Exercise and Me Over the Years

I was not into PE at school. I had no interest in team sports and would literally run out of the way when a ball headed my way in any ball game. In gymnastics I once wore shorts that were too big for me that resulted in them catching on the end of a high bar and me hitting my head so that an egg size bump appeared on my forehead. That earned me a nickname “Isku” (means a “punch” or a “hit”) that stuck for years. Horse riding was my thing and I was not interested in anything else. I did also love a game of rounders that we used to play at my horse riding school, using tree branches as bats and an Ariel washing ball instead of a real one.

In my late teens and early twenties I remember starting to attend some aerobics classes with my friends. I enjoyed it, would see some results but never managed to maintain consistency. Something would throw me off my routine (probably a terrible hangover after my numerous nights out or a new love interest) and it would take a long time to get back to it. Back then when it came to exercise I had one goal and one goal only; to look better. No other benefit ever even crossed my mind nor felt relevant to young me. This was my relationship with exercise for a very very long time.

In my early thirties whilst pregnant with Maija, my first daughter, I got into a consistent work out routine for the first time ever. My husband had started seeing a Personal Trainer and I decided to book some sessions in with her too if not for any other reason but to get stronger and be able to, possibly, have an easier delivery. At the same time though my pregnancy diet was horrendous; I took the nine months as a window of opportunity to eat, eat and eat. I was not going to be slim anyway, right? But I did enjoy my training with the PT and yes, I did feel strong and capable during labour.

Maija was then born 13 years ago. I lost my pregnancy weight (that I had a lot of due to all that indulging I had been doing) in record time, which was the result of manically trying to get back to being “the old me”… I ate a very restricted diet and as soon as it was possible started working out at a gym again and attending reformer pilates classes. Physically I got myself into an incredible shape and fast. I was slimmer than I had ever been and now I was also maintaining my workout routine so the results were easy to see. Again my only goal with it all was to look good. That I did achieve but emotionally I was struggling with being a new mum and didn’t have a healthy relationship with myself and my wellbeing.

I maintained my routine and restricted eating until I fell pregnant with my second daughter, Milla. I treated my body a little bit better during this second pregnancy and didn’t pile on quite as much weight than I had with Maija. When Milla was born, 11 years ago, I had adjusted to motherhood and never went back into the frantic dieting mode. I had maintained a workout routine late into the pregnancy so it was quite easy to get back to it when my body was ready.

Quite soon around this time we moved to Dubai for the first time around. I had stopped working and had a lot of time on my hands so I amped up my workout routine. I got into yoga and did that a few times per week as well as HIIT training with a PT, or at Barry’s Bootcamp but my relationship with food had become complicated (more about this another time…) so I carried around some extra weight that I was unhappy with (or I was in fact just unhappy but not able to see that it had nothing to do with my weight). Let’s be clear though; I was not overweight, just not as slim as I would have liked to be. Despite all this, exercise had now become a natural part of my life and I found it easy to commit to my routine. I was still mainly doing it in hope to loose weight and to look better though… Neither of which ever happened by the way whilst my relationship with food and self was in the space that it was!

Fast forward to around 2019 when we were back living in London. I had always loved walking and life in Central London made it very easy. A friend of mine had started paying attention to the number of steps she was doing daily and that got me on the same buzz. Recording them on my iPhone was enough for me but I started making sure I was getting that 10000 steps per day as a minimum. I was still maintaining my regular workout routine as well but walking started to become “a thing” for me.

Then in the first lockdown in 2020 I scrambled across Melissa Wood’s Instagram account and it was the beginning of the shift in my mindset… I became interested in what she had to say and how she lived her life. I first scoured all the podcast shows for episodes she had been interviewed in and it grew from there; soon I was walking around central London devouring podcasts about health and wellbeing and started to understand that I had been looking at it all wrong. I had been trying to punish myself to shape. It had all come from a place of self judgement, not from a place of self love. My mindset regarding everything, including working out started to shift… Walking was the form of exercise that I enjoyed the most so I gave myself a bit of slack regarding other workout routines. If on any given day walking was the only movement I felt like doing then that was fine! I ended up enrolling on my Health Coach course and my commitment to my wellbeing on a daily basis and to forming those healthy habits and routines grew. I was walking more and more whilst listening to my course material and whilst we were all living through covid lockdowns and restrictions. I started eating healthy, properly healthy, for the first time in my life. It was no longer about restricting certain foods but about nourishing my body and supporting my wellbeing. I started adding weight training to my routine but only in low intensity. I realised that I had never enjoyed the high intensity workouts I used to do and they had never served me. I had just felt like I HAD to do them in order to loose that little bit of weight that I wanted to loose.

And that is where I am at now. We are back living in Dubai where accumulating steps is not as easy as you are forced to drive so much but I make them happen and the 10,000 is the very minimum I do daily, regardless of what other sports or exercise I might do. That other exercise is low intensity weight training at a gym with a PT twice per week and I try to fit in one reformer pilates class in my weekly schedule. I have recently, like so many others, fallen in love with padel and I’m playing that a couple of times a week as well. Badly, given my history with sports as a kid (a nice little excuse I tell myself for my lack of skills…) but I’m improving and not giving up!

I want to add that the routine I have now is open to change at anytime. If I stop enjoying something I will reconsider it. Or if anything new sparks my interest I might have to give up something else. The journey continues but one thing has changed permanently; I now exercise to support both my physical and mental wellbeing. Exercise is not a punishment, I’m not whipping myself to shape. On the contrary; I’m loving this way of living. On the days that it feels a bit of a struggle to get up and go do it I remind myself of how good it makes me feel. And it does do that, every damn time.

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