Over the past 2 years I have practically transformed my lifestyle, body and mindset on fitness. I feel like I want to share how and why this happened…this makes for a long rambling post so please stick with me, I've broken it up into a few different parts to try to make it more easy to read.
Back story and reasons to get fit
Back story on my fitness is pretty short. I was unfit. I was never a ‘sporty’ person, and didn’t feel at home in the gym or on the running track. I have always been slim (ish) but never really done any regular exercise. However I gave up smoking a few years back and I’m also not getting any younger, so the weight crept up on me a bit. All of a sudden I couldn’t fit into my jeans, and I felt heavy and unfit.
I tried fitness DVDs, running, and various gyms over the years. Nothing seemed to stick. A story I hear over and over again from others too.
With regards to diet…I am not good at ‘dieting’. I was a strict vegetarian (now vegan) so my diet is already pretty limited and limiting it more makes me miserable. That said I think I have a healthy attitude to food, and while we eat out every so often we don’t have lots of takeaways or fast food and our meals at home are quite healthy. I think on balance my diet is ok, room for improvement, 8/10. I did used to eat a lot of cheese and butter and carbs but going vegan has naturally limited that.
So I was a person who ate reasonably well, and I didn’t have any regular exercise that I enjoyed but I wanted to get fitter, and forever not for summer or for the wedding. I don’t really care whether I’m a size 8 or a size 18 but I cared that I felt unhealthy. I believe there is no quick fix or magic formula other than eat better and exercise more. I wasn’t going to take diet pills or do fad diets. I don’t want to be a size zero or have a thigh gap and I have no goal weight or dress size. I just wanted to feel better, and do things I wanted to do without being held back by my lack of fitness.
Just after we got engaged I asked Tom seriously how to start (he has always been in good shape) and he took me bouldering with him, I enjoyed it and haven’t really looked back. I just needed that opening into exercise. Getting engaged did kick start me back into trying, but I wouldn’t say it was about looking good in the dress at that point. Just the thought of having my wedding at a time where I was probably at the lowest point in my body confidence made me think ‘why the heck have I not done something about this already?’
My advice is to find something you enjoy and value. We’ve not been climbing so much over the last year as Tom sprained his ankle pretty badly bouldering in February 2014 so has been a bit hit and miss with it, he did start back up but found it set his recovery back so didn’t go again until we were back from the Kili climb. When we haven’t been for a while I actually miss it! Missing an exercise is an odd feeling for someone who has never liked fitness before.
The mind set is really what I want to talk about here, I can see now why I never lost weight before. If you don’t really exercise then you won’t get fit or lose weight. Looking back I hear myself saying things like ‘but I do exercise….’ when bemoaning why I couldn’t lose weight but really I didn’t, I took the stairs occasionally or went for the odd jog but I didn’t have any real regular exercise. Now I’m focussing more on being fitter, not thinner, but the weight loss is a very welcome added bonus!
In for a penny…
After having been climbing for a while I let Tom talk me into climbing a mountain, Kilimanjaro, something I never would have agreed to before. I really looked at my fitness and what I needed to do to be ready and realised I could do it. I was already climbing or bouldering 3 or 4 times a week, I just needed to add in some more cardio and to improve my general fitness.
I bought a groupon deal for some classes at a local gym in January 2014 when we booked the Kili trek, and after that joined on their classes membership. It meant I didn’t actually go to the gym just classes, but it definitely got my confidence up to be in a group of like-minded (and similar fitness level) people.
I even went to the running club, and actually didn’t hate it. I didn’t used to like running but since I’m a bit fitter I feel a little less like a stampeding hippo. Going with a club was good as it gave me motivation to keep up, I reasoned my first few attempts I didn’t need to be first, but I couldn’t be the slowest. I’d definitely recommend a beginners running club to anyone wanting to get started. Sadly the one at my gym never really got off the ground and has stopped now, but I’ve completed the couch to 5K program and can’t recommend it enough. It really is designed for complete beginners and gets you up to running 5k within a couple of months! My aim was to be able to run 5K before we go to Kilimanjaro, and now that’s done I’ve started the 10k version! Before the wedding I was up to 8K, however I’ve not been sticking to it recently due to the honeymoon and wedding and training for other things but I think I’ll restart it sometime. I do still have mixed feelings about running, I can’t say I love it but I don’t hate it as much as I used to, it gives me a good cardio workout and I like to do races and events of which running is a part.
The outcome and the new me
Now 2 years after I started bouldering, and 18 months after I started gym classes and running…I feel great, I have a lot more energy, I feel strong, healthy and fit. I am starting to enjoy exercise in and of itself rather than as a means to an end which has to be tolerated. I like to get out of breath and sweaty and tired, rather than avoiding it at all costs. Seeing what my body can actually do is amazing, all that was holding me back was my lazy brain! I have also branched out into a lot more areas since my first foray into bouldering and the gym, and have changed to a larger gym, then quit that and started crossfit, and even done the lead climbing course (although we still don’t go climbing a lot) which is not something I ever thought I would do.
Having something to train for has really gave me such a boost and helped to keep me motivated, so if you’re struggling to keep on track, then book something in…maybe don’t book a mountain trek and wedding within 6 months of each other though! That was an intense year.
I enjoy being able to do things I couldn’t do before, and I am starting to get motivated to set and achieve goals that have nothing to do with Kili or losing weight. I am a person who needs a plan and a goal otherwise I lose focus, but I am starting to progress to a point where I can set my own goals. This is the mindset you need to develop, take ownership of your body and your mind rather than make excuses.
I’ve done some of the mud run type events and liked them so I’m always up for those, it keeps the motivation ticking over, and I am booked in for the Superhuman games next year. Yikes! Serious! I was a smoker, who couldn’t run for the bus 3 years ago, and ate whatever I felt like and never gave 2 seconds thought to how much I could lift. Now I’m looking at a weight training plan to improve my strength, planning climbing holidays and entering actual competitive events.
If I can do it anyone can!