There was one very important thought that I drummed into my own mind on a daily basis after signing on the dotted line and committing myself to VL Fitness Essentials. This was not going to be a quick fix. I was not going to be a size 8 by the end of the year if at all. I needed to remember that this was to get fit. To get stronger and healthier and more confident to tackle things like active vacations with my very active family. If, or when, I got smaller I would consider it a bonus. Realistic goals.
When I started with the small group fitness training, (SGT), sessions, (coupled with online training support via the Trainerize app, Mind Body app, Facebook closed group status updates and newsletters), some of the exercises I was asked to do were very difficult for me. So here is the evolution of my fitness over the past six months.
The SGT sessions are high intensity, so I was constantly moving, my heart was always racing and sweat was always running at a sprint down my very reddened face, but I liked it. My body was stressed but not uncomfortably so and I didn’t feel too much out of my depth, although I couldn’t do everything that was asked of me without changing an exercise or two to the alternative beginner level.
The first time Vicky asked me to do lunges, I couldn’t get my knee down on the ground and get back up again, so I was guided to the TRX ropes and shown how to do backward lunges with support. Surprisingly I was not embarrassed nor did I feel like I was being singled out. Like my woeful lunges, I was being supported and encouraged to build on what I can do.
The TRX system was a great tool for me to use in the beginning. The alternative movements for beginners are as simple as placing a foot in front while doing a press and then gradually gaining enough strength to bring that foot back in line with the other and slowly increasing the lean.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I was useless at everything, far from it. I was able to keep pace with the other women, and even surprise myself. I discovered that instead of using 3-4kg dumbbells for chest presses, I could manage 6-7kg. I also surprised myself when Vicky got me to hit the rowing machine for 4 sets of 250m in-between rounds. I was wrecked by the end of each session, but I did it.
Three months later, my fitness had already improved. I was a lot stronger and my confidence was growing, my body fat percentage had decreased and my weight had dropped from 100-110kg to 93.5. It was working.
I had graduated to 8kg dumbbell bicep curls and dumbbell overhead presses; I was doing 50kg deadlifts and able to row for 1000m without stopping. Lunges were no longer and issue in fact I had done a few sets with a 10kg barbell on my shoulders and burpees were passible, although not very graceful. Squats had turned into 8kg goblet squats; I went from doing 10kg steps-ups to 20kg step-ups and I was getting better at everything else in between.
My running ability was still very questionable but I could manage 250m at a sprint. When I say sprint that would be 8.5 on the treadmill. Not great but I couldn’t manage that back in January.
Every week I have been monitored, my stats entered, personal bests applauded, encouraged to lift heavier, jump higher, work hard and be proud of my achievements. And it showed, not only in my fitness but also in my appearance and attitude.
It was August when I started getting a little nervous about my impending trip to Paris and the task of climbing the 669 steps up a very high tower. I think because I was still having trouble running on a treadmill, I was starting to question my fitness level.
I remembered what it was like climbing up the spiral steps at Sacré Cóeur; god I hated myself. My chest was heaving and my legs were burning and quickly turning to jelly. My heart felt like it was going to explode, I had a throbbing headache and I felt like a pathetic loser, even though I wasn’t the only one struggling on that staircase that day.
The thought of feeling that again scared the shit out of me. I had been working so hard, not only with my once a week SGT session with Vicky and my new work out mates, but employing that same work ethic and intensity during the rest of the week in the gym when I worked out by myself.
The anxiety attacks had started to return. What if I piked half way up? What if I was so sore at the end of the climb that I hobbled around for the next three days, and lets face it, in Paris you can miss a lot if you spend three days laid up in an apartment too sore to walk. There was only one thing to do … go for a test run, (so to speak).
Enter, Jacobs Ladder. 272 steps in Perth city that is frequented by people from all walks of life, the fit and unfit alike. The way I figured it, if I could make it up and down those bloody steps three times, I can get up the tower no dramas.
So up I went. The first lap I took too quick. I think all the people that were climbing that day, (there was a lot), kind of had me thinking that I had to get up and down as fast as possible. I had to out do others as well as myself. Really stupid plan of attack. I nearly quit when I got to the top because I tried to take it at a sprint.
My partner told me to settle down, and focus on myself. Don’t be ridiculous and take my time. It’s not a bloody race! So I stretched, shook off my anxiety and the tension in my legs and climbed it twice more.
I was knackered but I managed it. I was very sore over the next couple of days but I did it. All my fears left me and I knew I could tackle the tower, I just had a little more work to put into my legs and cardio and I would be set.
I know a lot of people will probably think that taking on 669 steps is not all that challenging, but I am not a woman who needed to lose a couple of kilos before a wedding to fit into a special dress, or someone who was already active and needed a little extra training before a major sporting competition. I am overweight/obese, was chronically unfit and in dire need of a lifestyle overhaul that would take the span of a year maybe two. Keep in mind; at this point I was about four and a half months into that change.