Se7en’s Blog: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Se7en’s Blog: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I have just realised that it has been almost six months of working out at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, and in six months my life has changed dramatically. Let’s go back in time somewhat. I grew up as an exercise loving, active kid, who loved running and working out and all sorts of sport, right up until the day before our first child was born. I had this crazy idea that we would have a couple of kids, I would take a few years off competitive sport while my kids were small, and then I would just carry on exercising where I left off. Well, twenty years later I still hadn’t got moving again and in fact I was convinced that I would never really exercise again. Apart from a weekly walk on the mountain with our kids I was pretty sedentary and convinced that I was on the natural trend of slowing down as you get older. It is a huge relief to say that this is not the case at all… the trajectory I was on, was simply directing me towards poor health and a very uncomfortable old age. The truth is that six months of gym and achieving small goals along the way have shown me how very wrong I was and I am finally getting fitter and fitter as the weeks go by.

You Have to Start Somewhere

When I began, I was so unfit, that if there was a chart, then I wasn’t on it. While the Healthy Weight team at Sport Science believed they could get me moving from the start, I was more than a little skeptical. It’s not that I didn’t want to be fit, I just thought that my body had simply forgotten how to move and that my “get up and go” had gone for good. The whole journey began with a fitness evaluation and I thought I would fail. Really? It is not actually possible to fail an assessment. The good news was that I had absolutely no reason not to get exercising and my journey to health could start immediately.

The first shock to my system was the early morning gym class… anyone raising more than a couple of kids knows that there is absolutely no time in the day for you to slip out for an hour or two… to go to gym. If I did have free time, then I would have used it to catch up on domestic chores… gym was the furthest thing from my mind. So 5:30 am starts it had to be… The second shock was standing on a scale and seeing in digital, just how much I weighed. I have to say, that with each pregnancy I put on weight and never really lost it, before we had the next child. More than a handful of kids and the accumulated weight was really slowing down my life. Honestly, I just didn’t know where to begin. The road to health was an overwhelming one and a journey I had avoided it for the longest time.

When the Healthy Weight program began, I started doing things I thought I would never ever be able to do, let alone do properly again. After eight weeks of trying everything in the Beginner Programme, even the things that I thought were impossible, I had made a little progress. A lot of things were not as impossible as I thought they were, and don’t hold your breath, I lost about 1.5 kg. Such a small start, and yet it made such a huge difference to how I felt about everything in life. My goal for the Beginner Programme was to get moving… and I did.

However, the huge life lesson I learnt at the start of the programme was the importance of sleep and the impact sleep has on your health and your weight. I had never considered sleep to be a health problem before, and assumed that my appalling sleep habits, just saying: between toddlers and teenagers, I had decided I would sleep when all our kids eventually left home. What I didn’t realise is that I was chronically sleep deprived and that it was affecting every single aspect of my health. In order to get to class on time I had to start going to bed earlier, and sleeping more intentionally. I think the most important thing that happened to me during the Beginner programme was not so much that I started to get active but that I started to sleep purposefully.

I think like so many moms I had just put my needs aside, my need to exercise, to eat healthfully and even to sleep, for so long that I no longer even recognised these as priorities in my life. Like most moms I would give up a lot for my kids, and I did. What I have learnt is that with better sleep habits, and healthier eating and plenty of workouts each week, I am a much better mom to my kids. I have more energy, I have new moves for my kids to try, I am happy for them to take me for an evening walk… in fact, by having my priorities more in line with my own health, I am a much better mum.


Ridiculous Roadblocks

So… here’s the thing, you won’t notice any changes at first, except that you are so so so tired… and that is simply your body adjusting to doing way more exercise than usual… actually way more exercise than nothing. You have to start slowly, every time I get a little too ambitious I will discover aches and pains. I have had the odd small injury that would have prevented me from going forward in the past… but the thing I love about our gym is that when you do get an injury you are told to rest, and when I was young and reckless, if your coach told you to rest… that meant, “Stop all activity until further notice.” But now, I have learnt that when your biokineticist says rest it means, “Don’t use the muscle that you have hurt, but make sure you use all the others.” You can still have a fantastic workout. Rest does not mean stop by any means.

Another roadblock that I had to overcome in the beginning was all happening in my head. At the start of my journey, we worked up to starting each workout with three minutes of cardio… three minutes was such a long time to actually concentrate on riding a bike, or rowing or even walking around the track. I am a mum, I come from a world of small people, I never finish a sentence, let alone focus on doing something for three minutes. I know, looking back, it sounds ridiculous… it took a while for me to get a handle on this. Luckily my goal was simply to move, because I couldn’t have concentrated on anything that took longer. It does get better though and I don’t notice or even count those warm-up minutes anymore.

Initially the thought of getting around the track overwhelmed me, and I would see other folk literally dashing around the gym and think I would never be there… and yet the other day I ran a couple of laps and it was fun. I hardly know myself, but I loved it. I have progressed to weekday morning workouts at the gym, but more important than gym my overall energy is so much better and I am doing a couple of evening walk/runs with our kids, our usual hike and the Park Run. That is a whole lot more moving… it didn’t happen overnight, it has taken six months to work up to that.

My journey might have begun with a sleep strategy, and then it was followed by a great exercise programme, but I never expected to lose weight. I had assumed that the weight I had gained having kids was here to stay. Well, I have lost weight. As the programme continued and I started to lose weight, so I started to eat more and more healthfully… once you can see progress it is easier to work towards getting results. The eating habits I had picked up along the sedentary way were not great at all, and it has been fun to try new things and change the bad habits into good habits. Slowly but surely, and meeting once a week with the programme’s dietitian, has helped me change habits one at a time. It worked… I have lost 10kg at last. It was hard work and I have a lot more than 10 kg’s to lose still… but I can feel the difference in every step I take and it feels great. If I was motivated at the start of the programme to get moving, I am so much more motivated now.


 Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I think we live in an instantaneous age… we go to a work out and we expect to see results immediately. The reality is results are slow and from work out to work out, changes are imperceptible. Progress at times has been frustratingly slow… I feel like I am working hard, not to mention I love going gym… but I can’t see the changes myself. 10kgs are gone and 10 minutes off my Park Run time… it has been hard work and it has been great and it has taken six months. I love eating more healthily, I cannot say how much I love sleeping better, and I love heading for the gym in the morning. Waking up before our kids and having an hour or two to myself before hitting the breakfast rush when I get home has been good for me. I think it has been good for our kids to see that their mother has healthy needs too… I need to sleep and will go to bed really early if I am tired; I need to eat well and will say no to unhealthy choices no matter how good they look; and I need to workout at my pace in my class in my own time.

Right now, I am so much fitter than I ever imagined I would be… and I am getting fitter all the time. Things that I thought would be totally impossible when I began, have turned out to be some of the things I don’t even think about doing any more. I am still a million miles from being athletic, and I do look on in wonder at some of the folk I share a gym with. I have to say, I no longer look at all the other classes and think I will never be able to do that… it turns out there is a ton of stuff I can do that I couldn’t do before. I may not be sprinting around the track, much as I would love to, and I am not doing any pull ups yet… but burpies and crunches and a whole lot of other things that I had never heard of before, I can now totally do. I am getting fitter, it is slow and steady, but I’ll take it… progress is progress and right now I am a work in progress. Honestly, if I can do this anybody can… my personal best is so much better than I ever imagined it was… and I am loving this journey.


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