How does one go from an almost completely sedentary lifestyle to anticipating the next organised race? It starts with a decision, and a little help from one’s friends.
Last Christmas my sister was visiting with her baby and, when I saw pictures of myself with said baby on the beach, I was shocked and disgusted and sad. What happened to the women who, two years earlier, walked her way all over the world? The woman I saw on that picture was still attractive with a great smile and gorgeous hair, but all that was overshadowed by how big she was. I have always thought that big women with confidence can be much more attractive than a skinny chick but, having had a mom who has always been overweight, I realised that I have become the woman I have ever been ashamed off. The worst was that, during the normal round of silly season parties, I have started to become very careful of the chairs I chose to sit on, in fear that someone’s plastic garden furniture would not hold my weight. As many of my much lighter friends had, had this experience, it was not an unfounded fear!
I have always been overweight and have had my smaller and bigger phases. I believe all overweight people read extensively on why we are overweight and of course so did I and there isn’t much about nutrition you can tell me. I have never been much of a dieter but have lost substantial weight during a fruit and nut phase and, much later, a vegan phase but this journey is about so much more.
I dream of going to hike Torres del Paine and Abel Tasman and, while hosting Couch Surfers Marcus and Kate Westberg from Life Through a Lens, I couldn’t even complete the hike to the waterfall in Wilderness National Park with them. Embarrassing to say the least but more than embarrassment was the realisation, if I couldn’t do that, how could I even contemplate hiking through Patagonia?
In the last 5 or so years, my body has started to protest. As a photographer I used to crouch down to get a better angle but found that I just couldn’t do that anymore. Around 2007 I had severe, stress relates, muscle spasms in my left shoulder which have left me with almost constant pain and, through cold and wet winters, limited mobility. During my round-the-world trip in 2010 I was traipsing across historical sites, trails in far off places and beautiful look-out points and found that one of my knees just didn’t like that – another page right out of my mom’s book.
One of my best friends once told me that, even though I am overweight, I still live my life to the fullest but was that really the truth? In 2008, while we were both still living in Gauteng, we did a road trip down the Garden Route and I gave him a Canopy Tour for a Christmas present. Of course I told him that I didn’t want to do it while the ugly truth was, I was just too heavy to do it with him. I exceeded the weight limit!
In 2007, while hiking Los Lagos, Huerquehue I decided not to continue with the hike after I hit the ice line as I was too tired but, more importantly, realised that, should I fall and injure myself, it would take a horde of small Chilean men to get me off that mountain.
I was stuck in a fun park swing once and had to be rescued by a friend’s dad and I still colour with embarrassment if I think about that one! Don’t even mention the embarrassment of having to ask for a seat-belt extension on a plane, being asked to move as you can’t sit in an emergency exit row if you ask for an extension or, my ultimate, flying without a seat belt on Turkish Airlines as three stewards – including the head steward – failed to think it important to get me one.
Enters the personal trainer.
My friend Karen asked me whether I would be interested in becoming her guinea pig for her studies through eta College. In the place I was, to keep on looking myself in the eye, the only possible answer was to accept with a very grateful heart.
As mentioned in a previous post, when we started on the 8th of January, I weighed a whopping 139.2kg. Initially we started with 3 mornings a week but it wasn’t too long before we increased that to four. Some mornings it was tough to get out of bed and it took every bit of willpower I had. When I started a new job, we tried moving it to evenings but I was just too exhausted in the evenings so I was completely in her debt when she offered to move me to an even earlier spot. It is one thing to get up at 04:30 for oneself but to know someone else is getting up at the same time for your benefit is just humbling!
We alternate between pure cardio days and strength and resistance training. We work with a minimum of equipment and train outside whenever we can, using the beach and the hills around us as tools. She has been amazing in my training program and have never allowed me to become bored with a routine – I love the recent addition of kettle bells. I have regained almost full mobility in my shoulder and, except for really long stretches in front of the computer, have no more pain in my shoulder. I can do 34 consecutive (ladies) push-ups – I couldn’t do one at the beginning of the year.
Of course there were days when my body hated me, days where every movement was accompanied by protesting muscles and days when I would have given a lot not to do just-one-more-step-up. Yet I revel in the fact that I can have a conversation, albeit slightly staccato, while climbing a hill. At the beginning of the year I couldn’t do a single dip, now I manage 15. I was unable to hold a bar, resting on my shoulders, with both hands, now I do it with ease.
I have competed in three organised races, two road and one trail and, while I may not have completed all of them in the alloted time, I have completed all of them. I have shaved two minutes on my 1.6 kilometre fitness assessment from August till now so we’ll get there.
I have lost 10kg and, while it may not seem much to most people, I have done so without making any major changes to my diet and without drinking any toning and weight loss supplements – I believe casein should be limited and whey is poison. I have lost 41.5cm overall and will very soon have to have my pants altered for the third time. I may be a long way off from Patagonia but, as I weight less than 130kg, I am just over 9kg away from a zip line adventure.
I couldn’t have done any of this without Karen and can only echo these words from Tracey Melass, in the August 2012 Shape magazine’s article with the title What Exercise Suits You Best?: “The enforced discipline of a trainer appealed to me, because there is nowhere to hide. I knew I was more likely to get results if someone was cracking a whip behind me! Having a set appointment meant I had to be there at a certain time and had my trainers’ full attention for an hour. It changes things dramatically when someone is monitoring your every step.”.
Thank you Karen, for your willingness to take me on this journey and for many, many early mornings when you got out of bed in the dark to help me along this road!