This year on the blog I have been writing quite a bit about change. Results from the annual PWK reader survey 2013 showed that 22% of readers wanted to change their exercise habits in 2014. Changing exercise habits is a goal we often hear ourselves and others make at the start of the year.
As we near the end of winter and we have well and truly passed the half way mark, I thought it would be timely to focus on exercise. I love to exercise. I am currently training for my third marathon and hit 4-5 CrossFit sessions a week.
But I am not an expert and nor is my story with exercise new to you. For the series on exercise I have called upon experts to share information and for others to share their stories. The series is aimed to help those who wanted to make a change to get going and make solid change before the year is out. (You can see other posts in the series here.)
The first guest post is from Kate from Operation Move. The place Kate found herself at will resonate with many. I love the journey Kate has embarked on and find it inspiring how she has built a fantastic community of like minded women, who are focused on getting backing moving.
I was never a sporty kid. Quite the opposite. I was the last picked for teams, the most likely to trip over something invisible and the one who always always came last in cross country, if I didn’t find a way to be off ‘sick’ that day.
I spent my teen years and beyond worrying a lot about how I looked, wishing I was thinner, doing stupid things to my body in the name of wanting to be like some unattainable ideal, never considering that how I FELT might be worthwhile working on.
Then I became a Mum. Four pregnancies and a decade of babies took their toll physically but I was so busy changing nappies and attending playgroups and, in time, learning about autism and how it would impact our family, that I just didn’t even bother too much about me. I had too many other people and things to worry about.
It wasn’t until a year or so after my son’s autism diagnosis that I realised the depth of my unhappiness, and that I desperately needed to find a way to come first in my own life. I’d been a smoker for 20 years, I’d gained and lost a lot of weight throughout those pregnancies and my body felt old, achey, weak and tired. My kids would want me to play with them, and I just couldn’t keep up without an asthma attack or getting too worn out. At 35, I was wondering how on earth I would get through the next decade let alone any further.
It took reaching this crisis point to make me consider something completely crazy… that I should learn to run. To be honest I really REALLY didn’t think I could do it. I’d always had kind of achy knees and crackly joints; I just KNEW I wasn’t really built to run at all. But I was desperate to do SOMETHING and I needed to do it around small children. My sister had learned to run and it was mind blowing to me that she could just pull on her sneakers and head out the door for a casual 5k, but I decided that if she could do it I could give it a go. Just to see.
That was nearly two years ago now. And I could not be more different to the person I was then. I look back and I am so sad for her, because I know now how it feels to genuinely like yourself; to feel strong and capable. To be the person you WANT to be for your children.
I spent three months learning to run, slowly and gently but celebrating every milestone reached because it still seemed kind of impossible that I was doing it! I realised early on that I needed a community to help hold me accountable and to celebrate those wins along the way, and so Operation Move was born. Together we set challenges, and what once seemed impossible became a way of life.
Today I have been smoke-free for nearly a year, which remains one of the things I am most proud of. I run three to four times a week, and am training for my first marathon… if you’d told me that two years ago I would have laughed you out of town! Sometimes I run with the pram or on the treadmill because I am still that mother-of-four and we all have to juggle now and again, but these days my running is just a part of our family life. My kids think nothing of my wearing training gear all the time, and ask me most days how far I will run. They are my greatest supporters, but I feel like the greatest gift I give them now is a calm, happy, energetic and strong Mum who doesn’t just SAY that being active is important but actually lives it.
I show them that I am valuable and important because I prioritise my health and happiness, and we ALL treat me better because of it. My misplaced sense of guilt at putting myself first dissipated long ago, because I finally realised that I create the atmosphere in my home by my own actions and when I take care of myself I am much better at taking care of everyone else as well.
Today, helping other women find themselves again is my driving force; Operation Move has become a place for support, learning, friendship and growth. As each Learn to Run group graduates I am reminded of the woman I was two years ago, and feel so grateful all over again for who I am now. My kids are so proud of me, but more importantly I am proud of myself.
Kate Young founded Operation Move in 2012, and today facilitates programs for women who are ready to come first in their own lives again too. The Learn to Run program is for people who have never tried running before, or haven’t run for a very long time, but want to find out how half an hour three times a week might change the way they feel about themselves forever.