So to those of you who don’t already know for the past 6 months I’ve gone through a bit of a life transition. If you follow me on Instagram you will already be well aware of what I am talking about and if you don’t then I’m sure the title of this blog has given it away anyway.
It all began at the beginning of July 2015 after spending June eating and hibernating after my second year exams. I started a new job as a Barista at Costa 5 miles away from where I lived. My dad used to cycle to work before he got ran over on his way back from work one day a few months prior; he hadn’t been on a bike since. I decided I would cycle to work to be healthy and save some money but also because I didn’t want cycling to be this eternal dark cloud over my family. It meant more than just riding a bike when I first rode to work. It took me an hour to get there and there were a couple of particularly horrendous hills on my route, which admittedly I walked up at the beginning. I was doing the night shift so I arrived an hour early at 9pm to shower and sort myself out before beginning my shift at 10pm. I would then be on my feet until 7am then I would cycle another hour back home and sleep all day, to wake up to eat and cycle again to work. I was working fulltime during the summer so I did back to back shifts and the only daylight I saw for months was the sunrise at the service station the store was located at before cycling home to sleep. I was frequently told I was nuts for doing this and people were impressed by my commitment. Unsurprisingly my New Year’s resolution is to have a better work life balance! My parents worried a lot about me cycling, especially in the dark. I had to text them every time I arrived at work to let them know I arrived safely and once or twice due to my sleep drunk haziness I forgot and had them frantically calling my work to check I wasn’t embedded into someone’s car bonnet. I always cycle on the pavement, though with a helmet on because despite what the law says road users aren’t patient enough with cyclists to be sharing the roads with them and I will never cycle on the road until that improves. Before my dad got ran over which was not his fault, he had told my family of numerous horror stories of vans trying to intimidate him by driving close to his bike and honking their horn, lorries rushing past and dragging his bike across the road with the wind resistance they cause and people just generally being arseholes because they can’t wait five seconds. So now I don’t care if I look like a big nerd in wearing correct sports gear or too old for be cycling on the pavements, because people don’t understand what affect that collision had on my dad. He’ll never be able to resume his previous job as a fire man, he has brain damage, broken bones which haven’t healed properly, nerve damage and takes morphine and other pain medication just to get through the everyday pain he still suffers nearly a year later.
I ate well that entire summer and cycled to and from work everyday and at the end of it when I returned back to University I had lost 1 stone! I wanted to get fit but my motivation was not to lose weight, which was a first for me because like most girls, every other week I would say I was on a diet and then give up. I’d managed to master my route to work and tackled all those hills I previously skipped out also the change in diet gave me a lot more energy. I decided that I would continue my good eating habits when I got back to Glasgow and I would start going to the gym again since I have a free gym in my building. I used to go to the gym everyday a few years ago and even got a lifeguard qualification but when I started at University the gym just seemed like too much hard work and I had enough saving to not work in my first year. I’d done the typically student thing and gained some weight in my first year and I’d wanted to make a change for quite a while but I’d given up on the idea and didn’t mind the extra chub that much. I decided to start back with cardio, my old friend. I set myself personal goals, like burn 500 calories or do an hour minimum and just went from there. I listened to my music or watched TV in there and whenever the thought of the gym popped into my head I forced myself to go. I’d also moved into the city centre this year so I walk an hour to University and an hour back 3 times a week. I struggle giving any time to myself as I feel guilty if I’m not doing academic work so knowing I was doing something productive but for my body that guilt didn’t follow me when I exercised. Cardio is notoriously monotonous so I naturally felt my workout plateauing and decided to push myself harder so I ventured to the treadmill which I’d been avoiding because anyone who has tried to start running, which I think is everyone has will know how hard it is and how little progress you feel you’re making at the beginning. I incorporated it into my workout but I didn’t want that to lose its appeal either so I decided to start running outside too.
Running outdoors is the hardest exercise I have ever had to do hands down. Running up hills and not stopping when you naturally would because of onlookers randomly appearing making you not want to look weak and stop in front of them is tough! I was expecting to run for at least ten minutes without stopping on my first outdoor run as at this point I’d been eating well and working out for 4 months. However I forgot my inhaler (I’m asthmatic) and I struggled the whole way around my first route. I felt pathetic and was totally annoyed with myself. I’d run at a similar standard to what I would have starting from scratch after no exercise for months. I’ve never let my asthma be an excuse for my fitness so I couldn’t assess that experience as anything other than a lack of fitness on my part. I felt miserable dragging myself out for my second run. I took my inhaler this time but I was prepared for the same disappointing result. A few songs had passed and I realised I hadn’t yet stopped and despite it being hard I didn’t feel the overwhelming urge to stop that I was used to. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling as I could now finally see what all my hard work had done for me. I ran along the River Clyde in Glasgow, I jumped fences, I got lost and when I finally got back I’d run 5.5km and I was gobsmacked! Never in my life had I run that far. The furthest I’d run was round the block by my house or round the sports hall at school! I never expected to do anything like that in my life, let alone that day. That’s what I love about fitness, if you stick at it you will keep reaching the next level and discovering you can do these things you never imagined for yourself. I never thought I’d lift weights because I was scared of the myth that I’d get massive man arms, which is totally untrue by the way, but I do that now.
I used to avoid exercise like the plague and was a little fatty in my younger years at school. You couldn’t have paid me to move. So to those people who have never seen themselves as ‘sporty’ or ‘fit’ I was exactly the same and it is possible to recreate yourself into whoever you want to be. I hardly ever weigh myself anymore. This new lifestyle wasn’t intentional, it just happened by pushing myself one day at a time. I judge my progress off changes I can physically see and experience in my own body. Just as a fun little fact I was also contacted a few days ago by a sportswear brand to represent their company by wearing their clothes which they would give me for free and by being featuring on their Instagram page! I laughed when I read that because I had never thought of myself as being an ideal example of fitness. I know a lot of people will be starting the New Year with the resolution to get fit and lose weight so I thought now would be a good time to share my story and share my secrets of what helps me to stay on track and what I’ve learnt.
Beth’s Fitness Tips
- Social media – I post daily about what I’m eating, workout outfits, motivational messages and what exercise I did that day. Having an audience encourages you not to give in because people are watching and if you give up they will know. I follow a lot of other people who share the same lifestyle I do and its nice to be part of the fitness community. Fitness apps are also helpful. I love the MapMyRun app, having someone in my ear tracking my time and distance helps me push to the next goal. My Fitness Pal is also good if you’re trying to lose weight in that it makes you more aware of calorie content and you can see your weight loss physically mapped out for you but I would be careful becoming to obsessed about the numbers on it.
- Don’t diet – I cannot stress this enough. Be aware of calorie content but don’t count your calories, it’s a miserable existence. Eat foods you know are healthy like fruit and vegetables. Simply choosing healthier options will lead to weight loss and more energy.
- Variation – This applies to both meals and workouts. This is your new life so you need to keep it interesting to maintain it, trying a new exercise or recipe will help renew lost motivation.
- Stock up on sportswear- I love sportswear! I reward myself with funky patterned leggings and bright trainers rather than cake and wine. When you feel good in what you’re wearing you’ll feel less self conscious working out, consequently you’re more likely to stay longer and work harder because you’re not worried about sweat patches or your sweatpants falling down and overheating your legs. I am a bit of brand whore, I’m a big fan of Fabletics in particular but there are cheaper options, just make sure you’re not buying cheap thin material. Having sportswear makes the gym feel more a part of my life and I feel more a part of the gym looking the part.
- Do it for yourself – Everything I do is for myself. You should always want to improve yourself and be your best self. If your motivation stems from pleasing other people in those rough low points where you just want to fill your face with chocolate the only person who can talk you off the ledge is you, so if your hearts not in it, it’s not going to last.
- Set yourself goals – Keep these small. I’ve found that when I give myself realistically achievable goals I will push myself past them because I want to smash them and reach the next level. If you set yourself unrealistic goals when you don’t reach them you’ll make excuses and feel disheartened and probably give up because it will feel too hard to return to.
- Control your thoughts – This is the hardest one. You’re going to make excuses to not work out or to have that naughty treat but you need to learn to recognise when you’re doing this and remind yourself how good you feel when you complete a work out or when you’ve been good all day. Also you don’t want to erase any hard work you’ve done. If you do cave don’t let that derail you. Sometimes we eat cheese, sometimes we are too tired to workout and that’s fine. You need to be good to yourself. But you also need to recognise when this is a one off time you needed compared to a bad habit reappearing.
If you’re interested in following my journey my main posts are on my Instagram: bethleavesley and I’ll always follow people back on the MapMyRun app as I enjoy seeing other people’s progress as well as my own. I hope to see you all tearing up the streets and in the gym in January, just don’t take my machine, or I will hunt you down.