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The Goalposts

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It’s cold this morning, proper cold, the kind of cold that gets you by surprise after months of warm. Cold never used to bother me too much. I was well insulated. I recently went to Melbourne to visit my besty and her family, and we’ve known each other for around ten years, and for the first time ever I told her I needed an extra blanket because I was cold. She was thrilled because for the entire time we have been friends I’ve laughed at her for being cold. The tables have turned.

In the interests of honesty, I have to tell you that the visit to the plastic surgeon a couple of months ago sent me into a huge tailspin. While it was extraordinarily positive, it set off a complete nosedive in my mood. Let me explain.

The surgeon is a beautiful man. He was stunned at what I’ve achieved through hard work – most of his patients who come for skin removal have lost weight via surgery such as gastric banding. He has, he said, a soft spot for people who have lost massive amounts of weight through sheer determination alone. He looked at my body, my excess skin, and said some amazing things. That I more than qualify for medically necessary skin removal. That there’s around 7kg of excess skin in my belly alone. That really, I could just maintain my weight and after the skin was gone, I’d be at a healthy goal weight for my frame. After being substantially overweight for all of my life, this was incredible.

I was quickly disappointed though, given the (well warranted) cost of the surgery. Even with private health, still ridiculously out of reach.

What my brain took out of that was this:

Without surgery, I will never be at my goal.

And once again, I felt like a failure.

Just like that, my brain took over and everything got hard. I filled up with doubts about being a PT. Who wants a PT that looks like me? Unless you know the back story, and unless you realise that my bulk is largely made up of excess skin, I just look… unfit. Everything became difficult. I struggled to see the point of going to the gym, particularly when I was surrounded by teeny tiny PTs. My studies got harder, because it was a reminder that my body isn’t normal for a PT. Everything, everything spiralled.

I went back to the plastic surgeon to ask him more questions and to work out what to do to short circuit this funk before it got completely out of control. I was cutting it close, to be honest.

We talked about goals. We talked about long term plans. We talked about all sorts of things.

That was a week ago.

And today, I’ve woken up with a new approach. It’s been bubbling away and developing for the last seven days.

This photo is from a fun run we did on the weekend. I look at it and the noisy part of my brain focuses on the way the skin hanging off my belly makes me look so big in that area. But now I see my quads. I see the lines in my neck that I never used to have. I see the way my shoulders are back, the pride in my stance. Fuck yeah. I can do this.

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I’ve shifted the goalposts.

Losing weight and getting fit and healthy was never, ever about being aesthetically pleasing. It was never about forcing my body to be something it just isn’t built to be. I knew all along that my build and frame wouldn’t let me be a waif, which is fortunate because that’s not what I want.

I want to be strong.

That first step into the gym, almost two years ago now: it wasn’t about one day looking perfect.

It was about saving my life.

And just like that, skin or the surplus of it, is not such a problem.

Because I’m saving my life. And I can live with the apron. I can live with the saggy, empty boobs. I can live with arm skin. I can live with floppy thighs. And every day that I get to live with these things is a good day because it means I am achieving what I set out to do.

I’ve saved my life.

I don’t look like what you’d expect a traditional PT to look like. But on the other hand, I don’t actually want to look like that.

I want to be strong.

I might not have a body that you would aspire to. But determination? Stubbornness? Drive? I have those, and my god you’re going to need them if your goal is anything like mine.

Because when you’re fighting to save your life, when you’re battling the very shell you’re wrapped in, you need every internal resource you can summon. Because the battle is inside.

Which is a good reason to not worry about how the outside looks.

These are the things that matter when you shift your goal posts.

This is what matters when you realise that you’re saving your life.

Remember When

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Those memory things on Facebook, they can either make your day or break your heart, can’t they. Some days it feels like all they show you is your dead pet caterpillar and what noxious weeds can do to your prize petunia; they can make you wonder why you wore what you did to a social event eight years ago and relive the cringe-worthy moment that you spouted your love publicly for a toad. Day ruined before it even starts. Other days though, you can see a pattern emerging, or evidence of change and growth.

Three years ago today, I was recovering from yet another broken ankle. This was the break that finally pushed me to see a different orthopaedic surgeon, who would reconstruct my ankle, repair my calf muscle and fix my Achilles – the steps towards being able to finally walk correctly after seven years of managing with an ankle I’d destroyed quite well after falling down some stairs.

Two years ago today, I was finally allowed to leave the house after being diagnosed with whooping cough. This was a scary time, I remember feeling like I was fighting for my life. Aside from just breathing, one of the main issues the doctor kept talking about was my co-morbidities. Isn’t that a reassuring phrase. The GP who was managing the whooping cough had written a referral to both a respiratory specialist, and also to the emergency room of the local hospital, just in case. As an asthmatic, whooping cough was quite problematic. But the other issue was my weight. It was a huge amount of excess load to be carrying around with me while I struggled from the nebuliser to bed, and back again. It also made treatment tricky – it wasn’t until the steroid dose was tripled that I started getting any form of relief.

Whooping cough was, I think, my absolute low point. At the time I felt like a victim. Like nothing was ever going to go right. That life was just relentless in it’s taunting and slaps. And even though I was surrounded by good people (albeit at a distance while I was in quarantine), I had a distinct feeling of being totally, utterly alone.

But evidently, something changed.

I had a slow recovery from whooping cough. Extreme tiredness. Trembling constantly because of all the medication and steroids. Gaining even more weight rapidly, again as a result of the steroids. But it wasn’t long after this that something shifted.

Because one year ago, on this day, I hatched the idea that maybe one day, I could be a personal trainer. And I referred to it so vaguely and so cryptically, that if I didn’t know that’s what I was talking about, I’d have skipped over the memory. But I knew what I was talking about.

I’d been going to the gym for about 8 months at this stage. Actually, maybe a bit longer. I’d made progress. I’d turned my sinking ship around and started sailing towards directions unknown, but I was OK with not knowing where I was going – I could feel myself being stronger and healthier and happier.

But I still had the issues of confidence and doubt. In that I had none of one, and a lot of the other. So much so, that when I finally squeaked the idea of being a PT out loud, I firmly believed I’d be laughed at and told to swallow a large dose of reality. But that’s not how it went at all.

As I spoke out that idea, it kept being met with unbridled joy and excitement. My people were confident in me, and urged me to push towards this goal.

I don’t think I’ve shared it here before, but I actually submitted my first expression of interest in the course around this time. When the information date rolled around, I panicked and didn’t go. I just didn’t go. The second time? I went.

Because now, on this day today, in 2017, I’m halfway through the Certificate IV in Fitness. I’m almost a personal trainer.

The facts?

I still have some weight to lose to be where I want to be. Not because of aesthetics, not because of the BMI – but for my goal of where I want to be. But I’m OK with that.

I still do not look like the traditional personal trainer. But I’m OK with that.

Already, I’ve seen that as an industry, there is a tendency to rely on how people look. In getting a job at fitness centres, how you look counts. And I’ve even seen and heard people commenting that they wouldn’t want a PT who doesn’t have a body they’d aspire to. But I’m actually OK with that one, as well.

I know my story. I know my truth. And I know that there are people that I can help, and perhaps best help because of this imperfect body.

And if nothing else, future Facebook memories will attest to that.

The point of this post?

As much as I hate the way the word has been trawled through crappy reality TV and cheap self help books, trust the journey. If you had told me on this day one year ago that I was indeed going to be a PT, I wouldn’t have believed you, even though the idea was in my mind. Certainly not when I was recovering from whooping cough. Not at all when I was sitting on my bottom watching my ankle change colours.

But sometimes, you can do nothing else but trust that somehow, you’re on a journey.

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Back to the start

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The most common question I get asked is, “How did you get started?”.

Now, I know they’re not asking questions regarding how I was conceived because god knows I don’t want to discuss or imagine this. No, generally this question is asked when people see photos like this:

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Undesirable No. 1 

As an aside, people look at me fitting into one leg of my jeans or shorts or in this case, jean shorts, and comment that I’m half the size. In terms of weight loss, no. I’ve now officially lost over a third of my body weight. So I’m not half the size. Or half the person. Maybe that’s my brain being factual, or maybe it is the actual facts in answer to a statement where I have missed the point. Anything is possible. But my money would be on the latter option.

Anyway, how did I get started?

For me, the answer is this: Find a reason.

It needs to be a good one. An overarching reason. A reason that will make you tie your shoe laces and go, even when it’s cold or you’re sad or too busy or too stressed. It has to be a big reason, a reason that resonates with the core of your being and your will.

Nudging obesity related health conditions was not a big enough reason.

Being in constant pain was not a big enough reason.

Slow, unfit, hugely overweight: not big enough reasons, not for me.

Hating my body, and myself for what I’d let it become? Still not there.

Because all of these reasons, which are good reasons, weren’t enough for me to act.

For me, the big enough reason happened 14 years ago. But I didn’t turn it into a reason until July of 2015. Almost two years ago. So it took twelve years to realise the reason was there. It also took a considerable mind shift.

14 years ago, my mum died very suddenly.

She had some health issues, and was overweight.

There are things I won’t ever forget from the night she died.

It’s easy and natural to be stuck in grief.

But the thing is, I knew I was heading down a path to recreate this moment for my people. I was barrelling down the road that was going to put my people through the same thing. And when I looked at them and thought about them, I couldn’t understand why I would put them through that. For some of them, it would be the second time they would have to confront these experiences.

And so that cloak of mourning and grief had to be changed.

It became the hand on my back, pushing me forwards. It became the reminder on to the too cold too tired too hard days. It became the furnace that rose up from the pit of my belly and told me I could do this. It became the momentum behind my walking and running, the power in my weight lifting, the reason to scan my gym card or to sign up for yet another fun run.

When I hit the 50kg gone point, my aunt told me that I had realised mum’s goal.

And as my health improved, as well as my fitness, I had realised my own.

I’ve dodged a bullet, not only for myself but also for my people. And it comes down to that reason.

Essentially, my reason was love.

My reason was about changing the way that most painful moment changed my life. It took 12 years to get there, fortunately that was OK. But I don’t know how much time there was going to be to find that reason. I have no idea where I would have been today if I hadn’t started.

It’s a sobering thought.

Here’s something I know, though:

If you find a reason – and it must be a big one – then you’ve started. From there, it’s about moving. Find something you’ve enjoyed in the past. Walking? Swimming? Skipping? Set those beginning goals low. Walk to the mailbox and back each day. Walk in water if you’re sore. It’s not about speed, because you’re not racing anyone. It’s not about distance, because even marathon runners start small.

It’s just about starting.

And then remembering why you started.

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I won’t ever stop wanting my mum back. But I also know that the last thing she ever gave me was the power to save my life.

Which seems fitting, given she gave me that life in the first place.

 

On This Day

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To the me on the left: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy.  I know you are uncomfortable. Everything hurts. Nothing is easy. Not walking not sitting not standing not anything. Every career path you’ve tried, you’ve struggled at because in your head you feel like everyone you know is judging you because of your size. They weren’t, but it’s hard to change a mind set, and it’s hard not to project your insecurities.

To the me in the middle: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy. You kept it going. The idea of being a personal trainer was still tucked away behind that head of curls and strange ideas. You were discovering, at around this point, that you enjoyed exercising. You enjoyed the fun runs, the weights, the treadmills and the spin bikes and the different things that your body was suddenly able to do.

To the me on the right: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy. You’re almost there now. You’ve taken that idea of being a personal trainer, completed the first part of your qualification and started the second. You’ve learned that the number on the scale isn’t overly important, what’s important is having a goal broken into micro goals, and then achieving them. You thought that losing weight would help you to be happy with yourself, and with your body. But then you discovered the joy of excess skin and chafing and random clapping. What you’ve been working for is hidden by a daily reminder of what was. What’s important though, is that it’s there. Hidden, yes. But there. You’ve worked your arse off, literally.

 

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Those memory things on Facebook, they come up every day to remind you or taunt you or embarrass you about what you were doing on this day in previous years. The memories only go back for as long as you have been on Facebook, which proves that there is life outside of social media. Or, that there was.

It was because of the On This Day feature that I realised for the first ever time that my regime of training, walking, running, lifting and generally moving was making a difference to my body. It was 12 months ago, on this day, apparently, that I made this realisation.

It was a photo of me in my Scout uniform shirt. It was the largest size shirt that I could purchase. You can see how it fits – it was tight. And I remember seeing that photo of myself and thinking, “Hang on, my Scout shirt doesn’t fit like that anymore!”. So I put on my shirt and took a photo and compared them, side by side. It was a pretty huge moment.

Anyway, that original photo popped up in my On This Day reel today. I’m not doing Scouts anymore – I finished up last year so that I could focus more on my shifting priorities. So for shits and giggles more than anything else, I went and found my shirt and popped it on.

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The me on the left. The me in the middle. And the me on the right.

Thanks.

 

 

Challenge: Powercamp.

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You might recall my post regarding Spin class – a bit of a beginner’s guide to doing one of those bike classes at the gym. Well, today’s post is about Cross Fit. I have done four of these classes now, at my brilliant gym Planet Fitness at Charlestown. As an aside, this is the gym to go to if you’re nervous about the gym. The people are lovely, it is welcoming and completely non-confrontational. You can wear your fancy pants gym gear or, like me, you can fluff about in tights and a shirt that is way too big. What you wear is not important. The main gist at Charlestown Planet Fitness seems to be that if you get through the door you’re a bloody champion. And I like this attitude.

So, the cross fit classes at Planet Fitness are called Powercamp. Planet Powercamp. You can check them out here.

Here’s the Hot Tip list for Powercamp:

1. Don’t wait until you think you can do it. Just do it. You will see all ranges of fitness, ages, sizes, genders and clothing at a Powercamp session.

2. The activities for the session will be written on a board in a tone of pink that I initially thought was menacing, but now recognise as a bit of a line in the sand. Part challenge and part dare, the list that you are greeted with each session changes, seems long at first but as you move through it the satisfaction of making a mark on the floor for each round is awesome. Because you will get through that list.

3. What if you can’t? My biggest challenge has always been the head game. I get so stuck thinking I can’t. But I can. And when there are things on that list that I am not yet able to master, there are options to change it around. However – it’s surprising how quickly I’ve starting thinking that it’s time to add plates to my bar, or to rope my trainer into helping me to knees-to-chest hanging from a bar instead of lying down. The reality is in a class session there is a range of abilities and fitness levels. And the people who run the classes, they know this. So there is always, always an option to get the same benefit from the exercise but in a different way that is appropriate to your current level. So yes. Yes, you can.

4. Bounce factor. This is, for me, a two bra class. Actually, life in general has become a two bra event, due to my escaping boob skin. But yes. You will bounce. But the thing is, nobody gives a damn. Nobody is watching you. They’re just getting through their own cycle of exercises to the best of their own ability.

5. Satisfaction rating? High. When I walk in and see the workout for the day written on the board, I confess that I panic a little bit. But when I am done? When I know I have given it everything I have? When I see that I am getting further and faster and better technique? And when I am dripping wet with sweat and my legs are aching and I’m gulping on my water bottle like it’s a nectar from the gods? There’s only one word. Proud.

Powercamp is 100% less scary than it sounds. For me it comes back to the head game: knowing the skills I have, the fitness I have, and pushing that knowledge further every time.

It’s not easy. But if it was, would it really be worth doing?

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Cross fit. Have you done it? Would you do it?