I never really had any interest in sports activities. In primary school, I remember attending martial arts classes for a few years, but I don’t know why we never continued them. My family joined a fitness club for a few years too, which we went once a week to swim, whilst the adults played squash and badminton, I think. Swimming was probably the only consistent activity for a while, which I really enjoyed. In primary school, I joined the hand-ball team… and for those who know me, before you drop your jaws in disbelief, I had promptly left the team when I injured my thumb in practice one day.
Early on in secondary school, one of my Physical Education (P.E.) teachers decided to do a stamina/heart-rate test on all of us. We took our resting pulse, then we did a 200 metre sprint, then immediately took our pulse, waited five minutes and took a recovery pulse. My results, which I can’t remember in detail, was so horrifying that my teacher told me not to join in on any run activities and that I could be excused for most physical activities. I was a little shocked, but secretly happy that I have just been given leave to skive P.E. classes. That was probably my downfall in sports activities.
I think when I was about fifteen onwards until university, I did not partake in anything that is even minutely physically challenging. There was the occasional swim, but it was more a once in a blue moon leisurely activity than anything else.
In my second year of university, thanks to my lovely and very active friend, Louise, I shaped up a bit through 30 minute walks to/from uni daily, even returning to the house for lunch breaks. I joined the climbing society and was introduced to the world of adrenaline, through going up climbing gym walls and apsailing down, trusting your belayer with your life… or at least your legs. That was, unfortunately, just a taster as after leaving university, I went back to doing nothing again.
Between the ages of 20 and 29, I climbed on and off… but only in gyms and only once outdoors, which was an AMAZING experience. What I did not realise was that though I had new muscles to show for from climbing, I was physically not really fit enough get any better at it. I had no core strength, no stamina. I was not fit.
At this point, I should let you know that from 18 years of age, I had put on a kilo to two kilos a year in weight, quite consistently. I am quite lucky that when I started, I was pretty skinny, so I kinda got away with it. My peak weight was 61 kgs when I was 30. It was also that same year that I somehow decided to sort my fitness level out. Perhaps it was some kind of a life crisis stage.
So, in the summer of 2009, when I was 30, I started running and going to the gym. A friend introduced me to this running programme called ‘From Couch to 5k’. It was the best thing for me. With my crazy heart rate and complete lack of stamina, I needed somewhere to start. I followed the programme for three weeks before I could manage a really slow jog for 30 minutes non-stop. It was the most amazing thing for me. I still remember my first day, where I jogged for a minute and walked for a minute for 30 minutes and probably completed only 1km. By the end of it, I was panting and feeling like I would collapse. The amazing thing about running is that you really do see and feel the difference in your body as you do it more and more.
My husband and I signed up for a 4 km charity run in November 2009. Ken was completed ready. I was aiming to complete it without dying. It was a good plan.
I don’t remember the time I came in, but I knew that they had taken off the finish line (since the next batch of runners for the 10 km run had already started!) for the 4 km runners. Ken had finished much earlier than me and was standing at the finish line waiting. I remember thinking to myself “you can see the finish line, you can see the finish line, just a little more…” and suffered the last few metres running into Ken’s arms. I was gasping, sputtering, unable to speak… and Ken will tell you that he did think that I was going to pass out or something… but I completed my first 4 km run. I was so happy.
After that, I went to the gym for a run on the treadmill, probably only doing 3 or 4 km every Sunday, since I was only allowed access to Ken’s work gym in the weekends. We then signed up for the 10 km run for the same charity the next year in November 2010. A couple of months before the race, I had quit my full-time job to start writing, so I had more time in the day and decided to take up membership at the local gym. That was when I would go in and do a 4 km run on the treadmill twice a week and loads of stretches.
We completed the 10 km run with no problems. I wasn’t after a good time or anything, I was just pleased that I managed to finish it without too much pain or suffering. We also found out not long after that, that we were going to move back to London (from Tokyo) in February 2011, so after November 2010, all activities were at a stop again.
Preparations for the move took over our lives and after arriving back in London, temporary accommodations stopped us from creating any sort of routine, until we moved into our own place at the end of May 2011. We joined Fitness First (which conveniently is just across the road from us) in mid-June and they got us to take up their introductory offer which included three personal trainer sessions, which we did. Our personal trainer, Steve is brilliant. He asked me what my goal was for using the gym. I still need to get my heart rate under control, so that is my priority, with general fitness and hopefully better upper body strength to help climbing at a later stage.
Steve has created a few sets of training that I have been following. I have been monitoring my heart rate whilst I run now and there has been visible improvements. I still work my pulse up quite high when running, but my recovery rate is much better. On top of that, my general fitness has definitely improved, tremendously. My lumpy bits (girls, you know where they are) are slowly disappearing, being replaced by taut muscles and my endurance levels are getting better and better. The most shocking thing for me, though, is that I am actually enjoying all this physical activity. Sometimes, I can’t be bothered to do anything at home, but I would head to the gym to sweat out a session and feel better for it.
Ken has been going to the gym more too, in an effort to lose weight (and he has lost 10 kgs already!) so I am sure that both our constant activities are actually spurring each other on.
I know that this is probably another phase in my life and that at points in future, I will probably reduce/increase/change my fitness routines and sports activities to suit the trend, my age, my physical needs and more. However, I know too that being physically able and fit is a good feeling. Though I have never been overweight, I felt slower and heavier as I gained weight through the years before. I think that it is important for most of us to be able to handle at least our own weight and feel comfortable with it.
I am now at my fitness peak and I hope that it will always be an upwards graph. That is perhaps quite a large task to place on myself, but I think it is a good goal to work towards, even if I do not achieve it. Good health is worth more than anything else in the world, after all.
So, if I forget and ever abandon my health and fitness at any point in future, I hope that I will remember to pull this piece up as a reminder and perhaps as a kick up my backside… so that I never forget again.
Growing older does not and should not mean getting slower!