It’s almost been two years since I started on my fitness journey.
I’d battled with Post Natal depression and my weight since my son was born, and despite trying Juicing and Slimming World, nothing quite sat right with me. But I wasn’t really exercising.
Before I got married, I went to the gym 4 times a week and it worked for me. With my daughter, I stayed active throughout pregnancy, using the gym, pool and (infrequent) running, and I was fortunate of a small baby that time around. We had planned to have a minimum gap of 18 months between kids, and as it had taken us 13 months to fall pregnant the first time, we’d assumed it would take a similar time for number 2.
So when we found out I was expecting one month after coming off my pill, we were a little shocked (but happy!). I had a 10 month old, and now I had to battle through pregnancy whilst looking after a baby on the outside.
I was much sicker with my son. I remember M being in the corner of the kitchen playing as I threw up into the sink… thankfully she was pretty unaware at that point of what was going on. Being pregnant the second time is a whole load of different.
ANYWAY – back to the fitness stuff…
I found it very hard to fit anything in at this point. Even though I have an incredible husband, once he was home from work, I’d be entirely exhausted from looking after a human on the outside AND growing one on the inside. My fitness suffered, and my diet became questionable.
The problem however, came once i’d given birth, and the eating continued as if I were growing a baby. I wasn’t anymore, but my diet carried on the same.
The new mum fog descended, and with two under 2, my mental health started to take a beating. It’s quite incredible what sleep deprivation can do to you. M slept through from early on, but J wasn’t a fan. He was up 3-4 times a night until he was 2. And this only triggered my PND.
I want you to understand how paralysing it is to feel out of control and in charge of two human beings. And how scary it is to not be in control of yourself AND have to look after two human beings. I remember at my lowest point, I was screaming at Andy (poor sod, he’s put up with so much…) and actually clawing at my face. Then looking behind him to see M had toddled into the doorway and was crying. WHAT EVEN WAS I?
I’d known for months I had PND, and had suggested it to Andy on numerous occasions, to the response of ‘Go to the Doctor then’. The shrug off response only fed my doubt of perhaps it was just me and I needed to just chill. Fact was, Andy had no idea how to deal with it, and like most people who don’t understand depression, He didn’t have the responses I needed. This manic episode however, forced him to admit what was going on, and told me I needed to go and see the Doctor. Finally it was the acknowledgement and permission I’d wanted from him to go and seek some help. It wasn’t just in my head.
We went to the Doctor together when J was 6 months old, December 2013. I cried with embarrassment as I explained to her I wanted to die to make it all go away, and how I wouldn’t cry, but instead got so angry I would scream the house down.
She was wonderful, and prescribed me my first set of happy pills.
I wasn’t sure how I felt. I wanted to feel better but this wasn’t what I thought depression was. I’d always been of the persuasion it was black clothes, dark rooms, crying and lamenting. I had a strong view of depression, courtesy of stigma.
What I began to realise was I could put on a brave face. People didn’t have to know if I didn’t want them to. This was the only power I had left. The power to trick them, and sometimes myself, into believing I was fine. Fine with the weight. Doing a great job as a parent.
I took the pills for about 4 months before deciding I didn’t need them. I was wrong, and it took me a while to get them back into my system after abandoning them for a couple of months (they usually take a good month to kick in). I’m not sure when I came off them again, but I reckon it was another 7 months of using them to aid my recovery.
When I came off the pills, I felt I was in a better place. Life had settled into a rhythm and I was much more used to how it felt with two little children. I was able to manage myself a lot better, and J’s sleep had started to settle down too, so I was getting that important sleep my brain needed to chill. However I’d now got myself into habits with eating that weren’t helping in any way. For a while it would take the edge off; wine, chocolate, cakes, takeaways (all still my downfalls btw) but I got to a point where I HAD to do something about it.
In 2014, I celebrated my 30th birthday, and I thought it would be a great way to inspire myself into healthy ways, but despite my best efforts, 30 came and went, and although i’d lost some of the weight, it wasn’t the glamorous turnaround i’d been hoping for.
It wasn’t until 2 years later (and 2 years of failed Slimming World attempts) that I realised, if I was going to do this and lose this extra 3+ stone, it would have to be through the way I knew had worked for me pre children. EXERCISE.
It was just after ‘Lean in 15’ had burst onto the scene and I signed up for another instagram profile, under the handle ‘leancleancooke’. May 5th, 2016, I posted my first picture, a quote saying ‘Don’t give up. Great things take time.’
It was my battle cry, this time I would see it through, I would stick to the plan. I needed to break the destructive cycle for my physical AND my mental health.
Once I had got into the Hiit workouts, and the VERY different way of eating (sw – no fat lots of carbs, L in 15 – high fat, low carb) I saw the weight drop pretty quickly. I lost my first stone within 2 months, and by December 2016, I was back in the high 9st’s. Something I hadn’t seen for 3 years. I also realised for the first time, it was about how I looked (bear with me!) not how much I weighed. I didn’t have scales at home, only weighing myself when I was at my mum’s or a friend’s. This really helped my perception of weight.
Once i’d found a rhythm with exercise, I quickly wanted to get out running again. I knew from when i’d dabbled in running for enjoyment back in 2009, that running helped me lose weight and feel really good. I’d run a Half marathon in Bristol in 2009, and was planning on stepping up to London Marathon (which obviously I got rejected for, and every year since…) but i’d turned my ankle and fallen out of the running swing of things.
Fast forward to 2016 and starting with running around the field at the back of our house, I would complete a couple of 1.7 mile laps a week, slowly does it, building up my momentum and pace. I soon pushed it to 5k, and then I vividly remember trying my first 10k. The socks were old, the trainers weren’t right, and boy did they make me pay for it…
GET YOUR GAIT CHECKED PEOPLE!
Once I felt brave enough to go into the scary running shop (not actually scary) – I tried on a good few pairs of trainers, but being the secret label lover I am, I went for what I knew best (and aesthetics were important at that point and I didn’t like RUNNING BRANDS) and bought a couple of pairs of Nike Pegasus, which are still my trusty trainers.
It’s a bit tricky to know where to take my writing from here, because from this point, it sort of went a bit crazy.
I knew I was goal orientated so I booked myself onto my second ever Half marathon. But then I wanted more of a challenge so booked onto two more Half marathons, one being my first taster of fundraising, for Tommy’s the baby charity. My Brother and Sister in law were going through a really hard time trying to conceive, and had two horrible miscarriages, losing two precious babies. It felt like the only gesture I could give at the time.
I realised the 3 Half’s were within a 6 week time frame, and training stepped up a notch. This was my first challenge. I was doing something BIG. Something good.
Maybe I’ll do a separate post about them one day, but they happened, and although they weren’t the quickest (you try running around the Isle of Wight sub 2hrs) I felt happy to nail the third in my then fastest time, 1:57!
The only logical step from here was to try and get that marathon box ticked. But instead, I did something really crazy. Having had (once again…) a ‘Sorry’ magazine drop through my door a couple of weeks post Half-Trio-Challenge, I shook off the inevitable London FOMO and booked on to do Brighton Marathon instead.
This is the crazy bit….
When I signed up to instagram, I began following a girl called Jemma. She was honest and slightly outspoken, and like me, she had never run a marathon. But she HAD just run an ULTRA Marathon. 100k over 2 days. I had so many questions.
WHAT IS AN ULTRA MARATHON?
COULD I RUN AN ULTRA MARATHON?
JEMMA RAN AN ULTRA MARATHON WITHOUT DOING A MARATHON FIRST! MAYBE I COULD TOO?
I spoke to Andy, who clearly in a moment of his own madness, said I should indeed sign up to said ultra marathon, and let me use our (very sparse) cash to do so.
It was the most impulsive, scary and bloody exciting thing i’d done for YEARS.
I was taking back control over my own life. Those years of depression and physical compromise were melting away with one race entry. I was going to do something really huge. Me. Not my kids. But me.
To be Continued…