In order for this post to make sense I need to go way back in time. Well maybe back to the early 2000’s anyway. I was a lazy, dreamer of a teen, I didn’t love organised sports and I had always found PE at school was just grim ( I think this goes for the majority of UK females ). I ate what I wanted and somehow managed to stay in reasonably ok shape without doing much about it- the joys of a teenage metabolism and of course dancing all night every weekend. I reached the ripe old age of about 23 before I considered really doing any kind of real exercise and I joined a new class that had started locally in a rather rundown nightclub. There were only about 6 of us in the class when I joined, occasionally a few more and I instantly knew this was the exercise for me. It was set in a dark nightclub room, with a live DJ and a crazily fit instructor who managed to make each class interesting and I was hooked. I went to as many classes as I could and the class itself began to grow as word spread about it. Then I had a short period of time where I was unwell and lazy Becky returned. That break was all it took and I stopped although I maintained a decent weight for most of the next five years purely by luck I think and having a busy life. Fast forward a few years, add on two children, a growing love of food and cooking and about 3.5 stone in weight. It all led to a body I loved to hide. And so I did. I hid it away, always planning to start work on my fitness sometime soon. I think looking back I beat myself up about it a bit too much. I had two children in just over a two year period, my mum battled cancer at the same time and then after my second child arrived I had post natal depression coupled with PTSD due to birth trauma, it was a fairly horrific time and weight loss and exercise weren’t high up there on my list of priorities. These are all excuses of course but perfectly valid ones and I can see that now.
If I had known then what I know now I believe that looking after my wellbeing and my fitness would have helped me through that time but hindsight is hindsight and this is now.
One day I just had enough, enough of hiding away and being a size or two bigger than I wanted to be. I went to a blogger event and there was a photographer who seemed to be in my face at every moment, the photos which the PR forwarded afterwards shocked me and I knew that was it for me. I would never be that size again, I promised myself.
Now I feel it is important to point out right here that I was never what some may consider huge or obese. In fact so many people have said when we have discussed my weight loss ..but you weren’t big before. Which is a nice thing to say and believe but I have lost 3.5 stone on a fairly short frame and I am not skinny now or even overly slender, just slimmer and fitter so that weight was there somewhere. I wasn’t the before picture in a weight loss magazine I guess and also once you lose your pregnancy bump you do look smaller to your friends and family who are used to seeing you with a huge belly. Anyway, that day I had enough of being overweight and unfit so I joined a weight loss group, followed a popular weight loss plan which was healthy and achievable and within 7 months I reached my goal weight. At that stage I realised I could still do with losing a little more and aimed for another 1/2 stone but then it went wrong for me. I lost a little too much weight and whilst I was walking a lot and trying to fit in exercise here and there I wasn’t fit by any stretch of the imagination. You see the problem with weight loss is that when your outer visible belly shrinks so does your inner one. I lost my appetite. I went off food. And not in an eating disorder sense but I would start eating a meal which looked really good but then maybe a quarter of the way through I was full but I knew I was really not eating enough. By late last year I looked a little too thin, my face was tired and drawn. So I would try to eat more, I’d order food I really liked at restaurants or cook indulgent bakes at home but I just didn’t feel like it anymore – the hunger was gone. It worried me for a little while. I was determined to change that and reignite my love for food and well just get back to finishing my meals. I hoped that exercise and less stress in my life would help.
It took a minor operation last Autumn to make me realise just how unfit I still was, yes I was slim and my body looked okay but I was unfit and walking around the local parks and river a few times a week with a couple of squats and sit ups at home just wasn’t enough. I was tired all of the time and I had no stamina. Plus I didn’t look healthy – I looked skinny, something I have never been, I looked tired as I was going through a stressful time and my skin just looked dull and grey. I remember coming home from a trip to Denmark just before Christmas, feeling exhausted and although fully recovered from my op I was weak and my body felt damaged.
I knew I had to take responsibility for making some changes to the way I was living so I started doing that. Making changes. You can read a little about it here. I started yoga at home and although I am not exactly zen like I have some crazy flexibility returning. I then focused on strength exercises at home before making a big step and starting back in my intense nightclub class in January. This tiny class I used to attend was now a franchise with classes all over South Wales and England, each class had 30-40 people attending as a minimum and it was different but still pretty great. I fully expected to find the first class hard but even with that in mind it was actually brutal . Instead of marking it as a fail I did what I knew I had to do and before I left that class I signed up for a twelve month contract -then I knew I would attend. It has been about 13 weeks now since that first class. I go twice a week, occasionally three times if I am stressed and need a release but that is enough – it is full on. Half of the class is high intensity circuit training, it changes every class so you never really know what to expect but you can guarantee lots of squats and burpees in there. The second half is boxing which I am growing to love, I am a lover not a fighter but wow you can work out some of your problems on that bag and I am getting better at it..slightly. I still feel like very much like the new girl at class sometimes although I am not. That feeling is lessening and my sister now comes with me so it is something fun we do together and it is fun to compete a little. I nearly always arrive at class with a slightly dreading it face on and leave smiling, sweaty and feeling good.
Tonight I chose a different day to attend and when I arrived at class my usual instructor wasn’t there and there were only ten of us ( this is really rare ) so the instructor said let’s try something new shall we? She then proceeded to put us through what I can only describe as a boot camp, a few weeks ago I would never have been able to complete it. I even did box jumps – I didn’t know they existed until a few weeks ago. I completed every burpee, every squat, we even ran circuits ( I don’t run) and I held my plank pose as long as the uber fit members . I left class feeling completely knackered, boiling hot and so SO proud of myself. I finally feel fit. Finally more or less happy with my body shape. In fact I can say that I am fitter today than I have ever been, all of my life. Not just since I became a mum or since I hit my 30’s but in my entire life. I don’t want to be a boxer, weightlifter or have bulging muscles or even be bothered about a six pack. I just want to feel healthy and good in my body. And I do. It is quite the feeling.
My skin is better and looks more youthful. My appetite is mostly back to what it was although it always takes a hit when I am stressed and I actually don’t care what the scales say about my weight because I know how my body feels. I am pretty sure I have gained a few lbs but that is what I wanted. Clothes fit better and I feel more confident about myself – who knew being fit and healthy could do SO much. Physically and mentally I feel ten years younger, I may not look it ( damn you eye bags ) but I know I look better than I did and that isn’t a vanity thing just an admitting I see the changes thing. I am never going to be the girl who rolls out of bed in the morning and says yeah I really want to go workout…because I don’t, I am not fitness obsessed or someone who looks forward to the exercise. I really want to hit up a jar Nutella or some crispy bacon and a good series on Netflix but giving up that 60 minutes twice a week doing my classes and some vague attempt at power walking, squats etc occasionally at home means I can do that. I can have the slice of cake, the glass or three of prosecco and the grilled cheese if I want. I can’t eat all of it every day but by balancing exercise with my LOVE of food I can eat what I want for the most part. That feels like a win.
While I was planning this post out in my head I began looking through photos of me from the past 6-7 years to show some on here as a sort of comparison, a before and after. One thing was immediately clear, there aren’t many. In a lot of the photos I am almost hiding from the camera, I was so clearly unhappy with how I looked. I did find one or two, normally with celebrities at festivals and events when my need for a photo with someone I admired outweighed the desire to hide myself away from the camera but I was typically in baggy tops, never in fitted clothes. I have shared a few below just to show you the changes, it is obvious in my face to me and in a way I wish I had a full frontal swimsuit shot from back then just for comparison but I know the changes, I see them every day.
With Valentine Warner at The Big Feastival in the year between having Izzy and being pregnant on Chloe.
With Hollywood star Adam Garcia..I hate that I hate this photo this much because I really love Adam Garcia. It is strange to look back at these photos because it doesn’t even feel like me anymore. I feel like a different person and I look and think wow you wasted so many years hating the way you looked. Although I wish I had looked after myself I can’t go back, I can only maintain this going forward and I know that I will. I never want to strictly diet again or step on scales looking to see a number drop. I just want to do what I’m doing, eat what I want most of the time but be sensible with it and just keep moving more. I will never look like that girl below again, that much I know for sure. Yet I don’t hate who I was just what I allowed myself to be.
So now for the after shots. This is how I look today, well yesterday. Pre workout shot. I still have a squish when I sit but I am comfortable with it. No make up because who wears make up to work out? Not me and no silly filters, just better skin because I am healthier and less eye bags because I am taking care of myself.
And then post workout, cheeks are flushed, hair is sweaty and I am happy and proud of myself. I should point out this is a full 30 minutes after class ended, immediately after I looked like a wet tomato.
And this is how I look on most days. My hair is mostly wild and curly and now it is springtime I like simple tees, skinny black jeans, cool trainers and a denim jacket. Plus I am in love with a selection of suede baseball caps I have so one of those atop my head when I am out and about. Tomorrow night when I have a night out you may catch me all glammed up but for the most part I am casual and comfy, with minimal make up – BUT the big difference is in how I feel. I know I am no supermodel, I never will be and have lots of imperfections but I am confident enough now with my body shape and how I feel I look to not worry about being super dressed up all of the time.
Wow this feels like it has been a long post and almost like a diary entry. If you read this and only take one thing away from it, please let it be that looking after yourself in all forms is the best thing you can do for you and your family. I still have days where I want to crawl into bed in a foetal position and just let the world pass by but what I have realised rather brutally this past twelve months is that life is short. Very short and very cruel. I owe it to myself to literally be the best version of me that I can be in all ways, physically and mentally. If I want writing to be my full time job then I have to work my ass off to make it my job, it may take me ten years – so what. If I want a good body and still be able to eat cake I have to work for it. If I want to be healthy and grow old I have to take care of myself, that may not work out for me as life sucks and I could be hit by a bus tomorrow but still I need to believe that won’t happen and give myself a fighting chance of being an 80 year old lady who maybe still works out at her local nightclub…way to embarrass the kids if nothing else. Maybe I have been watching too many Gary Vaynerchuck videos or maybe I have just realised I only get one life. I am gonna live the heck out of it.
I thought I would finish up with a few tips, remember I am not a personal trainer and I have no qualifications but these are thing which have helped me, I hope they help you too.
1. Exercise when you really feel like you can’t – you will always find an excuse. It really does make you feel better more or less instantly. There have been so many days when I have felt too tired, too stressed or just under the weather but I am always glad that I force myself to go.
2. Get good workout gear – I was working out in the same old Adidas leggings and sports bra/top that were too big and well ten years old. They did the job just fine but recently I’ve bought some Under Armour products and the difference in comfort levels while I work out and also how much cooler I feel is amazing – cooler as in body temperature by the way. I do not look cool while I work out. Or at all really.
3. Drink lots of water. Why is something so simple such a battle? I always forget to drink enough so on the days I have classes I really force myself to hydrate. On the occasions when I haven’t had enough water before class I can guarantee a whomping headache during or afterwards. Drink.
4. Reward yourself for reaching goals – new clothes or a day at the spa. Goals can be weight loss related or a non scale victory like fitting into an old pair of jeans or just making it through an exercise routine that used to stop you midway. New underwear is a nice treat and one I really enjoy.
5. Sleep more. It seems obvious but the more you sleep then the more energy you have and the more energy you have then the more likely you are to want to get off your butt and do stuff. I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. I love it but it doesn’t seem to like me very much unfortunately and I have battled with sleeping well for years. Now I just try to get to bed earlier maybe 4 nights out of 7 and I feel better for it. Although right now it’s close to 1 am and I am still typing away….
6. When swinging kettle bells be careful not to bash your private parts. It hurts for women too, trust me. Also don’t be tempted to lift the heavier weights when you are just starting out, for two reasons – firstly you will likely injure or strain yourself and secondly it will not be enjoyable and you won’t want to carry on. I can never see me being the girl who lifts the big weights but I can manage a decent kettle bell workout now and that is enough for me. Strength is important for both men and women and lifting weights doesn’t have to mean getting bulky or having rippling biceps. Squat and press to start seeing big changes in your legs and butt.
7. If you try a boxing class, take your own gloves – don’t use the ones left by others at class …just don’t.
8. Like most women ( especially those who have had babies ) I found my lower belly was a problem area to tone and the absolute best exercise I have found for helping to target that is leg raises. They aren’t easy but they are super effective and you don’t need any special equipment just a flat surface. My lower belly or pouch has gone and it is reasonably toned now, of course my belly button still looks like a wrinkled balloon due to the op I had and I have stretch marks ( which have massively reduced in visibility due to daily aloe vera and cocoa butter usage ) but this is probably as good as my belly is gonna get. My tattoo definitely adds to how much I now love it and it is also about having massive respect for what my body has been through. Getting pregnant and having a baby is not a 9 months thing. It takes a long time to recover from it in all ways but it can be done.
9. What is key is to find something that you enjoy doing, I hate running so I don’t go running. I take my classes and I walk a lot. I do yoga at home but not as a set routine and not even on a regular basis, I grab a video on YouTube when I get a spare 20 minutes and I do it to destress or when I need to think something over. I am not very good at it, but I am a whole lot more flexible than I was even just a month ago.
10. Music. Ah music is so important to exercise, one of the best parts of the class I attend is the live DJ playing great songs and they are even tailored to the parts of the class we are in so you almost feel like you are part of a music video, I am the girl in the Call On Me video.. almost. If I workout at home or even when I go for a walk I have some kind of music blasting away in my ears.
11. Workout buddy. Now I quite like working out alone but I love that my sister is now coming to class with me as I feel almost obliged to keep going even when I don’t feel up to it. The second part of the class is boxing and in pairs so it is nice to have a partner that I know for that and not have to pair up with a stranger or the super fit instructors who punch a LOT harder than we do. If you can find someone who you feel comfortable getting sweaty and looking a fool in front of then that is a bonus.
12. Make time for it. Most of us have very busy lifestyles and it is easy to say that you just don’t have the time for it. You have to make it and I promise it will improve other areas in your life.
13. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You may be fitter but two stone heavier than the person sat next to you who looks tiny and toned but does not exercise at all – yes it seems unfair but try to remember getting fit is a win for you and for your health. It’s great to look good as a result of it but don’t let that be the reason you do it.