I have become expert in making excuses not to exercise; too busy, too tired and I walk the dog anyway. I am also fortunate not to have any health problems and it was easy to become complacent. Then a Christmas spent eating and drinking too much, feeling tired and grotty made me start to question what I was doing. New Year is probably a rubbish time to make resolutions and most are broken by the end of January, but a couple of things happened to motivate me to change.
My good friend, and founder of The Baton charity, Alan Rowe came up with the idea of supporting the Row2Recovery team by rowing one hour a day on a rowing machine. R2R is a team of four men, serving and ex-military, and they are currently half way across the Atlantic rowing in the Talisker Atlantic Challenge in their boat called Legless. An extraordinary feat of bravery and endurance for anyone and these guys are all amputees. They have a Baton with them on the boat and Alan wanted a way to show support, hence the hour’s rowing. We kicked off a social media campaign #Row4Legless and were amazed and humbled by the response.
So, what was I going to do to join in? As these things go, something turned up out of the blue. I was tagged in a tweet about a keep fit class in my village, led by someone who has recently left the Forces and just five minutes’ walk from my house. I didn’t even have the excuse that it was during the day while I was at work. It is held at 19.00 hours twice a week and I ran out of reasons not to go. So I found myself in a chilly village hall on Tuesday this week, in a baggy pink T-shirt resembling Mrs Blobby and looking in panic at the torture chamber. Mats on the floor and weights! Lovely, slim young girls in Lycra! For a person of my size and age getting up from the floor can be a big deal. Before I knew it I was running round, doing sit ups, press ups, sweating and nearly crying.
The next morning, however, I felt great and even parked my car so I got a good walk in my day. I was feeling very smug. Then, as the day wore on, the pain kicked in; thighs and shoulders started to hurt. I even had twinges in abdominal muscles I’d forgotten existed in my body. Thursday was no better and walking up the stairs was slow. There was another class in the evening and I really didn’t know whether I could turn up again to feel old, fat and useless. The news from the Atlantic was sobering though, almost half-way across the ocean, the lads were rowing into a storm with huge seas, but they had heard about #Row4Legless and were grateful for the support. People were tweeting their pictures of rowing and exercising every day. I had to get over myself.
The second Forces Fitness class wasn’t as bad as the first though. I only stopped once to catch my breath, but I had a go at everything and pushed myself past the point of thinking ‘I can’t do this’ for the full hour. Some of the exercises I had to adapt and make easier, but it was still a good workout and gave me a sense of achievement. And yes, it really hurt when I woke up this morning, but I walked the dog and reminded myself that the pain meant that I was moving again and starting to get stronger. Encouraging words from friends and family really help and in comparison with the psychological and physical recovery challenges that so many face as a result of serving their country, my little battle is nothing.
I’m keeping my goals modest; going to the fitness class twice a week and walking more, eating more salad and veg, drinking more water. My strategy is to focus on what I’m adding in, rather than taking away, but drinking less alcohol also has to be a part of the plan. I’m not focusing on losing weight, I love my curves, but I’m setting my sights on feeling fitter and stronger to enjoy life more. People face the challenges brought on by illness and injury with strength and dignity, so I will honour them and respect myself by making these small changes in my life.
http://www.thebaton.co.uk – also on Facebook and Twitter, see #Row4Legless
http://www.row2recovery.com – also on Facebook and Twitter, see also @leglessrowers for tweets from the team
A beautiful morning to be alive and walking the dog: