I began writing a series on my fitness journey because it’s four years since I started at ground zero. I was unhealthily unfit and blissfully unaware. I was doing walks an hikes with my kids… and so thought I was doing okay, only I was doing everything at a toddler pace… not only that to combat the fatigue of motherhood my eating habits were atrocious and to find even the slightest moment of peace in any day I would wait for all my kids to be in bed before catching some “me time.”
So I was severely sleep deprived, I ate healthily to a point, the point where I ran out of energy everyday… and I exercised at the pace of a two year old. And I was lulled into a sense of security by the fact… there is no-one as busy as a mom of many… and I equated busy-ness with fitness. I was wrong. Totally wrong and I had to start over. I did it with the help of the Sport Science Institute of South Africa… it was a journey, rather than an event.
From Workouts to Workshops and Everything In-between…
When I signed up to blog the healthy weight programme I was thinking 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 dietician and a sleep expert and I very quickly realised that the key to healthy weight is not just about the workouts. Far from it, there are a lot of factors that go into creating healthy active people and the team of folk 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 5:30 in the am 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 warmup 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’lll 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 do 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, we were given our folders with the results from the assessment, as well as a collection of notes from the dietician 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 dietician 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 her idea that there is no one diet that would work for everyone, as we are all individuals, she could provide us with an outline but 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 Program over a long period of time. He was 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 all of the way… but you have to make the decision to actually do it and commit to change. I have certainly signed up for my than I expected, in a good way. This is exactly what I need to get moving well again.
Se7en Begins Another Week…
So we are entering Week three of the eight week Healthy Weight program… and for most of us in our group it is the fourth week of exercise, because the first week was for assessments and a trial week, where folk could decide if they wanted “in” on the program or not. In fact, in other ways it was a trial as well, in the sense that getting up really early in the morning is a fair trial and while it is nowhere near being a habit I already find myself waking up naturally early… and on gym days actually eager to get up and get to gym.
I am really enjoying the workouts… surprising as that may seem. I am guessing the lurking athlete of years gone by is still lurking within me. I want to row harder and I want to plank for longer and really want to achieve my goal to move more. I love that we learn new exercises and new ways to move every single gym session. Our biokineticist has a good idea, perhaps by the look on our faces (!), just how much more we can we do and how much harder to push us. A large part of his job is figuring out when we need to do more and when we need help. Astonishingly, I haven’t felt stiff at all, but I have been tired… I can definitely tell when I go for a hike with the kids if it was a workout day or not, and so can they.
I have to say there was a definite upswing in effort towards the end of last week… in fact it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. That might be because I was taking part in the sleep study, or the alarming “lack of sleep study” and I am eager to see if I cope better this week, with a whole lot more sleep. Anyway, the sleep study definitely deserves it’s own post it is fascinating how much of our lives and our health depends on sleep. Not to mention that it turns out gym is dreadfully hard to get up for on nearly no sleep… and I am finally forced to sleep better. This is a real life changer for me, and something that I will hopefully be carrying on with me long after the eight weeks is up.
The workouts have a different focus every time and I love that we are learning new skills and how to move properly. There are so many things that I have never known how to do at gym on my own, I am going to be able to do properly by the end of this program. At this stage, after three weeks of working out I am surprised at how much more I can do than I ever thought I could. I have to admit though, that there are somethings I am absolutely convinced that I cannot do, just can not do at all… but everyone else is doing it, so I follow along. And very often I am amazed, I can so much more than I think I can.
This week we get to choose an appointment with either the dietician or the sport psychologist. And I am feeling positive, I am learning masses and moving… and even sleeping better. But I never get through a workout with out thinking more than once, I am sure I can’t do that, and I am never ever going to last three minutes, let alone one. I always do get through it, just somethings are a lot harder than others. I think at this stage my head space needs to catch up with what I am actually able to do. In my world outside the gym I don’t have a biokineticist saying well done, keep at it… I need to build those tools for myself. So I am electing to visit the sport psychologist and talk about changing that negative song in my head, the one that thinks I will never ever be able to do things, even as I do them, into something just a little more positive.
One thing I love apart from the fact that everyone who works at the Sport Science Institute always smiles and says hello, is that out in the world I would never be considered an athlete, but within the gym and on the healthy weight programme my efforts are taken seriously. It is an effort to get up and get moving after what seems like an eternity, it can be done but it is hard work. I am never going to be an elite athlete but years and years of bad habits are being chipped away and I am very glad that I have a team to help me get through the program.
Previous Posts in this Series
I am writing this series to hopefully inspire those moms out there, who have made the same mistakes that I made… Thought I was a lot fitter than I actually was, and who realise that sitting on the couch reading stories to my kids might have been the best thing for my kids at the time, but actually what they needed was a mom who could move and do things with them. Next week I am going to write about my horrific sleep habits and how I eventually overcame them.
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.