Melinda’s Fitness Journey

Hi Ladies, Melinda here, like most women out there I to have had a on and off again love hate relationship with my body and weight. From originally wanting to lose my teenage weight, trying to get back to my pre pregnancy weight after my last child and hitting 40 and beyond my weight has always been a struggle. When i hit 40, I wondered why the scales are slowly going up, if I’m still exercising and eating healthy like I did in my 30’s. I thought I would share with you a little about myself and my first journey to lose weight and a few hurdles I had to overcome.

All through my school years I was chubby, plump or slightly overweight, by the time I was in my early twenties I was overweight (size 16 +), exercise was non-existent and I ate very badly. That all changed one day when I woke up and made the decision that would change my life and subsequently my husband’s. I decided that I was sick of being the size I was and I wanted to lose some weight. I ultimately decided that I would be happy if I could get down to a size 12.

What did I do? I started with one thing at a time. First, my diet – I stopped using butters & marges, fatty spreads, high fat cheeses, no more dressings and swapped the milk to low fat. I became what my husband calls me “a picky eater”. If we ate out it was like “20 questions” because I would and I admit I still do interrogate the waiters as to what is exactly in the dishes.

Next came the exercise, my sister had just started going to aerobic classes down at the local gym, so I tagged along with her a couple of times per week. That was the start and 3-4 months later I had lost my first 10 kilos and was hooked on Group exercise classes. However, I had reached my first obstacle. I had reached a plateau. And my body had adapted to the changes. I had lost a decent amount of weight, felt fitter, stronger and faster but I couldn’t seem to lose any more on the scales. I realised I had to change something up to shock the body even more.

I decided to make a few more changes to my diet, what I was eating and how often. I started to eat 5-6 times a day, increased my fibre intake, limited the amount of fat and drank plenty of water. I also increased the amount and intensity of the exercise I was doing. I started doing 4-5 sessions per week which now included a Pump class and I started running. I also talked to a Fitness Instructor and got a programme for the gym which was a combination of weights & cardio. However, I have to admit, I spent more time attending the Group fitness classes than doing my programme. I struggled to find the motivation to exercise by myself in the gym and personal trainers were non-existent.

How does lifting weights help you lose weight? Resistance training not only tones your body (stops those bits from wobbling), it also increases your Basal metabolic rate (BMR) – How many calories you burn at rest. This means you burn more calories even when you are not exercising. The scales might not have gone down as much as I would have liked – they even went up occasionally, but I was still getting slimmer as my body shape was changing. I noticed I wasn’t jiggling as much and as a side effect I was reducing my chances of getting osteoporosis. Ladies are often worried that lifting weights will make you big and muscular. Don’t worry! It’s just not in our genes for this to happen without hormone enhancement. After 8 months I had reached my goal and surpassed it! I was now fitting into size 8/10 clothes. YES! I had done it.

In total I lost approximately 25kgs. I was not only looking great but I had lots more energy, sleeping better, my skin was looking healthier and I was feeling great too.  I was now hooked on exercise and love the way it made me feel. I often get asked if it was hard. Yes, but it was so worth it. I had days with low motivation and didn’t feel like doing any exercise. I had to constantly remind myself that I always felt better after that class, run or gym session. I had set myself a goal and I wasn’t going to reach it, by doing nothing. Once I got past being self-conscious and how I looked like while exercising, it got easier and in no time I was addicted. Was this a good thing? Yes and no. Positively, I was at the lightest weight (55kgs) I had ever been in my adult years. I liked the way I looked and was wearing clothes I would have never even considered wearing before my weight loss. However, it became a negative thing for myself as I was doing too much exercise. I was working out 7 days a week, without a recovery or rest day and doing very long sessions of 1.5-2 hours most days. On top of this, I was eating a very low fat, low carb diet.  I had what I called constant “fuzzy brain”. My head just didn’t feel right and I hadn’t had a period for over 18 months. I soon learnt through my doctor, that this was a condition called amenorrhea. I was eventually referred to a fertility clinic for it and after all sorts of tests it was put down to significant exercising and extreme weight loss, which had caused (FHA) Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. I had taken exercising and dieting too far. My body looked healthy on the outside but my weight and body fat was just too low for my hormones to function correctly. I was advised to cut down on the amount of cardio exercise I was doing and get my weight up to around 58kg. I have to say, that was a very hard thing to hear. After all the hard work I had done to get to where I was, to then be told that I had to put weight back on was a shock, but the “fuzzy brain” and amenorrhea was my body’s way of telling me that things weren’t ok. I did what was recommended and got my body back to being healthy functioning again. This became more important to me than how small the number on the scales read.

Sixteen years, three children and a career change later, I still work out 5-6 days a week but for only 30 – 60 minutes at a time. I instruct several classes per week and lift weights, which are much heavier than when I first started. I still prefer to eat a lower carb diet but instead of low fat, I now incorporate healthy fats.

I thought you said RUM: A beginners guide to running

  • Slow down

Newbies often think they are running too slow when in fact many are going too fast, meaning it quickly gets too difficult. Try jogging at the pace of just a fast walk for the next month and you’ll find that you will be able to go a lot further a lot easier.

 

  • Take small steps

Shortening the length of your stride can help big time. Practice over a 30 meter or so length (or between two light poles) and see if you can add in an extra 5 steps or strides over that distance!

 

  • Start with short distances

Start by jogging slowly for short distances. For example, from one lamp post to the next and then walking in between the next two (This is how I first started). Aim to do that for a total of just 15 minutes, twice a week, if you’re starting out or getting back into it after a long break. If you’re a bit fitter, try a walk-run or run-walk approach. Alternating blocks of walking/running with blocks of running/walking. e.g. 4 mins of running with 1 min of walking for 3 rounds = total running time 12 mins. Try to increase the rounds first, then look at increasing the running time. e.g. 5 mins running with 1 min walking. By using an on/off approach you are also reducing the amount of impact you are subjecting your body to.

 

  • Speed up or go further?

Once you can do a complete 15 minute jog, increase your speed by jogging slowly one way for 8-10 minutes then ‘racing’ back to where you started. Your total run time will get shorter, which at this stage of your running career is perfect – or – hold off on increasing speed and get out for a third run each week instead – idea being to do one or the other, not both.

 

  • Stop

If something doesn’t feel right, stop. If it hurts, stop. If something feels a bit weird, (and you get to be the judge of what that means), stop. This is an exercise in learning how to love jogging, not a game of pushing through pain. Seek guidance from a medical practitioner e.g. physiotherapist, podiatrist, if pain doesn’t go away.

Running Tips:

(This first one’s going to be a bit hard during this lockdown period but if you’ve got a good pair of supportive gym shoes/cross trainers that aren’t too old might be fine to get you started). Invest in a good pair of runners, go visit one of those specialist shoe stores (I go to our local Shoe Science store in Albany) yes the shoes do cost more but it’s well worth the investment in making sure you have the right type of shoe for your walking/running pattern. A quality, well-fitting and supporting sneaker will prevent aches and pains…no not muscle pain, but permanent knee, shin, and foot injuries that can plague you for life, if you suffer an injury.

If you walk/run a regular block (loop), then make sure that you also go the other way or vary your route .Our body (tendons, ligaments and muscles) get used to going that one way – the ups & downs, the level of the road. No road is level like a treadmill, so if we don’t vary the way/direction we go, we can end up with imbalances with the muscles, tendons and ligaments from our feet to our legs, hips and core which can then lead to injuries. With my current niggles, I just go straight out for time/distance and then turn around and come back the same way. I also vary the terrain every couple of runs by going to my nearest sports field or school and running on the grass (less impact) as there are no grass verges where I live to run on.

Do strength and conditioning and core work. These are hugely important for injury prevention and improving your running form and economy. For example when we go on a longer run, we tend to get tired. This causes us to slump forwards, which can cause pain in the neck, back and shoulders. By having a strong core, you can help prevent this. Many running niggles can be traced directly back to the fact that the glutes, the main hip muscles and the biggest muscle group in your body, simply aren’t doing their fair share of the work. Five minutes a day spent doing targeted exercises can reap significant rewards. A simple mix of planks, side planks and crunches can build your core strength, and squats and bridges are great for glutes.

Good music! 🙂 As you start increasing your time and distance, I find a good playlist with motivating music and a good tempo helps me go that bit further or go a bit longer. You can find already compiled playlists and albums on iTunes, Spotify or make up your own.

Benefits of running:

  • Healthy mind – running reduces stress and releases happy hormones.
  • Sleep easier -Runners enjoy better sleep, giving them more energy.
  • Healthy heart – Cardiovascular fitness goes up, blood pressure goes down.
  • Breathe easier – Running lessens the effects of asthma and helps to strengthen your lungs.
  • Keeps you young – Runners age better and live longer.
  • Better sex – Running improves stamina.
  • Strong immune system – decreases your risk of illness.
  • Weight loss – Running burns around 100 calories a mile (1.6 km). 3 miles (4.8 km) = 1 large doughnut.
  • Stronger bones – Boost your bone density and help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Toned legs – Runners have great leg

“I often hear someone say ‘I’m not a real runner. We are all runners. Some just run faster than others. I’ve never met a fake runner. (Bart Yasso)”