It was actually with bone crushing weariness that I decided to go for a run back in May. I’d realised just how big my waist was when measuring it to make myself a new dress from Tilly and the Buttons book. It seemed at that moment that I couldn’t just ignore things any longer, something had to be done and I needed to make some radical lifestyle changes.
Before I had children I was very fit, running three miles about three times a week. Working hard in a sometimes physical job, cycling of a weekend and doing 100 press-ups and sit ups daily as a matter of course. Times were different though without the worry of children or being woken up most of the night it was easy to do all these things and they were most importantly fun!
Then things started to go a bit awry, I had real difficulties in becoming pregnant which I guess may have been a way of my body saying that it was stressed in ways I hadn’t imagined. I cut back on the exercise and maintained a healthy diet. When the much desired baby came along he wasn’t the easy bundle of joy I thought he would be and we found ourselves in and out of paediatric A and E with a baby who kept holding his breath, passing out and going blue. This had the inevitable effect on my mental health which I think also lead to me comfort eating cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Mummy coffee mornings and finishing off dinners, so the food doesn’t go to waste, didn’t really help with that either.
Between children I have made sporadic attempts to get fit, but each pregnancy had sort of put paid to it, especially when I was diagnosed with SPD which made even getting into a car seat difficult. On top of all that shortly after Ned’s birth I began to suffer from really bad anxiety. Various things which were out of my control happened and I simply couldn’t get myself out of a spiral of anxiety, not helped by some really mean women at our local primary school. The problem with anxiety which is a form of depression is that it creeps up on you and although you are aware that you are starting to be irrational about things you cant do anything about it. Things get worse and worse.
As a mother my main concern is about my children, I want them to fulfil their potentials, to have the best education possible, to be popular and happy and when many of these things are actually out of your control it is very difficult not to worry. The worry turns into more anxiety which in turn makes it very hard to make decisions and be proactive. You give your life to the children organising their social lives, their home work, making sure they eat appropriately and behave appropriately and are sufficiently entertained and before you know it you are nobody but a mother. Ironically this all negatively impacts on mental health, anxiety and well being and I have found myself wondering, on many occasions, if my family would be better off without me. If I just walked away and left them all to it, maybe a professional nanny could do a better job than me. Perhaps that way we could all be happy.
I’m really lucky, I have a very supportive husband, an incredibly patient best friend, a few other very supportive friends and brilliant parents who listen to me moan about my worries and really try to help me talk through them. My doctor sent me for a course of CBT which really helped. I took up cycling with the baby on a bike seat which gave me a bit of freedom without the worry of driving and which proved ideal for clearing the mind.
Now I try to look at the world in a very different way, all the time trying to searching to find an alternative viewpoint for any negative thoughts about situations. But above anything else I’ve done to try to deal with anxiety I rediscovered my childhood love of books and started reading whenever I started to worry about things. Fortunately I was given a Kindle and that meant that whilst the husband sleep at 2 AM I’d divert my thoughts by reading another chapter of the latest book I’d downloaded. This worked for me above all else and despite some ups and downs I think I have started to feel more and more like my pre-baby self.
Anyway, that’s the background to my desire to be fit and healthy. I’m getting there mentally, so now I’m trying my hardest to get there physically and since May I have been getting up at 5 or 6 AM and taken myself for a run. I have a sports watch (bought for me between babies) so I can track my progress and slowly but surely I’m improving. There were several reasons I started going out so early to start with, firstly because I was already awake, potentially worrying about things and being harassed by the children. Also, as the main child-carer its one of the few times I have when I am not in sole charge. Most of all though it was because I didn’t want anyone to see me, especially parents from the school. Then I realised that actually, its a brilliant time to go, there is no-one about (no traffic pollution), the day is young and fresh and when I return I feel energised and ready to tackle the day. I’ve genuinely enjoyed it, even when it has been raining and cold.
In terms of progress I have lost about a stone in weight and four inches around my waist, my acne rosacea is much improved and my mental health is much better for the personal space I get. I have a sense of achievement in life, its one small thing which I can control which means a lot to me. I have a way to go yet, but I can fit into a size ten dress, my waist still needs to lose a couple of inches to return to pre-baby size but I feel fitter and healthier and thats a major thing for me.
I know I’m not going to become a running evangelist, but it is a brilliant form of exercise because its very cheap, quick and easy. With a bit of mental application nearly everyone can do it and improve. I’m lucky because I worked out how to regulate my breathing properly years ago and so I can manage to run without getting incredibly out of breath and getting a stitch. I’m also very determined and so I set myself little geographical goals, a lamp-post here, then one lamp-post further, for example. However, there are loads of little apps you can put on your phone which can help you progress different distances if you did want to give it a go.
Recently I’ve started combining the running with a weekly Yoga session as I found one which I could just about justify the cost of. This has had even more benefits and I’ve been really enjoying it as a new form of exercise and a way of helping me cool down after running between 5 and 8K.
This post started as a way of me recording why I started exercising and then moved onto lots of other things. I think I’m going to write some regular updates about my journey, I hope you enjoy them and that they might help someone out there to understand that they are not alone and how some really small lifestyle changes can actually make all the difference. For me, a big part of the solution to many of my worries is actually found in spending some time without children and returning to the person I used to be.