Tag Archives: fitness

My Core

7 Sep

I do lots of different active stuff now and would love to try more! One of the key things I do is pilates. It’s fantastic.  I hear a lot of people say it’s a bit like yoga and there’s an assumption that it’s an easy option, I can tell you and so can the super fitties and blokes in my class that it’s not at all!

I came across it a bit by accident.  At the end of October 2009  I developed a persistent cough, it  was ridiculous, I would cough all day, to the extent of starting to choke, it appeared to be related to speech so every time I started a conversation off I would go, I was exhausted and at my wit’s end with it.  My doctor tried lots of things and we even got to the stage of using strong drugs to knock me out to try to break the cycle and give me some respite, it got to the stage where work was impossible too.  I needed to see an ENT specialist to check there was nothing sinister going on, of course the wait to see one on the NHS was about 4 months, I couldn’t wait that long so went privately.

Interestingly this didn’t cost that much, I was lucky when a friend told me that there were now 2 levels of private fees, one for those with insurance and one for those who were paying themselves which can be significantly lower and affordable. It even turned out that my GP surgery had an administrator who would locate the best specialist and price for you – if you’re ever in that position it is well worth asking if going privately may be an option.

After some tests, the specialist found nothing awful, however what he did find was that my vocal cords were in almost constant spasm, my brain therefore thought that there was an obstruction, as I tried to talk the spasms increased even more and set off the coughing. What was concerning though was that it was severe and I ran the risk of the condition moving to a stage where I would just choke, something had to be done as a matter of urgency.

The recommendation was emergency speech therapy, this would have to happen privately too.

The therapist was fantastic, there was barely any work on my voice, from discussing what was happening to me something bizarre came to light.  I had lost almost three stone by this point, my muscles had no idea what to do about that, they were shifting position on my body and severely tensing. The  top of my spine was being pulled over to the extent I’d lost about half an inch in height and it was probably why my vocal cords were reacting in such an extreme way, they too were being pulled by the muscles in my neck. Everything was tight and compromised.

I found a pilates class at about the same time as I started swimming,  I was a little stunned by what some of the other people in the class could do, there’s one exercise where you are lifting your body weight, for me that seemed amazing!  We started slowly and I was surprised how quickly I got better, the breathing really helped and I found that together with the shrinkage and the swimming that my body shape changed quite quickly.  I was walking tall, taking care over my posture and felt that my core muscles were now providing me with some real strength. And the cough got better.

And by the summer I was doing that exercise – the one where you lift your body weight!  I’ve also been on an intensive pilates trip, a whole week with two sessions a day and I get to a class whenever I can, it is hard work, I feel the difference quickly and it makes me think about my breathing.  The vocal cord problem is much better and I can manage it, even when a choking episode happens, it has turned out that they are damaged, thanks to a general anesthetic I had for a knee surgery 4 years ago and 3 months of constant coughing but it is manageable now.

So give pilates a go, for people who have lost a lot of weight it is invaluable, it’s a very flexible exercise in that there are different levels so you can find the best one for you and build on them.  And for the boys, it’s not just for girls, it can be extremely good for men, it can provide a lot of stability for your muscles which will help with any other exercise you do, it keeps your joints in good condition too as you get older, there’s a guy in his 60s in my class, he runs and swears by pilates to keep him strong, he’s also the one who groans the most too!

And when you do lose weight, strange things can happen as a consequence, just as putting on weight causes problems, losing it can be a challenge for your body, listen to it, respect it and ask for help if you are worried.  It will be worth it in the end.

And for some more reading about the benefits of pilates have a read of this:


And the photos – the Italian pilates class on my trip earlier in the summer and by the end of the week I was flexible enough to get my feet behind my head, I used to be able to do that when I was in my teens, I am overjoyed to be able to do it again! 


Getting Active

21 Aug

I didn’t add ‘exercise’ into my new life until I’d lost over 3 stones, I thought now was a good time to give you a bit of background to my relationship with it.

I had avoided any kind of formal physical activity since I was 14. I sent my mum to the school to pitch that extra maths lessons were more beneficial to my long-term future than PE and we succeeded so the gym skirt went in the bin. I had though always enjoyed things like gymnastics, I was a flexible child, however my experience of how PE was administered took away any joy I got from it, it turned into being all about competitive activity and team games, I wasn’t any good at it so I wasn’t motivated, it turned into being a very negative experience of not being chosen for teams or just failing (in the opinion of the PE teachers). There wasn’t the opportunity to do the things I was good at or even to try anything new, I’m sure this is the experience of many.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t active, I even spent all my earnings from my summer job at 16 on waterskiing lessons and used to walk a good 3 miles to my gap year job.

I managed to get through University without really knowing where the sports centre was, I believe I danced a lot in the union and walked as funds were limited and it saved on bus fares but that was about it!  Importantly I was extremely tiny so I guess no-one really made any fuss about me needing to do anything more than that.

I’ve always been more than happy to support friends who did do sport, I’ve spent hours on the poolside, I’ve watched and supported my best friend’s very intensive power lifting career, cheered the fun runners in and was even married to a very active sky diver. However I still did nothing.

In my 20s I developed ME and spent a long time trying to get well, one of the things the ME caused was a massive effect on my metabolism and I put on an enormous amount of weight, as I got bigger, my self-esteem got more damaged. I spent my 30s being grateful that I was getting well, at that stage being able to complete a day at work or get out of bed when things were really bad was enough of a challenge.  I was terrified of doing anything that might set off the ME, I never wanted to feel that kind of pain again.

And during my 30s I did put on more weight, I did have a lot of ‘head stuff’ that wasn’t being addressed, self-esteem and confidence was still a very big issue, this is something I will talk about a lot more, it’s a silent problem, we don’t talk about it enough.

So let’s fast forward to the end of 2009, I’d lost a bit of weight and I was getting more active, I had more energy for a start and was smaller, I had already noticed that things seemed easier and that even walking up the stairs was less of an issue. My confidence was also building, so how did the big change come that led to me loving exercise?

  • Following a visit to a speech therapist to solve an issue with my vocal cords and a persistent cough, I was told that I had a couple of issues – the top of my spine was starting to curve and I was probably losing height, it was being pulled into this position by very tight neck muscles, in fact my muscles were incredibly tight all over my body, the weight loss was actually contributing to this, they had no idea where they were supposed to sit or act in the new slimmed down version.  She recommended I try pilates to strengthen my core muscles, loosen and realign everything.
  • One of the things I had not been able to do confidently for many, many years was wear a swimsuit, I was terribly, painfully self-conscious. So after a few months of losing weight when I ordered one, it fitted and I looked ok, getting in a pool seemed like a good challenge. At that point just before Christmas I thought it would be enough for me to just go, find out if I could swim at all and then it would be a good thing to be able to go to the pool with my friend and her children and to perhaps go on holiday, I’d been to California the year before and it had been very hard not to be able to get in Pacific and enjoy the wonderful beaches.  The swimsuit story is actually a much bigger one, I’ll tell you about that later.

What  actually happened then was beyond anything I could have imagined or believed at that stage was achievable.

What I’m hoping that you will take from this little introduction is that even if you have never done any exercise, think you don’t like it or that you will be rubbish at it, there is still hope for you, there was for me!

And if you used to exercise, then try to think about what you enjoyed back then, could you give it a go again, remember how it used to make you feel about yourself?

Today’s photo is of me at the end of my pilates trip to Italy in June, I’d said I wanted to be able to get my feet behind my head, I used to be that flexible in my teens, I was over the moon to be able to achieve that, thanks to a week of intense training!  It is now my party trick, I will show anyone for several glasses of Limonchello!


%d bloggers like this: