Physical, Psychological or Both?

As I sit here writing this blog, it still seems strange that I’m doing it……at nearly 40 years old I finally feel like I’m achieving something I want to share with people. I have a new confidence about me, I’m not hiding away…….

Back in February I turned up at Simply FITT like a rabbit in headlights not knowing what to expect, feeling self conscious and incapable of doing anything as I looked around the gym not even knowing what majority of the equipment was. I stood there and thought to myself “why the hell did I agree to this?!” Once I got talking with James I started to relax as I realised that he wasn’t judging me….he wanted to help me achieve my goals (at this point in time I just thought about my weight more than anything). He didn’t mock me because I didn’t know what I was doing, he encouraged me, made it fun and I thought by the end of my first session “I’m gonna like this!”

So here I am coming up to nine months later, still training, still focusing on eating the right foods, fuelling my body in the right way (they call it junk food for a reason!) and still pounding forward on a journey I never thought I’d take. How has this journey affected my life, where is it taking me? Let’s start with the most noticeable…

In the nine months the obvious thing I’m going to tell you is that I’ve become fitter! I sat on my arse for 20 years in an office, my idea of exercise was a walk in to town, an incline could get me out of breath. So of course, by becoming fitter I’ve become thinner – so I reached my goal right??? Why am I still doing this? Man!!! There is so much more to it!

It’s now a lifestyle, it’s natural and I’m reaping benefits. I look better, I feel better….but it’s more than a physical thing, it’s a mental thing.

I have suffered from mental health issues for the last 20 years, anxiety, depression, manic episodes, insomnia, anger issues you name it. I’ve been on medications, in therapy, under mental health teams. Guess what, all of that has got better! It’s not gone totally, of course, unfortunately my programming makes sure it’s a life long issue, but I don’t even feel I need to manage my health issues now, it’s under control. Now they’ve always said exercise is good for your mental health, but I never knew it was this therapeutic.

As a person I’ve grown, I’m genuinely confident for the first time, my anger has almost dispersed and I deal with situations rationally and methodically. For the first time in a long time I feel in control.

Some people will say, oh it’s because you look better you feel better in yourself. I ask you this, is it because I feel better in myself I feel I look better in myself?! If I’ve changed this much in nine months, where will I be in another nine months?

I have qualified in level 2 health and nutrition whilst on my journey (I would literally have laughed in your face if you’d told me I’d do that a year ago) and am studying towards my Level 3 Specialist Nutrition Diploma…..the food side of things is a whole other blog in it’s self, so watch this space for that one.

So, the physical difference! Well that’s huge too. I’m two stone lighter, I’ve dropped nearly two clothes sizes, I’m more toned, there is still room for a lot more improvement but….again the physical side surprised me as originally I connected doing exercise to getting “skinny” and that was fine, we all want to lose weight, but what I hadn’t considered was how much STRONGER it made you!

As weight fell off me and I started wearing different clothes to actually show off myself a bit more (I don’t mean I’m suddenly walking around half naked, more fitted clothes, brighter clothes not blending in to the neutral zone) I realised I could see some toned muscles, I realised I was getting strong, really strong! And I love it!

Suddenly that was all I could think about, I wanted to focus more on getting stronger and stronger, but in my head I’m thinking “I don’t want to look like some big buff she hulk!” That thought was so unappealing. Again this is where James was able to make me understand that as a woman I’m not going to look like Arnie if I start lifting weights! As a woman I don’t have the hormones that will make me huge, if I get stronger I will get toned, my muscles will become lean, the reason I will see my muscles is because I’m burning the body fat covering them. I started looking more into women weight lifting on social media and the internet, and I wasn’t seeing all these hulk like figures, I now got it…..strong is the new pretty!

Yeah that sounds really cheesy, I know, but it’s true. I’m the furthest thing from a bra burning feminist there is….in fact I may well do a blog on that subject another time (I’ll get my strong shoulders ready for the abuse to my views!) I digress…..but being stronger started empowering me, and I realise it’s a huge part of my confidence growing. James said to me share what I’m doing, put a video up, I was dubious….all I could think about was people leaving horrible comments or making fun of me but I agreed and I posted a few videos on Instagram (mayclouded just in case you want to look) and Facebook at me lifting and all I got was positive comments! Strangers supporting me and encouraging me as well as my friends.

Hitting a new PB in my weights is so much more exciting than losing another pound off my body weight! And of course, lean muscle weighs more than fat, so if my muscles are strong and lean I’m not going to be a feather on the scales, but the inches are still going down on the size! In my head before I knew this, I thought oh god my weight has plateaued I’m never going to be a little nine stone mini. But now I don’t even care what I weigh, as I know that’s not relevant. I used to be bogged down by the numbers on the the scales, wincing every time as I was always in double figures, weight is what everyone focuses on. I obviously had the initial weight loss as I was quite overweight, there was a lot of body fat to get rid of. Here’s a picture of my face at the beginning and now to date, I literally cringe at this:

So I have done the standard blog duty it seems and told you about my weight loss and body changing, my mental health……I want to touch on what happens when I am actually working out, I don’t mean hot, knackered etc, I mean what is going on in my head and how I feel.

This first example I am going to use is yesterday, as it really did throw me. I was working out with the boys, we were doing a leg day. I know I’ve got strong legs now so thought this is going to be great I can keep up and it’ll be a great team workout. I did my barbell squats, I did my frog squats, weighted suicide squats and duck walks….then came the challenge of us all getting through 150 box jumps by doing 50 each in the quickest time possible……SHIT! I’ve never done a box jump! I’m going to let my boys down here, suddenly in my head I’m having a doubt in myself, I don’t want to let the guys down as so far we’ve all been on track together….the Plyo box comes out, I’m thinking actually this is ok, I’ve done loads of step ups on this, I can jump up on it! I watched the guys smashing through 20 jumps, then I was up…..I went to jump, I couldn’t! Literally it was like someone pushed my leg back down. I laughed it off, I tried again, the same thing happened! What’s going on?! James is telling me this is normal, my head isn’t hearing that, I’m feeling stupid! He gives me his hand as balance, I go to jump again, same thing!! So we get the Reebok step out instead, its lower, and yep, sure enough with the help of holding James’ hand, I can do a box jump on to it! But I feel a failure….I’m not, I’ve done it, but I feel like the “girl” now in the group! But actually after the frustration and beating myself up about it, I realise now that I have a new goal, I now have a mission to do a box jump (no hand for balance) on to that damn Plyo box!! So again, a negative is turned into a positive……there is no such thing as failure!

I went through a similar thing with press ups, never thought I’d be able to do press ups on my knees let alone on my toes….the sense of accomplishment when I did my first one on my toes, and then when I did ten on my toes….its amazing!

I’m realising that some of the things I do in the gym are actually unnatural, its not an every day occurrence squatting with 80kgs on your back….I pulled the bar down as I’m trying to get back up, WTF?!?! That’s really not gonna help! Every exercise its not just a physical thing, its an emotional thing, a psychological thing, its a learning curve…the moment you’ve perfected the technique, the moment you totally cock it up, the moment you get that PB……its all great!

Turning up on that cold winter evening to Simply FITT was the best (and bravest) decision I ever made…..there is more to this than exercise. It’s your total wellbeing, and I can’t wait to see where I’m going next.