Fitness overhaul: A year of focusing on health


This time last year I was fresh from doing the Body Coach Shift, Shape and Sustain plan. I was, as he says you should be after following the diet and workouts, lean. In fact, I was probably too lean, and looked the thinnest I had been in a long time. My body struggles to build muscle due to a connective tissue disorder, so it would have taken a lot longer for me to start feeling like a Bay Watch extra. I also admit to getting tired of 6am gym sessions.

They DO make you feel good, they are a good start to the day, they do set you up well and improve concentration, but I just love sleep and I love to snooze and I like my groggy morning routine. The only morning exercise I do now are Sunday runs, and they rarely begin before 9:30. I don’t look the same as I did a year ago, but I can’t say I’m not fussed by it. This whole year of overhauling my health and fitness was about more than a flat stomach and strong looking thighs.

I wanted to turn my health around. Of all the goals you can have, I felt like this was a good one. I’ve been documenting it all on here along the way and looking back it’s been quite an achievement. I wanted to get on top of my Ehlers Danlos symptoms, I wanted to maintain my new found fitness, try out different kinds of exercise and feel generally better about my myself. It’s December this week, so the year is almost up (bye 2016 please don’t come again) and it feels like a good time to, shall we say, take stock.

Needless to say, some of my endeavours have failed. I won’t be ending the year by drinking a kale smoothie and examining my abs in front of the mirror come NYE. I might not be a fitness model, but I’ve been so much healthier this year. I’ve had less colds, I’ve had less bad pain days with sore joints, I’ve not had any issues with asthma, I’ve not spent weeks with a lingering cough and I’ve not been hammering down the door of my GP every other week. I’ve made some positive changes, some unsuccessful changes and some unexpected changes.

I gave up coffee for a while, but now I’m back on it. I’m drinking it now in fact, enjoying every last drop of it’s frothy goodness. I can’t give up caffeine, it didn’t work for me, and I don’t think I drink enough for it to be a problem these days. BUT I have succeeded in massively cutting down my sweet intake (apart from one mishap last week where I ate a whole bag of Haribo starmix after a really stressful few days) and that’s got to be a good thing. I’ve never been a chocolate person. I’m a very serious sweet eater. Pick and mix, Haribo, fizzy laces- if it’s sour and coated in sugar, I’m on board with it, but this year my teeth have had a welcome break.

In the summer I ran my first 10k, which for some may sound like a walk in the park, but for me it’s a big deal. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run due to hip problems, but I built up some strength, worked hard on the weekends and made it all the way round the central London course as part of the Vitality London 10K. I’ve also spent the year experimenting with different gym classes- some definitely NOT for me because I cannot deal with being shouted at while I try to hoist a bar weight above my head in a squat position, and some which I’ve loved. Spinning, circuit training and step aerobics have been the winners. I do have to alter some of the stuff to suit my joints, but I’ve learnt to not be shy in the gym when in the gym.

I’ve changed up my diet, replacing even more meat with pulses and veg-based meals and I eat fruit every single day. I’ve started having a proper breakfast at work, usually just porridge, and I’ve tried (though not always succeeded at) not eating rubbish while my dinner cooks because I’m hungry and impatient. I’ve also upped my intake of all the green stuff we get told is so good for us, and I can how say that I genuinely like broccoli. Last year I merely tolerated it, crazy times.

The best thing for me though, has been the absence of illness. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I battle bad health. I have bad joints, limp a lot, get inured easily, get a lot of colds, have issues with my kidneys and I am the UTI queen (not something I want to be queen of even remotely), so this year, with less illness, less antibiotics, better health and happier insides has been so welcome.

The one thing I need to work on for next year is getting my stress levels sorted. I wrote about this last week and got quite a few tweets from people who suffer the same. If I can keep up this years health journey, or even improve on it, and make myself less stressed, I think I might actually have made it. Maybe I’ll even buy a juicer and go on a detox. (Just kidding- NEVER.)


Fitness overhaul- recharging batteries and some vitamin sea

After running a 10k, starting to survive circuit classes every week without almost falling over the next day and managing to do box squats, I hurt my hip. It was a pretty bad level of hurt too. It almost came out of its socket (as gross as that sounds it’s not that bad when you’re hypermobile like me) and I had to develop a new walk where I looked a bit like I was trying to be Snoop Dogg. Or Lion. Or whatever. 

I had to take two more weeks out of exercise after another previous injury (some sort of sharp leg pain every time I moved, good fun all round) so I became disillusioned again and started feeling like my bad health would win this battle.

My bad bad mood and defeatist attitude was made a little better by the osteopath I went to see for my sore lower back (a result of my new gangster walk to compensate for the hip business) who told me I looked muscular. She also told me my upper body was wonky but you can’t win them all. She told me to wait until I got back from my two week holiday before fully getting back on the wagon. A whole month out of running, classes and any form of progress after reaching my best level of fitness. Big thumbs down.

It made me dread the actual holiday because I was looking forward to feeling and looking better than ever while I pranced around beaches in bikinis, and the whole thing suddenly felt pointless (hello hormones and crying at dogs on TV). That’s a bad way to look at things, I’m aware that my bikini body isn’t the real reason for all this, but it still made me feel like I had wasted my time. 

I snapped out of that in time to go away, just about and remembered this was about the bigger picture and being well again. 

It turns out though that my constant low mood and iritability and general lack of good spirit was a lot down to being desperate for a break. Before this holiday I had reached the most tired I’ve been since I started full time work 4 years ago. I felt like every morning was climbing a mountain. I stated going to bed at 9:30 and still feeling awful the next morning. I also had some really sexy blue/purple bags hanging out under my eyes. 

I’ve definitely put weight on in the past month, I’ve definitely lost some fitness level and my toned stomach is looking less each day, but I feel a million times better. There’s nothing like beaches, sunshine, a serious vitamin D boost and some time out to watch the sea roll in at you. I haven’t been on a holiday like this in a long time but 10 days in and I’ve reflected on being a bad mood for about, erm, three months. Sorry boyfriend. 

The last seven months have been quite strange. Overhauling my entire fitness regime (which before was basically taking the stairs instead of the lift) has been more mental and a test of willpower than physical. I never realised the amount of willpower that would be required to keep up the routine- I just thought it would become habit and I would be fit enough to handle it without barely breaking a sweat after a few months. I was very wrong. My health isn’t ever going to give me an easy ride but set backs won’t win. I’m ready to get back to my routine, and probably weeping after my first circuit class in 5 weeks. 

Fitness overhaul- How much do you really want to change?


 Two weeks ago I was more determined than ever that my latest attempt at overhauling my health and fitness was going to last. This is the longest I’ve ever stuck to a serious exercise regime. It’s the fittest I’ve ever felt. It’s also the longest my various health problems have gone into some sort of remission,  which has let me get to this point. 

It’s just amazing how quickly it can feel like it’s slipping away. I see so many public announcements of lifestyle changes. Declarations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and in blogs from people who swear that this time, it’s going to last. They’re going to succeed. This time it’s for real and by posting it online it makes it official. Often though it doesn’t last, the attemp fails and the cycle is repeated few months later. I’ve been that person so many times. 

For the past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to stick to my preferred exercise/diet regime because I hurt my hip and I’ve been much busier than usual. I’ve still been able to fit some quick exercise in but it’s not been at the pace of the past five months. It’s made me so behind, so fast. 

It’s only two weeks. Two weeks doesn’t sound that long when you’re looking at the bigger picture, but this is where I fail. In fact, this is where we fail. We fall down because it’s hard to bounce back when you have a little break right?Motivation starts to wane and all the inspiration you felt just days before isn’t there anymore. It’s amazing (and bloody annoying) how quick and easy it is to slip into old habits.

The last two weeks have brought it home to me how much you need to want to change. You can’t want it a little bit. You can’t want it in waves. You have to want it to the point where there’s no alternative. I thought I’d always wanted it enough but clearly I haven’t, because I’ve never succeeded long term and now that bugs the life out of me. Why can’t I just do it? 

This irritation at myself has been stronger than ever and it’s driven me to this current attemp at reaching my goals.

I want to be physically fit- like really fit. I want it for the good of my weak body, my joints that struggle badly for my age and I want it to feel and look good. There’s no point denying the body image part- I want a flat muscly stomach, toned legs and arms and I want to feel really well and strong. I’ve wanted all of this for a long time but all the years of yearning and faddy attempts haven’t amounted to a real changes until now. 

I haven’t totally turned my life around and I’m vets inky not sporting a six pack, but I’ve never lasted this long or made this much progress- hence the frustration at feeling like I’ve taken a step back. 

I’m not going to let the past two weeks lead me down the road to failure. I refuse to lose the progress running my first 10k has made. I can’t deal with starting again, after more than five months of trying so hard, sweating so much, sacrificing so much time and overcoming many mental blocks and health barriers. 

I want this change to last. I want it to stay and to improve my life and give me the satisfaction that I’ve finally done it. It’s just taken so long to realise how much you’ve really got to want a lifestyle change to make it come about. 

Any inspiration to get me through the rest of this wobble and to keep me motivated is welcome. As are puppies, if you can arrange it. 

A fitness overhaul- 3 months in

When I moved in December last year, I was probably the fittest I’d been in years. I wasn’t running marathons or anything, but I could actually seriously exert myself without feeling like my lungs and heart were having a rave. My health problems weren’t great though, and when I started feeling more and more rubbish, I just sort of resigned myself to letting all the hard work go to waste. I didn’t join a new gym like I promised myself I would straight away, instead I started eating Lindt chocolate reindeers and using the cold as an excuse to behave like a sloth with a sweet tooth.

I saw someone post a quote on Twitter in January which said ‘The only exercise I get is running out of money.’ I think I laughed for about 40 seconds then realised it was actually me. I had transitioned from fit and well and on a roll, to lazy and uninspired. Exercise and fitness are vital for my body. I need to stay fit and strong to not end up crying in a heap of dislocated joints and painkillers, but I seemed to not really care. I blame part of this on that Christmas mentality where you eat and eat because it’s December and it’s just what people do. Twiglets for breakfast? If it’s December, then yes of course, I’ll eat the whole pack.

Anyway, eventually I did drag myself out of this winter misery and stop eating leftover quality street long enough to realise I needed my old diet back. After a month of getting back to my usual, much healthier self, I finally joined a gym and put together an exercise programme I could actually do and stick to. Turns out I need structure to function, so going to classes instead of just rocking up to a treadmill as and when I had time worked much better.

Now it’s been 12 weeks. It’s been three whole months of doing this timetable of exercise and aside from the obvious benefits like looking more toned and feeling more energetic, I’ve also started feeling more like I want to participate in life in general. I don’t think I ever actually realised that a sudden lack of physical activity and a lot of lazing around made me less inclined to join in with stuff, but it did.

Now I don’t want to go home after a long day at work and just lay in one place watching Netflix or traipsing around the kitchen throwing a meal together like it’s the hardest task ever. I want to do things, and be outside and see more people. For the most part my energy is much better. I look forward to gym days because I leave the classes feeling a lot less uptight and stressed. I’m grinding my teeth less and I’ve cut 95% of the coffee I was guzzling. It’s probably for the best I’m no longer on first term names with the staff at Waterloo Station Pret, let’s be honest.

I would be lying completely if I said for me it was all about the wellbeing and the energy, because it isn’t. The physical changes like the flatter stomach, more shapely looking thighs and stronger arms make me feel like it’s all worthwhile, but as long as something drives you, it surely doesn’t matter?

Apart from a hamstring pull where I ended up limping for a week and buying an aggressively green foam roller on Amazon, I haven’t let the momentum slip. When I went back to running this week post-hamstring, I could feel that a week away resting had jilted my fitness. In the past I probably would have let the hamstring just lead me back down the path of slothism and snacks consisting mostly of Nutella and digestive biscuits.  But even in a week I missed the structure and the social side of the classes. Turns out having a wheezy chat while you stand bent over after doing a circuit of box jumps is just as sociable as WhatsApping from bed.

I have a game plan and an aim to keep this going until the end of the year, because I’m genuinely keen to see where I can get to. I mean, there are still 6 months of the year though, so it’s a long time to stay strong, but as long as I stay well (finger, toes and legs crossed) and don’t let the inevitable winter turn me into a life Grinch, I feel like I can do it.

5 April favourites 

1) Waffles at Village East, Bermondsey 

I went here on my birthday for brunch with my family and considered getting a burger for about seven seconds, then obviously ordered these instead. If you have a sweet tooth and you’re into brunch, you need to experience them. The coffee was absolutely delicious too. 

2) Map floors

I saw a map floor a few weeks ago in a shop and then stumbled upon this in a pub in Waterloo during Friday night drinks. Just going to turn my house into one giant map probably.

3) Tesco gym leggings 

If you would never think of looking in Tesco for your gym clothes, well, you should. Dressing like the sky makes me happy and they were a total bargain at £9 in the sale. Their gym leggings are all pretty tasty right now. 

4) Brixton Village Market

My boyfriend had a photoshoot here and I tagged along to look around and the market has changed so much. It’s full of cool and quirky little breakfast places and weird and wonderful clothes and food shops. There’s also an amazing beer garden if you walk out of the back and go right with live music and cocktails every weekend. 

5) Glasses from Firmoo

I got these last week and having never even considered getting my glasses online, I’m so impressed. The frames are amazing value and the process and delivery was so fast. They also came in a free leather map case with cleaners. Highly recommend. Their sunglasses range is also pretty amazing. I’ve got my eye on these babies for my summer stint in Cyprus. 

*sometimes items get sent to me, but all opinions and feedback are honest.