Day 38

Today is both National Poetry Day and the first time I’ve woken up cold since last winter. This morning the temperature was 2 degrees Celsius and so my morning shower served not only to freshen me up for the day but also to warm my bones. When I wake up two magical things happen. Firstly, I am greeted by a hot cup of tea which is very much appreciated – thank you to my husband for this – and the second thing that happens is that I have an idea for my blog post.

Sometimes the sentences come to me throughout the day but the germ of an idea has been sown overnight. As I sleep, my brain has been unjumbling my thoughts and scaffolding my writing for me. This morning – perhaps due to the cold, or maybe because things are always a little bit upside down in the world of poetry – I didn’t have an idea of what to write about. I had two.

The ideas tumbled around my head all morning and were in constant conflict with one another. Just as I thought about one, the opposite idea would pop back up and make its opinions known. I paced back and forth between the two ideas until I decided that the universe was probably giving me a sign and I promptly abandoned them both. Perhaps they will resurface another day but today they were not meant to be.

I love poetry – writing it, reading it, sharing it. So in appreciation of National Poetry Day I turned to the writing of one of my favourite (relatively unknown) poets in search of inspiration. Her poem “5 a Day Super Gran” is an ode to the older generations – those who didn’t grow up on couscous and had never heard of yoga. She talks of fresh air and fruit and vegetables, limiting sugar and alcohol and how she knows oldies from generations gone by who didn’t get fit in gyms but had physical jobs where life kept them fit.

The poet talks about energy and how sometimes people seem to have an endless supply of it – in the poem the focus is an older relative, but it is true too of children. Where our toddler gets the energy to move and talk and live at the speed he does is a mystery to us. He uses food as fuel, only staying still just long enough to reload and restock his engine before he’s bounding and bouncing and bombarding his way around again. If it’s true and being active makes you more active, then he is certainly the person to prove that theory.

To be honest, this is one area of exercise that so far has been somewhat disappointing. When I started my 0-100 days challenge, people told me that once I started exercising I would have more energy. That I too would be bouncing out of bed ready to take on the day. They said that being active would give me energy, not take it away. I can’t say I have been impressed so far. At the moment I feel zapped of energy. I need that caffeine hit more than anything after a night of broken sleep and muscles that tell me I’m still not doing those cool down stretches for long enough. Finding time each day to fit in exercise is exhausting in itself and so far the energy seesaw is not tipping in exercise’s favour.

This evening we have a friend staying. She is one of our favourite people. Why? Because she has energy. This time I’m not talking about being busy or moving quickly – she has got a sense about her, a positive energy that she carries with her wherever she goes. It’s impossible not to feel happy and relaxed in her presence and when she talks, you can’t help but listen. She’s a storyteller, a thinker, a philosopher, a fellow poet. We nicknamed her “Spiritual” a few years back and it has stuck. She has a great spiritual energy about her.

I hope that as I continue to exercise I will feel more energised and that my physical body will catch up. For now I can’t say that exercising is giving me more physical energy as I go about my day to day life. I still feel exhausted as I crawl into bed at night and I still wake up and reach for that cup of tea like a true caffeine addict. I am, however, experiencing other types of energy. The positive energy I feel about doing something healthy, the calming energy I feel after yoga and the focused energy I feel when I sit down to write. Tomorrow morning when I wake up and reach for my cup of tea, I will restock and refuel from these energy levels to power me up for the day. Positive, calm and focused.

Day 37

This morning my friend and I were talking about how the unused dining room in her house could be better utilised. By the end of the afternoon we’d moved furniture around and completely transformed the room into a family-friendly space that they will make use of frequently and enjoy spending time in.

I am a big fan of any form of transformation. It began with a love of shows such as Changing Rooms and Ground Force – the transformation shows of my youth, where rooms, houses and gardens were magically reimagined in the space of 30-60 minutes of quality television viewing. I couldn’t get enough. Even now my preference when flicking through the channels will always be for a programme where things change from one thing to another.

It doesn’t have to be houses either. I love watching weight loss programmes and seeing the transformation of people. I love watching shows where people’s behaviour is radically changed. Homes under the Hammer is another favourite and if, after a delapidated house is bought at auction, they go back a year later and none of the promised transformations have appeared then the disappointment I feel is real.

When I run now (it feels strange and exciting to write that), I look at the outside of houses. To distract my mind I think about what I would do to transform them. My new favourite feature in the world of house exteriors is the wood-effect cladding that seems to be going up everywhere in shades of grey. I love it, especially because it completely reinvents the house; the whole style and look changes.

With a father in the Forces, we moved a lot when I was growing up. We didn’t move as often as some army families I know but I still managed to clock up three primary schools on two different continents, so we didn’t do too badly. I absolutely loved moving for two reasons – firstly, I was always the new kid on the block. And when you’re new, everyone is interested in you and wants to hear your story. The second reason I loved moving was because I was always amazed by how quickly our new house became our home. The moving van would barely have reached the end of the driveway and our bedrooms would be set up with all of our things with everyone feeling at home almost instantly.

I still enjoy moving now but I have married someone who does not get as much joy out of change as I do. Once a change is on the cards he has always been 100% on board. But as he is content before the change, it doesn’t often occur to him to make it in the first place, which means that – on occasion – it has taken him by surprise when I announce one of my transformation ideas.

People often say that big life changes seem to happen at the same time. If you change one thing then that can have an impact on another area of your life and the chain of change dominos are set off. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising then, that when our son was 3 months old, I suggested we move from our beautiful home to one which needed every room renovating whilst I also retrained to start a new career. I’m just glad that our son started crawling after we’d knocked down walls and put in bathrooms or we would have been renovating at an advanced level of madness.

When our daughter hit the 3 month mark, I had another mad idea for transformation. I decided to exercise for 100 days in a row. And so here we are on day 37. The transformation has started but I’m not sure yet what the outcome will be. I’m hoping that my mindset will have shifted after this so that exercise continues to be a regular part of my life. I’m sure it’s not coincidental that I felt the need for something a little bit bonkers and a tad transformative after both our children were born.

Becoming a parent does transform your life, there’s no doubt about it and it can leave you feeling a little bit out of your zone of comfort and control. For me, feeling out of my comfort zone seems to push me towards making changes I can control and be in charge of, changes of which I can see the end result. At the end of a house renovation you can see what you’ve achieved – a new bathroom, walls plastered and painted, rooms reconfigured. The before and after is clear. Being parents is a never-ending, constantly changing rollercoaster and a steep learning curve – you have to spot and celebrate the successes as you go along.

I’m not sure what the transformation will be after I complete 0-100 days of exercise. I didn’t take an official “before” photograph or weigh myself so I won’t be able to do my transformation reveal like they do on the television shows I love so much. I think that’s because I didn’t want the transformation to be focused solely on my outer appearance. I saw a friend this week who hasn’t seen me since I began and she commented that I looked trimmer, more toned. Don’t get me wrong – the compliment was lovely and very much appreciated. But I am not doing this just so I can look better.

The transformation reveal might not be a big wow moment. It might be more of a shift in mindset. It might be a realisation that taking time out to look after my body makes positive changes in other areas of my life. Maybe regular exercise will set off the chain of dominos which lead to other exciting changes. 63 days to go…

Day 36

I love trying new things. I enjoy new experiences. I am always keen to volunteer and have a go. The tricky bit, I find, is going back and having a second try. So (as a list super-fan) here is the definitive list of – Things I’ve tried once and never tried again:

Wall climbing (too high)

Holding a spider (too scary)

Trapeze swinging (too dangerous)

Auditioning for the game show Tipping Point (too disappointing)

Sushi (too fishy)

Christmas shopping with a toddler (too manic)

Reading The Lovely Bones (too sad)

Skiing down a black slope (too icy)

Building an IKEA wardrobe (too complicated)

And finally, topping the list is… Returning to an exercise class I have tried before. I have attended many, many exercise classes and as I’ve waved off the instructor, thanking them profusely for the fantastic experience, I’ve known that I will never return. My reasons for not returning vary but are generally linked with: feeling like I couldn’t do it; knowing I wasn’t the best in the room; embarrassing myself by trying to get cheap laughs and not wanting to be seen to be trying too hard to become good at something incase I fail.

So today was a big step for me. I went back to the exercise class I tried two weeks ago – the parent and baby Bums, Legs and Tums workout. Last time our daughter spent the class laughing at me (a reasonable reaction) and the afternoon after the class her Baby Bestie (inspired by his own mother) rolled over for the first time!

I have to admit to feeling a little nervous going back to the same class, which wasn’t helped by the fact that we were 5 minutes late and the warm up was already in full swing. I’d ummed and errred like a professional procrastinator – trying to use the baby’s nap cycle (not that she really has one) as an excuse not to go back. In the end I couldn’t justify not returning to my inner competitor and so I went.

The first thing I realised was that last time (in a desperate attempt to make myself as invisible as possible), I hadn’t actually noticed a lot of things going on around me. There’s a massive grafitti style painting of the words “Destination YOU” written on the wall for starters and the lady running the class – well – let’s just say, I have a bit of a girl crush on her now.

I imagined a back story for her as I was exercising. In it she was just like me – an exercise phobe. Then only a few months of commitment later and she had the most incredible figure, zest for life and healthy lifestyle. This could be me in 64 days’ time!

The reality is that she probably jumped right out of the womb wearing sports gear and ready to take on a triathlon before nap time. She looks like a natural to me. People often describe others as being “natural” at their chosen passion: she’s a natural at it or  he was born to do it. The idea of being “a natural” implies that hard work isn’t needed. I know people that could be described as being “naturals at parenting” but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still put in a huge amount of time, energy and effort.

I’ve used this concept as an excuse before – I’m just not naturally slim. I am not a natural at exercise. It’s not in my bones. It’s just not me. Excuses because I didn’t want to or didn’t think I could do it.

But 36 days ago I couldn’t run for 20 minutes. 36 days ago I had never returned to an exercise class for another go at it. 36 days ago exercise was not part of my daily life. And that’s because 36 days ago I stopped making excuses and I got up and got going. I might not naturally feel like I am good at exercise but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It doesn’t mean I can’t become good at it.

I’m glad I noticed the wall graffiti this time – Destination YOU – it’s cheesy but it works. I am doing this 0-100 exercise challenge for me but I’m also doing it to be a good role model for our children. I know it’s more coincidental than anything but today our daughter rolled for the first time. She rolled at the class – right off her mat and on to mine.

She rolled and she made it look easy – you might think she was a natural at it. But I’ve watched for two weeks whilst she’s lifted her head, pushed herself up, moved one leg round – trying time and time again to get herself rolling. She has been grumpy and frustrated and downright angry that she’s not been able to do it. But she’s persevered. Her determination to get her body to move from back to front has been absolute. And finally, after two weeks of trying, she did it.

Today (when I was trying to inspire her) she was the one who inspired me. She wasn’t a natural at rolling any more than I am a natural at exercise. We are both working hard and persevering. The look of absolute delight on our daughter’s face when she rolled over for the first time was awesome. So strong, so focused, so powerful – so it turns out that today, going back to that class, wasn’t about me at all. Today it was definitely Destination – HER.