Exercise and body image are heavily entwined… there is no denying that. Many off us seek exercise because we want to change our bodies and that means that we are already coming to it with a negative perception of ourselves.
For me, it was a very long road of changing negative talk, body shaming and a lot of self-loathing into something positive. Each and every time I looked to exercise it wasn’t because I wanted to feel stronger, run a certain distance or improve my mental health. It was because I wanted to fit in a certain dress or look good at a particular event. The problem with this is that there is always an end goal. A date when you give up and fall back into bad habits.
This journey is different for everyone and I’m willing to be honest about mine. As when I look back I have to admit I grew up with a genuine love for being active it just got very VERY lost along the way.
I was an extremely hyper little girl. I was always running somewhere, climbing trees, riding horses and mucking out stables. I was always muddy and at the end of the day Mum used to order me into the shower and have to sit me down to eat something.
Then I hit being a teenager, I struggled more with life, studying, friendship and relationships in general. The horses where long gone and I had never been popular/interested enough to be on a school team such as netball or hockey. I gained a lot of weight and didn’t know how to exercise or where to start.
Uni came and went. Studying, working, travelling, love, heartbreak and everything in between left me with 10 years of emotional highs and lows. I was now in my twenties and realised I lived in a city (Newcastle upon Tyne) with the biggest and best half marathon in the world. People literally flood from around the globe to take part. Even Mo Farah was gracing the quayside and I was sat a few hundred meters away in my tiny little flat, unable to run down the steps to watch without getting a stitch. The little girl you couldn’t calm down, was now an adult that didn’t even own a pair of trainers.
ELITE 6 WEEK “BODY TRANSFORMATION”
Thanks to the “wonders” of Facebook an opportunity popped up to take part in a 6-week fitness and diet regime. That promised you could lose 20lbs in 6 weeks or your money back. This sounded to good to be true. Something to force me into exercise and eating well plus it could all be for free!
(I am not advertising this company or transformation. Just being honest about my journey)
The exercise was amazing. A combination of HIIT, strength, body conditioning and circuit training. However, the diet and body culture of the gym was awful. Many days I was so close to starvation I nearly passed out, I was sent home from work because I couldn’t stop crying and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend nearly left me mid way through due to the huge mood swings.
In the 6 weeks I managed to actually lose over 20 lbs and I did feel fantastic. I fit into clothes I had never dreamed imaginable and I genuinely looked forward to each exercise. I even made friends with two wonderful ladies who I am still very close too today. The problem was my brain had got to the 6 weeks and in my mind that’s all I needed to do. Even though I kept excersing (aka maintaining the part I loved) I was then going home and eating whole bags of cookies till I felt physically sick and then berating myself for it afterwards.
RUN FOREST RUN
For a few years after that I kept excersing and developed a love for running. The problem was my eating was increasingly getting worse and the heavier I got the more I hated myself again. Plus, the harder it became to run. Try running with a bag weighing 2 stone round a 10 mile course… not easy going!
The day I realised I loved exercise was probably the worst days of my life. We had found out just after Christmas than my Bobo (Affectionate term for my Grandfather) had only a few days to live… Stinking cancer… don’t smoke kids… and Dad called me.
It was one of those phone calls that you just know exactly why someone’s calling. My Dad was wonderful and so brave, he didn’t use many words but just confirmed what I knew and told me he loved me. After the phone call I had a bit of cry, chatted to my other half and then said
“Think I need to do a workout”
I loaded up a 5-day challenge from the wonderful Fitness Blender and sweated my tits off. I had a long hot shower and resurfaced feeling pretty calm. I continued this routine for the whole 5-day challenge and looking back on it now realise it was an act of love towards myself and my body. I was giving myself exactly what I needed. Exercise was now not a form of punishment but a form of self care.
The second time I really realised what exercise meant to me was on the run up to my wedding. I was spending so much time organising the big day and the whole circus that goes with it that I really needed some quiet time just for me. You would think this would be at home but nope! At home there are so many distractions… tidying, crafting, working, fiancé, my gorgeous doggy … the list would be endless. I was already part of a fabulous local gym GFit in Rowlands Gill so enquired about some personal training. Luckily Rachel was available and booked me in for 2 sessions a week for about 2 months leading up to the wedding. This was UNNDOUBABLY the best money I have ever spent. Firstly, Rachel is amazing, she is incredibly knowledgably but not at all intimidating or preachy about fitness. I had been going to her classes for a while and she picked up on all the things I liked and was good at. So we always started with a bit of cardio (did I mention I love running) then went onto strength or circuits. Chatting to Rachel through the session made the time absolutely fly over and I felt as through I was having quality time with a friend. Except by the end of the two months I had lost nearly 10% in body fat, 13cm round my waist and a whole load of other measurements that I wouldn’t bore you with. Because the weight I had lost paled into insignificance against the body confidence I had gained.
Since then I have continued to exercise 3 – 4 times a week and even tried a few hotel workouts on my honeymoon. Learning to love exercise and treat my body with compassion wasn’t something that came overnight but looking back over the last few years I really can’t believe how far I have come with changing my view on exercise. We are all different so what has worked for me wouldn’t necessarily work for you but I urge you to try as many different things till something clicks. The benefits of leading an active life are immeasurable. For me, my mental health is better than ever. I no longer have damaging negative thoughts and look into the future with hope and positivity. How could exercise and positive body imagine change your life?