Spacehoppers and an epiphany

Last year a series of events gave me the motivation to stop making excuses and start treating my body better.

First, I had a company ‘health check’ in which I saw a specialist who weighed me, took my measurements and blood and worked out my BMI. I was dreading it as my diet wasn’t great and I didn’t exercise. I wasn’t overweight, but had noticed that I was gradually putting on a few pounds and wasn’t entirely sure what to do about it. My BMI and weight came out fine, but he pointed out that my blood sugar was really low and explained it was due to my diet (full of processed quick sugar release foods that left me in a carb coma before lunchtime). I was also shocked to be told that my body fat was 31%, which is pretty high. I’d kind of known that my diet wasn’t doing me any good, but it is hard when someone confirms it to you and you can’t lie to yourself anymore.

Second, we made a corporate video. This involved employees participating in various cringe inducing activities, such as lip syncing to a well known song’s lyrics which had been changed to fit in with the company, and participating in a ‘flash mob’. It sounded like fun so I signed up. On a rather cloudy day in May a group of about 25 employees got together in the works car park, learned a cheesy dance routine and then proceeded to repeat it over and over again for about 3 hours, being filmed from different angles and wearing various embarrassing ensembles. I’m not ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the day, and I wish I was able to share a copy of the video with you – it actually turned out really well, despite my very dodgy dance moves. (Then again maybe you had to be there to really get it!). Anyway, that was all great, but the day after I could hardly move. I practically crawled up the stairs for about 3 days, such was my lack of fitness. Ugh. It was a wake-up call.

Soon after, we had a summer sports day. This was a very silly afternoon in the sunshine, competing in teams in a range of sports including velcro archery, welly tossing, egg and spoon racing and a sack race.

Photo copyright of Michael Guest

I participated in the spacehopper race, which consisted of bouncing on a spacehopper for about 100 metres which is WAY longer than you think at the start line. I was also in the dressing up relay – sprinting various distances whilst collecting various articles of clothing, which get passed from one person in the relay to the next.

Not only did I laugh like a loon and almost die of exhaustion that day, but I also had something of an epiphany. I realised that I’d really enjoyed the exercise. I also felt the spark of competitive spirit, something I’d never experienced before (if you’ve read my intro you’ll know my potted history of physical education).

The sack race – there is no dignified way to do this.
Photo copyright of Michael Guest

Since then I have made it my mission to get fit and healthy and, more to the point, STAY fit and healthy for life – with no fads, ‘diets’ or quick wins.

These events are what motivated me to start running. I had read somewhere that it burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time, plus it’s free and you don’t need to rely on any specialist equipment (well, not to start off with anyway, more on that in another post!).

I pulled out my practically unworn trainers, set my alarm early (so that no one would see me) and on a slightly brisk morning set off down the street. On the first day I think I managed about half a mile in total, which was a mix of running, then walking, then running, then walking… and a lot of wheezing! I would set myself a little goal each time I went out to run a bit further before having to stop, and once I could run the whole distance without stopping, I started adding to the distance.

I won’t lie and say that I loved running in the beginning, but what I DID love was the feeling of accomplishment when I was back home. Instead of sitting on the sofa watching TV and feeling guilty for eating a load of rubbish and then more guilty for not doing anything about it, I would instead sit on the sofa watching tv thinking: I’ve done my workout today – I’ve earned this!

What’s more, as I started to track my runs and measure the calories I was burning, the thought of cancelling all that hard work out by eating chocolate or sweeties was too much, so I began to cut back on the sugary snacks, replacing them with fruit and vegetables. This didn’t feel like an enforced diet though, my attitude to what I put into my body to fuel it was changing all on it’s own!

Over time I started to try other ways of keeping active. This would lead to some blood, sweat and tears as I worked out what made me want to get up and go in the mornings, instead of hitting snooze on the alarm clock. At one point I was going toe to toe with musclebound male MMA fighters… but that’s a story for another day!

So where am I now? Well I’m running a 5k 3 or 4 times a week and maintaining a reasonable weight for my height. This is great, but now I want to push myself harder and achieve more. I’ve just started to attend a number of fitness classes at my local gym including Body Pump which is a weight based class, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting a year ago!

If there’s a point to this post, it’s just to say that if you’re unhappy with your current lifestyle, then as hard as it may sound, stop putting it off and go do something about it! That could be going for a swim at your local pool, lacing up your trainers for a run like me, or attending a fitness class. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as you can always switch it up later on if you need or want to.

The first step is always the hardest and your brain will be telling you all the reasons why it won’t work. However once you start, you’ll realise that isn’t as bad as you thought it would be… and you might even find that you’re actually enjoying yourself! 

Sports Day 2013, massive grin on my face. I actually won the first heat, but my legs gave out completely in race number 2 – no stamina!!) Photo copyright of Michael Guest

Lifestyle & vegan food blogger
Peterborough | UK
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