I’m a big advocate of communication with children (as in talking and listening) being one of the most effective ways of keeping a good relationship going, building trust, getting to know one another, guiding and advising them and just staying close to one another throughout their whole young life.
I find one of the single most easy times to get your kids to open up and talk to you, to ask you questions, to listen to you is when you are walking with them. When you get them outside no matter the weather, no matter their age (we have things like microfibre and waterproof shades for prams and umbrellas now) and you take them away from technology and interference, leave phones in pockets or at home if it’s safe to do so and just go for a walk you are onto a winner. Walk anywhere, it’s free, around your neighbourhood or a nicer neighbourhood if yours isn’t too nice, along a beach if you’re lucky enough to live near one or to be able to drive to one easily, around a woods, a park, a community garden… anywhere where there are few modern day interruptions. Walking at night is especially relaxing.
I used to walk my kids to school and back rather than drive them so that we always had that daily opportunity to talk and for me to listen and even now when one of them is grown and the other in mid teens we still walk regularly and they open up to me in ways they just don’t normally, we talk about everything and anything and it’s not only fun and bonding for us but it lets me into their world and into their mind and their heart, I find out what their passions and joys are, I find out about their friends and their jobs or school, I find out about their ambitions, their fears… it all tumbles out during a walk.
What’s more you can go a long time without a walk (we went about 2 years) and it’s easy to bring back as a feature of your life together, it doesn’t have to happen daily. Weekly or even monthly is good. Also of course there is the added benefit for you and the kid/s of it being healthy easy exercise, of getting some fresh air into your lungs and to relax and destress away from everything for ten minutes, half an hour or several hours it doesn’t matter.
We should all walk more and if we can do it with people we want to always be close to even better.
If you’re looking to start to lose weight and exercise more and build stronger relationships start with adding a short walk into your life and by drinking more water. Two top tips which are easy to do and which you will thank yourself that you did one day.
At least not if you are fat, obese, very overweight or whatever. It may tone, sculpt and shape, increase flexibility, endurance and strength, improve cardio vascular performance and release wonderful things in your brain that make you feel amazing… happy, lively, sexy, alert and it will increase the number of calories you use… physics tells us that but it won’t make you slim.
This article in the Guardian based on some medical study or other (I’m not a technical blogger academics was my job I can’t make it my fun) states that exercise will not make you lose weight or stop being obese. Lack of exercise is not the cause of obesity, too much sugar and the wrong types of fat are to blame for that and it accuses governments and health bodies of over emphasising the need to exercise in order to reduce obesity and not putting enough emphasis on the need to have a healthy diet.
Well who would have thought it?
I know personally from my own efforts that exercise of one type or another has had various effects on my body, inch loss is more of a feature than weight loss when I step up certain types of exercise such as strength training, a more toned appearance is more of a feature with the stretchy types of exercise such as pilates, increased stamina is more a feature of cardio such as walking or cycling, a greater sense of well being, tone and improved posture (which can show as inch loss) are more evident from exercise such as Tai Chi and Yoga, with all types of exercise, my sense of mental well being is enhanced as it reduces stress levels, makes me feel happier and energises me… the more fun exercise like swimming, playing tennis, really has an even more enhanced effect on me mentally.
Does my exercise make me lose masses of weight? I don’t think so, I know that dietary changes have massive impacts on my weight loss but without the feel good of exercise I would not have the mental wherewithal to fend off stress and misery and the associated lack of resistance to bad food temptations. Exercise helps me work off my frustrations, my anxieties and at times I punch out my sadness and residual effects of bad life experiences.
Exercise also makes the impact of my weight loss more visibly obvious as my posture improves, my muscle and skin tone, my strength, my awareness of my physiology, it all helps to make me look slimmer and that makes me feel slimmer and that inspires me to not eat crap and continue to lose weight. Take a fat person sit them slouched on a stool, hunched back, spread legs, belly flopping between and then sit that person up straight, put their legs together (or as close together as you can), straighten the back, pull in the tummy, open and press the shoulders down, extend the neck and they’ve lost 10 pounds…. well they haven’t but you know they look like they have.
Do you know I’ve got an inch taller since I started this journey of mine? I’ve regained the inch I lost during my late 30s and that is purely due to having pulled my body back into a posture more befitting a lady and less that of a potato.
So yes I believe that exercise alone is not enough and diet really is the big magic key to weight loss and the better the diet, the more it suits you and the more healthy it is (depending on what you believe, organic ultra low carb has by far had the biggest impact on weight loss for me and my family AND best equips us with energy for our active lifestyles) then the more effective it will be in terms of helping you lose weight more quickly. BUT do not abandon the thought of exercise because it has its place in your success and is important.
And please don’t let that word exercise put you off, think of it just as moving more. To exercise you really do not have to don a lycra one piece and leg warmers and contort your body into strange shapes and lie gasping for breath by the end of the first half of a step class warm up. It doesn’t mean buying expensive equipment and paying for personal trainers. It doesn’t mean sweating your fat ass off in a gym infront of perfect bodies. It just means moving more today than you did yesterday and getting a groove on with that. That can mean cleaning out a spare room or the kitchen cupboards, it can mean using your upstairs loo rather than your downstairs one, it can mean walking to a bus stop or train station and taking public transport rather than your car, it can mean strolling around a park during your lunch hour rather than sitting in the
canteen, taking the stairs rather than the lift even if for just one floor, it can mean walking the kids to school rather than driving them, it can mean you taking the dog for a walk with the kids rather than leaving it to them, it can mean standing up in your living room and stepping from one foot to the other during your favourite soap opera, or going for a five minute walk around your neighbourhood at 11pm when it’s dark and no one can see you. People exercise in chairs and in beds, there are videos to follow on You Tube of exercising lying down and sitting down, there is no excuse not to move more. Trust me you will be AMAZED by how fast your fitness levels increase, it happens in a matter of days and your capacity to exercise only increases the more you do it.
But yes, I agree for real results and weight loss, to change from obese to normal you really do need to address that diet first and foremost. Read about food and what it does to your body, read about how your body deals with food, how it processes it and how it gets the best out of it and what it does with the rest and develop an eating plan to suit you. Include what you like to eat (the healthy things that is), find ways to adapt what you like into a healthier version so you do not feel deprived, treat yourself now and then, cut right back on sugar including the naturally occurring kind, cut out unhealthy fats (research animal and dairy fats before you make assumptions about them), think organic, think green and leafy, think minimal cooking, think naturally occurring, research your health issues and your health concerns ie hereditary conditions you want to fend off and see which nutrients and foods might help with that, read the pros and the cons and you won’t go far wrong. Also, if you know your over eating or eating of the wrong foods is linked to something else and has become a habit or a boredom fix or something to do with your hands (ex smokers take heed) then change those habits. This should be a lifestyle change not just diet and not just exercise but often the thing that prevents us from getting in shape is a really bad habit.
Don’t think that if you can’t exercise you can’t lose weight because if that was the case how do we explain people in comas or incarcerated getting real thin and we all know that being bed bound with an illness and unable to eat results in dramatic weight loss… so whilst I wouldn’t advocate any of those methods of losing weight they prove that you can lose weight without moving much, but moving much makes losing weight so much more fun and you won’t run the risk of ending up a skinny weak saggy miserable mess at the end of your efforts.
One of my son’s friends wants to go into the Royal Navy when he is 18 and they were chatting today about what the fitness requirements may be, so I went online and did a bit of research and we found out. Not only did we find all of the info we needed we found this fab Get Fit To Join The Royal Navy booklet with a fab fitness plan all laid out.
So the boys have decided to make this their ‘get buff for summer’ approach starting tomorrow. I’m hoping they take it beyond the summer and either use this as their fitness benchmark or they continue to develop their fitness in a healthy and purposeful way after completing this. I’m sure it will do the boy who wants to go into the forces good to have a few friends on the programme with him and the team spiritedness of the approach and no doubt a bit of competition won’t do any harm in helping him achieve his fitness goals. We’ve suggested they get sponsors and raise a bit of money for a forces related charity like Help the Heroes or such while they are at it as that may ensure that they endure to the end. They’re going to get on with sorting that out tomorrow too.
I’m tempted to have a go myself and join them even if not actually with them as such but alongside them hidden away somewhere at different times of the day. I just thought this is a good idea for anyone who is trying to energise a teen or get them fitter and taking more care of themselves or as a family project even and especially for someone who wants to or may want to join a profession where physical fitness is going to be an assessed must.
It’s also a fun way to just build fitness and stamina, strength and ability really and if you’re lost as to where to start, or looking for a progressive programme which takes in cardio and strength, fitness and endurance and a range of exercise including swimming, running/walking, resistance training then this might be an idea for you, or an adaptation of this maybe.
Sometimes Always I find that making exercise fun, making it a social activity, making it just for fun competitive, making it about improvement and progression, giving it a goal, time limiting it, making it about raising money or awareness for a good cause… all of those things make it more fun and the more fun it is the more likely we are to do it.
A good walk is really under-estimated. Sometimes we get so caught up in fashionable trends that we forget the simplest of things. Forget all this fancy exercise, just get up and take a walk. It gives you a moderate workout, most people can do it, it lightens your imood, it pumps some fresh air into your lungs and circulates lots of rich oxygen around your body, you see things and meet people if you’re lucky. It’s free, you don’t need equipment and you can do it in all weathers.
We need to walk more.
When my dad died he had the heart and lungs of an ox, the doctors said they would have kept him going another fifty years and he’d been a smoker and a drinker and a consumer of much fat at times in his life BUT he always took a daily walk. Even when it was bitterly cold outside he would go for a walk to buy his morning newspaper rather than have it delivered and rather than take the car. Mum used to moan that he was gone too long because he used to stop and talk to all of his admirers along the way (he was always a hit with the ladies) and in bad weather everyone in the neighbourhood knew his clockwork like routine and so they might flag him down and ask him to bring them something they needed so they didn’t have to step out, he was even known to push the odd baby or two in their prams to the shop and back to get them to take a nap for stressed mothers. Old ladies worried about a slip and a hip fracture and young ladies with snuggled up babies alike would make the most of his happy to help approach to life. His walk kept him in touch with the community, gave him a ton of people to cheer up every day and kept at least some parts of his physiology in good shape. Even the undertaker commented on how good his muscle tone was for a guy of his age.
Nick and I biked down to the sea front today after my ‘proper’ work out and we met up with old Charlie and we took a walk with him and we asked him the secret to being so sprightly and alert at 91 and he told us it was his daily walk. “No matter where I am in the world, no matter the weather, no matter how I’m feeling, I get myself up and get myself out for my walk, I think that’s the secret to this living longer lark, exercise and fresh air” he told us. Nick didn’t mind that I chose to snuggle up to my surrogate grandad rather than him. I just love the smell of him and I never had a grandad so I’m making the most of Charlie’s offer to be anything I want as long as I have a walk with him now and again. And joy of joys, when he got home the other day several of his children and grandchildren rang to see he was OK and to chat about his wife. He was glowing when he told me.
Little things mean a lot folks. They really do. In this complex world it can be easy to forget that.
I started to share one of my personal training sessions each week with a friend who has been inspired by my development. It’s a very recent thing and something I would recommend for a few reasons (pros and cons listed below please comment if you can think of any more). I find it flattering that I’ve inspired someone to make a change in their life and so I welcomed the request to share a session but secretly wasn’t flattered enough to want to share them all so I’m hoping that awkward ask never materialises. More than being flattered though I’m happy for my friend, she has made excuses about a thyroid problem for so many years and we all know that there are very few true medical problems which make us fat and leave us with no way of addressing the issue. It can be a relief to have a medical condition diagnosed so that we can hide behind it, I’ve often wished for a thyroid problem myself and actually been disappointed when my bloods have come back normal. That’s so sad and I can’t believe I’m admitting it but it’s true and admitting it shows how much I’m winning with this whole obesity nightmare.
So I’m pleased for her, she’s already lost a lot of weight by making dietary changes and moving more so for her to be ready for a beasting at Darren’s hands is great as I know that it will have a huge impact on her progress.
So the pros of sharing your a personal trainer:
1. It makes it more affordable for both of you as most trainers will give you a reduced rate if you are sharing a session or introducing a new client
2. It’s a good way of trying out trainers before fully committing to a long contract with one. I sign a 6 monthly contract with Darren but he was happy to let my friend join in contract free for 8 weeks which is great for her as not every trainer is right for every person. We’re all different which is why one size fits all approaches to diet and exercise are not right for everyone.
3. You can add in the competitive factor to your work outs which makes you give that extra push and work that little bit harder
4. Your trainer can get you working out using one another’s weight and resistance to enhance your exercise… my friend had to drag me on a kids plastic sled around the big classroom in the gym the other day, tied to her waist on a harness. It was a really good laugh and she did so well, so much better with me giggling and cheering her on than if it has been sandbags.
On the downside:
1. It can be difficult to find someone who needs exactly what you need or who is at the same level of fitness you are although a good trainer will manage this well (mine does) without either of you feeling left out or unchallenged.
2. I found that grueling sessions with my trainer brought out a lot of emotional pain and he was often more of a counselor for me in the early days. He got behind my mental barriers and broke them down, he understood that I’d had a lifetime of never believing that I could or that I was worthy and he pushed me to the edge and picked me up when the tears started to pour and the anger locked away in me started to show itself. It may be difficult to do that with a witness so you could miss out on that element of personal training which to me was invaluable. That physical expulsion of years of emotional hurt was a major turning point in my attitude towards food, life, exercise, self image, self esteem, confidence for me and I would not have achieved what I have so far without it.
3. You will have another person’s schedule to work around so there may have to be some give and take with timing of sessions. I know that routine is of huge importance to my success so far and I also know that in the past when I’ve lost weight and been a gym regular, deviations from my usual routine have often been the first step on the road back to hell. So if you do share a session with a friend try to agree a schedule weeks in advance… planning again as I always say, is so important to staying on the right path.
4. Whilst I agree that some healthy competition can be an incentive when working out, sharing a trainer could find you and your friend competing in a less healthy way. I hate competitive weight loss I really don’t think it works, at least not for me. It’s great to get those awards and to be announced slimmer of the week but those weeks when it isn’t you can be really hard and damaging to your progress and also not a true reflection of your efforts. So I would avoid at all costs going into a weight loss comparison with a training partner even thought it could be tempting to do so. Congratulate yourself on your losses, be proud about them and shout about them but don’t compare them with anyone who is doing better or worse than you are.
To end on a positive… the more people you have in your life who get what you are doing, who are trying to do the same, the more support you have and the more people you have to invite round, visit or go out with for healthy lunches and dinners where you can discuss fat content and nutrition to your hearts’ content without anyone getting bored or mocking you is a bonus. Sad but true, people do mock fat people and our enthusiasm for healthy lifestyles, even those who love us the most. I guess some of that comes from us never having succeeded before but each time they should believe and hope and pray that this is the time that it will work and we do deserve their support. In the absence of that, a friend who is going to get as excited about sharing your latest wheat grass harvest with you as you are or who is happy to talk you you through a raging craving to consume your former body weight in chocolate is a real ally in the many battles we fight as we try to win this war.
This is something I’m getting more and more used to now. Nick has been getting back late from work (he does work and getting to his office when he has to involves lots of driving, something we’re going to have to look at in the near future) and my son has been so busy with extra curricular things at school and band practice and music lessons and football that he rarely makes it home to eat before 8pm.
I stopped being the only healthy eater in the house a while back. I announced that the days of my healthy meal plus other options for additional diners was no longer going to be a feature of meal times in this house. I figured that what I eat is not calorie controlled or rationed, it is healthy food, low in fat, low in sugar, low in carbs mostly organic, always freshly prepared and a riot of colour including vegetables, fruits, oily fish, lean meat, nuts, pulses, grains, seeds, herbs and spices and a smattering of dairy. So it’s good for everyone and as a mother and homemaker I should be setting the example to everyone to eat healthy and so that’s it, there are no other options for the kid or the man. There is always plenty so they can eat lots if they are hungry but they will be eating lots of good stuff that will do their bodies good and limit harm and correct the effects of pollutants and bad stuff they take in when they are not at home.
Sometimes my son craves a burger or a pizza or fried chicken and he’s a kid, he’s healthy and fit and growing fast so I let him go for it in moderation and I’m pleased that he ups his exercise to compensate and always flushes it all through with lots of water and fruit or raw veg. I don’t want him to be obsessional but then I do want him to think and adjust and make the right choices and compensate for bad stuff. I know my kids have a tendency to gain weight fast like I do and so knowing they are really thinking about their health and fitness and keeping fat at bay as a natural part of their life is really reassuring for me. I don’t want them dieting EVER and I don’t want them getting ridiculously overweight EVER so if some of what I’ve experienced and some of the good lessons I’m teaching them rubs off and eradicates the bad lessons I’ve taught them by example then I am happy for them.
It’s important to consider if you are the only one in the house following a healthy lifestyle if you are in a position to enforce it onto others in your household. I am not for forcing anyone to do anything but when it comes to this stuff, we can’t be sitting with our healthy food and doing our exercise and buying crap for our kids and watching them eat it and letting them be sedentary, we have the power to make them eat healthy (or to at least limit their choices of bad stuff) and to encourage them to move more. Don’t be the parent who in ten, fifteen, twenty years time gets blamed for not instilling healthy eating habits in your kid when it’s a 300lb adult in counselling for obesity related depression. You can make changes and I started subtly at first by telling them I couldn’t bear to have chocolate or biscuits (cookies) in the house, I replaced snacks like potato crisps with healthier options and then stopped buying them altogether. Carbonated drinks are now not the norm but a treat. Ice cream has been replaced with sorbets and frozen yoghurts. They drink more water. My son always has a big bowl of fruit in his den and he chows through it fast but that’s the kind of snacking I don’t mind. He also has a pop corn maker which requires no oil or sugar to be added just the popping corn and he loves to make it and snack on that, much better than crisps.
My son is 15 and when I go for a walk I ask him to accompany me so I have someone to chat with and he invariably gets right up and comes with me. No excuses no embarrassed to be seen with mum. He sees it as doing me a favour and not as him being coerced into exercise. Incidentally we also have some fabulous discussions on our walks when we are away from everything and I know they bring us closer to one another. I ask him to come for a ride with me and he comes along to make sure I don’t fall off and end up in a gutter somewhere. Don’t mention exercise to them, just make them feel like you need them to help you to do what you are going to do and they are more likely to come along. I challenge him to swimming competitions and all kinds of things to keep him moving. He does lots of exercise already but more doesn’t hurt and it’s really working to make him a big strong healthy guy, he’s glowing and his physique is turning the girls’ eyes. He isn’t complaining. Besides he loves that I’m turning into a new person in front of his eyes and he will do anything to keep that going, he remembers old miserable mum and he likes this new one much better. Try it, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to influence them.
But having said all of that I am missing having company for dinner. It’s the one meal that has always been a sociable meal for me, breakfast has always been a rushed free for all and lunch is something that happened at work. Family breakfasts and lunches are the treasured events of weekends and holidays not the norm. Dinner though was always the one meal we all sat and ate together, prepared together too for a long time, since the kids were big enough to step up and help stir a bowl or chop a mushroom with a blunt knife. Nowadays I find myself preparing and eating it alone most weekdays and I don’t like it. I am loathe to delay my dinner time to past 8pm as that is too late for me, I don’t snack at all these days and so I am hungry by meal times and I like it that way, it makes sure I enjoy my food more and because I’m hungry I feel full sooner. I’ll explain that phenomenon some time but it’s true for me. I also can’t cook twice, I don’t do two sittings for the simple reason that if I cooked for myself at 6 and then again for the guys at 8 I would eat some more at 8, I just would. I’m a glutton in training remember? This isn’t a won battle, it’s a forever fight.
So anyway here are some ways I combat this:
I do a lot of one pot cooking – casseroles, stews, soups even curries and Italian pasta based dishes. That way I can take mine and it’s easy for late comers to warm some up for themselves without my intervention. I also get the feeling that I’ve cooked for more than just myself which satisfies my empty nesting syndrome. Using the slow cooker also helps with this as food can be kept nicely warm on the real low setting long after it’s ‘ready’ without over cooking. I do like my veg crunchy and my meat rare so this suits me to take mine out a couple of hours earlier. This also means that if I’m dining alone for more than one night I can portion up and refrigerate or freeze for another night or I can do the same with left overs.
I use the steamer a lot, I’ll fill it with my food, fish, meat or whatever and vegetables and will prepare the same for the others but will only cook my own and then pop theirs into the compartments so that when they are on the way home I can flick it on or they can do it themselves. Again I get to prepare the food but I don’t have to stand cooking it or supervise its cooking.
I let them fend for themselves completely and only cook for myself.
I save my dessert and sit and eat that at the table with them while they eat dinner so I get the social element of the dinner without eating twice or eating my main meal too late. If I do this I usually make sure desert is a light sorbet or some fruits and yoghurt.
I prepare big mixed salads and dish mine up in the kitchen and eat in the dining room so that I don’t just keep on eating and leave nothing for the guys when they get in.
If I’m going to be eating alone for a few nights and know nobody else is coming for dinner (Nick might be staying over in London and my son with a friend nearer school) I’ll make myself real fancy things that I have to faff with and don’t eat routinely. This makes it feel like a real treat, I get the time spent on preparation kick and I get to try out new recipes too which I can then share (or not) with the family at a later date. This also gives me a chance to buy more expensive things and be a bit more extravagant. More expensive fish or meat, rarer fruits and veggies. Having the treat stops me from feeling sad about dining alone.
I keep going on about planning but planning your menus a week or two weeks ahead helps keep you on track so you can identify where you will or might be dining alone, for me I identify that as a danger zone, because it is, and I make sure that I always have things in the freezer that are individually portioned so I can thaw one chicken breast or one fish fillet when those days crop up, planned or otherwise.
Also if I know I’m going to be dining alone I might invite a friend or two over for dinner. It gives me a good opportunity to have a good chatter with friends and an excuse to indulge in a glass of wine or a cocktail. Make an occasion of it.
I never skip dinner in favour of TV snacks, that never ends well for me and I find the discipline of three meals a day really has impacted on my weight loss but also contributed to gains in other areas of my life including my digestion (and expulsion of waste), sleeping and also with gastro-intestinal problems. I always eat at the table and always eat a proper meal. Some things I just have to be disciplined about or else this is never going to work long term and long term is the way it has to work or else I may as well not bother. If I eat in front of the television I don’t even register eating the food and feel hungry afterwards because I’ve not clocked up the ritualistic consumption of the food. Again I’ll blog about this some time, my mind works in strange ways and I’ve learned that identifying how my brain works against my stomach really helps in getting on top of this.
So there we have it a few tips for healthy eating for one so that it doesn’t become an excuse. We obese folk are great at making excuses for why we can’t eat healthy or why we can’t exercise and one I’ve heard a lot is this problem of doing it on our own. At the end of the day we are doing this for ourselves and we are on our own in that sense and we have to take responsibility for ourselves and stop making excuses. There are ways to get around the solitude of dining alone without falling into unhealthy habits, it just takes some discipline and a little effort.
Also we really do need to take the upper hand and set the pace for others in our household and that’s why eating healthy and moving more is really far better than dieting because we should want to promote that to our families and they should want to embrace it. It takes a while to break some of their bad habits and they may resist at first but I remember my son looking at a plate of vegetables last year and turning up his nose at them, tonight he sat and munched through an allotment’s worth and at the end said “That cabbage was delicious mum, was it organic? Did you grow it? Can we have more of that tomorrow?” Come on, what mother doesn’t love that smug smile of knowing that they’ve made a change for the better in their kids? Even if it is just getting them to become a connoisseur of fine cabbage?
If your family are not supporting you make them understand the enormity and severity of the problem, sit them down and tell them to listen, tell them how being fat and out of shape makes you feel, lay it on the line, tell them if you worry you will die younger, tell them you don’t want to leave them too soon, tell them you are not enjoying your life, tell them the truth warts and all and tell them how much you need to do this for yourself. Let them know it’s not about looks, they will say they love you as you are but tell them you don’t love you as you are and that it’s not about how you look it’s about how you feel. Don’t hold back tears if they want to come, let them see how unhappy you are and let them know how worried you are and let them know that you need their support. Tell them you won’t deny them anything but there will be changes and you don’t need them to kick up a fuss about them, they need to go along with things and try things. Tell them how you worry about them and their health not just now but in the future and how you feel you’ve let them down by not being the example you should have been and how you want to make a difference for you all. Tell them that loving you as you are is great but you can promise them they’ll love you even more and for longer if they help you with this. I know families can be the worst when it comes to supporting or understanding an addiction but if you don’t try to explain honestly they can’t begin to help you.
I read this article the other day and thought I’d share it. It interested me because it talks about short intensity exercise perhaps being better for health in the long run than endurance type exercise, think marathon running. This is good news for people like me who near burst into tears at the thought of pounding away at a pavement in running shoes for hours on end.
I have found that once I began working with a personal trainer (Darren one of my journey to a new me guardian angels) and I switched to more focused short intensity exercise my overall fitness level increased quite noticeably. My energy levels went through the roof, my body strength certainly increased. I’ve always had very strong legs but a weak upper body and that is not the case any more. I found also that my endurance improved even though I do mainly short intensity exercise. As I’m not a real runner and probably never will be in the ‘go for a run every day’ sense of the discipline, I noticed that I did, and do, feel like bursting into a run more and more often, either outside when I’m having a brisk walk or indoors on the treadmill and at Christmas I did my first planned run, it was only a mile or so but as much as I enjoyed it I knew I couldn’t do more than that, it was mind numbing.
Where I have really noticed the increase in my endurance was in the swimming pool, I just found that I felt stronger and more in control of my muscles and more aware of how they made my body move, which ones were working and how they were working as I drove myself through the water. My breathing had improved and I just felt more efficient as a swimmer. I’ve never been a good swimmer, I’m a leisure swimmer but not long after starting to work with Darren I began to feel more serious in the pool, for want of a better word. It was there that all of the gym and outdoor work felt like it came together to make me a stronger healthier person and a more skillful swimmer.
I’m not sure if it was all just due to the intensity training or if it was a combination of factors, the breathing techniques and muscle awareness that comes from Tai Chi and now the yoga that I do may have helped too. Darren does explain to me though how my muscles actually work to move me and how they process the food I take in and how they expel the waste and how they strengthen and weaken and can become damaged and I think all of this has combined to make me a more physically aware person who is using that awareness as well as the increased strength and stamina to push myself beyond anything I’ve achieved physically before.
As I said I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner or a long distance serious cyclist I get far too bored but swimming is where I’ve found that I become aware of my body as a machine, a really clever machine and I love the feeling of all of those muscles working together to propel me through water. I find a real serenity and deep sense of relaxation when swimming which kind of consumes me and I find that before I realise it I’m exhausted and it’s the exhaustion which makes me stop swimming and I often find that I’ve swam far more lengths than I ever did before, always outdoing my personal best and always feeling amazed at the way my body loves to perform.
I know that is arguably endurance training itself but it was and I believe is, definitely the short interval training which has boosted my stamina and over all sense of well being in so many ways which has led me to be able to let my body do its thing in the pool.
Besides swimming, thinking back to interval training, I kind of like the instant call on everything you have to give and then some, I like instant gratification, perhaps why I’ve turned to food to make me feel happy over the years. The minute that chocolate is in my mouth I feel my anxiety, fear, sadness whatever begin to fall away. Short interval training gives me that instant gratification, I feel what I’ve done right there in the moment, I don’t need to wait for measurements and weigh ins I know I’ve pushed myself and I know I’ve done good because I feel better instantly, I get an almost immediate high that I don’t get from a drawn out session or repetitive exercise over a long period of time. I get a feeling of accomplishment from that kind of training but not an instant rush of feel good that I believe I need to combat my food addiction.
I guess sharing my experience here has the dual message that it’s important for us to find what is right for us as we are all individuals and we all respond to exercise in different ways and without turning into a total fitness nut, it does pay to find out how your body works, it makes you more aware and when you are tempted to put rubbish into it you do think twice on autopilot eventually.
I think a journey from a morbidly obese sedentary person to one in a normal weight who is active has to include many steps. Don’t try to rush through them. We can’t go from 350lb languishing hulk to 349lb marathon runner, that isn’t how it works. It’s a gradual process and so you have lots of time to learn new things along the way that will help you to lose weight, get fit and stay that way once you reach your goal.
Take opportunities to learn and find what suits you by trying out different exercises, different approaches and seeing how they might impact on things you didn’t think you could do or would enjoy. I’ve never enjoyed open water swimming, I’ve always been very cautious, but then I know now that my weight and my emotional hang ups made me feel cautious about most things, but now I’m really looking forward to my next beach holiday so that I can swim more in open water, I’m craving what I see as my next big challenge. I never would have imagined a year ago that I’d actually be getting excited about my 2015 summer holiday and checking out safe sea swimming as one of the most important factors in making my decision about where to go and actually planning a daily open water swim as part of my holiday routine.
You might have an idea in your mind of what you’d like to be able to do physically, maybe you want to be able to go for a run, maybe you want to be able to cycle for miles, maybe you want to swim miles in open water, maybe you want to learn to ice skate or to do a particular dance, like a sexy samba, maybe you have a vision of an exercise that you think you would enjoy and can picture yourself doing when you’re in your slimmer form. You may not be able to do it right away but other exercise, any other exercise you can do along the way will help build you up so that one day you are flying and that sense of accomplishment will uphold you to keep on striving to maintain and surpass your own personal bests time and again. For me it started by stepping from one foot to another with some music on for twenty minutes and flailing my arms about for some of those minutes and I was shocked when I was worn out, heart pumping fast, sweating, breathing heavy from just doing that and if I’d not carried on and found that it soon became easier and moved on to the next thing and the next I wouldn’t be here now doing what I do and knowing what I know.
Take being healthy seriously. We are not here for long and being seriously overweight can impact on our enjoyment of life and it can shorten our life and I bet none of us, me included, want a shorter less fulfilling life when there is another option just a few steps will lead us to.