Hi, I’m Katie a mum of three who lives on the East Kent Coast in the UK. When I turned forty, three years ago, I felt like an active healthy person, but the only real exercise that I did was running around after the children or vacuuming the house. Then I discovered fitness classes and my journey began.
Because I just started exercising slowly at first and built up over a couple of years, I didn’t record anything. I made no note of my weight when I turned 40. No waist, hip or thigh measurements and have no before and after photos. I do regret this and wish that I had recorded more and this had prompted me to start a blog. My aim is to write about my fitness and exercise over the coming year as a record for myself and also because one thing that has really helped to motivate me, has been reading about other women – real women like those that I exercise alongside at classes and women in magazines. I therefore hope that writing about what I have done and what I am continuing to do, will be helpful to other women (and men).
I also hope to write a little about what has happened to me physically and mentally, as well as other thoughts that I have had on exercise and running.
I am just an ordinary woman and mum of three. I am not an athlete and I was never particularly sporty before I started on this path. I am time deprived and constantly busy; trying to fit everything in, but exercise has become a really important and non-negotiable part of my life.
“To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.”
– The Dali Lama
I am just back from a run.
I really didn’t have time to go, the children needed lunch, I hadn’t even got close to finishing all the chores that needed doing at home, I needed to think about going shopping for dinner and getting the children ready for the school week ahead and the weather was awful, but I went anyway. I made myself get up and out the door, knowing that I would feel a million times better when I got home and because I now have the running bug!
It was May 2018 when I tentatively took a step towards running.
Exercise was already a huge part of my life. So was food. My whole family loved watching Masterchef on the BBC and when the young runner and Masterchef contestant, Matt Campbell, died whilst running the 2018 London Marathon just 3.7 miles from the finish, it was such an inconceivable shock and we were devastated by the news. Myself and my twelve year old son decided to undertake the challenge to ‘Finish for Matt’. It felt like a really tough challenge, but we both really wanted to do it, so after a few mini runs, I drove my car just over 3.7 miles from home with my husband in convoy, put some water bottles in the footwell and got a lift home. I always found the psychological aspect of running a circular route hard, so running only forwards seemed like the best way to give us a real goal and endpoint. We set off together, me shouting encouragement at my son along the way and made it all the way to the parked car. I remember the feeling of euphoria when we had achieved our goal and how we were all smiles and happiness was free flowing. We came home, pledged our money to Matt’s Just Giving page and shared our run on the forum. It was so lovely to share the moment with my son, especially as we were running for a really worthwhile cause and, while we were exhausted and achy afterwards, it felt brilliant.
I had dabbled with running before, but was never really able to push myself or motivate myself to run more than a few kilometers. After this run I decided to try to incorporate running into my weekly exercise. I did a few short runs again and eventually I worked out a 5km route and managed to run it at least once a week. Each time I found that the mental barrier was the hardest one to overcome. The first step is talking yourself into getting out the door. It’s easy to say to yourself, I’ll go after I’ve put the washing on and cleared up from breakfast, then I’ll go after sorted out this pile of paperwork, then get distracted by checking social media. The distractions are endless. As I walk around the house I can always find hundreds of things that need doing and that would take up my time. It’s not like with an exercise class – you know it starts at a certain time and that it won’t wait for you.
The next barrier comes at the beginning of the run. I would get out the door, put my playlist on and start running, but each time at the beginning of the run there would be this voice in my head: ‘Why are you doing this?’, ‘This is tough’, ‘ I’m tired today’, ‘Maybe you should just do a shorter run today’. It still happens to me now, even though I run on average three times a week. Then about a kilometer or two in I start to get into my stride – I guess I get into the zone – and the voice goes away. I try to get around this by not putting myself under pressure. I say to myself, it’s ok, you don’t have to decide on the distance now, just run and see how you feel. If you end up wanting to do a shorter run that will be fine. I can’t think of a time when this hasn’t worked and I haven’t made the distance that I had originally planned on. In fact, these days I often find that when I’m into it, I want to push myself that little bit further.
Then comes the magical bit when you get home. No matter how I felt at the beginning, by the end I feel energised and really buzzing with happiness.
Things I love about running:
It’s free. I had a conversation with my son about this. I said to him I love running because it’s so free and I don’t mean free money wise, although that is a great thing about running. I know mummy, he said, you mean ‘really free man, like meditative’. And I had to agree that yes running is meditative, but that wasn’t what I had meant either. ‘What then it’s free for you to do it anywhere?’ He asked. And yet again I had to agree that that was also an amazing factor. What I had meant was that you just feel so free running outside in the fresh air, along the country roads (which is where I run). It’s like nothing can touch you. I love that feeling.
It gets you outside. It gives you headspace and freedom to think.
There’s a simplicity to running – anyone can do it, anywhere. You don’t need any special kit (although a pair of trainers really help) and you can go totally at your own pace, pushing yourself as much or as little as you want.
It’s amazing for cardiovascular health and fitness. I was already pretty fit when I started running, but I quickly found that the boost that running brought to my fitness was really noticeable. All of my classes became easier and I could push myself so much more. Of course this worked both ways and doing classes at the leisure centre, including strength training, really helped me to run.
This obviously has an effect on your body shape and I have really found that running makes you lean.
You find that your body can do things that you hadn’t realised were possible. We live such comfortable lives and sometimes getting outside of your comfort zone for a bit just feels amazing. I didn’t know that I would feel like this but I love the challenge.
You can keep on building on your running – you are your own master. So distance or speed can be worked on and there are no boundaries, other than those set by you.
Afterwards, you never regret it.
I am still very much a novice runner and I feel like my running journey is only just beginning.
For me there was no big thunderbolt moment, but at some point around the time of turning forty, I decided to start doing some exercise. I went and joined my local leisure centre and started with a Saturday Pilates class. I had never done Pilates before and I remember walking into the room and seeing this incredibly fit and strong teacher at the front. I struggled my way through the class; through all the squats and bends – and there were lots of squats and bends – held the plank probably for a whole 20 seconds before dropping to my knees and performed my first Pilates Hundred. Then the class finished and everybody sauntered out, casual as you like! Except for me. As I went to put my shoes back on, I realised that my legs didn’t want to do what I wanted them to do. I just about managed to bend down to do up my laces and hobbled out to the stairs. My legs shook as I walked down to the car and I really worried for a while that I wouldn’t be able to change gears to drive myself home. Needless to say, for the next few days I was in agony.
Somehow though, despite the aches and pains, I really enjoyed that first class and I went back the following week for more. I never again experienced the same level of shock to my body and with each week the moves got slightly easier. I also loved the fact that I was getting out of the house and doing something just for me. Away from the children and the mess in the house, I had some headspace. In fact, I found that I had no time to worry or stress about anything while I was trying to hold a move; my head was clear for the hour that I was in the class. Bliss.
I had signed up for membership, so it made sense to do more than one class. My next trial was Legs, Bums and Tums: more of the same toning as in Pilates, but with some cardio thrown in for good measure. Again, I found the class really tough, but I felt exhilarated at the end. Then, after a few weeks, I felt brave enough to add a Body Attack class to my repertoire too.
When I started out exercising I felt pretty ok about myself. I had often been annoyed about my wobbly bits, but I was not massively dissatisfied with body. Therefore, I had no plan, no expectations and no targeted weight loss hanging over my head. I just wanted to get a bit fitter and a bit more toned, but mainly I really enjoyed the buzz and the fact that I was doing something purely for me.
I did start making changes to my health and lifestyle choices. I found that once you exercise, you naturally begin to choose more healthy diet options. I love food and cooking and have always eaten well (probably a bit too well!), but the main change I made was to move away from refined carbs like white rice, pasta and bread and to go for pulses and whole grains instead. I also upped my fruit and veg intake massively.
Meanwhile, the amount of classes that I was going to was creeping up. I was at my Monday Legs Bums and Tums class, when I noticed that some people had already been to another Body Attack class which ran before it. This seemed crazy at the time, but I wondered if I could do that too. It would mean going to the leisure centre straight from the school run, so no time to go home and procrastinate or talk myself out of exercising, and I would be done by 11am, so would have the rest of the day free to do everything that I needed to do. After a couple of weeks thinking about it, I too managed ‘a double’. Really, I haven’t looked back since.
Over the last few years, I have switched some of my classes. I found that I really love high intensity workouts, so I largely dropped Pilates. Instead, I started going to a half hour Tabata class on a Saturday morning which took place before the Pilates. I had been terrified, as week after week I’d watched women and men coming out dripping with sweat and very out of breath as I made my way past them to start Pilates, but I tried it and loved it (in a love/hate sort of way). So by this stage I was doing Monday: Body Attack followed by Legs, Bums and Tums, Wednesday: Body Attack, Thursday: Legs, Bums and Tums, Friday: Body Conditioning and Saturday: Tabata.
Looking back now, I feel that my success at sticking to exercise was a combination of approaching it with no expectations, starting slowly at first and adding to my exercise schedule bit by bit, so I hardly noticed what I was doing and of course discovering a real love of exercise. I guess I am also stubborn and determined – I had just never used these qualities in this way before. Gradually, I began to realise that I was feeling fantastic and full of energy.
It was about a year ago when I went to the wardrobe to get out a pair of autumn cord trousers that, at size 16, had been ok but a bit of a tight fit, thinking that they might fit me nicely now. I put them on and they literally just fell off me. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. This may sound ridiculous, but I just had no idea that I had transformed my body so dramatically. Sure I knew that I had lost weight and toned up, but after a summer of doing lots of exercise and hanging out in floaty dresses, I had just expected that I would fit my existing clothes much more comfortably and maybe need a belt or two. We had no scales in the house and I had just assumed that being quite tall (I’m 5’9″) and broad, I was just naturally a size 16. In a way, having this realisation suddenly put me under pressure that I hadn’t previously felt. I now had a body to maintain and new that I didn’t want to go back to where I had been. Also, I now had to buy new clothes that would actually fit me and if I was spending money on a new wardrobe, I would have to maintain the weight loss and toning to justify the expenditure!
I don’t think I needed to worry as by now, exercise had become just an ingrained part of my every day.