The fitness thang

So, this is a bit different. Well – for me, it’s a bit different. Being an introverted writer and what you’d call pretty bloody private, talking about personal stuff is a Very Big Deal and for the most part I just don’t. But then I thought about some of the blogs I like to read, and how brave and sharing those bloggers are, so I thought … okay. I’ll give it a go.

But to spare those of you who aren’t interested in one writer’s journey back to physical fitness, I shall now go behind the cut!

Still here? Great! So let’s go …

Anyone who’s laid eyes on me in the flesh lately, or even seen a recent photo, is perfectly aware that right now there is – to put it bluntly – far too much flesh. I’m certainly aware of it. I’ve been aware of it for a while, but like so many folk in my position I’ve been wading neck deep in the River of Denial. However, in the last month I’ve waded out again and am now determined to slay the beast once and for all.

It wasn’t always the case. I wasn’t always a butterball. As a kid I was really active, what with the school sports and the playing netball and then getting my own horse, which involved enormous amounts of physical activity. When you factor in a mother who loved cooking, and almost always cooked fabulously healthy meals (unless you count the occasional treacle tart … sigh …) then I never had a weight problem. I did put on some weight towards the end of university – for various reasons the physical activity got put on hold – but then I joined a gym and got very very fit and slender. Possibly too slender. 54 kilos. Size 10 jeans just out of the dryer were loose on me. And then I went to the UK and started running, because the UK gyms were stupidly expensive and frankly not very safe. That was brilliant. I got super running fit, covering around 40 miles a week. I weighed 57 kilos. After that I went to work professionally with horses, which meant even more intense physical activity – and that’s when the wheels fell off the wagon.

Basically, because of the horses, I broke my immune system. The doctor I saw in Buckingham thought I had leukemia, my white blood cell count was so bad. But no, it was just a shocking case of strep throat. I sort of recovered, and continued working with the horses, but I never really got over it and eventually I came home. That was in 1984, and from that point on I just kept getting sick. Many many cases of flu, bronchitis, pleurisy, even swine flu at one point. In the end I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and that put paid to any thought of physical activity. It certainly ended my lifetime of having horses. By a rough reckoning I ended up being hamstrung by that crappy disorder for about 15 years. I had it a long time before I realised what was going on, and a lot longer after diagnosis because nobody really understood it and I kept trying to exercise myself better.

Yeah. That was dumb.

But in the end I figured out how to deal with the condition, slowly moved into the recovery phase, started exercising again, and got fit again, and shaved off enough flab to get within cooee of my optimum weight. 68 kilos. That was in time for my first major research trip to the UK, when I was romping around castles and leaping up the sides of cliffs hardly breaking a sweat.

Then something went wrong right after that trip – I still don’t know what, possibly a sinus infection that went haywire – and that, allied to the spinal issues that started cropping up (a combination of the accumulated fallout from car accidents, riding accidents and hours and hours of sitting in front of a computer writing books) meant I got weak, I lost fitness, I gained weight. Then it became a vicious circle – too weak to exercise, get depressed, eat crap, gain weight, more strain on the back, more weakness, eating more crap … I’m sure you get the picture. The wonderful culmination of all this was waking up on my birthday nearly 3 years ago in acute distress, having in my sleep (!) ruptured one lower lumbar disc and prolapsed 2 more. Suffice it to say I experienced levels of pain unsurpassed in my experience – that was, until I managed an abcessed jawbone last year. I repeated that little adventure earlier this year (because going into shock from pain once apparently isn’t enough) and also dealt with a neck issue that kept me immobile for weeks, plus more niggles from my very temperamental lower back. Let’s just say the last few years have been … extremely trying.

Which brings us to now. And now I’m ready to put all that behind me, to restore myself to health in all its facets, to rediscover the happiness and contentment and advantages that come with being fit.

I guess I’m confessing all of this because I’m thinking I’m not the only person out there in the world who’s had some physical challenges, who’s not at the weight or fitness level they once were, and desperately want to be again. Or who’ve never reached their fitness goals, but want to. I’m thinking perhaps folk who find this blog via my writing or my FB page might recognise themselves in my story and be tempted to join me on this journey to regain lost health and strength and fitness.

I’d certainly like to share the adventure. Be accountable to the world so I can no longer kid myself. Share the blogs that have inspired me, recipes, stuff like that.  Also some thoughts I have about the the emotional process of getting fit and losing weight, the challenges, the pitfalls, and the way our culture treats human physicality. I say human because when it comes to body issues both men and women are harmed by some aspects of our culture. I’d like to explore those and create a safe space for discussion and support. Fat is not just a feminist issue. It’s a human issue. As a species, in too many cultures, we are suffocating ourselves both with excess flesh and the crippling expectations of being young and beautiful and a particular body type, no matter how unrealistic that might be. I want to escape from both traps. I want to breathe freely again. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

So now, in this Talkative Writer blog, I’ll be putting up posts not about writing and the writing life, but about my journey towards getting fit again, for good this time. Poor health is a killer of creativity. It’s a killer of meeting deadlines. It’s a killer of happiness. I’m tired of not liking what I see in the mirror. I’m tired of struggling to write because I’m unwell, because my back hurts, because my brain is foggy and sluggish. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines. It’s past time I ran out onto the field of life and played the game for all it’s worth.

I’d love it if you ran out there with me …

17 thoughts on “The fitness thang

  1. Thank you for sharing. The journey back to fitness is a tough road, but it’s undeniably worth the effort. I’m in the middle of it myself and it’s always a great motivator to hear the stories of others. I wish you the best of luck! 🙂

    • Thanks, Kayleen! It’s a sucky journey that I”ve taken before. I really really want this to be the last time, and am taking steps accordingly. And in the spirit of mutual motivation *g* I’d love to hear how your journey is going!

      • It’s going very well, thank you! I’ve had a couple of missteps here and there, but I’m down 12kg from my highest weight and I’m really happy. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m determined to stick with it.

  2. Thanks for writing this. I am on the long way back from being incredibly unfit as well. Very similar sort of trajectory I got insanely fit at 30 weighed 78 kgs then injury and illness and at 38 I was just over 107kg. In the last year I have managed to get the weight down and hope by 40 i’ll be somewhere around 82 kgs and running again.

    • Excellent! I have missed running so much. I’m about to start volunteering with Parkrun, with the end goal of getting back to some low mileage stuff. And if everything holds together, the ultimate plan is to run the City to Surf. Ha! We are the champions! We will rock this!

  3. I was a dancer in college before my husband went to Iraq, and while he was there gained a large amount of weight because of a combination of depression and inactivity. It’s been several years, and I, too, am slowly working back up to levels of fitness I used to enjoy. Progress is being made. Lately I’ve been biking to an from work (about 2-4 miles a day, depending on my route), plus long rides on the weekends and trying to dance 3 nights a week. I haven’t been as faithful with the dancing as I’d like, though I have managed to bike almost every day… I would love to follow your journey while working on my own!

    • Brilliant, Sydney! I am utterly hopeless with a pushbike and totally a stress-head when it comes to traffic, so I really admire your dedication and courage. And I’m thrilled to make this getting fit again journey with you. What kind of dancing do you do? I love dance, but it’s something else I don’t have the required dna for. I mean sure, I can bop around the loungeroom, but beyond that? Pfft. *g*

      • Bopping is always good though! ^.^ I am highly supportive of all manner of dance. I did modern and jazz when I was in college, so the freestyling in my living room tends to look a lot like some combination of the two. On nights when I’m not into moving the furniture around I actually play Dance Dance Revolution with a dancepad on my laptop, which burns a surprising number of calories once you get decent at it. It’s not much like *actual* dancing, but it has music and rhythmic steps, so it’s close enough in a pinch.

        Are you planning to go back to running, or are you looking into other things? Funny, actually, that you mention being hopeless with biking and dancing yet used to run for miles; I am absolutely abysmal at running and always have been. 😛

      • Yes, as I mentioned, running. Plus other stuff. I’ll share the whole plan next fitness post. Mind you, I’m not a good runner. I just get into the groove and keep on plodding. *g* And speaking of dance, did you hear they cancelled Oz So You Think You Can Dance again???? Buggers.

  4. Understand all too well. Similar experience (and my teen years were filled with horses and dancing, though not together) and health conditions and then a body that refuses to co-operate. This year there were plans to kickstart while travelling (walking) then to continue once home and ongoing Achilles heel and other ankle tendon issues have waylaid plans. Again. So over it. And, am *touching wood* hopeful I can finally (only er, eight months delayed) look to re-start.

    Am a complete gumby with bikes and use swimming, with aspirations to have joints (pretty much the legs and shoulders) find a comfortable accord with me so we can swim and take up belly dance (one I though confronting for me is one I would love to return to).

    Good luck with your journey and will be here cheering you on.

    • We can cheer each other on! I tell you, if I had a dollar for every false start, restart, start over, you name it, I’d have a lot of dollars. Sheesh. I really love swimming, it’s like zen meditation. And yes, ankles. I’ve had around 7 sprains and 2 bouts of majorly torn ligaments. So much fun. Not. But never mind. We’ll get there!

  5. Yes! I am glad you have been so open about this and am also glad that others have commented with their similar stories. I am trying to get into running – I’ve never been interested in it at all. Now that it’s rainy season, it’s even more of a challenge but I’ll just have to keep trying!

    • Wow. How come it’s so easy to fall behind on mail and stuff????

      Anyhow! Good luck with the running. I’m slowly slowly starting up a very gentle couch to 5k thing, incorporating it into my overall routine. I have no deadline, I don’t care how long it takes me to get there. But the thing is, running is great for cardio fitness and really helps to lean you out. And that is the goal! Mind you, I’m being totally control freak about it and doing it for starters on a treadmill. Do you have access to one? That might solve your rainy season problem!

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