So in the last two blogs, I’d taken you through my own story and explained just how much my life has changed in the last six years. The bit of the story that I didn’t get to tell you about, was the most valuable lessons I learned over the course of this journey and all the support I had along the way that have made those changes sustainable.
Here are the five most important lessons I learned as I got fitter and healthier:
1. Practice saying yes!
When you are not in a good place emotionally and not feeling particularly confident in yourself, it’s so easy to lock yourself away and opt out of activities that other people are doing. Sometimes, the courage it takes to actually get out there and do something active is more than you feel you can manage at the time. I get that.
I found myself saying ‘no’ more and more and it eventually just became habit – I’d say no without working out if I actually wanted to do anything. The problem with that is you end up getting more isolated and you miss out on all the fun things you could be doing. So I started practicing saying ‘Yes’.
I started with saying yes to one in every 5 invitations I had to go out. Once I’d been out a few times and found I enjoyed myself, I practiced saying yes to every 3rd invitation and so on until after a year or two that immediate instinct to opt out and say no became much more of a question over whether I actually wanted to do it and I found that the more I said yes to things, the more I opened up and was able to have fun with friends and family.
2. You don’t need to do it on your own.
This is perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned over the last few years. When you surround yourself with people who are regularly active, you create more opportunities for yourself to get active. If you’d asked me five years ago whether I’d ever become a runner I’d probably have fallen off my chair laughing at the idea. As with everything else in this journey I started with small regular changes, initially starting with Parkrun where I ran a bit and then walked a bit and then ran a little more.
The people I met at Parkrun encouraged me to try and come along to one of the local running club sessions, to which I scoffed, rudely declaring myself ‘not a run club kind of person’. But remembering to practice saying ‘Yes!’ I went along a few weeks later and found a wonderful group of incredibly supportive (VERY LOUD) people at local Leeds based running club, Hyde Park Harriers. During my time at the club I’ve learned more about running than I ever thought I wanted to know and have gradually pushed the distances I can run from a few miles to half marathons and a marathon.
The group of friends I’ve made from the running club have become an incredibly important part of my life and bring more joy than I know how to viably express in a blog, suffice to say, they are the reason I’m so settled in Leeds and because they are all very active, I join in the activity to spend time with them.
3. It gets easier the moment you stop thinking about weight loss and start thinking about health and fitness.
If you can find a way to change the narrative from a desperate desire not to be the size you are, which has some negative connotations, to a desire to enjoy your life as a fit and healthy individual, which has some many positive connotations, then it immediately puts you in a really positive frame of mind. When you get you self out for a walk, you’re getting yourself healthier and fitter instead of punishing yourself for eating that chocolate bar. It’s easier to keep motivated if you’re achieving lots of small victories along the way so keep yourself moving and keep aiming to be fit and healthy. It’s a process not a goal.
4. Shhhhhhh, just listen to your body.
When you’re big, your body has to make adaptations to cope, so you start to move differently, how you feel in your own body changes, your energy levels change, your moods change, your appetite changes and when you start to make these changes, one of the most useful things I learned was just to listen to my body. It may sound a little vague but I found I started craving very different food and working out when I was actually hungry, importantly how that differed from when I was thirsty and when I was eating out of habit. If I just took a moment to work out what I actually wanted, then it quite often turned out that I was craving something fresh and crisp rather than a Friday night take away.
5. Keep it simple:
Start looking for simple solutions for the things that bother you. For me, it was actually one of my younger sisters who was a great source of clever solutions for things. We were once talking about how to keep more consistently active as one of my issues has always been that I spend hours and hours watching TV. Now, I’m not going to turn into some crackpot fundamentalist about limiting the amount of TV one watches as it rots your brain and is the source of all that is wrong with the world – I love watching TV, it’s my way of de-stressing and having a bit of a time out. I did workout thought that if I was sitting in front of the TV for 6 hours on a Sunday then I was really not making opportunities to get myself active.
My sister’s simple suggestion of ‘get up and spend five minutes away from the TV every 30 mins was an ideal solution. I had to make a real effort initially (I’d even admit to setting a 30 minute reminders for the first few weeks if I wasn’t worried it’d make me seem a little bonkers). The more I got into the habit of getting up to do something – hang laundry, put the washer on, wipe down the bikes after a wet ride, clean the bathroom etc – the longer those breaks from the TV became and I found I was getting more and more active through the day.
So these are some of the things that help me keep healthy and fit everyday. I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have or things that you have found that work for you. Feel free to share them with us on your favourite social media channel. Follow us on twitter: @allchangePT, find us on facebook and on Instagram: @allchangept