Last week I published a blog post on my health and fitness mission as a member of the new David Lloyd Club in Harrogate. As there was so much to write about I decided to post the blog in two parts. Last week gave you details about the club and facilities. This week I am writing about my own personal journey along this fitness path. If you haven’t yet read part one of this topic then please click here to read last weeks post.
As I mentioned last week, I am on a mission to improve my fitness and health this year. I intend to make this a lifestyle choice for ever, rather than a temporary stop gap. Now at 55 years old, I have started to feel the effects of ‘the ageing process’. I noticed sometime ago that I was sluggish every day, my bones ached especially in winter and my mood was low. I was less supple than I used to be and this is coming from someone who used to dance and do gymnastics as a youngster. Let’s face it. Last year I couldn’t even touch my toes. What a change from that 20 year old who could do the splits while drinking a cup of coffee !
My diet was dreadful. I was eating all the wrong things. I was using my busy life as an excuse to eat sugary and salty snacks, coupled with not drinking enough water. My skin suffered, and I looked tired and grey the whole time. The sudden spike in sugar rush symptoms caused by eating too many sugary snacks, caused major anxiety issues and my mental health reached a low point.
I was also going through the menopause at this time. Now I don’t want to use the menopause as an excuse, but the effect of those unbalanced hormones really knocked me for six. EVERYTHING seemed out of balance in my physical and mental health. I realised that the only way out of this unhealthy life was to put my big girl pants on and fight it !
I therefore visited my GP for a chat and some guidance. Please visit your GP if you want to start a new healthy lifestyle which incorporates exercise. This is essential for reassurance and advice for your personal circumstances. My GP advised that a good diet, exercise, relaxation and plenty of sleep were all key to creating a better and healthier lifestyle. She also advised that exercise was crucial to dealing with menopause symptoms. This was especially important, as I was dealing with the menopause naturally, without HRT.
So, armed with this information I embarked on a new regime of healthy eating and exercise. Unfortunately as I pointed out last week, the small local gym I attended did not have good facilities. I found myself ‘ pretending’ I had done a good work out. In fact I was sat on a stationary bike watching the TV, without making any real effort. I would swim for about ten minutes, then sit in the jacuzzi for the rest of the time. Hardly a workout !
I did improve my diet slightly by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables I was eating, but I was still eating too many sugary snacks. I was, in fact, sabotaging my good efforts to eat healthier by eating rubbish as well. My weight was also causing me concern as I could see the scales creeping up slightly every month. Although it’s not generally useful to look at the numbers on the scales, it can give an incentive to do something positive about the situation.
My sleep pattern was also completely upside down and I found myself struggling to get through the day on just a few hours of sleep. Sleep is crucial for all aspects of our health and it is so easy to neglect it. And I did.
With all these difficulties in mind it was perhaps a twist of fate that, in February this year I won a local competition for a family membership to the David Lloyd Club in Harrogate. And so began my journey back to optimum physical and mental health.
And what a journey it has been ! I honestly cannot believe the change in me on a personal level and my overall health. If you had told me six months ago that I actually ENJOYED going to the gym, I would have laughed till I cried. I have NEVER been a gym lover, having always actively avoided them or gone reluctantly. I found them boring and lifeless places which gave me zero motivation. Believing they were for young, fit people, I would often find the gym intimidating and soul destroying.
Well, HOW WRONG I WAS ! I am now a fully fledged lover of my gym and I absolutely LOVE it ! Better still I have completely transformed my health and am honestly fitter than I was in my 20’s. I can’t quite do the splits yet, but I’m working on it !
So how have I improved ? Well, firstly let’s talk about my physical health. I have lost all my excess fat and have trimmed down my weight to a healthy level. Using the Boditrax system in the David Lloyd Club, I can see that my visceral fat is now down to a healthy rating of well under 10. Visceral fat is the fat that is stored round our internal organs, which is not good news if this is excessive. Excessive visceral fat has been linked to many health issues including more serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The good thing is that we CAN do something to lower our visceral fat. By changing to a healthy diet and increasing exercise you can reduce the amount of visceral fat you carry in your body. Anything in the range 1-12 of visceral fat is considered healthy while any visceral fat that is in the 13 + range is considered unhealthy.
On joining the gym I had a session with a personal trainer which was so motivating as I had a programme to work to. The trainer took into account my personal needs to work on certain parts of my body. I specifically wanted to tone my tummy area and improve muscle tone in my upper body and arms. I use this programme most days I am in the gym, and when I need it updating I just ask for another session with the trainer. On the days I don’t use the programme I am more than happy using the equipment on my own in the gym. As the gym contains a wide variety of the latest equipment, I find there is no reason to get bored or demotivated like I used to. After a workout I love to do some yoga stretches on the mats followed by ten minutes of relaxation. Pure bliss.
I am happy to report that my muscle tone and general toning of my ‘flabby bits’ has greatly improved ! My body shape has changed and I feel stronger and I have much more energy. I am aware that when I do Zumba classes I am moving more freely across the floor. Of course I am carrying less weight than I was four months ago, but the fact I am toned up all over is really helping my coordination and balance as well.
I can actually tell I am stronger than I used to be from the very fact that I can lift more weights. I did start on the lowest weights possible on the gym equipment, as quite honestly, I was a weakling. My arms especially felt weak and unable to lift any substantial weight, which is a surprise as I am always carrying lots of shopping !
My core was also very weak and my GP did advise to try and work on my core as this is so important, especially for ladies. I am happy to report that my core has improved immensely over the last four months. I am particularly pleased about this as I have worked so hard on this part of my body.
Going to the gym and having the motivation has also naturally improved other areas of my life. I am now enjoying a super healthy diet, coupled with an increase in how much water I drink. Of course I still enjoy a Betty’s fondant fancy cake like anyone, but I have learnt the hard way, that too much sugar is not good for me. Treats every now and then is just fine but everything in moderation.
As you know I actually don’t drink alcohol, but I believe moderation with this is also advised. I do find reducing my sugar intake has really improved those sugar spikes that I used to get. After eating a sugary snack I would get an energy surge, but then my energy would plummet after a couple of hours. You know the feeling ? Of course cutting out sugary foods and junk food is also a sure way to lose excess fat and reduce weight if that is your aim. So that’s a win win for us !
My sleep pattern has improved dramatically since starting at the David Lloyd Club. For me, I think it is quite simply that I am tired after a gym session or dance class. I am not exhausted but I am just ‘nicely’ tired. I am more relaxed when I have been to the gym, and therefore I am sure this aids sleep.
So onto the improvements in my mental health. As you know I suffer from anxiety and depression and my GP has advised me on many occasions that exercise is crucial to improving mental health. I have, in the past, ignored this advice until this year. And, guess what ? Yup, my GP was right ! Exercising really does help to lift the mood and improve confidence. When we exercise our body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in our body. Exercising gives us a natural high and a feeling of well being. I have felt so much better since starting my fitness campaign and I cannot stress enough how well this works. If you are feeling low, just go outside for a walk in the fresh air and see how your mood lightens.
My last four months at the gym has also increased my confidence. I feel able to go to the gym on my own and attend classes without my husband in tow. This is a huge step for me, as I did find it difficult to go to a gym alone as I used to find it intimidating. However the David Lloyd Club is so welcoming with friendly staff and gym members. It feels like a community of like minded people, which it is, I guess. Everyone is so helpful and kind and it has been quite a step change for me to feel so relaxed in such a place. I have made friends and enjoy chatting to others about gym or non gym related issues. It is a nice feeling to feel part of a club and be within a group of friendly people.
So, my final thoughts ? I have definitely changed over the last four months and for the better. I am healthier, fitter and my mental health has improved. It is funny how going to a gym can have such an effect on many aspects of your life. It seems such a simple thing and yet can have such an impact. Yes, it takes effort ( and money ) to join a gym and to keep going. But is it worth it ? Absolutely ! You really can’t put a price on health can you ? In my world, if we have good health then we have a good life. With good health, so much more seems achievable and our life just opens up to new possibilities. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner. However there is no time like the present to make changes in your life, whatever your age and circumstances.
I hope you have enjoyed following me on this journey of mine. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings on the benefits of joining a gym. Have you been a member of a gym before ? Did you like it ? Dislike it ? Did you find it helped you lead a healthier life ?
For more information on the David Lloyd Club, please follow the links below.
Until next time dear friends