Until my early 40s, I had never been a fit person. I wasn’t remotely sporty as a kid, and even took up musical instruments (at which I was equally useless) to avoid sports lessons at school.
It’s just never been my ‘thing’.
And food? Well, I may just have the sweetest tooth in the history of mankind.
In my 20s and 30s, I had a career in advertising. Work hard, play hard. And ‘play’ (for me, anyway) did not involve any kind of physical pursuits.
During my last few years in advertising, I ran the McDonald’s account. I had always always loved burgers and fries so it was a bit of a dream come true in all honesty. I ate Maccas most days, and I drank about a bottle of wine most nights. And I smoked a pack of cigarettes every single day, often more. I never ever exercised and had no understanding of or real interest in anything health-related.
Although I would have been extremely unhealthy on the inside, I was kind of ‘lucky’ in that it didn’t show too much on the outside. I wasn’t overweight. I think I must have a pretty fast metabolism (seriously, the amount of crap I ate, I should have been the size of a house) and my Mum passed down some great genetics because despite all that bad behaviour (and never even cleansing my face, ever), my skin, at that age, showed no signs of malnourishment.
Change started when I became a mum
I smartened up my act to a degree when I became a mum, obviously. The smoking stopped. The volume of wine reduced. And the food became a little more homemade (less takeaway and dinners out!). But other than walks pushing the pram, trips to the park and generally trying to keep up with my little monkey, I made no real movement towards health or fitness.
It wasn’t until I turned 40 and my little boy was ready to start pre-school that I made those first tentative steps.
Now, all of a sudden, I had a few hours ‘spare’ in the week. I drove past my local gym several times a day to and from pre-school drop-off, the supermarket etc, and one day I pulled over and went in, and introduced myself with this kind of talk… ‘I don’t think I’m going to join, it’s not really me, but I thought I’d come and look’.
Truth be told, I was scared. Fear is what holds most of us back from jumping in and achieving great heights. I was scared and self-conscious to the point of it being utterly paralyzing. And I was supremely unfit.
A lovely Scottish gentleman (the sales manager at the gym) said he was going to call me every day until I signed up. I ‘gave in’ the next day haha. He assigned me a Personal Trainer and on 14th February 2012, I arrived at the gym in an old t-shirt of my husbands that he used to wear fishing, and some terry toweling shorts. I’d found an old pair of trainers that I didn’t even know I had. It was not very #sportsluxe, let me tell you! My PT, Sarah, and I often laugh about that as I rock up wearing the latest and greatest in lycra 😉
Little did I know that that one small step was actually the start of something very big.
At the beginning, all I did was two 30 minute PT sessions a week (the thought of only training twice a week now is laughable!). Then I added, with Sarah’s encouragement, a spin class. Then another. And along I went for about a year and a half doing this. Still too scared to try anything new over and above sitting at the back of a spin class trying not to vomit. I was happy with where I was.
The defining moment
Until I was hit by a bolt that actually ended up being the next defining moment in my health journey. Who could have predicted it would actually come out of tragedy; the loss of my Mum. My best friend, my entire support system, my advisor, my comfort, my rock… my beautiful brave Mum. Life changed forever when she was gone very suddenly to undiagnosed bowel cancer.
Yet she continued to inspire me, even after her death. It wasn’t until Mother’s Day the following year (the first without her) that something positive came out of her passing.
I literally couldn’t think of a thing I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. Until I remembered the Mother’s Day Classic fun run that takes place around Australia on Mother’s Day morning to raise awareness of, and money for Breast Cancer charities. And it felt so right. I signed up, and started a new Mother’s Day tradition with my son who was four at the time.
I had never even run for a bus before, let alone 4km, and the race was only about a week away, but I was so pleased to have found something meaningful to do in Mum’s honour. And to honour all the women and all the families who have to deal with the heartache of cancer.
Initially thinking this would be a one-off, the running bug actually got me big time, and since then, illness and injuries aside, I’ve gotten a lot out of running for fun, for fitness, and for mental health benefits too.
About a year and a half later, the next chapter of my journey began. I undertook a 30 Day Challenge at a local CrossFit gym. For the first time, I had to throw myself into some group training with a bunch of people I’d never met before, and do it a few times a week. I was petrified. I thought I’d hate every single second. But I loved it.
I thought I’d hate ‘restricting’ my diet. But the food was delicious and I learnt soooooo much about nutrition during that month (from Nutritionist Danielle Minnebo), it was absolutely the beginning of real healthy eating for me. And my family.
Everything felt like a major discovery. I started brewing my own kombucha. Swapped skim milk for full cream. Cooked meat on the bone. Knew which veggies should be organic and that beef should be grass fed. Got creative with avocados…. Burpees were now part of my vocabulary, 5:45am training sessions became the norm. I added hill sprints to my weekly routine (for a while anyway!).
Training for Chocolate was born
And I started my blog.
Everything felt so new and exciting and so freaking POSITIVE that I just had to share it and spread the word.
And with the blog, the whole health and fitness experience just snowballed… a completely different world revealed itself to me… events, challenges, being willing and able to try new things, being around people who share the passion, being able to continue to educate myself on what’s good for me, for my body and my soul… now it’s a major part of my life.
Yes, my blog is my job, but it’s actually much more than that because it’s now my lifestyle too.
I’m turning 46 in a couple of months. Which means it’s almost 6 years since that first anxious step inside a gym. About 4 ½ years since I laced up a pair of running shoes for the first time. 3 years since I got my first taste of what real food should be all about. And just 2 years since I really quit being too scared to try anything new.
And can I let you in on a secret? I’m not actually particularly GOOD at any of it.
I’m still the clumsy unco with neither coordination nor grace. I will never be fast or nimble. And I will probably never be very bendy or stable. I still drink wine, eat chocolate and snack too often. I have belly rolls and muffin tops and a wobbly bum. But who cares? I’m fit, I’m healthy and I’m having a ball with it.
I can honestly say that without this health and fitness journey, I don’t know how I would have gotten through some of the darkest times of grief and loss. And I can honestly say that leading an active lifestyle is one of the best gifts I can give my son.
So I don’t measure the impact it has on my life by numbers on a scale (I gave up weighing myself as part of this process too). Or how many push ups I can do. Or what my 5km running pace is. I measure it by how happy I am. By how good I feel.
And I feel great. I feel so proud of myself that I have literally turned my life upside down to get to this really healthy space. So much so that I want everyone to know they can do the same.
You see, if I can do it, anyone can. I truly believe that. If you met me six years ago, you totally wouldn’t recognize me.
And I bet if you started today, I wouldn’t recognize you in 6 years time either. So go on, give it a shot.
Do the training, eat the chocolate, and have all the fun.