dry January in our house.

Or maybe just a slightly damp one………

Good enough

We are coming up to that time of year again.

First we will have Christmas, and all of the indulgence it brings with it.

Then there will be New Year’s Eve, the final excess of the season.

And then…..

The guilt.

The resolutions.

The TV adverts for diets and detoxes.

The celebrity exercise DVDs.

The pressure – from external sources and from within.

Being hard on ourselves.

 

Anyone familiar with my story will know that I found losing weight and finding fitness hard. I still do.  I know that I always will.

I read this article at the weekend.  I wanted to share it, not just because I found it inspirational, but because it also echoes my own lived experience over the last five years.

I have learned that there is no end goal, no finish line. That the path is not always a straight line – sometimes you fall back a little and that’s okay.  I have learned that health and wellbeing is about caring for yourself and putting yourself first, something that many of us don’t do often enough.  I have learned that when it comes to weight loss and fitness, we have everything we need inside ourselves, we just have to believe it.  Most of all I have learned that there is no quick fix – there is only one race, and that is your own.

I am not perfect, but I am good enough.

 

A year of two halves

The first half of 2016 went something like this:

Training

Triathlon

Training

Half marathon

Publishing a book on weight loss

Training

Total Warrior mud run.

Training

Qualifying as a personal trainer.

Training.

 

The second half of 2016 went something like this:

Biscuits

Prosecco

Cake

Prosecco

Sofa

Biscuits

Prosecco

More sofa.

The first half of the year represented my greatest personal achievements.  I was the fittest and healthiest that I had ever been.  Frankly, I looked the best as well.  I had actual muscles.  That you could see.

Then some complex life stuff happened.  And it all slipped away from me.  One morning I looked in the mirror and realised it had all gone.  That person I was for a little while.  The physical shape too.

I am back in the gym.  Kind of.  Not working as hard as I did before if truth be told.

I always said I’d be honest on this blog.  If I am honest with myself and with anyone who reads this, I am not entirely sure I want to go back to living as I was during the first half of the year.  It was all protein and 5.30am starts and food prep and two gym visits a day and writing down every single calorie consumed and frankly, a lot of washing of gym gear.  I just don’t have the time or inclination for that anymore, even though I liked the results.  Even more truthfully, the things that drove me to that lifestyle, no longer apply.

I have learned much though through this process.  I have learned that good habits can be undone quickly,  no matter how much you think you have something sorted.  How one ‘I won’t go today’ can turn into many.  How hard it is to begin all over again. But that it is possible, no matter how far you have fallen.

I am hoping that in 2017 I can find balance.  Between the person that I was in the first half of the year, and the person that I am today.  More gym, fewer biscuits.  The benefits without the gruelling regime.  The ability to run, once again.

2016 was about extremes.  Next year, it is time for something else.

Total Warrior

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Anyone that has ever done an endurance event knows that success is only partly about your level of fitness. It is about your body, but also your mind and your heart.

Today, for all sorts of reasons, none of the three were completely ready and present. It was fake it till you make it time. Looking for my game face down the back of the sofa.  But the event was booked.  Total Warrior was calling.  My first ever proper mud run.  12K, 30 punishing obstacles.  My toughest challenge so far.

A cold filling my head. A cough, impacting my lung function.  People around me handing me ready made excuses.  You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.  You can always stop half way round if you can’t finish. Are you sure?

Screw that. This girl flies with her own wings.  There is no DNS and there is no DNF. Not any more.

Messages from friends got me to the start line.  And then that big event feeling kicked in.

Today, I crawled through water on my belly underneath barbed wire. I waded through mud up to my waist. Repeatedly.  I carried a huge log up and down hills.  I slid down a 100 foot slide.  Went up and over a climbing wall, nearly falling but for the man who put his arm over and literally dragged me across the top.  I went through muddy tunnels on my stomach and under cargo nets on my back.  I was electrocuted. I hung on monkey bars….. for a few seconds at least, before I crashed into the water beneath.  I jumped into a tonne of ice.  I was wet and cold and dirty.  And I loved it.

My fear of water nearly took over at just a few obstacles in. Chest high, black water.  Every step into the unknown.  Debris floating all around.  Every step uneven.  Wondering if the next one would be the one that took me under.  But I kept going all the same.

And that is what it is all about. Really.  Challenging yourself to do something new, different, difficult.  As the sign at the beginning said…… do what you are afraid to do.

This is where the magic happens.

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Welcome…..

Welcome to my new blog.

Three and a half years ago, I decided to change my life.  I was then obese, and so unfit I could not walk up the two flights of stairs in my house without resting half way.  I am currently training to become a fitness instructor.

Now five and a half stone lighter, with a newly discovered love of fitness, these are my musings on fitness and weight stuff.  I hope you enjoy reading them.