Day 100

Today I walked for 30 minutes to preschool and back (secret exercise) and then I did a 30 minute yoga workout to get the day off to a good start. This evening I attended my first hour long circuits session of 5 this month, all booked in, paid for and on the calendar. A lot can change in 100 days. I was going to run to the circuits session but I ate some biscuits and drove instead – some things don’t change.

I’ve talked about my love of before and after photos, of transformation and changes over time. I’ve also mentioned that I didn’t take a photo at the start or record my weight because the past 100 days were about more than my appearance or numbers on scales. But other changes are harder to explain and define.

I suppose I could tell you that I feel stronger and more confident. I could tell you that I sleep better, feel better, am better. I might bestow on you tales of my newly found determination and self-belief. I could shout about the benefits of exercise for mental health, anxiety and drive. I could talk about having more energy and how that filters through other areas of my life.

But if you’re anything like I was 100 days ago then you wouldn’t believe me anyway.

You have to find out for yourself.

If today is your Day 1, just imagine where you might be 100 days from now.

And then, just before I uploaded this last post, I realised something – I do have a before and after photo after all. So I’ll just leave those here and say Goodnight.

Day 1
Day 100

Day 99

Christmas season in schools is always fairly manic. Play rehearsals, decoration crafting, fairs, cold breaktimes, end of term reports, parties – all throw themselves in the mix to create excitable, overwhelmed, exhausted children. For teachers, the wind down towards the last day when they can clear away glitter and put a Christmas film on is likewise a simultaneously exhausting and delightful time.

Over the years I was given some wonderful thank you gifts at Christmas, never expected but always gratefully received. They ranged from bottles of wine and vouchers selected by parents to gifts such as cookbooks, home-made biscuits and even a Boppit (an electronic, addictive and over-excited children’s toy). The little boy who gave it to me said, “I was allowed to choose what to buy you. This reminded me of you”. It was probably one of my favourite gifts of all time.

A mum came back into school one New Year and told me she had fought her son all holiday to get him to write his thank you cards. On the first day back I’d given him one to thank him for the gift he had given me. He went home that day and wrote all of his own thank you cards without any fuss. The mum was delighted – he had realised the impact his cards could have on the recipients.

When we were younger we were always encouraged to write thank you cards to people who had given us gifts or been kind. It was a lesson well embedded and remains with me today. In fact we have a couple of outstanding thank you cards which are currently awaiting a stamp and until they are sent I won’t feel quite settled. Appreciating gifts we have been given and valuing time and effort people have made is important and so, now on Day 99, I want to say thank you.

Thank you to everyone who has read my words and followed along with my 100 day challenge. Thank you to those who dipped in and out; thank you to those who read every day without exception. Thank you to strangers who stumbled along and checked it out; thank you to those who stayed for the ride.

Thank you to the people who messaged me to say they’d been inspired to exercise themselves. Thank you to those who offered support – exercising with me in person or in spirit. Thank you to my in-laws who are sometimes surprised by my mad ideas but always supportive. Thank you to the people who told me I was awesome and amazing and fantastic. And thank you to my brother who read a few days and then told me my writing was too cheesy and cringey – it’s always good to have people who can ground you too.

Thank you to my parents who read every word and helped with childcare so I could exercise on various days along the way. Thank you to my dad, whose faith in me is unwavering and my mum who, as always, immediately jumped aboard armed with inspiration, suggestions, boundless enthusiasm and encouragement.

Thank you to our children who have absolutely no idea what has been going on but have unknowingly inspired me numerous times and kept me going. And thank you to my husband – my biggest cheerleader – who has helped, supported, guided and provided motivation every day and especially when I met bumps along the way.

I have so many emotions about reaching day 99, the penultimate day. And at the fore of those emotions is gratitude.

Day 98

You would be forgiven for thinking that 98 days into my challenge to exercise for 100 days I would remember to actually do some exercise. Today it hasn’t crossed my mind once. It is now almost 10pm at night and I have just remembered that I am meant to be exercising and writing about it.

How this has happened when for 98 days in a row I have managed it, is almost laughable. Indeed, it was amusing to imagine a scenario where I just forgot to complete the challenge – stopping two days short because it slipped my mind. Whoops.

I will do some when I finish writing this. I am quite excited about some bedtime yoga now I’ve remembered about it. I am surprised how easily I was able to let today’s exercise slip from my mind and think it is most likely because I’ve become slightly more complacent about it. “I’m almost done” and “only two days left” have resulted in me relaxing and losing that momentum and motivation to keep going.

This is a good thing to recognise before the 100 days are up in 48 hours. I was joking with some friends this weekend how after Wednesday, when the challenge ends, I will just go back to the same non-exercising, unhealthy lifestyle. Perhaps I wasn’t joking. It wouldn’t be that hard to let it all slide once I stop making it a daily priority.

I thought that exercising for 100 days in a row required discipline but I see now the real discipline and determination will come next. It will be the next 100 days when I am not writing about it and not feeling accountable to my 100 day challenge that will really test me, when I’m out there on my own away from this blog. And I suppose, making exercise a part of my future – that will be the real challenge.

Day 97

On Day 2 of this challenge I made two lists. The first was a list of reasons to exercise, the second a list of reasons I don’t. As teachers we were always encouraged to be reflective of what we and the students we taught had learnt. Looking back at my list of reasons not to exercise, here’s what I’ve learnt over the last 97 days:

I don’t have time: well, clearly this is not true because for 30 minutes every day for the last 97 days I’ve found the time; I’ve made the time. Exercise doesn’t always fit neatly into the day and at times it is a downright nightmare to coordinate exercise around life. I’ve also had to make compromises and do less somewhere else, to prioritise exercise over something else in my day. Time doesn’t magically appear but you can find time to exercise – if you want to. I didn’t want to before but I do now.

I’m not good at it: of course I wasn’t. Why would I be good at something I never made the effort to be good at? I’ve had to fight my internal need to be amazing at something first time and “win” but the exciting part of the last 97 days has been seeing the progress I’ve made and watching my body “get good” at exercise.

I don’t have the necessary equipment: what, like a body? Legs and arms and (somewhere) abs? I don’t have those things? Actually, I’m really lucky because I do have the necessary equipment and it’s in good working order (most of the time) and recognising that and not taking it for granted has been an important part of my motivation.

I can’t afford it: nearly all the exercise I’ve done in the last 97 days has been either free or very low cost, especially running. I’ve had to spend money on the classes I’ve been to but I think the benefits of a shared experience and qualified instructor can’t be underestimated. Also, the £6 I spent on a Bounce! class replaced the £6 I would have spent on a bottle of wine that night.

It’s boring: yes… sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s really boring and repetitive but if it is then it’s not the right exercise. Having tried many different types of exercise over the last 97 days, I’ve found things I like, things I don’t, things that challenge me, things that bore me. Not all exercise suits all people and finding a match is like finding a new friend – one who makes you feel good about yourself so you enjoy seeing them a few times a week.

It’s too hard: then you’re not doing it right. Or you need to find a different type. It should be hard and it should challenge you – but if it’s too hard then keep looking because it should be fun too.

It hurts: see above. Achy muscles are okay, pain is not. I think the idea of exercise hurt more than the actual exercise 97 days ago – once I started I realised this was just another wall I’d built around exercise to stop me bothering.

I’d rather eat cake and drink wine: still mostly true. But now I eat cake and drink wine without feeling guilty. I also eat cake and drink wine when I want to not because I’m exhausted and need to or am stressed and need to. I’m more in control and can use exercise to regulate my mood rather than food and drink.

So here we are on Day 97 and it looks like I’ve run out of excuses not to exercise now.

Day 96

Tonight we attended our village Christmas lights ‘switch on’. Big holidays are always a good way to reflect on time passing. At the Christmas lights switch on last year, I was sixteen weeks pregnant and about to start a six night run of my first community pantomime – all singing and all dancing. Our son was sat, quietly, in a pram – very unusual for him – we didn’t know at the time that this out of character stillness would later reveal itself to be a precursor to chicken pox.

This year he was racing around the green with a hoard of preschool children all hyped up, awaiting Santa’s arrival. Our daughter, now 6 months old, sat in her usual jolly way watching the scene unfold. This year I have tickets to watch the pantomime rather than perform in it and of course, my husband remains his usual steady and happy self. So there we were, a year later, much the same but a little bit different too.

Now almost 100 days have passed since I made exercise a daily part of my life. 4 days left to go and I am starting to wonder what the next 100 will hold. What could I start doing now and where might I be 100 days from now? It’s a fun way to measure time passing, taking a moment each day to reflect on life. I’ve never kept a diary before for longer than a week, but I imagine it might have the same impact. 100 days from now we will be coming into the spring and a new year will be underway.

With the New Year coming up, it’s easy to start saving up good intentions. Next year I won’t drink as much alcohol or eat as much rubbish. Next year I will exercise more, read more, worry less, recycle better. Year after year, resolutions tumble out of my mouth and roll with wild abandonment off into the meadows of never-gunna-happen.

January 1st is a nice time to start afresh and make changes but another day that’s a good day to start is today.

It’s right now.

I didn’t start my challenge to exercise for 100 days at the start of a year or the start of a month. I don’t even think I started on a Monday and I know I didn’t start first thing in the morning. There’s always a better time to start something, an easier time or a poignant moment to hold on for.

Don’t.

If you have that little voice in your head telling you to go for something, then just go do it. Don’t wait and don’t make excuses because that little voice in your head knows something that you don’t – it knows you’re ready. You’re ready to get started – you’re ready to get going and it’s not about tomorrow, it’s about today.

Day 95

One of our toddler’s favourite places to walk is along the edge of a very large field opposite our house. He seems to have assigned himself the role of farmer’s assistant. We met the farmer of the field once, he stopped his tractor and showed us the plough he was pulling. Ah, country life. Our 3 year old has never forgotten it and regularly reminds us that that the farmer told him he would be sowing winter beans as soon as the ground dried out a bit. Since then our son has insisted on regular inspections whereby he can check the quality of the soil. He takes his work seriously and today was no exception. Our daughter, now 6 months, remained wholly unimpressed at being in the outside world again and sat in her carrier judging us all. I am in love with her constant level of absolute and utter sass.

Whilst walking the length of the field today our son stopped and looked backwards. After a pause he turned back to me and with the infinite wisdom of a child said,

“Look Mummy. Look how far we’ve come.”

With only 5 days left of my challenge to exercise for 100 days I am doing a lot of this at the moment – looking backwards. Looking at how far I’ve come since Day 1. It feels like so long ago now that I was jumping around our garden in a sports bra and big pants, squatting in time to an app. I miss the warmth of those early days. This morning’s frost was fun for wellies but it is not my favourite exercise environment.

95 days gone and 5 days to go. A friend asked me today how I would be celebrating – would I plan anything special for my final day of exercise. I joked that perhaps a naked 5k would be on the cards. It won’t. It’s far too cold for that but it did leave me pondering. Day 100 will fall on a Wednesday. What should I do with that day – I have some time in the morning to try something new whilst our eldest is at preschool. My husband isn’t normally home late on a Wednesday so I could try a new class in the evening.

However I exercise that day I know I will be looking back and reflecting on the last few months but more excitingly I will be looking to the future. I will be looking ahead to a life where exercise is important, where exercise is valued and a future where I build on these 100 days, taking what I’ve learnt and moving forwards.

Day 94

It is easy to be bombarded with life sometimes and forget the importance of self-care. We can become so worried about supporting and caring for others that our ability to be kind to ourselves is compromised. Today I have followed a self-care guide as follows:

Step 1: Begin the day by dancing in front of the bedroom mirror in your underwear. Wiggle and jiggle every bit of you that will comply. Shake that booty and roll those rolls. And whilst you’re doing it, praise your body for its amazing awesomeness – it is keeping you alive! It totally and utterly rocks so tell it that you love it and you don’t mind that it wobbles and squishes. Sing to it – tell it that you’re bringing sexy back. You are.

Step 2: Make a cup of tea for yourself. Don’t rush it – get it just right. Milky? Builders’? Herbal? Sugar? Sweetner? Black? We all know that the way we make tea is the right way even if everyone else makes it in a completely different way. So make yours how it should be made. A proper cup of tea. Then sit down, quietly, and don’t do anything else whilst you drink it. Don’t scroll social media, try and pack your bag, empty the washing machine, call someone, get some work done. Just sit down and drink the tea.

Step 3: Have a shower, have a bath, brush your hair, cut your nails, clean your teeth, massage your feet, put on a face mask, moisturise something – actual, literal, physical self-care. Do something nice for your body to show it that it is valued.

Step 4: Eat something that’s good for you and then eat something you like. If you can find a food which meets both of these criteria at the same time then you are winning at life, my friend. If you’re like me, then chop up some salad bits and get them in your belly. Feed your bones and make your brain bounce. Then have a bit of chocolate afterwards because that’s okay too.

Step 5: Make a to-do list. Whatever is in your head will be happier on paper. All those little things in your mind which are festering back there – get them out. Everything is calmer with a list. Make a list of things to do, things you’re worrying about, people you need to talk to, work you need to finish, books you want to read, meals you want to make, exercise you want to do – list it.

Step 6: Exercise. Do some.

It’s okay to prioritise yourself sometimes and it’s important to prioritise yourself at other times because the stronger we make ourselves feel, the stronger we are for helping others. Someone told me this week that kindness is about sharing your strength with others – so be kind to yourself, then go pass that kindness around, because the world can never have enough of that.