May 2017 v May 2020.
I don’t know how much of a difference you can see. I sometimes struggle to see it. But when the picture on the left popped up on my Facebook Memories this morning, my first thought looking at that picture was “Wow, look how far I’ve come.”
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got a long way to go. But it’s nice to reflect on what I have managed to achieve so far.
2017 was an important year. In January, I moved to Jersey for work. In many ways, it was a very big move for me – away from family and friends, working somewhere that you associate with the UK but that actually isn’t a part of the UK (and that in itself has major implications) and working in a senior role.
The move to Jersey is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was a really big risk to take. I grew professionally in more ways than I ever could have imagined. But it also kickstarted my health journey. There was some sort of psychological effect from having a “new start” that gave me the boost I needed to get started.
I hadn’t worked out in the seven months leading up to my move. I was eating extremely unhealthily, drinking far too regularly and not doing any exercise of any kind. I’d got in to quite a negative headspace when it came to my health – dinners out, regular drinks etc were my way of escaping.
My workout regime before May 2016 had been good. My love for the gym began when I was 16 but until I was 25, I had only ever focused on cardiovascular exercise. Foolishly, I’d never thought about using weights and knew nothing about the positive impact weight, resistance and strength training can have in shedding fat. (I’m obviously much more educated now!)
While I enjoyed working out, I wasn’t seeing much positive change. In fact, my weight was just continuing to creep up. In 2011, I started personal training sessions and began learning about how both weight machines and free weights could be used to help. Sadly (and again something I now know much more about), my nutrition was all over the place (as was my drinking) so putting in the work was never going to be enough. If my former trainers ever read this, they are definitely entitled to say I TOLD YOU SO. For me, it was one of those things I had to really learn and understand for myself.
The picture below is me in December 2009 on the left and me in December 2017. Roughly the same weight but you can see the physical difference. It’s why I don’t focus on “weight loss”. It’s much more important to focus on losing fat, building muscle and improving fitness.
When I moved to Jersey, one of the first things I did was sign up to a gym. I didn’t know anyone other than a handful of colleagues I’d worked with previously and so a very limited social circle. I thought the gym would be a good thing to do in my free time (with the added bonus of it being walking distance from work, too).
On the day I joined the gym, I decided to bite the bullet and jump on the scales. It’s a good thing I didn’t actually jump on to the scales, as I found out that I weighed almost the heaviest that I ever have.
Seeing those numbers – 131kg (288lbs or 20 stone, 8 lbs) – gave me an absolute fright. I was mortified. I had let myself down massively. Why are you doing this to yourself, Nim? Do you want to die before you’re 40? (My absolute heaviest, if you’re wondering, was 133kg (293lbs or 20 stone, 13lbs) in 2016 and I then subconsciously didn’t get on any scales after discovering that until Jersey!)
There were a couple of days of moping. I was pretty down about it. I talked to no-one about it (again, I now know better!)
But after picking myself up, I came up with a bit of an action plan, looking up how to improve my nutrition, exploring the kind of workouts I should start with (having not worked out in some time) and the kind of workouts I want to aspire to be able to do one day. There was no way I was going to be smashing out burpees or press ups any time soon!
Initially, I started slow and steady. My aim was three workouts a week, consisting of 30 minutes of cardio, followed by three sets of one superset. I used to do the following kind of combinations:
- 30 mins of walking and jogging on the treadmill, followed by three supersets of 12 lateral pulldowns into 12 body weight lunges
- 30 mins on the crosstrainer, followed by three supersets of 12 chest press into 12 body weight squats.
Initially, the cardio work were just using the pre-programmed routines you can pick on the machines, that generate the kind of inclines and drops automatically and randomly. By April 2017, as my body started to get used to just doing 30 minutes of cardio, I introduced tabata. It’s a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT), alternating from short bursts of high intensity work into short recovery periods.
In my 30 minute blocks on the treadmill, for example, I would jog/run for 20 seconds, walk for 10 seconds and then repeat that seven more times. That’s four minutes of work so I’d follow that with a minute of walking, as active recovery. There are quite a few apps available so definitely worth checking out but if you’re in any doubt about whether it’s appropriate for you, do seek medical advice first!
There were also a number of classes on offer at the gym. But I was so conscious about my size and my appearance that I just didn’t go to any. I’ll write more about body image in due course.
By July 2017, six months after implementing a more focused approach to my health, I had lost 9lbs. Remember – slow but steady. I was still eating out quite a lot but I’d reduced my drinking drastically and I was also planning meals more and batch cooking on weekends for the week ahead. By the end of December 2017, I’d got down to 122kg (268lbs or 19 stone, 2lbs). And that’s when I decided to start up my NJ Fitness Journey Instagram account.
2017 was the year I kickstarted my fitness journey. And I am so glad I did!