Blog Every Day in May - Fit and Healthy
Wrapped up warm to brave the wintry weather
About 10 years ago, I was overweight and very unfit. I had given birth to an 11lbs baby and was struggling to lose the baby weight. My marriage was on the rocks, I was feeling unattractive and I was on tablets to sort out a depression.
Then one day I realised I needed to start taking some form of exercise. Although the children were small at the time and I probably spent more time running after them than I do now, my job as a translator involves many hours of sitting down. The problem was, I didn't like sports. I never had done. I was a late walker (22 months apparently), it took me ages to learn to ride a bike (yes even with my Dutch genes...), and at school I was always that person who was last to be picked for a team. I cannot catch a ball to save my life, if I kick a ball it doesn't go in the direction I aimed it in, and at secondary school I was in a class with predominantly very sports-mad people. Their hearts must have sunk every time they had to pick a team and there was only one person left and that person was me. So once I left school I did no form of exercise whatsoever. I just couldn't imagine why anybody would enjoy doing something that made you tired. But as I said, I was overweight and unfit, and I realised it was an unhealthy combination. The only thing I'd always enjoyed was swimming, so one day I decided to go to the pool and swim 50 lengths. I lasted 11 lengths before leaving the water terribly out of breath, but I had enjoyed it. So much so I started going more often and getting better at it. Then one day my neighbour mentioned she was attending WeightWatchers meetings. I asked if I could come along. That was in August, and in November I had lost 2.5 stone and reached my goal weight. I was still swimming several times a week and feeling much, much better. That winter I didn't have a single cold. My marriage came to an end a few months later and not surprisingly my world came crashing down around me, but because I continued to eat well and kept exercising, I didn't need to go back on the antidepressants.
Great Whelnetham Church, seen on one of my walks
Over the years, I have mostly managed to keep off the weight. There are times when it creeps up a bit, but I generally manage to get it off again too. I don't want to go back to the way I was, as it made me so unhappy. That winter when I didn't have a single cold, despite the children regularly bringing home bugs from school, I realised that you can improve your resistance with a healthy lifestyle. I've never really given up on exercising since. I continued swimming for a number of years until the gym membership became a bit too expensive - I only used the gym for the pool as it was so much cleaner than the council pool and I liked the flexibility of the extended opening hours. I then used a Mel B fitness DVD for a while which was such hard work but was very effective. I lost it a few years ago and I'm still sad about that. I would use exercise plans from the WeightWatchers magazines, and then I discovered a series of fitness DVDs that I really liked (10 minute solutions), so I now own several of those and use them when I don't get the chance to get outside.
I also eat well most of the time. I still attend regular WeightWatchers meetings and most days I get my 5 portions of fruit and veg, often even exceeding that (I counted them up the other day - 10 different types!). I eat a much larger variety of food and have tried ingredients I wouldn't have touched a few years ago.
This is me a couple of years ago - I don't look much different, just a bit greyer :-)
My two favourite ways of keeping fit are cycling and walking. I took up cycling about 6 years ago when B. found an abandoned mountain bike in a ditch on his farm. When it was unclaimed for a few weeks, he did it up for me and I started exploring the area around his village. I remember coming back feeling so proud that I'd done 6 miles. By now I have covered several thousand miles, quite possibly 10,000 miles, and I don't think much of doing 25 to 35 mile bike rides. I don't go fast, it's not about speed, it's about exploring, finding little hidden villages, seeing the seasons develop, feeling the wind in your hair, the sun on your face - sometimes the rain!
And a few years ago I finally got to know my elderly neighbour who hasn't been able to walk her dog since she broke her hip. I offered to take her dog out for her and that's when I discovered a love of walking. It would feel pointless now going for a long walk without a dog, but because of work I don't think I could give a dog the attention it needs and deserves. This is a perfect solution - neighbour is happy, dog is happy, we're happy. I enjoy cycling and walking anyway, and as an added bonus it keeps me fit.
I still enjoy cake!
So there you have it. What still surprises me, after 10 years of a fairly healthy lifestyle, is how much energy you get from regularly moving. Today I took the 'parttime' dog for a 7 mile walk. My legs were tired and I was hungry when I came home, but after a sandwich and a drink, I got up and cleaned the car - which was long overdue. I know I'll sleep well tonight...