Tonight, I cried. Actual, proper tears.
And it was pathetic. Really.
I’m not being hard on myself here – quite the opposite. I’m telling myself exactly what’s needed to get my shit back in order.
What caused the weepy moment? One of my clients. One of my wonderful, amazing, utterly awesome clients did exactly what I would have advised her to do.
She was in a funk and she chose to do something to shift her state. She pulled on her running shoes, and off she went.
I don’t know how far she ran, but it was something. It was enough. And afterwards, she took to LinkedIn and wrote about it, so she might inspire and motivate others.
Ring any bells?
Why did that spark some tears?
Let me tell you…
I was never the fit kid. I was scrawny and weedy and an (undiagnosed) asthmatic, and the borderline blood condition I inherited from my mother meant I had a weak immune system – every childhood disease hit me like a force 10 gale from miles away. It meant I felt the cold more than everyone else – I had to go to school head to toe in quilted ski gear every winter – and it meant I bruised really easily too. More than once, my mom got called into school to be questioned over my lovely collection of blue marks, only to have to explain over and over, and I remember feeling horribly embarrassed.
On school sports days, I was the kid who always joined in and always came last. It’s one of the reasons I still maintain kids need to be taught, it’s the taking part that counts; my health conditions meant I never stood a chance, but I still had a go! And yes, I did get the certificate for taking part – and let me tell all you naysayers, it never damaged my competitive edge one bit; it just taught me not to give up and to give it my all anyway.
I still wanted to try. I wanted to do my best so, when my childhood pal announced he was going to start karate lessons, I decided to go along as well. All was going brilliantly, until I was hit with pneumonia. I was really ill. Off school for weeks and having physio to clear my lungs. I was so eager to get well and go back to those martial arts classes as soon as I could so, imagine how I felt when, on my first day back, our asshole of a sensei gave the entire class a lecture about commitment and not missing classes, about survival of the fittest, giving me his beady eye all the way through his diatribe.
You might imagine, I didn’t go back for long after that. He made it absolutely clear that I’d never catch up and he didn’t really want me in his class anyway.
Sports days at secondary school we’re the worst. I’d always try my best. I remember the team captains in rounders arguing over who *wouldn’t* have me on their squad – right there in front of me!
It was at that secondary school that my asthma was finally diagnosed. The sports teachers scoffed at me and called me lazy over and over again and then, finally, on a cross country run, I collapsed in the middle of a field. Of course, I was already at the back of the group when it happened, so my team mates, and the teacher, jogged on clueless. I remember trying to call after them, that I needed help, but I just didn’t have the air in my lungs to make a big enough sound.
Eventually, afraid, alone, not knowing the area well enough to know where I was, I picked my way back to the school – only to be faced with one helluva storm. I was shouted out for skipping class, for not keeping up, for missing part of the afternoon.
Nobody asked how I was. Nobody believed my story. I was reprimanded and left to my anxieties over what had happened and why I couldn’t keep up.
I still remember that now, and I still feel the injustice of it all. Not long afterwards, having collapsed for a second time, my asthma was diagnosed and my mom had a massive standoff with those two PE teachers!
Fast forward to adult life and my asthma was still a problem. When I was in corporate life – and desperately unhappy – the same chest infections would hit me every winter. I even had a dose of pleurisy! One of those infections hit me so badly that it damaged my lungs and left one working at only a third of capacity.
For a long time, I felt frustrated. I LOVED the great outdoors. I loved exercise, as far as I could. It had been going back to a different karate school, in my 20s, that had given me some of the courage I needed to leave an abusive relationship. I might not have had the stamina most of the others enjoyed for the warm-up exercises, but I was good on technique and on sparring. I even won a county achievement award from the club, including sparkling trophy.
But, as the work hours got longer and contentment set in at home, I’d gradually given up on being able to get fitter. I’d keep joining gyms, then not going, and then, when the lung damage hit, I think I let go altogether.
By now, I had the asthma, the damaged lung, issues from the broken back sustained in a car accident, and kneecaps that were too small – the medics were talking about knee replacements when I was in my 30s! How crazy is that?
It was only after I left corporate life and my speaking career began to take off that I decided I needed to turn things around. That determination hit me like a bolt from the blue, when I bounded onto stage, got to the microphone and promptly wheezed into it.
Seriously. Big speaking gig at a business event and the first thing that audience heard from me, through giant speakers around the room, was an asthmatic wheeze!
Something had to change. My career was on the up, I’d discovered my knees didn’t hurt nearly as much since I’d left my old job and started walking in the right direction for my soul, and that gave me the belief that maybe, just maybe, I could do something about my lungs as well!
I found a personal trainer and started working with him. It was sure, but steady. Tom and I started out with 30 minute sessions, and gradually increased to an hour, twice a week – three times if my diary allowed. My stamina still wasn’t great, but I was flipping tractor tyres, planking like a pro and generally feeling better about myself.
One day, I made a bold decision. I said I was going to be asthma-free within a year. To make sure I stood by that promise, I went live on Facebook and announced it to the world.
People said I couldn’t. Family members said it wasn’t safe. Still, I was determined.
The next PT session, I didn’t use my inhaler before we started. I took it with me, just in case, but it stayed in the locker.
Eventually, I stopped taking it altogether.
Tom was brilliantly supportive – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank him enough.
Time passed. My fitness grew. My first PT left for a new job and I started working directly with the gym owner. Ex-military. Built like a brick outhouse. And he worked very differently to Tom.
Jack took me right back to basics, working on form, building my stamina. Before long, I was achieving new personal bests.
I still wanted to get that stamina up. I was great on short bursts, but not so good on cardio work.
Just when I was starting to feel positive, along came Coronavirus and everything stopped.
I ordered an exercise bike to use at home and, when it finally arrived, I started working in earnest. If we were locked into our homes, I was sure as hell going to get that stamina up!
I started out on short bursts every morning. 5km. 10km. 12km. 20km. 22km. 25km. 30km. Then, one morning, I hit 35km! I was over the moon. Still no inhaler. I was taking my time. That 35 took me about an hour and a half, but and hour and a half of consistent aerobic exercise, for the woman who could barely hit three minutes on an assault bike before lockdown, was immense!
Not only that, but I started doing stair presses every time I took a bathroom break – anywhere between 10 and 20 each time – and I installed a pull up bar to start working on negatives, as well as giving myself mini workouts in a makeshift garden gym (and, by that, I just mean I was using weights in the garden!)
But then, just a couple of weeks ago, my body threw a spanner in the works!
My knees started to hurt – and not just a dull ache – no, I’d already been ignoring the dull ache for far too long. The words from the hospital specialist, all those years ago, began to echo in my ears: “You must never do exercise like cycling, for instance – your knees just won’t be up to that.”
In that same week, I developed a deep pain in one of my elbows, to the point where I feared it might be RSI or Tennis Elbow, AND I sprained one of my feet. To add to insult to injury, one of my other old war wounds also started to play up; I have a bizarre complaint where my coccyx springs out of line and curves to one side – about once a quarter, I go to a physio who puts it back into place. Lockdown. No physio. Honestly, I’d forgotten all about it until the pain came.
So, the elbow stopped me doing push ups, negative pull ups and weights, and the knees, foot and coccyx issue combined stopped me using the exercise bike… just when I was starting to think I could take on the world!
I determined to rest but then, of course, couldn’t quite find the confidence to get back on.
And then, tonight happened.
My awesome client, Verity, who had been in a funk and, instead of sitting in it, took herself off for a run.
That, on top of watching my wife regularly cycling 30km or more, while I sat on my backside, hit me like a truck.
I felt like a failure. Pathetic. That’s when the tears came.
I replied to Verity, praising her and thanking her for the nudge. I told her about Jack’s new outdoor gym, which was opening at the weekend, but that I didn’t have the courage to go.
I read back my own words and shook my head. Seriously, Taz, after all you’ve overcome to get this far?!
Do a Verity. Change. Your. State!
My wife was working with a client in another room. My cycling shoes were little more than an arm’s length away and the exercise bike was taunting me from across the floor.
I got up, slathered some cooling aloe gel and muscle rub on my back, my knees and my elbow and got on that bike.
I started slow, but I was cycling!
Not long after I started, scrolling through my phone, a live video popped up from my PT – he was doing a workout we could join in with.
I wasn’t going to get back off that bike when I’d only just restarted, so I joined in as best I could, keeping my legs cycling but doing the top of body and arm exercises like some bizarre biking aerobics.
My knees started to nag at me after about 5km, so I negotiated with them and said we’d keep going until we hit 10.
At a little over 10km, I got off the bike, just in time to join the last part of Jack’s workout with a 40 second plank and some stretches.
It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I was back on the bike. The game is back on.
I’m still aware of those physical challenges – I’ll take it easy and, perhaps, not push myself as hard as I was before, at least until I feel a bit stronger, but I am back, and I’m not giving up again.
We do need to listen to our bodies, but we also need to be absolutely sure our mindset is not sabotaging us. I think, until today – if only for a couple of weeks – mine had been.
So, thank you to Verity and to Jack. Ironically, I coach them both – sometimes it’s good to have the tables turned!
What’s stopping you? Is it time for you to do a Verity?
Until next time,