This afternoon I was making a cup of tea for me and my parents. My mum was playing with our son and our daughter was settling in her cot. My dad and I had the following conversation:
Dad: Which exercise are you doing today?
Me: I think I need to run because if you guys are here I can get out in the daylight.
Dad: Ok. Go on then.
Me: Yeah, maybe. I’ll just make the tea.
Dad: No. I will make that. Go and run.
Dad: Stop thinking about it, get into your kit and go. Now. Go on.
Stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about it. Yes. I do think about it a lot. I think that I’ve missed my chance now. I think I’ve started going backwards because I was doing really well but then the weather turned and then my app cut out and now I only run once a week and I’m losing stamina. I think about excuses I can make.
I went upstairs and thought about how I couldn’t find my hair band that I always run with so my earphones were bound to fall out. I thought about which top to wear – which motivational slogan would help me run faster. I thought about how muddy my trainers were and how I needed the toilet and how I’d just eaten a big lunch and how this was probably the worst time to run. I thought about how our toddler was overtired and our baby hadn’t quite settled yet so it wasn’t a great time to disappear for half an hour.
Funny – I’ve been told by several sources over the years how my generation over-thinks things. Maybe we do. I thought about that too.
Then I listened to my dad’s advice and I just stopped thinking. I stopped thinking about why I couldn’t run 5k today and instead of thinking, I just ran. And everytime I thought about stopping and quitting and not running 5k I did the same thing: I stopped thinking and just carried on.
And then, for the first time since I started running 3 months ago, I ran 5k. And I completed it in under 30 minutes.
I would have cried with happiness and pride and the feeling of sheer awesomeness. But by the time I’d run 5k I didn’t have any energy left to cry, so I just smiled instead.
After hours, at a familiar soft play venue I frequent with our children, I joined a Bounce! exercise class. If you’ve never heard of Bounce! before then it can be summed up like this: aerobics that you would normally do standing on the floor, except you’re on a mini personal trampoline. Mad right?
It’s safe to say that 92 days ago I couldn’t have completed an hour-long floor-based aerobics session as successfully as I completed tonight’s class. That said, I also spent far too long fantastising about the soft play menu on the wall behind the instructor – there was something listed as “dirty chips” which I will absolutely be going back for one day soon.
Bounce! was mad. Mad as a box of frogs (how appropriate is that simile right now?!) And jumping frogs we were. It was a little bit like horse riding on a trapeze at times; both activities, aerobics and jumping on a trampoline, are by themselves actually workout enough. Whoever thought to combine the two must have had a screw loose. But not the screws on the trampoline because they were solid – I couldn’t tip that thing if I tried. And I did – well you would, wouldn’t you?
The instructor put us through our paces for the full hour – even stretching on a trampoline is challenging, trying to coordinate limbs and balance at the same time. She was a very likable lady and I have realised through this challenge how important it is to pick a class with an instructor you feel empowered by. Some people can really get on board with the militant instructors who push you hard. I like the ones who can laugh at themselves and make you feel like you’re with a group of friends having a great time.
One lady joined Bounce! six months ago. She attends four sessions a week now and has lost 3 stone since she began. She said it has changed her life and now she gets grumpy if she can’t Bounce! Another exercise convert in our midst. I did enjoy it but I’m not sure how I’d feel going weekly – I like the novelty of different classes but I wonder if I’d get bored doing the same exercise each week.
I’m glad I saved Bounce! until now. I’ve seen the posters advertising it when I’ve been in that soft play centre over the last few years and I’ve joined the Facebook group. The company is absolutely top of its game when it comes to advertising. I have regular empowering memes popping up now telling me how bouncing will revolutionise my life – I was pumped up and ready to go all week reading them. I’m glad I saved it for Day 92 because I could really see how far I’ve come since Day 1. I bounced in (excited to exercise), I bounced for an hour and then I bounced out again, happy to have enjoyed another new class.
Today I met a lady who only a few years ago was paralysed following a stroke (the only movement she had was a slight twitch in her big toe). She was told that she would not walk again.
The mind boggles at how anyone would feel upon hearing this news. Sat in her hospital bed I am sure millions of thoughts must have entered, left and re-entered her head. Having been a squash and badminton player and regular dog walker and gardener only a month prior to being told this, I can only imagine the sense of devastation, worry, stress, sadness, anger and probably a wealth of other emotions she felt.
Today she is walking and, although perhaps not playing badminton daily anymore, she has the ability and freedom to move where and when she wants, to potter in the garden and move around her home. Today she was laughing at her time being rehabilitated with a lightness which I am sure did not give justice to the enormous amount of work and energy she (and of course the support team) put into rebuilding her muscles and getting her up and moving again.
She said she joked with the trainers when they encouraged her to do another hour on the cycling machine – “Don’t you know how old I am?” Their response? “We are not age-ist here.” What a wonderful job that must be – to take a person who has been told by medical professionals that they will not walk and then helping them, guiding them, supporting them to do just that.
The lady told me that she believed the reason for her recovery was that she was strong, having done regular exercise before her stroke – she pointed to her legs and told me they were strong. I imagine, however, that it takes a great deal more mental strength to overcome a diagnosis such as she was given. She must have really believed in her own strength and fought hard to build her body back up again.
Today I am feeling so grateful for my body. I am grateful for its strength and how it gets me from A to B with ease. I am grateful that I can exercise. It is a privilege to have a body which (nearly always) does what I want it to do, what I need it to do. I don’t want to take this privilege for granted – I want to celebrate it. This challenge – exercising for 100 days – has shown me how important it is to value my body, to nurture it, to love it.
Whilst teaching in a mainstream primary school, I mentioned to an experienced colleague my desire to work in a Special school. The school I had in mind involved working with children who had educational needs including physical, social, emotional and behavioural. It was a far cry from a class of 30 children who, although ability ranged and some did have statements of SEN, did not require such specific and diverse support within a classroom setting. When I told my colleague about my plans his exact words were, “You are an excellent teacher. You’d be wasted in Special Needs.”
His words were a red rag to a bull. If I’d had more confidence, I would have told him exactly what I thought about his statement but instead I left his office shocked and immediately contacted the Special school to arrange a visit. On the visit, I spent time in a variety of lessons. I met students who didn’t know they were in a school setting – their learning was all sensory. I met students who I later went on to support to gain Btech qualifications in Food Technology. I met students who had been excluded from previous schools as their behaviour could not be supported in the mainstream system. I met students with a diagnosis of ADHD, students on all shades of the autism spectrum, students who had medical conditions which I had never heard of and students who had come from some of the most challenging and heartbreaking homes.
I knew after an hour in the school that I would work there one day. I also knew that my skills would not be wasted – far from it. I knew my strengths as a teacher stemmed from the fact that I could form great relationships with children and I could understand and break down learning into the format that would make it accessible for individuals. I also knew that my expectations (unlike those of my mainstream colleague) would remain high. The children in that school, as all children do, deserved to have teachers who saw their potential and encouraged them to meet it and pushed them to try new things and to push their own expectations of themselves too.
By the end of my second year at the school, my form group – a very diverse and wonderfully challenging group of Key Stage 3 children – stood on stage in front of the whole school and performed a musical theatre number from Bugsy Malone, with a video backdrop of them dressed as gangsters dancing. I had an incredible team of teaching assistants that year who helped make this happen and, as we all danced along with the students, I could see how proud we all were – staff and students alike. The idea was a mad one and expectations had to be high to pull it off. We also had to help the students believe they could do it – we raised their expectations of themselves at the same time. And the pay-off was amazing.
On Day 10 of this challenge, I wrote about another teaching memory – about teaching maths and thinking about percentages. I am now at the other end of the challenge – only 10 days left. 90% of the challenge is done. 90 days ago I set myself the challenge of exercising for 100 days in a row and now, with 10 days left to complete, I realise that my expectations for myself were high – but I believe that, like the children I have worked with over the years, I should have high expectations of myself because setting my goal high and believing I’m capable of achieving it means the pay-off in 10 days time will be awesome.