Today I attended my usual Saturday morning fitness classes – a boot-camp session followed by thirty minutes of high intensity training. And I suddenly remembered how difficult it was when I first started kickboxing classes, around three and a half years ago… how I used to experience dizzy spells during the fitness routines. I hated them, mostly because they caused me to feel nauseous, but also because I realised that they were the result of me not taking better care of myself throughout the previous years. There were several possible causes, including poor breathing, dehydration, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and over-exertion. I was the oldest student, and I felt old… not to mention square, dumpy, and mumsy; I was a good twenty eight pounds overweight and clearly lacking in stamina. Today, I am so grateful that I kept going. I no longer experience dizziness, and although I can break a sweat and have to catch my breath during the fifteen-second rests, my breathing has hugely improved, as has my stamina and strength; I’d even go as far as to say that I’m fitter and faster than many of the younger students now! Of course, I eventually also had to lose a good chunk of the excess weight – which I have done, this year. I’m maybe twelve pounds heavier than I was at my slimmest (108 lbs), but I’m okay with that. My ‘older’ body looks better with a little more flesh on the bones! Plus, even though there was a time at which I weighed less, I had less muscle tone – and the muscle tone has definitely improved the way I look in my undies!
So, whilst becoming slimmer is so important to those who believe that they are carrying too much weight, I would urge them not to underestimate the importance of fitness. I was one of those very silly people who used to say “I’ll join a fitness class when I’ve lost weight” (see my blog post DON’T DIET – CHANGE YOUR WAYS! CUMULATIVE EFFECT AND WEIGHT LOSS). I was embarrassed, and believed that everyone else would be sylph-like – and I was wrong. When I finally plucked up the courage to start attending classes, I found that the other students were of all shapes and sizes and at different levels of fitness. And we shared the same goal: to become fitter and healthier (and, in some cases, also to lose weight). I love being slimmer than I was… but what I really love is that I feel much stronger and more flexible – and that my breathing is so much better. My lungs actually feel more efficient. I still have a long way to go and there are many who could leave me behind, collapsed in a sweaty puddle – but I’m a much stronger, fitter, slimmer version of my old self. As they say, don’t compare yourself to others… compare yourself only to the you of yesterday (or last week/month/year). That’s how you’ll know for sure that you’re making progress.
In these strange and dangerous times, good health and fitness is of paramount importance. However, you wouldn’t know at all that that is true – mostly because we’re not allowed to even hint that anyone should accept any degree of personal responsibility for their own physical wellbeing. The government, and a large section of the medical fraternity, is constantly banging on about us being vaccinated… without uttering a word about the need for us to also take good care of our own body. There are, however, still enough doctors and scientists who have been trying to genuinely educate us, for our own good and that of those around us, that one of the main comorbidities contributing to serious illness and death from covid-19 is obesity, and obesity-related disease. Medical reports and journals are detailing the results of ongoing tests and research into the virus, and it is clear that unfit, overweight people are more susceptible to becoming seriously ill when contracting covid-19. And yet they, the powers that be, aren’t telling us that, and are shutting down those who are perfectly qualified to present this vital information to the world. There are always exceptions to every rule, of course; fit and healthy individuals have tragically passed as a result of the virus, and some very elderly and frail folk have survived it. However, it is the majority that we need to be aware of – and we have an absolute right to have access to everything that we need to know… not just the bits that ‘they’ believe we can cope with. We don’t have to lose twenty pounds or become bodybuilders overnight – we just have to make consistent, ongoing improvements. We don’t need to fork out hundreds for gym memberships – there’s so much we can do in and around our own homes. And, even during lockdowns, most fitness business owners were conducting classes online. However, we weren’t, and still aren’t being, urged by our governments and health professionals to keep ourselves as fit and healthy as possible during these challenging times – as a way of complementing the vaccinations, rather than relying solely upon them (and if we aren’t going to be injected then it’s doubly important to be as physically strong as we can be). Why is it such a crime to remind each other of this? Why is it deemed offensive? Why are some howling with rage at the very suggestion? It is, after all, our lives and the lives of our loved ones we are talking about – and what could be more important than that?
We don’t need to buy overly-expensive foods, or, as I said, pay large sums for fitness memberships. We don’t even have to adopt a fancy, unsustainable diet. I’m all about sustainability and being realistic – otherwise, we’ll just drift back to our old, unhealthy ways. For me, calorie counting works, and I keep a strict daily diet (sounds nerdy, but it doesn’t actually take too much effort and is surprisingly easy to get used to!). I also include the things I really enjoy – such as an ice cream cone most evenings (210 calories) and a small bottle of cider (270 calories). I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner – though I’m not eating fries or fried food, pastry, bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes etc. Not because I have ‘banned’ them, but because I’d rather spend my calories on other foods. However, because I have disciplined myself over the last ten months, I have the odd treat, such as sharing a portion of chunky chips, lavishly sprinkled with salt and vinegar, with my partner, whilst out and about on our motorbike trike. Occasionally, I’ll have something like spag bol with pasta – but it’s all about portion sizes. I naturally have an enormous appetite but I have retrained myself to not enjoy the feeling of being too full. It causes me to feel tired and sluggish, and I don’t want to go back to that way of living again. I even have the occasional McDonald’s, when my youngest daughter and I go for a ‘big’ food shop… but I still count the calories! A cheeseburger and small fries comes to approximately 538 (in the UK), plus another 20 for a cup of tea with one sachet of milk. I don’t crave it, because it doesn’t fill me up for long and it sits a little heavily in my stomach – but it’s okay every now and then! And obviously birthdays deserve a bit of a splurge, so I like to plan what I’m going to eat. It has to be something really tasty, something mouthwatering – and worth the over-eating! There’s absolutely no need to go on a diet, as I’ve said before. Going on a diet suggests something, and is seen as a temporary situation. It’s simply about developing new habits, over time (not overnight), that are going to end up becoming our ‘normal’ way of being.
And where fitness is concerned, consistency is key. As is pushing it that bit further, on a regular basis. I used to hate sit-ups and avoided them where possible; I now actually enjoy them! I am better at press-ups than I was, and can do them on my toes rather than knees… but I know that there is room for improvement. I used to only be able to do around ten at a time, but recently did 100 in an AMRAP workout; even so, I don’t consider them to be the most impressive that anyone has ever performed! It is true that exercise leaves us with some degree of temporary stiffness and pain – but the bigger-picture results are worth it. I have arthritis in my right hip, left knee, and left shoulder. I wear elasticated knee supports during training and kickboxing, and accept that my left shoulder is less flexible than my right. Overall, I feel a million times healthier and stronger than I did three/four years ago – and not just in my body, but also in my mind. And, actually, I’ve just reminded myself of another valid reason to take care of our health: the long, long hospital waiting lists, and the fact that many general practitioners are still not seeing patients on a face to face basis (in the UK, at least). If we know for sure that we are not as healthy as we ideally could be, we also have to accept that, left to its own devices, our body won’t miraculously improve – it will only deteriorate further. And the cavalry ain’t coming… or, at least, is a long, long way away. We need to take back our power and fight this virus with not just an ongoing series of vaccines – but with our own blossoming health and fitness!