Dear Hattie,

Happy Anniversary? Who says that to their PT? Apparently, I do 🙂

I wanna thank you …

(Hmmm, most of my letters are thank you letters. Probably because I’m always grateful. Or actually I can always find something to be grateful for. Or someone.)

I do want to thank you for taking me on a journey to feeling better and stronger and more confident by going to the gym. Thank you for being my guide on this journey.

In the beginning, there was this 40+ year old woman who never touched a machine in a gym before, who never picked a dumbbell heavier than 2 kg, who went to the gym maybe four times in her entire life and only went on a treadmill, as it was the easiest thing to do, i.e. walk or run aimlessly until the magic number of 5K appeared.

When this latest stage of my fitness journey started (back in October 2021), I was finally in the end stages of recovery from a few blood clots that formed around my lungs the year before. A scan done in September 2021 confirmed that I am completely blood clot free, but the blood test still showed (and apparently always will) that I am more susceptible to having them in the future, compared to the rest of the world. Oh well, the Romanian tale of the salt boulder and all that (but that’s a story for another time).

So I said to myself … yes … what a wonderful world, but also that I should probably do something about those pesky three kg (or so) that I put on due to Covid lockdowns and blood clots over the past couple of years.

And while the weight loss wasn’t necessarily the main goal, it was definitely up there in the top three (#2 maybe?). Getting fitter / stronger, and doing something sustainable with the goal of reaping lifelong benefits might have been the main driver here.

BUT, as all women are crazy (and no matter how much or how little we weigh, we all want to lose weight or look a certain way), me too I wanted to lose weight. I disguised it as ‘fit comfortably in size 12 clothes again’, but basically I wanted to be again under a certain threshold in kg (easiest thing to measure, right?)

What I didn’t understand right away, and what I wish someone would have told me (or maybe they did, and I was just not listening?) is that you can’t have it all right away. You can’t have two goals at the same time and change just one thing (in my case, going to the gym once a week for a strength session with my PT). So here came my 6-month slump. Or wall. Or whatever you want to call it.

I was so upset that I didn’t see any results on the scale. I was so angry with the world because I didn’t see the results that I wanted, but didn’t bother to share with my PT. I was so discouraged that I almost gave up, thinking ‘what’s the point of all of this, since I don’t see results?’ There might even have been a tear or two. But, as always, I was lucky to be surrounded by wonderful friends and good listeners, who asked me the right questions, so as to get me to the right answers. And it was simple. The first six months were about learning, perfecting the main lifts and the form, making sure I do them all correctly and safely, so I can build on that. Now, after having learnt all that, I was ready to do more and tag another habit on top of it, which was tracking, dialling down the number of calories ingested, while making sure I get the right amount of nutrients needed to sustain the increased level of physical activity. Because (another lightbulb moment!) exercise doesn’t work without nutrition.

Which brings me to macros. Hmmm, difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. There are three of them: protein, carbohydrates and fat. And while carbs and fats can be stored in your body from one day to the next, proteins cannot. So you need to make sure you eat enough protein on a daily basis to sustain your goals. If you are a woman and your goals involve strenuous physical activity once or twice a week, I guess the rule of thumb is 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of bodyweight. (I know it’s confusing with both grams and pounds, but that’s pretty much accurate.) And, with the help of a nutritionist, I learnt what percentages are right for me (i.e. 35% protein, 30% carbs and 35% fats).

My overall fitness journey began a while ago. Maybe with those pretend Olympics that we used to play as kids when we were all gymnasts and got medals and prizes from my older sister. Maybe with stepping for the first time into a hot yoga studio more than 15 years ago. Maybe with doing the famous Vancouver 10k Sun Run a couple of times about ten years ago. Maybe with lockdowns and online classes of Barrecore and Pilates, with great teachers who became my friends. Or maybe all of them combined. Definitely all of them combined, as each experience taught me something new, something about my body and how flexible / resilient / aware / strong I am. Everything that I’ve done so far in my life, exercise-wise, fitness-related, has brought me here, has prepared me for this. So those were not wasted years, but preparation time. I always need to get used to the idea in my head first, then only after I am able to actually do it.

So, the question now is, what’s next? Where do I go from here? Do I cut down more on calories and refine the macros intake, so I can lose more weight? Do I strive for a personal best in deadlift (BTW, 14 kg above your own weight last week was pretty good, right?) Do I enter a competition? (Sorry, that will probably never happen, but I have learnt the hard way to never say never, so, you never know …) Do I focus on a different part of my body? Do I add pilates or hot yoga back into my routine? Or swimming?

I think the main goal remains the same: keep doing something sustainable that will bring me lifelong benefits. Whether this means doing 2 (or 3?) weight-lifting (is this the right name for it?) sessions in the gym every week, and doing one week a Barrecore session, and one week a (hot) yoga session, or something else that I haven’t yet figured out, it needs to be something doable, sustainable throughout the short days and dark and cold mornings/evenings in winter, and enjoyable in the summer, and something I can take with me when I travel. It will definitely be a combination of exercise and nutrition, as neither one works without the other. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I finally get it, I finally figured it out (and believe me, you need to figure it out on your own, no matter how many people tell you) that consistency is key. Sounds obvious and self-evident, but in some cases, it takes a whole year to get it.

I don’t want too much. I don’t want to dream too big. I don’t want to bite more than I can chew. If I will be able to consistently go to the gym a couple of times a week and do some other physical activity every week for the next six months (and beyond), then I’ll be happy. And the results will come. In the shape of a lower number when I step on a scale, or a higher number when I lift / push / pull something in the gym.


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