Over the next few weeks on a Monday, we’re going to share an ‘athlete under the spotlight’ with you, to provide you with a bit of motivation for the week! These are ordinary people, achieving extraordinary things! We hope it sets you up well for the week ahead! Kicking us off for week 1 is Viv who started with us on our couch to 5km running programme, and is now found sporting lycra daily either swimming, biking or running. Grab a cuppa and take 10 minutes out of your busy day to read Viv’s journey so far….
“Until recent years exercise was always something that accompanied weight loss attempts. Other than a brief spell enjoying running in my 30s where I also sustained a regular gym habit, it was something to be endured, something I should do but it needed gritting my teeth to get it done. I’d had a few goes at daily lunchtime walks, but these always tailed away. I enjoyed walking on holiday or on a Sunday, but these were occasional things. I stopped wearing my fitbit even, because it just started to remind me how much of a slug I was. 3,000 steps a day wasn’t going to win me any awards and I wasn’t going to get the number higher without putting in some effort and I really couldn’t be bothered. I owned a bike, but I didn’t use it, anyway, I think it got a puncture, so I’d have to get that repaired.
Then in Autumn 2018 I calmly realised I needed to take myself in hand. The scales said I was nudging obese and my highest ever weight. I had no clothes that fitted and most worrying, I needed to use the handrail to get upstairs. I also realised that I paused as I contemplated them and took a breath before I started. That was no way to be at 50. I was tired of a life time of yoyoing dieting and I wanted a long term fix and that meant change. As I chose to calorie count, I immediately realised that exercise needed to be part of my daily life as I love food too much to exist on the tiny calorie allowance a woman of my height would need (1,300) – that would be like diet hell for the rest of my life. So I started walking and going further and on my own, not just waiting for my hubby’s day off, and one day on a lovely walk in the sunshine, I broke into to a little run and I remembered that joy of running back in my 30s.
“I think I might start running again” I half whispered to Jayne who was giving me a massage, like it was some naughty secret that I was ashamed to tell anyone because it was so ridiculous. Jayne new I was unhappy with my weight and that I had been taking steps to make some changes. She was a triathlete and had been encouraging me to think about moving more, but in a gentle way. I know what you need, you need Sam and TriEnergy – they have a C25K group and its only around the corner from you. Well I thought if I can’t be arsed to just go around the corner, then I’m never going to do it. Of course, if anyone knows me at all, they won’t be surprised that I actually did the NHS couch podcast before I turned up at TriEnergy. I was, and still am, very scared about failing in public. I didn’t need to be at the front, but I didn’t want to be at the back.
Coach Trina was just fabulous and made it such fun. Each session just took you a little bit further than you thought you could sustain. I loved the homework too – lots of variety and structure. I did some sessions on my mini trampoline though, as I wasn’t quite ready to run outside in the rain and snow, but I did every session. I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t do them. If you want to be fit and a runner then once a week wasn’t going to cut it. I really loved that thing about the homework – it set up a pattern and a habit that I have never let go of. Since that day there has not been a single week when I haven’t run. I have had holidays where I just ran once a week, but I have also had holidays where my running schedule has increased, because I had more time. I have never regretted a run.
That summer I set my sights on a half marathon to raise money for charity and as a challenge. I had absolutely no idea if I could do it. I didn’t tell anyone I had even registered until I was half way through the training. Following trienergy example I had a training plan and I completed every session. I even did the last two weeks of it twice just to make sure (I had built in a fortnight in case of injury, I am a classic over-thinker and planner). I just had one strava follower throughout that training, Charlie MC who gave me kudos every time. After running the half marathon and getting what still remains my PB, she encouraged me to move trienergy groups and there I met so many people who took their running seriously, I felt I was amongst inspiring kindred spirits and many have become real friends, as well as Strava followers.
I had just got the exercise bug – I reached my goal weight quickly but moving my body became so much more than just calories burned. It is where I get my pride from, my feel good hormones. I say I am not a competitive person, but I am self competitive – I love to see improvement – I love data and PBs and graphs. If only someone had introduced me to this concept earlier. I thought sport was all about winners and I would never be good enough to be a winner, so what was the point. There is so much point in feeling better and fabulous every day. I get up in the morning and I get on with it – no better way to start the day and I love exercising in the morning – nothing can get in the way of it and I can do something 6 days a week – that would never be possible in the evenings as there are too many other options, and I often end up working late. So evening exercising tends to be done with others, or training sessions – they are like appointments that I will only miss if absolutely necessary.
When you surround yourself with positive people who see going out for a run as normal, it becomes infectious. Within tri energy you are not just surrounded by runners, you are surrounded by cyclists and swimmers. It starts to seem that it could be normal to swim in a lake (if I could swim) or have a cycling Sunday. It started to feel like if I’d made all these other changes, so other changes could be possible too – other mental barriers could be melted away and if I wanted to give them a go – then I had the coaches right at hand to help me – I already knew them.
So I’ve learned to swim thanks to TriEnergy. From a person terrified to put their face in and anxious out of depth, I’ve now learnt to front crawl. I’m very slow, but I now just see that as room for improvement. I’ve leant what a turbo trainer is and I own one (and use it). I have cycle shoes and I can clip in and out – but that also remains a work in progress. I may have overcome my fear of the deep end, but I haven’t overcome my fear of the clippy shoes! But I know from past experiences that the more I do, the easier it will be and the fear will just be something else I can be proud of conquering. If it was easy, it wouldn’t bring so much joy with success.
I do it because I love it. It makes me feel fabulous. I love that I can. I love seeing definition in my legs that hasn’t come from hours in front of a dvd workout, but because they are doing the thing they are made to do. I hope to stave off bingo wings as my arms grow strong from swimming. I have a body I couldn’t have dreamed of. People who meet me assume I have always been slim but it is still such a recent thing to me, I’m very proud of sustaining the loss. I have a friend who refers to me as “sporty” which makes me both laugh and feel pride in equal measure.
I still have such potential to keep improving and I want to see how far I can go – I’m amazed by how far I have come, but I don’t want to just maintain – how dull would that become? With running it is getting harder to make improvements, but I can see with focus I can still get faster. There are no breakthrough moments – but I know by doggedly putting in the effort it will become easier to run at lower paces, as well as the potential for PBs. One of my favourite moments is when I’m running and I realise that I have forgotten I’m running at all – its just like walking, something I’m doing but I’m not conscious of the effort of it. My mind has wandered off onto the trees or watching a bird and yet my body has continued to move.
With swimming and cycling I have much more potential to improve than running because I am still new to them and this keeps me going – if I’m struggling with one sport, there is always some joy in another. I love seeing my week ahead revealed by Sam in training peaks – always something different – something I wouldn’t come up with for myself – it’s so exciting thinking ahead to the fun I am going to have trying to complete them.
At 53 I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life and each day I get a little bit fitter still – I find that amazing and it’s really just that that keeps me going. I’m proud of all the little mini battles I have won – the fears in my head that I haven’t let hold me back and the work that I have done to enable myself to win through for my own long term good.
I’m proud of my four half marathons, and my two aquathlons and I am certain I’ll be proud of any triathlons I do, but for me it really isn’t about the races – they are just something to hang my training goals on and keep me going out to do a session even if I don’t quite feel in the mood, as I want to be as prepared as I can be and do my best. But I do the sessions for the daily joy and I’m proud that my alarm goes off six days a week and I get up and get my kit on and get out there – it makes me happy every day and who wouldn’t want that.