A few months ago if you had told me I would have participated – voluntarily – in an challenge that involved multiple exercises back-to-back, I would have laughed. But last Saturday that is exactly what I found myself doing when I took part in the Fitness First FitBrit challenge.
I’ve talked before about my life-long struggles with weight, and body confidence. Exercise was something to be endured, not enjoyed.
That changed earlier this year thanks to an appointment with a very rude fertility consultant. And thanks really are due to that man: as a result of that appointment I signed up with a local gym, and got myself a personal trainer, Matt.
The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve transformed my attitude towards exercise and food. In addition to EMDR therapy, exercise has been a significant factor that has contributed to my recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
I focus on the workouts that I am good at (which as it turns out is rather a lot), including a lot of strength and resistance, rather than be tough on myself about what I am not so good at (most of the time, anyway!). Recently I even had fun doing the 22 day press ups challenge, throwing in a few other exercises for variety.
I celebrate what my body is able to do.
When I first asked if I was interested in doing the FitBrit challenge I said ‘yes’ but felt a little doubtful, especially when I looked up exactly what it entails.
- 800m run (0% incline)
- 30x kettlebell swings (24kg men / 16kg women)
- 20x ViPR tilts (20kg men / 12kg women)
- 10x burpee box jumps (Red men /blue women)
- 1.5km bike (L14 men/ L12 women)
- 10x parallette shooters
- 20x kettlebell sumo-deadlift to high pull (20kg men / 12kg women)
- 30x sandbell rainbow slams (7kg men / 5.5kg women)
- 400m row (drag factor 130-140)
Most of it looked fine – the regular cardio, boring but doable. I LOVE sandbell rainbow slams (the sound when they hit the floor is very satisfying, and I need little encouragement to do them).
ViPR tilts I had never done before, but soon got the hang of.
I had never heard of parallette shooters before, let alone done them – and oh my goodness they a lot more difficult to do! Matt was very patient with me while teaching me how to do them – much more patient than I was with myself….I wasn’t going to let them get the better of me, though.
The scuffs on the toes of my trainers bear witness to the number of attempts I’ve made to do parallette shoot throughs…while I’m still frustrated with them I’m improving all the time. Working on my flexibility helps too – though it makes me very achy, all those under utilised muscles getting a wake-up call 😄💪👊🏼 #workout #workoutmotivation #fitness #fitnesswomen #progressnotperfection #determination #wellbeing #selfcare
Never heard or done parallette shooters before either? This is how they are supposed to be done.
But anyway, back to me.
I spent time during every workout doing each of the exercises, making sure I felt comfortable with them, improving my form, and building up my speed.
A couple of days before the challenge I did a run-through:
This super-flattering hot and sweaty selfie was taken @ffbedford this morning after I’d done a practice run of the #fitbrit challenge – I’m doing it for real in Saturday. I’ve got an idea in my head of the time I’d like to achieve – I’m under no illusions about being anywhere near the top. Just being able to do the exercises involved (800 m run, 30 kettle bell swings, 20 Vipr tilts, 10 burpee box jumps, 1500m bike, 30 sandbell rainbow slams, 20 kettle bell sumo high lifts, 10 parallette shooters, 400 m row – before collapsing in a heap 😱) completing the challenge will be a huge achievement in itself 💪👊🏼👍 * * * #believeinyourselfie #fitnessfirst #determination #progressnotperfection #sweatyselfie #fitness #fitnesswomen #workout #workoutwonmen #hellpsyndromesurvivor #wellbeing #selfcare #determination #fitnessfirst
The time I had in mind was around 20 minutes.
Challenge day came around:
Arm flex! 💪 Getting ready for the #FitBrit challenge @ffbedford – are you ready @hooley1985 ? Let’s see if I’m still smiling after 😂 👊🏼👍 I’ll be going a FB live from my blog page (Headspace Perspective) at 10.30 about motivation if you’re interested 👍😄 #workout #workoutmotivation #fitness #fitnesswomen #movingforward #wellbeing #positivity #determination #progressnotperfection
After a warm-up I got going…after making sure my hair clips were securely in place.
Instructor James put me through my paces.
Martin was my water-bearer, towel holder, and official camera person.
The run was the best I’d done (save the best for the day, eh?) – and then it was on to the kettle bell swings.
I paused half way through, regathered my strength, and continued.
Next was the ViPR tilts, an exercise I’d come to enjoy since training for the challenge. My legs didn’t enjoy the lateral moves after the fast (for me) run, though.
Burpees aren’t a favourite exercise, and by this time my muscles were starting to ache. I can jump on the blue box perfectly well. Matt says my legs would do anything my brain tells them to do, but sadly my noggin was having a bit of a meltdown. This clip shows the final burpee and jump, including what is quite possibly the worst burpee you will ever witness:
They were followed by what felt like a bit of a rest, on the bike:
But then it was over to my nemesis, the parallettes. I don’t have any images of that, unfortunately (I honestly don’t, Martin didn’t take any). That exercise was done competently as far as my inelegant style goes!
I was able to make up for the parallettes with two of my strongest exercises, the kettlebell sumo squat to high lift,
…and my beloved sandbell slams.
Finally it was time for the last exercise, the row. I’m usually strong on the rowing machine, but by then of course everything in my body was screaming, and very loudly too. I just kept myself going, back and forth back and forth until I reached the 400 metre mark.
As you’ll be able to see, my face was beetroot and my body was in rather a lot of pain.
The call when I had reached the target was a massive relief. I couldn’t get my feet out of the straps quickly enough so I could lie on the floor until the nausea and lightheaded feeling passed, which it quickly did.
James told me my time: 16.27 – I was elated!
With a couple of pauses, and not transitioning as quickly as I had hoped between exercises I had wondered whether I had achieved my target – but I smashed it!
Afterwards I felt exhausted, and sweaty – but my overriding emotion was feeling incredibly proud of myself.
A random bloke came over to congratulate me, which was kind.
I’m looking forward to seeing my name on the leaderboard.
A huge thank you to Martin, and James for encouraging me all the way around.
And massive thank you to the team at Fitness First Bedford for their encouragement and support, and to Matt for being awesome.
The team at Bedford actively encourage members of all shapes, sizes, and ability to participate in activities and challenges.
A plea to Fitness First UK: please can we see some body diversity in your marketing?
The fitness industry subsists to a great degree by playing to people’s desire to achieve a ‘perfect’ body – and the imagery the industry uses suggests to us what that ‘perfect’ body is. That body usually is slender with tightly toned sinewy muscles. The women are usually wearing skimpy shorts and a crop top, showing off toned abs and a six-pack.
Physical fitness doesn’t always look like that, though – and the marketing can perpetuate the perception that only those with the ‘perfect’ body are able to participate in such activities. That’s a particular issue for those with body confidence issues. While it is particularly crucial for those with weight management issues to be encouraged to exercise regularly, especially without fear of embarassment or body shaming, I know people of all shapes and sizes who avoid working out in front of people because they think they ‘can’t’.
Fitness industry marketing is a significant factor. With the right workouts and nutrition those same people may well get a six pack, but only with the right encouragement to gain the confidence to workout in the first place.
And fitness is about more than six-packs anyway – I believe it is about being your best self, physically and mentally.
My 22 day press ups challenge received such a positive response I have started doing videos of my personal trainer sessions with Matt, which I am delighted (and relieved) to say have been met with an enthusiastic response.They are recorded live on my Facebook page, and you can also watch them on the Fitness and Wellbeing page.
A small handful of people have got themselves in the gym as a result of watching the videos, which involve the size 14, big-boobed, totally-not-your-fitness-industry-standard-figure me smashing it. Seeing me helped them with their not-perfect figures and not-perfect form realise that they could do it, too.
And that gives me a feeling of pride that is pretty much up there with completing the FitBrit challenge.
I’m honoured to have been shortlisted in the Best Campaigner category of the 2016 Mumsnet Blogging Awards. Please would you take a second to vote for me, and help me reach the final? Voting is open until October 7.