When I signed up to blog about The Sport Science Institute of South Africa’s Healthy Weight Programme, I thought that I would be blogging about the three morning workouts a week and how hard could that be? Then we had our assessment, where we got to meet a psychologist, a dietitian and a sleep expert and I quickly realised that the key to healthy weight is not just the workouts. Far from it, there are a lot of factors that go into creating healthy active people and the SSISA team looking after our group are there to help us succeed.
Let’s talk about working out. We had a week of introductions and learning our way around the gym. Somehow I missed the memo and arrived for my first gym session a day early. It was just a little bit mortifying having gotten up so early, but I was not sent home, I was placed on a bike and told to pedal, I did… for fifteen minutes… and then walk around the indoor track a couple of times and pedal again… even I knew it was only a semi workout, but it was quite enough. And after getting up at 5.30am to get there on time I was quite ready for an afternoon nap by morning teatime.
Location, Location, Location
I don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I was imagining a class of twenty or so folk getting up early and getting themselves into gear and heading for a studio to work out in. Well after my one day introduction to the gym, I realised that it is one thing to ride a bike while the whole gym works out around you, it is another thing to figure out all the other gear. It turns out that there are only four or five of us on a given morning and we have our very own dedicated biokineticist with us every step of the way. We are also away from the main gym and are learning the ropes on the Blue Floor. We share our early mornings with some elite athletes who are doing rowing and incredible-looking weight exercises and a step class with so much energy jumping up and down and all around their step that it could leave the faint hearted somewhat giddy. The point is our class is away from the main gym and we are learning or re-learning how to exercise from scratch. Every single exercise is explained carefully and nobody moves on until everyone can do it.
There are Choices
Our workouts begin with a warm up and a stretch, and trust me if you can’t do something then you are helped to do it. On the first day I may have spent a full fifteen minute warm up trying to adjust the bicycle to a comfortable position. I have to say, these bicycles are not built for comfort. Turns out that there are gym bikes and then there are gym bikes. When a friend told me, beware of the bikes, I thought to myself, how bad could it be… it could be really bad. At the next session when we were told to hop on the bikes to warm up I was overjoyed when I mentioned my bicycle discomfort, that I could just as well walk around the track to warm up. I love it, there is an atmosphere of enabling us to keep moving.
From the warm up we moved onto stretching, this is one of my primary reasons for being there. One of my goals is to get moving. Turns out there are some really basic things that my body was sure it would never have to do again. Like oh my word, grab my ankle and stretch out my quads, I’ll have you know that if you don’t routinely grab your ankles for a number of years it is not the easiest thing to do… and again, I have been helped to find a way to do the things I couldn’t do.
After the warm up and stretching we have been introduced to weights, and all sorts of exercises with them. They aren’t difficult, there is nothing impossible to co-ordinate and everyone is so busy trying to get their own skills up to speed that no-one is looking at you or your awkward efforts. It’s not so much the weights that are a problem, the difficulty is on the mat… oh my crunches, planks, bridges… all sorts of things that my kids do naturally, I can honestly say I do not. Anyway, after a few sessions I finally know what all these things are and I am actually doing them. I can say that the exercises don’t look like hard work… but do anything for a couple of sets and your muscles will start to say “Hello, I am here.” Muscles that I thought were long gone were definitely put to use this past week.
To launch the programme there was an evening workshop, where we were given our folders with the results from the assessment, as well as a collection of notes from the dietitian and the psychologist, to get us thinking about our impending journey. Both of them gave a talk about their area of expertise and really it was a presentation on what to expect and things to think about as we get into the programme. The dietitian spoke about changing one’s mindset from “being on a diet” to “this is my diet” and that along with her healthy eating plan was how we could discover a healthy diet for ourselves. I liked the idea that there is no one diet that would work for everyone, as we are all individuals. We were provided with an outline, and by just applying healthy techniques, step by step you would achieve your healthy diet. She had lots of practical suggestions like eat off a smaller plate, fill your plate up with vegetables and salads and such like. Practical ideas that are easy to implement from the get go.
The Psychologist spoke about implementing good habits and that while we might see some changes over a short time, we would definitely see changes if we implemented the things that we learnt on the Health Weight Programme over a long period of time. It’s all about replacing bad habits with good habits. And getting up in the morning a couple of times a week to workout for eight weeks… isn’t actually going to change the habits of years without exercising… you need to look a little deeper when you change your habits. Set goals, write them down and then work on them. The reality is you have to consciously stop and take a breath at the crossroads and then decide to step into this journey, the team will help you every step of the way… but you have to make the decision to actually do it and commit to change. I have certainly signed up for more than I expected, in a good way. This is exactly what I need to get moving well again.
Many thanks to the Sport Science Institute of South Africa for providing me with this opportunity to join their Healthy Weight Programme in exchange for honest blogging along the way.