Two years ago I began the Healthy Weight Programme at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa… I thought I was okay, I was marginally fit and I hiked a bit and I had eight kids… so I was busy, busy, busy. The initial fitness assessment was a bit of a wake up call. While all the numbers and indicators were good, I was overweight, and not a little bit overweight. I quickly discovered that busy definitely does not mean active, in fact I was practically sedentary. I had to step back, take a deep breath and decide that this wasn’t just going to be an eight week “quick fix”, this was going to be an about turn. For the first time since taking a break from exercise to have kids, twenty years before (I know, mistakes were made and time flew), I took a look at my life and realised that there was no reason why I couldn’t just invest some time and energy on myself, and start moving. Step by little step… I have gone from being unable to walk around the track comfortably to planning to run one race a month for the rest of the year, and one particular run… the Two Oceans Half Marathon is on the cards.
The biggest problem that I had when I joined the gym was that I had given up sleep to raise kids. What began as bad sleep habits, with small babies and toddlers in the house had become not just a bad habit, but a lifestyle of ridiculously little sleep. I was sleep deprived on a grand scale and completely unaware of it. It has taken two years, but I can finally say that I average seven hours sleep, night after night. Fitness is one thing, you just get to class and the exercise has to happen. And healthy eating… the better you feel the easier it is to make healthy food choices. But sleep has proved to be the hardest thing to get right. Ask any mom, she gets her free time once the kids are in bed. Well, your kids get older and go to sleep later and later. The solution, it turns out, is get to bed early. Those teens who cannot sleep till after midnight, also cannot get up in the morning. Catch your free time at dawn with a coffee or a trip to gym, and thank me later. You might sacrifice free-time to sleep, but your quality of awake time will be next level… for the first time in years I feel energetic.
When I joined the Healthy Weight Programme my goal was simply to move, and for months I worked on that… just moving and moving. And thinking of ways to add a little more movement into each day. Adding a Parkrun to the week, a swim session twice a week, then the super circuit. I have gone from someone whose idea of getting up for the day meant grabbing a coffee and pile of books and heading for the couch to read stories with my kids, to someone who thinks, “How can I move today?”And it is so true, “What the mum does, the kids will do too.” The whole family goes park running every week, and there are moments in our week when the entire family is out on a run… everyone pairs up and then off they go… faster runners together and slower runners together. What started as a goal to get myself off the couch has transformed, not just myself… but my family as well.
The more I go to gym, the more I love it… gym has enabled me to do things I could never have dreamed of before. I Love our gym classes because they offer lots of variety and I love learning new things. For example, when I started working out at gym, I promised that I would never ever sit on an exercise bike… I remember writing that!!! And now I look forward to the crazy times when we pedal our hearts out on the Watt bikes. Times change, there are always little improvements… and new things to try. My morning gym sessions have opened up so many doors for me… it’s not just that I feel so much better, I really can do so much more.
Remember where you come from… my fabulous dietitian at Sport Science always says when I am feeling disheartened… because I do get disheartened, when for example, I see no change on the scale for weeks and weeks, or I have the same Parkrun time for months on end… “Remember where you have come from…” I don’t often post before photos… but really, who is that person in these photographs? That was me a couple of weeks before I began the Healthy Weight Programme. And now I am running… further and further each week, it is indeed a miracle, a second chance at an active life. I know I am not fast, and I know I have a way to go before I am in good shape… but I am moving every day, I am in much better shape and I am loving it. It took twenty years to get out of shape, it is going to take a fair while to get back into shape.
I can honestly say, that I haven’t been this excited about anything for years… I am training for the Two Oceans half marathon. Seriously, me – the person that could not do a single walk around the track… the person that never actually did the first twelve minute test… and had no idea what a crunch was, or a plank, let alone a burpee… well here I am training for my dream race. If you find yourself lying on your couch over the Easter Weekend and you happen to see the Two Oceans Marathon on TV… and you think, “I could never run that…” Well you probably can. Really, if I can, anyone can… you are never too old to chase your dreams, it is never too late to get back your energy. Get up and start… slowly, step by step… and you can totally get there.