Four years ago in February, I began my fitness journey. I started at ground zero… I took time off sport to raise my kids. What I thought would be a year or two turned into twenty years of reading stories on the couch. I literally could not run, I had to relearn, something that should never be forgotten. Now, every time I go for a run I want to celebrate, not because I am fast or athletic… but because I actually can run…
Dream big and go for it, I really thought I would never be able to run again… and yet here I am chugging along. I know people say, “if I can do it, then anyone can.” In my case it’s the absolute truth… if you want to be able to go for an evening run with your family… you can, it’s gonna take time and patience, but you can.
I thought I would share my fitness story over the next couple of Fridays… to encourage those of you who think you can’t, or those of you who need some encouragement… your days that are all consumed by toddler antics will pass and you will be able to get back on your own feet and up and out the door again…
These posts are posts that I wrote for Sport Science throughout my journey… but I thought they deserve a space on my blog here… where I know so many of you might be inspired to just try… a walk around the block, a swim in the sea (now that we can)… anything really. This is right at the start of my journey, just before I realised just how unfit I was. I gleefully began a journey, only to quickly realise that there are many versions of unfit… and I was the unfittest version of that!!!
Se7en’s Journey At the SSISA Begins With a Goal
I am going to introduce myself and say, hi… I am se7en, I am mom of eight kids and we are a hiking family, that loves going for walks and the great outdoors. I am so excited to be joining the Sport Science Institute’s Team for the next couple of weeks. I have signed up to their Healthy Weight Programme, and I am thrilled to be part of their project. When a friend emailed me and asked me if I wanted to be part of the programme I jumped at the chance, because I have made the effort to get moving and I have made healthier choices, but I think that at this stage I need a bit of a jump start.
In the Olden Days…
Let’s backtrack a little, in the olden days before I had kids I was really athletic, I did sport all the way through school and varsity… I ran track and cross-country for U.C.T., I loved open water swimming and raced in triathlons. Then I had eight kids. I had this idea that we would have a couple of kids and I would take a break from competitive sport, and then I would return to sport and carry on where I left off. What exactly was I thinking? I did exercise a little between kids, and I swam through all of my pregnancies, but pregnancy can take its toll. While most folk think pregnancy is tough on your body (and it is), I found parenting to be even tougher. It never occurred to me before I had kids that my kids would need watching while I was exercising, and parenting is a round the clock job. The thing is with eight kids I am busy, but as a homeschooling mom a lot of that business is sitting, helping kids with their school work during the day and then sitting some more in the evenings to blog. I simply don’t move enough.
Mistakes Have Been Made…
My oldest child is nineteen, and I have that many years of not taking the best care of my body to catch up with. I cannot expect to leap back into shape. So many mistakes have been made… my kids know that if I drop something that they should quickly pick it up for me. Actually, I need to be moving and picking things up for myself. When my kids were smaller, if they were given junk food to eat, I would quickly eat it for them, it took a while before I realised that I could just banish all junk food. Not to mention sitting. Moms of little people sit a lot while small people clamber over them, while watching children spend hours swimming, while reading bedtime stories. And I cannot begin to talk about the sleep deprivation (!!!), ask any mother of young kids about lack of sleep… well can I just say that mom’s of teenagers might actually sleep less than mom’s of tots… because teenagers want to chat to you at one in the morning, and let’s face it you really want to keep those communication channels open. Tired moms tend not to move much… just saying
The Harsh Reality
A few years back, on a beautiful day, we made a spontaneous family decision to take a walk up Table Mountain. We headed out and up Platteklip Gorge. This is a route I did routinely without blinking as a student. Well within meters I knew that this was way more than I could handle. It was awful, it was ugly, there were tears and bribes, and I eventually got there. But the heady joy of being at the top was out of this world. We all decided that from then on we would make it an annual trip to the top of Table Mountain and I knew it was time to get myself into gear. I began walking again, nothing too crazy mind you, just little walks to the library and back, to the beach and so on. Surprisingly, that helped me get up the mountain the following year, nothing athletic mind you… just getting there. For the last few years I have been hiking with my kids, always walking just enough in the week, so that hiking on weekends is manageable.
But I would love to do more, I am so over, “just enough…” I don’t want to run marathons and I have no illusions that I will ever be some sort of elite athlete. But I would like to do better, I would like to move better. I would like to replace “mostly sedentary” with energetic and active. To be honest, I no longer feel as if I have any muscles between my knees and my shoulders, but I am sure that after one gym session I am going realise that that is not quite the truth. So my goal for this eight week course, is not to lose masses of weight, dreamy as that would be, or to be transformed into a super athlete, ridiculous as that would be… But I would like to move better, I would like to feel that spring in my step and I would like to be able to play with my kids on the beach without thinking I am going to break. From where I am, to where I hope to be, is a pretty big leap… and I am ever so slightly terrified of the journey. On the other hand I love a good goal and I am excited at the chance I have to give it a go.
Se7en takes you through the Assessment
After introducing myself and getting my head around the idea of getting to gym three days a week at the crack of dawn, this was the week to start taking those first steps on my journey through the SSISA Healthy Weight Programme. Just to clarify, there is an early morning group, a mid-morning and an evening group. I chose the early morning group, simply because I can be done and home before most of my kids are up and ready to launch their day. Not to mention, I need to get the time for myself and gym in, before the end of the day builds up and I am completely submerged in all things to do with kids and running a home.
Before you begin the Heathy Weight Programme you meet the team that monitors your programme during an assessment. To be honest I was a bit daunted about the assessment. I had so many questions: What would they ask? What would I have to do? What if they discovered a problem? Turns out that the team is really there to help you and by the time you get to the assessment they are already working to help you achieve your goal. So if it is the assessment that is putting you off from joining the programme then you can put that fear aside. I decided to give you a run down on exactly what goes on and you will see that actually it is really nothing to worry about and that you can just focus on getting moving and getting to gym class.
Let’s Meet the Biokeneticist
The assessment is split into three sections. You have twenty minutes with a biokineticist, a dietician and a psychologist. The biokeniticist is there to put all your fears at ease. For instance, you know when you dash up a flight of stairs and you think you are dying and your heart may leap out of chest, and you must surely have some chronic disease… well this is when you discover that actually you are completely healthy and there is no excuse and the only limit is that you are just not fit enough. They take your blood pressure, test your cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as your height and weight, this is followed by a quick discussion about your medical history. And they check to see if you have any injuries… because believe me these folk want to get you moving and they will find their way around your injuries to help you get you moving. Otherwise they do some really easy measures of your fitness… how far can you stretch (not very far) and how many crunches can you do in a minute and you can’t really get much lower than I did, I didn’t even know what a crunch was. They are not looking for perfection here and they are not judging your inability, they just want you to be able to measure your improvement over time. So they are essentially creating a ground zero for you to work from.
After the biokineticist, I spent twenty minutes chatting with a dietician… about what we eat, when and how much we eat and later in the day she emailed a me a meal plan with ideas for the areas that I need help in. I know my brain was somewhat shattered at the early start and couldn’t think of a single thing that we snack on… except apples! My diet sheet has along with portion sizes and plenty of choices for breakfast, lunch, supper, a good list of all sorts of snacks. I love that it is geared towards me, so, very much based on the food we eat already and it is not a lists of things I either don’t like or am allergic too.
The dietician is followed by twenty minutes chatting with a psychologist, and once again, let me allay your fears, there is no hidden agenda. Just a really nice guy who wants you to achieve your goals, and is quite happy to chat with you while you figure out what your those are. He asked a couple of questions like, “What do you think your greatest difficulty will be?” and we talked about overcoming those difficulties.
The Sleep Expert
After all that, I got to meet a sleep expert as well, because it is the Sport Science Institute, where they are always learning and experimenting and trying new things. So, at the moment they are running a sleep study, which you can join as part of the Healthy Weight Programme, while they are doing it. We all know that sleep or the lack thereof is detrimental to your health… and they are looking at the correlation between sleep and your healthy weight. Well, I think my goals are in place, my diet while not perfect, is also not the greatest tragedy, but oh my sleep is my ultimate nemesis and I have appalling sleep habits. So I immediately said, “Yes, I want to know more about that,” and was invited back for a sleep assessment later in the week.
That’s the Assessment
I really got the feeling that by the time you are doing the assessment you are already part of the programme and they are just trying to figure out where you personally are at so that they can individualise the programme towards you and your goals. This is a good thing, because some athletes are super athletes and some, and I speak for myself here, are just not. What did impress me, when we began working out on the same floor as some really impressive athletes was that everyone gets the same personalised treatment. I think often folk think that beginner athletes, especially beginner athletes that haven’t worked out in more than a while, aren’t as important as elite athletes, but that isn’t the impression I got here at all… every athlete on the floor gets the help they need from the biokineticest assigned to them. It really impressive how they manage to know everyone by name and treat them as individuals.
Next week I will write about the first few workouts. I did things I never thought I would be able to do again… not climb Kilimanjaro or run around a track mind you, but you know small steps.
Many thanks to the Sport Science Institute of South Africa for providing me with the opportunity to join their Healthy Weight Programme in exchange for an honest blog appraisal along the way.