I have been writing this series on my fitness journey, and things have been a little bit busy over here as we readjust from our lazy endless summer days to our back to school rhythm… its been great to get a routine going again… and my fitness journey will continue to unfold…

After My First Couple of Weeks of Working Out

Time has flown and we are suddenly in Week 6 of the Healthy Weight Programme. At the halfway mark of the program, we were rewarded with a t-shirt. I tell you I earned it and was so incredibly pleased to receive it. And then in Week 5, we finally hit the big time and entered into the part of the gym where most folk work out, “the real gym,” with real machines. My very first gym day, way back in week zero, was spent in that section of the gym and to say I was a little over-awed was an understatement. I saw the intermediate class doing things that I never would have thought possible for me to do, and I was quite glad to wave that part of the gym goodbye and work out on the blue floor, away from the madding crowds, for a couple of weeks.

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Initially, I thought we were relegated to the blue floor because perhaps we were so very out of shape. That might have been true, considering I could not do a single crunch properly and had never even heard of a plank before… but in retrospect it was just the sort of “school” we needed. A little to the side, with elite athletes doing crazy workouts beside us, we weren’t totally isolated, but we were given the space to learn exactly how to do gym properly. The first half of our eight week course was definitely all about getting us moving and at the same time mastering new techniques. I am so grateful for that now, when we head for “the real gym” we can actually pick up weights and do things with them, without making complete fools of ourselves.

Meanwhile, this is called the Healthy Weight Programme and week by week we stand on the scale and then whoever weighs us says, “Don’t worry about your weight… you have to consider all the things you are changing.” Well weight loss was never my goal, though it would be an added perk, my goal was to move a whole lot more and I am certainly doing that. True confession, my weight hasn’t changed dramatically at all, so luckily it wasn’t my goal. I have to say that with a biokineticist, a dietician, a sport psychologist and a sleep expert always on hand, you can’t help making a heap of changes to your life. Maybe we should just call it the Healthy Lifestyle Programme.

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Some of my lifestyle changes I never planned or expected at all… honestly when I joined the program all that I could focus on was getting to gym three mornings a week and hopefully surviving that. I was not even thinking about changing anything else… it all kind of happened around me. I am a slow and steady kind of person and I firmly believe in small, incremental steps… but it turns out that everything is so interwoven that you have to sometimes make big changes all at once. Not because it sounds like a good idea, but because you realise that you have too.

For example, in order to cope with the early mornings and the workouts, I very quickly realised that an afternoon nap wasn’t going to help with the ensuing fatigue and the time had literally come to take my dreadful sleep habits in hand and address them head on. The first step to realising just how bad my sleep habits were… was a sleep diary and this was done at the same time as a food diary. Well appalling sleep habits are one thing, but I quickly discovered that I am the worst kind of cook and that I taste everything the entire time I am cooking. So snacking while I made dinner meant for a really heavy evening meal and I sleep so much better without that. So I have had to sleep better to get to gym, I have had to eat better in order to sleep better… and because I feel so much better with all the good quality sleep, I am able to work out better. It all fits together…

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Let’s talk about the workouts… because let’s be honest that is the most terrifying part of joining the Healthy Weight Programme. The reason being is that it is so obvious. People can’t see what we eat, they can’t see when exactly we sleep… but they certainly can see us workout, it’s right out there. I can honestly say the workouts are hard, but not too hard… they are difficult aspects in every class because we are always learning new things, but we are helped all the way and I am doing things that I absolutely never ever thought would be possible. Somewhere in my head I had quite simply told myself that I would never run again, let alone jump and I firmly believed that because I had had a couple of kids that had no stomach muscles at all… this is just not the truth. Turns out in Week 4, when our biokineticist told us we should run around the track, I thought I would give it a try. I am no svelte athlete, trust me… and my entire class laps me every time we stand on the track, but I am actually running. Running (might look like shuffling), but running!!! This is beyond my wildest dreams… when I said I wanted to move more, I was hoping to be able to tie my shoelaces with ease and I had no ambitions of running… well it turns out that running was just a stepping stone to the next thing. And the classes go on, and we learn new things and I can’t believe how much I enjoy it. Not to mention, none of my clothes fit because I have completely changed shape.

I can see the end of the Programme in site, we have about two weeks to go, and I am sorry because I have absolutely loved it. The changes that are going on in my life are huge. I am actually sleeping more, eating better, and working out far harder than I ever imagined I could and doing things that I thought I would never do again. I can feel muscles when I am just sitting in a chair that I thought were gone for good… (and I can race my kids up the stairs!!!). So while I cannot guarantee massive weight loss in the Healthy Weight programme, though that has to happen if I keep this up, I can guarantee that your lifestyle will change significantly, and for the better. I am never going back to “never enough sleep” and “not nearly enough exercise” again. Things have changed for the better and I am sticking with them.

There is no Assessment Like Your Own Assessment…

Re-assessment week. Yes in Week 7 of the 8 week programme, we reassess our progress and the measurements we took way back in week 1, for our Healthy Weight Assessment. The measurements are all taken again and we get to see just how much we have progressed. I was planning to write this post after I had my results back, I wanted to share the good news, and say how great the programme has been for me. Then it occurred to me this morning, as I was being measured and remeasured and glucose and cholesterol tests were done and so many more, that it really isn’t so much about the numbers and a whole lot more about how I feel. And this is why I thought I would write this post before I got my measurements and results back.

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The initial assessment demonstrated that I had no reason to be unfit, no latent illness, no lingering or lurking excuse… the reason I wan’t fit was simply because I didn’t move nearly enough. Not only that, but I didn’t move enough because I was so extremely tired. And yes, as a mom of a couple of kids I can expect to be tired. But the reality is that I simply wasn’t sleeping nearly enough, I just wasn’t heading for bed timeously. When you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel well. So after all these weeks I can safely say that I have sleeping more in hand and I feel so much better. Not to mention, I am astonished at how much I can actually move about. It literally is from zero to hero. Well “hero is a relative term…” I can’t tell you how many times I have been lapped on a track, or I have chugged in after everyone has had a good rest… but we are told constantly to go at our own pace (this a good thing).

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Nothing is as Impossible as I Thought it Was

The workouts have been really hard work all along, from the start until now we have been stretched every time, but they are never ever too hard. I have made it through them, I have done some things that I never ever would have dreamt I would be able to do. Little things for some folk, but they have been big for me. I have always been terrified of a treadmill and now I elect to go on it; I never ever thought I would do crunches, and now I know they are final step in finishing any class, and I just do them. I am no ultra-elite-athlete by any means but I am doing things that I thought I couldn’t. And there are somethings that just can’t be measured. At the beginning of the programme one of my biggest concerns was that from someone who thought I could conquer the world when I was younger, the song in my head had slowly but surely changed to “I can’t.” I cannot begin to list all the crazy things I thought I couldn’t do… and while I still say “That’s IMPOSSIBLE” every single work out… I now try something before I say I can’t. And every single time I have managed to do what I thought was impossible. “I can’t” is very definitely a couple of words that I won’t be using very much anymore. That alone makes this programme a success for me.

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In Fitness and in Health

Otherwise how do you measure if you are fitter? I don’t technically feel much fitter, because we are always doing more… our best gets better and so we push harder. I still kind of freak out at the thought of several flights of stairs but the first time round the track I remember thinking I hope we never have to do that more than once a workout and now we run around the track several times during a workout and don’t tell anyone but I kind of like it. Hard as the workouts have been I have never ever been stiff… I have never gotten home in agony and thought “don’t make me go back!!!” I have got home fatigued and that first week, I literally collapsed into bed to sleep on workout days. But that has passed and I find myself getting through the afternoon lull and early evening a lot more sprightly than I have in a long while. As a family we started Park Runs at the beginning of the year and then when I started the Healthy Weight Programme my times got significantly slower. I was horrified, turns out I was just tired. And slowly but surely as the programme goes on, so I am whittling my time down week by week, to the point where some of my kids are starting to be a little concerned that I might catch them. I am fitter, I am much stronger and I am more alert than I have been in years. I don’t think you measure these improvements in a fitness assessment, no arm or waist measurement is going to say, “You are so much fitter.” But I know I am, and I know I don’t want to quit… I want to keep going and get fitter and stronger, I have enjoyed the journey.

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Injury – The Final Frontier

My biggest fear, once I had the green light to workout, was that I would get injured along the way and have to pull out… so many times I have started something new and then got injured, increased my walking and then got injured. In fact I came in to the programme with planter fasciitis… and had no idea how I was going to survive the workouts.  It turns out that there are so many different muscles in your body to work out that when you have an injury in one particular area there is still tons you can do to work out. And this is the joy of having a biokineticist as your trainer… they really know their stuff. When I woke up with a krick in my back this past weekend I was horrified, I really didn’t want to miss out on the last two weeks of the programme… I held my breathe and got to gym on Tuesday morning and where in the past I would have been yelping on the couch in pain for weeks, I was able to discover a whole lot of ways to work out without hurting and not even five minutes of one-on-one time with my trainer and I was feeling almost completely better.

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The End is Definitely in Sight

Oh the heady joy… I am going to see this Programme through to the end and honestly I am quite chuffed that I have very nearly made it. I think what struck me the most about The Healthy Weight Team, was just how seriously they took it all. There was no, “We’ll try it out and see how it goes,” and a whole lot more of, “You are here because you want this, let’s make it happen together.” This very much a success driven programme, you can try it out and you will realise that there is a whole lot of changes that you can be making regarding your health and what’s more you will want to make them.  Obviously, you want to know if the programme worked for me? Were there dramatic health changes in my life? Has my overall health improved? And the answer to all that is a resounding Yes. Would I do it again… Totally. Would I sign up for more… Absolutely.

Watch this space, next week I will share how I moved onwards from absolute beginner…

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.

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