Tag Archives: swimming

Getting wet

25 Aug

When I had lost 3 dress sizes (about three stone but of course I didn’t have any scales) I decided that I wanted to try the swimming thing, I was starting to get a bit excited about what was happening, I was shrinking and it was now getting visible to me and those around me which is one hell of a motivator I can tell you!

It was December 2009, I ordered 4 swimsuits online, in various sizes from the size I used to be, to a very optimistic size 18. They arrived on a Saturday morning. I looked at the pile wondering how to approach this trying on session, I believe the last time I had a swimsuit was 2003, so my experience was somewhat lacking in how to do this.

I decide that my course of action will be to try on the small one first, that way I can get it out-of-the-way when it doesn’t fit, and move on to a more realistic size which will be fine. So I get my kit off.

I slide the size 18 swimsuit on and to my utter surprise it fitted, I looked in the mirror and saw something quite amazing, and yes I burst into tears. It was one of those turning points in my shrinkage, all the hard work, all the emotions I was feeling about what was happening came out. It was a pretty special time and its one of the moments I try to remember when I need a bit of motivation to keep going and how going back is not an option.

So I now had a swimsuit, I had a body that I didn’t think would now scare small children or me quite as much, so the next step would be actually getting in the pool.  If you ever wondered, a swimsuit is actually a great piece of support clothing, I wear the ones with support panels just about everywhere, find the right one for you, don’t skip on the expense, you’ll look and feel great and swimming is exercise, you do need support!

Disappointingly I end up with a cold over New Year so it ended up being the first week of January before I set off for the local pool, I gave myself every excuse, it had started snowing, it was freezing but off I go, I pay my money, and put on my lovely new swimsuit and for the first time in years, I potter out and make my way to the edge of the pool.

I get in the shallow end and look towards the other end and realise that the last time I was in a pool I was 14! I may have floated in the sea on a couple of holidays but no ‘real’ swimming has really taken place for a VERY long time!  Maybe I hadn’t really thought this through?  I also realise that there is no wall for most of the length for me to cling to, so drowning may be a possibility!

Anyway I set off in the slow lane telling myself that if I can do 2 lengths that’s more than enough, I can go home with my head held high that I had met my very personal challenge! Of course my feet hit the bottom as I’m in the shallow end and I had zero technique. Once I get into deeper water it all suddenly becomes a lot easier. I get to the end and realise it’s going ok! I haven’t drowned, I then realise there are no steps at this end, if I wanted out I’d have to haul myself out and that is not happening I can tell you. So off I go again…and again!

I’m out of breath by length 4, I realise that as long as I concentrate on just 2 lengths at a time I can cope. Once I set off I know I can make it back – very simple mental exercises!

On the first night I do 14 lengths, I’m amazed, I’m breathing very hard, my heart is pounding, my legs hurt and I’m wobbly when I get out of the pool. I get a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I’m bright red, resemble a tomato and look like I’ve had a hard workout!

I cannot tell you though how immensely proud of myself I was, for a lot of different reasons, not only had I done some exercise but I’d got to a stage where I was prepared to be seen in a swimsuit, I’d begun to love myself and my body which was a very important move forwards.

Seventeen weeks later I swam 180 lengths in 3 hours for Marie Curie and I never looked back.  Not bad for a 42 year old with very, very little exercise experience (or interest), it never ceases to surprise me.

Importantly what happened after that night was that I had found a massive amount of self-belief, I also had tremendous support around me, that is so vital, if I hadn’t had that I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going, they all had faith in me and that was a great motivator!

I decided at that point that nothing or nobody was going to stop me doing this, it was too important and I was actually enjoying it. There were some people who couldn’t understand what was happening to me and I did find that I moved away from them, however there were always others who were amazing and I will be forever grateful for having them in my life. You can’t do it alone, take the support, the compliments, the encouragement, surround yourself with people who want it for you and want you to succeed!  Make sure your nearest and dearest know that this is a really big deal for you and that you will need support and how you’d like them to do that. You will need them, especially on those days when it’s hard work but you will need them even more when you’ve done well, celebrating success is vital!

So finally, start off with exercise when you feel ready, it will happen when you feel confident enough, set small, realistic goals and surround yourself with people who care! You may just surprise yourself, I did!

The photo is of me during the Marie Curie Swimathon in April 2010, I put myself into training and met the biggest physical challenge I’d ever set myself and wore a yellow swimming cap. And my parents got to watch me in a sporting event for the first time since the infamous obstacle race at the Priestley Primary School Sports Day, captured for eternity on cine film but best forgotten. Maybe one day I will tell the story!


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!


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