Day 71

5:45am *alarm rings*

Me: I need to go for a run.

Husband: Sounds good.

Me: I’m not going to do it.

Husband: Why not?

Me: I’m done. 70 days is enough.

Husband: If you don’t want to run, go and do something else. You’re not quitting now.

Me: *stares aggressively at sports bra*

Husband: Just go and get it done. You’ll be glad when you’ve done it.

71 days ago this conversation would not have taken place. It might have begun in the same way – I might have set an alarm and declared that first thing, early in the morning, I’d be leaping out of bed and racing downstairs to exercise. Both my husband and I would have known it wasn’t really going to happen. He would have humoured me the night before but not have been surprised when I’d turned the alarm off and snuggled back down for a bit longer.

It turns out it’s not just me who’s been affected by this 0 to 100 days of exercise challenge. Whilst I haven’t inspired my husband to start exercising, I have changed his perception of my focus and determination to exercise. He knows how important this challenge is to me and this morning he knew what I needed to hear to get up and get moving. His belief that I can complete the next 29 days is absolute – handy to fall back on when my self-belief falters.

Our son has been affected too. The first time he saw me exercising (Day 1 of this challenge) he was very distressed. He shouted and cried for me to stop – I think mostly because his mummy was doing something that he didn’t recognise and which didn’t involve him. He was absolutely fine and playing happily with his grandparents at the time but seeing me in the garden doing star jumps tipped him into the land of toddler breakdown. I carried on exercising because I knew he was safe and loved and absolutely fine but it took a lot not to quit right there and then and just run to him to tell him it was okay – mummy was just being silly and it’s all done now.

Children adapt remarkably fast to new things with the right support and consistent reassurance. He didn’t like it when I went for my first run either and stood at the door crying and asking me not to go whilst I put on my trainers. In my head I kept up the mantra, “I’m doing it for them. I’m doing it to be a stronger, happier, healthier mum for them.” And my husband had my back – he pushed me out of the door that day because he knew I didn’t want to leave our son distressed and then, once I’d gone, he repeated our explanation: mummy is going to do her exercise and then she’s coming back. She’s exercising so she can have more energy to play with you.

This morning our son waved at me happily whilst I finished an exercise DVD and after breakfast he role played his own exercise. He put on my trainers and said, “I’m going for my run now.” Then he told me which number on the clock he’d be back by. I asked him why he was going for a run and he said, “to make me strong and get more energy.” His understanding of why I am exercising revolves around him – as all things do when you are 3 – I am exercising so I can have more energy to play with him. It’s not an incorrect view. One of the lovely things to come out of the last 71 days is seeing how positively he talks about being healthy and strong and having energy for fun things. And although I spoke positivitely about such things, I can’t say my behaviour before this challenge demonstrated these values in a way which mirrored my words.

Our daughter, almost 6 months old now, will hopefully never know anything other than a mum who values being healthy and exercising regularly and that is something I never imagined for her when she was born. So yes, this morning – briefly – I wanted to quit. Even now, after 70 days of exercising daily, I have moments where I long for the old ways of lazy living. But then I look at my family. I’m doing this for me and I’m doing this for them and they will always be more than worth getting out of bed for.

Day 70

There are only 30 days left on my 0-100 days of exercise challenge. Today I am feeling very inspired by some amazing people who are doing amazing things. Some have been in touch to tell me about exercise they are doing as well now which is completely awesome – I feel like we are in it together and all helping to keep one another going whilst celebrating each other’s wins.

The last 70 days seem to have disappeared without me noticing and I still have an exercise to-do list I want to achieve before the 100 days are up. I’m feeling inspired and motivated and so here we go – things to achieve in the next 30 days:

1. A spinning class (I already feel like I am going to regret this one)

2. A bounce fit class – exercise on little personal trampolines (what’s not to love?)

3. A Jazzercise class (Jazz hands ready to go)

4. A group run in a park (also referred to as a Park Run)

5. A 30 day challenge (Abs in 30 days or Yoga for 30 days. Actual challenge still tbc)

6. Run 5k in 30 minutes (I know, I know. I thought I’d done this too. But it turns out, thanks to a new App which tracks my run, I’m actually only running 4.85k in 30 mins so I need to pick up the pace a bit)

7. Try out the Dirty Dancing exercise DVD which has been gathering dust on our DVD shelf for too long.

8. Attend a circuits session with the village fitness enthusiasts.

9. Make a plan for when the 100 days are up and decide how to maintain a healthy balance of exercise and Jaffa Cakes in my life.

Day 69

Day 69 seems as good a day as any to mention those little muscles of mystery – the pelvic floor. Not the first thing you think of when someone mentions exercise but a pretty vital little group. The pelvic floor is often mentioned when you attend an exercise class over the age of 30. “Hold in that pelvic floor” or “pull in your pelvic floor ladies” are common phrases which fly around the room during a workout.

For those who are still unaware of their pelvic floor, it is the group of muscles which keep the pelvic organs in place – those being the bladder and bowel (and uterus in women). Thanks Google for confirming that. You don’t need to do anything very exciting to find them – I was told to imagine that I was urinating and I wanted to stop the flow of urine. The muscles you would use to do that are your pelvic floor – but this is the important bit, don’t actually do that! When you are on the loo just focus on going to the loo; it’s not the time to exercise.

It seems that these exercises are still somewhat taboo in discussions. I’ve heard women mutter the phrase pelvic floor in conversation or whisper the words as if they are dirty. They’re not. They’re just muscles. A friend of mine was incontinent for 2 weeks after she gave birth. 2 weeks. 2 weeks with no awareness of whether she was going to the toilet or not – just what you need when you are also managing the emotions and practicalities of a newborn baby coming into your world. She worked her pelvic floor with a focus and determination I’ve never seen before and got her muscles back in shape whilst I was still crossing my legs and hoping for the best a good few months later.

Other women I know have reported similar experiences, or long term bladder control trouble. For the last few weeks of pregnancy and the first few weeks after giving birth, I couldn’t sneeze without needing a change of underwear. Too much information? It shouldn’t be. Too awkward for you to read? It shouldn’t be. Embarrassed? You shouldn’t be.

No one ever gets embarrassed about having a dodgy calf muscle or feels awkward that their bicep isn’t working at full throttle. We all have a pelvic floor and we can all take the time to look after it and we really should. If for no other reason than it makes far too much washing if it’s not in good nick. And the best news on this front – there is an app! Of course. I downloaded it after I gave birth the second time and I spent 6 weeks clocking up over 3 hours worth of pelvic floor exercise time just focusing on those little muscles and getting them back in shape. I know I spent that long because the app gave me daily updates and reminders. Now that’s technology at its best.

As a special treat I’ve even done a set of pelvic floor exercises whilst writing this. Go for it – make yourself a cup of tea, sit down in a comfy chair and just check in with those little guys. They’ll thank you as you get older if you do.

Day 68

I’ve been exercising for over two months now. The pre-exercise me used to make jokes about how unhealthy I was and how I didn’t exercise. It is fairly common to joke about your perceived weaknesses or self-declared failings. Perhaps we joke because we would rather we said it than someone else did, or because making light of it might draw away attention from the fact that we actually aren’t very happy about something.

Today in conversation, when diet and exercise came up, I had to stop myself mid-sentence. I was just about to comment on how mad the other person sounded when they spoke about getting up early to exercise when I realised I couldn’t make that joke anymore because I do that too now. I was going to laugh about the fact that I don’t see the point of exercise for exercise sake when I could be doing more fun and important things. Except I do see the point of it now.

I was all ready to protect myself by putting up a wall of humour to block any potential criticism or pity that might come my way or happen behind my back and then I realised I didn’t need a wall anymore. I didn’t need to protect myself. What I could do instead was join in with a conversation about exercise and actually add my own thoughts and feelings about the benefits.

And as I chatted away about how great exercise can be I realised I sounded like someone else – someone I would have been intimidated by before. Not because I am intimidating and not because I know very much at all but because in the past people who talked passionately about exercise scared me a bit. I think I was scared because I was worried they would think I was lazy. I was. And actually there’s nothing wrong with being lazy – if you’re happy with that. But I wasn’t – and so I made jokes to cover the fact that actually what I would really like was to be healthier and fitter and stronger.

Today, 2 months of exercise me took a mallet and smashed down a brick wall that has been around unhealthy me for many years. I tore it to the ground and inside I found pre-exercise me. She was sitting there joking about how much she loved her body and would never put it through torture like exercise would be. I took her by the hand and told her it was okay – she doesn’t need to make jokes anymore. It’s okay to come out because no one else was actually ever judging her as much as she judged herself. And hey, look, she’s still me and I’m still her but we’re stronger now.

Day 67

Tonight my cousin came round. We don’t live far away from one another but life is busy, too busy sometimes, and so we don’t see each other as much as we should. When we do we always end up sharing stories and memories from our childhood – tonight we were reminded of how we always drank Nesquik chocolate milk as a treat when we saw each other.

As adults the drink of choice has changed somewhat and tonight we shared wine and pasta whilst catching up on each other’s lives. We lived together for a few months on and off when he was looking for somewhere to live after getting a job here a few years back. He joked that the reason he stayed for so long was because the wine was always flowing.

Now my alcohol tolerance is much lower. Perhaps it’s the 5:30am wake up call from a 3 year old or maybe it’s an older body which doesn’t take so kindly to being poisoned on a regular basis. I definitely don’t think 10pm is the time for opening another bottle anymore. Now as the clock ticks round to 10pm I am rounding off conversations and declaring the evening to have been “delightful” as I slowly usher guests towards the door.

When did I get so boring?

I don’t think it is boring really but it’s certainly the word that gets thrown about when people start talking like this. Old and boring. Sometimes it’s categorised as maturity; we’re so grown up now that we favour early nights over hangovers. Boring or mature? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

I used to worry about things like this – the perceptions others might have of me if I wasn’t staying up late, drinking lots, keeping the good times rolling. I used to worry I wasn’t fun anymore or that I’d lost a bit of my identity. Funny that, wanting to be identified as someone who regularly had lie ins to combat hangovers.

I don’t worry about this now – now I’m happy to say I’m going to bed when it suits me to go to bed. Perhaps that is a sign of maturity. I certainly worry less about people’s judgements of my character these days. Some people will like me and some people won’t – that’s okay. I don’t like everyone I meet and I don’t need everyone I meet to like me. As I get older I realise that this is good; I am more comfortable and confident in who I am and what I’m about.

This is true too of this challenge. My confidence in who I am has grown and I have more faith in my own strength and more belief in my own values and opinions. I can’t pinpoint exactly why this has happened. It doesn’t seem on paper to equate – why should spending 30 minutes completing a Zumba workout be the equivalent of feeling a sense of calm about who I am as a person? Somehow taking control of my health and exercise has helped to keep self-doubt at bay.

Sometimes, just when I think I might be turning into a grown up, something reminds me that I’m not quite there yet. Tonight it was when I decided that tomorrow I am definitely going to have a chocolate Nesquik milk before bed.

Day 66

I took piano lessons for 5 years. I really liked the idea of playing the piano. For five long years I kept up the pretense that playing the piano was something I really did want to do and I kept thinking that at some point I would actually sit down and practise. Sometimes I sat at the piano for 30 minutes and looked at the music, turned the pages, played an occasional scale, looked at the music again, turned more pages, played a few notes – finally declaring my excellent practice to be complete. I could while away many an evening pretending I was trying.

The truth was I didn’t want to learn. I wanted to be able to play but I had no interest in practising and getting better. I imagined myself playing at concerts or writing songs which I would perform in front of large crowds. But I hated practising. I also hated that year after year I was put in for grade examinations by my teacher. Each grade was the same – from sitting outside the exam room nervously clutching sheets of piano music, to flapping my way through scales and arpeggios and then finally the dreaded singing element when the examiner played a tune I had to echo back. Each exam ended in the same way – with me in floods of tears and the examiner taking pity and awarding me the lowest pass mark possible.

Until grade 4. At grade 4 you can’t fake it anymore and no amount of tears will distract from the fact that if you don’t know what you are doing then you just don’t get to pass. I was told a few weeks later by the music teacher who whispered it as I walked into assembly, “I don’t want you to be upset but you won’t hear your name when the certificates are handed out.”

I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t really anything. I certainly wasn’t surprised. I stopped playing the piano after that; it was a lovely idea but it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I still love the idea of being able to play the piano but not enough to go back to sitting down at the keyboard and actually working to make it happen. Then again, 66 days ago I didn’t like the idea of working hard on being healthy. I didn’t think exercise was the right fit for me either. Maybe there’s still a future when I am a talented musician – I’d be surprised but I don’t think I’ll rule it out as a possibility just yet.

If the last 66 days have taught me one thing, it’s that you never know what you might be capable of until you actually try.

Day 65

Over the last few days it just so happens that I have seen people who I haven’t seen for a while. Each one has taken the time to comment on how I look well; some have mentioned that I look as if I’ve lost weight. I haven’t funnily enough – according to the scales I am still within a pound or two of where I started. I have, however, very much enjoyed the compliments – who doesn’t?

I look in the mirror every day – when I get dressed, when I brush my hair or put make up on; I check my reflection when I’m washing my hands and I even take a sneaky look when I pass windows or car doors and that’s before I count the number of selfies I take where I, once again, am looking at myself. I’m not trying to win a vanity contest here but it did occur to me that I see myself a lot during an average day.

When you see something everyday you don’t really look. Not properly. You look superficially or you glance. The look is often fleeting – it happens all the time when people see our surname written down. They always add in an “r” which does not exist. They glance and fill in the blanks because they are looking but they are not seeing.

When you see someone you haven’t seen for a while you look more closely. You take them in and you notice things if they’ve changed. Today I decided to look properly at myself – to look but also to see. Here’s what I saw:

I saw someone who still had energy at 9pm.

I saw someone who didn’t crash into a glass of wine as soon as the children were asleep.

I saw someone who is proud of themselves and probably talks too much about running now but hopes that she will calm down again soon.

I saw someone who is excited to get up early and exercise before the rest of the house is awake.

I saw someone who has surprised herself.

I saw someone who still can’t say no to Jaffa Cakes but doesn’t feel guilty about eating all 10 in one go anymore.