I remember it like it was yesterday: the sheer sense of frustration, the sense of loss, and yet a deep, instinctive knowing that I had to do something.
Just 18 months earlier, I had been the fittest- and healthiest-ever version of myself, having recently completed a 17-hour ironman triathlon; the culmination of a dream that required four years of building up my strength and stamina, as well as generally getting my act together. I was so proud of my achievement, and it represented so much more to me than a fitness event. It symbolised a journey towards becoming the sort of person that I wanted to be – who I’d dreamed I could be.
I thought I would be fit and healthy for life; that I could finally be the kind of person who goes out and exercises just for the fun of it. From now on, I could join any event I wanted at the drop of a hat. I’d finally made it, and nothing would ever be this hard ever again. Little did I know…
Pregnancy hit me like a train.
I felt sick, and I didn’t want to move at all. Mid-pregnancy, I felt like I could exercise again, but at the same time, I was an anxious first-time mum. Which exercises was I ‘allowed’ to do? Was it safe? Should I be more careful, seeing as though I’d had three months off? Confusion led to inaction, and then my baby was here.
You see so many incredible stories of fit, athletic women who work hard to recover their fitness soon after childbirth. I am in complete admiration of them, but it wasn’t my experience. My baby didn’t let me sleep, ever. I was up all night and then all through the days, too.
‘Sleep when he sleeps,’ they said!
Well, that advice doesn’t work with babies who only ever want to be carried. Fear of him waking would prevent me putting him down, and fear of squashing him would stop me sleeping myself. A sleep-deprived six months later, and I was not in good shape, neither physically nor mentally.
I’d worked so hard to improve my physical health, and now it felt like it was all just slipping away; like I’d gone into reverse, and all the work had been undone. I was back where I started, only worse, as I now had the family situation to balance, too. It was so frustrating. On the rare occasions where I had opportunities to exercise, I was either too tired or too busy being Mum to do anything, and so I started to wonder if it was time to accept frumpy mummy status, and consign my active lifestyle to the past.
After many false starts and motivation struggles,
I started to realise that it wasn’t just my baby stopping me from exercising; something inside my head was getting in the way. I’d set out with a new plan and all the best intentions, but then either guilt or laziness would stop me putting my plan into action. That was when I started looking for help. I found a life coach and decided to give it a try.
After just three sessions, she had helped me to change my whole perspective on how to approach getting active again. I started to realise that it didn’t have to be ‘all or nothing;’ it didn’t matter if the plan wasn’t carried out perfectly. Small steps and self-compassion were the ways forward. It took some years, and the road was a bumpy one at times, but I eventually went on to complete several more triathlons, a half-ironman and an ultramarathon in the proceeding years.
Now, this may be where you expect the ‘happily ever after’ story to end, but there’s a twist to this tale.
Yes, I got back to ironman levels of fitness, but the funny thing about going back to something you once had is that it’s never quite the same, and I soon realised that it wasn’t really what I wanted, either. I’d been on a journey, climbing a mountain, crashing to the bottom and then climbing back up again, and although I loved the view at the top, I began to understand that maintaining such an intense level of training and commitment wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I had learned the hard way that by pushing myself up those mountains again, I was only increasing my chances of crashing out and spending a few months (or years) doing not much at all. I began to wonder, What if… which is where the story of my book really begins.
What if there was a gentler, more balanced and more moderate way to approach fitness and exercise?
What if you could enjoy being healthy and active without feeling you had to push yourself so hard? What if moving your body could be about developing a greater sense of wellbeing, instead of some weird, modern-day penance for eating cake?
This is how the idea of Active Wellbeing was born.
My book is for women who want to find a better way to engage with fitness and exercise but are not quite sure how.
It’s for those who want to be more active, but have previously struggled with low motivation, lack of time and feelings of guilt for putting themselves first.
It’s also for those who are generally active, but sometimes find themselves locked in an internal debate about whether or not it’s self-indulgent to be taking care of themselves, forever asking if they’re doing too much or if it’s really worth the effort.
It’s also for women who, like me, used to spend a lot of time on sport and fitness, but whose lives have now changed to the point that they need to find a new approach.
This book didn’t exist when I needed it, and it didn’t exist for all the other women who needed it either. I spent years struggling, trying to figure out my own solutions, riding an emotional roller-coaster of thinking I’d solved it, just to find another hurdle and self-doubt around the corner. Eventually the answers came, but it was often a lonely journey.
That’s why I wrote my book.
We deserve better. We deserve to feel supported. We deserve to know that it’s ok to put our own needs first. We deserve to live healthy, active lives, without feelings of guilt or self-judgment. My book will help women learn to do exactly that. I can’t wait for you to read it.
You can find out more about my book at http://www.facebook.com/fitbee.co.uk