Am I a runner now?

Weight Loss

Running. The ‘Marmite‘ of the cardiovascular exercise world. In the short time that I have been ‘running’ (mostly jogging but let’s not split hairs), it has become apparent that a person will either love or loathe it. The same deduction is true of my own relationship with running; a love/hate affair, once forced and now habitual. Side note, I absolutely abhor Marmite.

Running nightmares!

I have very vivid memories (nightmares) of athletics and sports days at school. Some of my readers would be surprised to learn that I was definitely NOT the most athletic of youths, close friends and family can attest to this. My goal in life as a teenage girl was to get out of as many Physical Education lessons as possible – an exercise in itself – and ensure that I was booked off ill whenever a sports day presented itself. On the odd occasion that my truancy skills were not up to par, being forced to run across a school field under a South African sun was my idea of hell on earth.

It is common human nature to excel at the activities we enjoy. It is also human nature to avoid the activities we aren’t as good at. The reason I avoided sport was not because I disliked being physically active but because I wasn’t very good at it. I wasn’t a fast runner; I didn’t have any sporting skill and my hand / eye coordination was akin to the infamous Cher (Clueless) though my excuses were not nearly as effective.

Learning to walk before I could run…

In August 2019, I weighed 133.7 kilograms – 21+ stone. My weight loss journey was a long and very complex one that involved a lot of focus on both my diet (not actual diet but rather the food I ate) and a need to get active. Being as large as I was, it was clear to me that running was probably not an early option – I was very unfit; still in a lot of pain (owing to the post thrombotic syndrome that I have) and not remotely interested in barrelling down the road.

So I walked.

I walked every single day. At first, the walks were only about an hour long and I would do as much or as little as I could in that time. Over time, these walks grew longer and instead of counting minutes / hours, I began walking for distance. I was walking between 5 and 10 kms every single day with maybe 1 rest day in a week where I didn’t walk at all. Walking 10kms takes time and I soon realised that it would be far quicker if I could run but who was I kidding? I wasn’t a runner. I couldn’t run for longer than 1-2 minutes without feeling like I was going to throw up or stop breathing.

So I jogged.

Let’s not get excited. I would walk for 5 minutes and jog for 1 minute (optimistic). I attempted to follow the Couch to 5k program but soon found myself straying from the intended time frames; I felt like I just couldn’t do what the NHS expected of me. I followed my own structure and attempted to ‘jog’ 3 times per week, walking on the days in between. Every time I jogged, I attempted to jog just a small distance further – and, every time I jogged, my chest burned and my legs ached. I couldn’t breathe and I recall one occasion that I had to call my other half to come and fetch me where I stood because I just could not do it anymore. I questioned not only my ability to run but also my sanity. Running was just not for me, I was not a runner.

A turning point.

It is in these moments that we often learn just how strong and how marvellous the human body paired with determination can be. Perhaps my body wasn’t conditioned in a way that would allow me to run as I had hoped and perhaps past experiences – those school athletics days – influenced the underestimation of myself. Whatever it was, it clearly was in my head because a switch flipped and I went from not being able to jog for longer than a minute to one day jogging for 10 minutes. I remember calling my brother and being so excited that I ‘ran’ without stopping for longer than 5 minutes and this was an achievement.

How did it happen? Persistence.

Those days that I felt like I just couldn’t jog, I jogged anyway. I had to learn very quickly that jogging / running is an exercise that can be very slow in progression. I didn’t see changes in my time of minutes, I saw improvement of seconds and I needed to make sure that I recognised and acknowledged those improvements no matter how slight they were.

And then, I ran.

I started off small: indoors, treadmill running. My hope was to run for 30 minutes, 3 days per week, no matter the distance / pace. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run and was not destined to jog forever. Thanks to my Apple Watch and tracking, I can reflect back to February of this year when I was making use of the treadmill in the gym – the walking to jogging to running progression was 7 months in the making, this did NOT happen overnight. By February 2020, I was able to run approx. 4km in 30 minutes (treadmill) and had aspirations of one day being able to complete a 5km run in 30 minutes but as I wasn’t tracking this as a goal, it was a thought that stayed in the back of my mind as and when I ran.

Runners / joggers / walkers may understand but sometimes, this kind of activity can be extremely boring. I was very underwhelmed and feeling rather uninspired with treadmill running in the gym so I bought myself a pair of decent running trainers from an actual running shop (talk about imposter syndrome) and took to the streets of Reading, crime audiobooks the soundtrack to my runs. (I underestimated this ENTIRELY; road running and treadmill running are excruciatingly different but I persisted.)

Having a running buddy in my friend Kikky most certainly helped and we pushed each other to run; stick to the running schedule even though we wanted to skip it entirely and just go a little bit further than we did the run before. It wasn’t always possible to run together but we shared our progress, celebrated those small achievements (sometimes minutes, most often seconds) and motivated each other to get our feet in those expensive trainers and get outside – no matter the weather!

Park run and the 5k

Parkrun – March 2020

In early March, my youngest brother and I flew to South Africa on holiday to visit family. It was my athletic sister who encouraged us all to enter the local park run and I believe that this was the first time I completed a 5km anything (despite it being a run / walk) – it took me over 50 minutes but in my defence it was extremely hot and I was still carrying a few extra kilograms. This park run, however, became a little bit of a motivating factor and supported the aspiration in the back of my mind. A 5km was possible, the question was how quickly could I get it done.

My first 5km outdoor run was not long after return from this holiday – the 4th of April 2020 – and I ran 5km in 39 minutes and 21 seconds (with a few stops along the way). My 5km in 30 minutes felt a lifetime away but what I didn’t realise then was that a lifetime wasn’t that at all. It would be 7+ more months of persistence and consistency before I finally saw the numbers on my screen that I had aspired too all that time ago.

First outdoor 5km run – April 2020

Consistency is key

My mantra in life, annoying but the truth. The only way I was able to lose the weight that I did or build up my fitness the way that I have is through consistency. I consistently track my calories; track my macros; schedule my exercise and track my running.

When I became more involved in resistance training and building up a gym routine, it was extremely important to still keep up the running as part of the cardiovascular aspect of my training. My strength / resistance training was scheduled in for 3 days per week and I do enjoy my active rest days over the weekend so it was important to me to keep running twice a week between gym days. For the last few months, without checking every single day in my Apple Health app for confirmation, I have consistently run twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and usually plan on running 5km. Sometimes, I feel a bit stronger and a bit more ‘in the zone’ and I may run a little further (6-8km) but for the most part, 5km is a comfortable run for me.

Recently, my focus has been more on pushing myself and watching my progression as my time for the 5km slowly got shorter and shorter. More importantly, running has become an integral part of my routine and schedule. I don’t always want to run and don’t always feel good when doing it but like brushing my teeth, it has to be done and I always feel better afterwards.

And then I DID IT.

Today, I set out for my Tuesday morning run as I always do and I decided I wasn’t going to look at my watch – I was going to shuffle my playlist and just run. For some reason, I opted for my ‘longer’ route which I choose on days when I feel like doing more than a 5km run. This route involves over 2km of uphill in the beginning and it wasn’t long into this run that I was questioning my life choices. When my watch vibrated at the 4th kilometre, I finally looked at it and noticed that my pace was considerably faster than usual and perhaps I should go for it… perhaps it was time to see if I was ready for the next level up.

So I ran.

My chest burned, my stomach ached and my legs cried as I put one foot in front of the other and breathed the cold winter air into my lungs. When my watch vibrated at kilometre 5, I all but crumpled into a heap on the floor and nearly burst into tears when I looked at my time.

8 months after I managed a 5km run in ‘one go’, I managed a 5km run in 30 minutes and I worked for it.

The moral of this long, running story?

I believe that it is time for me to stop underestimating myself – my body and my mind. I am a runner. Not because I finally managed to run 5km in 30 minutes but because I run. I am a winner. Not because I have won anything but because I keep showing up for myself, every single time.

Running may not be your thing and that’s fine but I implore you to look at the things you think aren’t ‘your thing’ and reevaluate why that is. Look at who is telling you that you cannot do something and I would probably assume that 9 times out of 10, it is you. YOU are the only one holding you back, the same way I was the only person telling me that I wasn’t a runner.

I did it.

I ran 5km in 30 minutes.

So can you…

Shevy

Xx

If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.

John Bingham

My weight loss journey, 7 naked truths

Weight Loss

In as little as 14 months, my weight loss journey involved losing over 60 kilograms (132 pounds / 9.5 stone). What started as a small effort to lose a quarter of that amount, became a journey of self-discovery; perseverance and determination. There were no magic diets; no weight loss secrets or fad medications, only a realisation that my children and my body deserved better. It was time for me to step up and be the healthiest and the happiest person that I could be. For the people around me but most importantly for myself.

I had every intention of reiterating what society doesn’t tell you about weight loss. I wanted to share the things you may learn along the way; things no one seems to talk about and the struggles you may encounter along your journey. The truth is, you need only google things they don’t tell you about weight loss to generate 742 000 000 search results of people telling you things they assume nobody else has said. Naturally, despite closely following my weight loss journey over the past year, questions regarding my techniques and recommendations remain the same and I have come to realise a few very important things.

Comparison – 2019 vs 2020

Physical well-being is a direct result of mental well-being.

This choice of lifestyle change was certainly not my first attempt at weight loss, but nobody talks about the failures. Very few people care to know about the diet that you tried and failed or the gym membership you signed up for but didn’t use. Before I embarked upon this lifestyle overhaul, I was knowledgeable enough to know what it was I needed to do (and not do) to be successful at losing a significant amount of weight. I knew that I ate too much; exercised far too little and clung to deep unhappiness within myself that completely overpowered any real effort to be better. Though I knew the weight loss basics, it took me a long time to consider just how much my weight was linked to my mental health and the negative self-talk that I had learned over the years of weight gain.

It wasn’t being overweight that made me unhappy, it was being unhappy that contributed to being overweight.

Read that again.

When people ask me how I lost weight – how I managed to turn my life around – the answer is complex. It has been and continues to be a journey but all journeys must begin somewhere. Mindset and self-awareness are key to successfully losing weight; before trying to fix the outside it is so important to address what is happening on the inside. Before my weight loss journey began, I had been through a tough few years; I lost my husband less than a year earlier and before that, I had a hysterectomy and multiple Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT’s).

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, I had grown accustomed to being in a very dark place. An extremist by nature, it was natural for me to do something drastic to change my situation (no half measures). I knew that if I wanted to do better and be better for myself and for the people who depended on me, I needed to be the best version of myself that I could be. For me, this meant not only losing weight for medical reasons but also my self-confidence. It took addressing and confronting these inner demons to set myself up for success when it came to losing weight.

A weight loss journey is a choice. A decision. A mindset. A plan.

It was beyond this inner reflection that a decision had to be made. The difference between this attempt and past failures was the recognition that I was making life changes. A lifestyle change. Not going on a diet; I was not looking for a quick fix and I was owning the responsibility of getting healthy. I had to tell myself the harsh truths, say the things that I did not want to hear. Remind myself that being healthy was non-negotiable. My children tragically lost a father to sudden illness and though little could be done with regards to his diagnosis and that awful outcome, my health was in my hands and within my control. I owed it to them; to him and to myself to be the healthiest and happiest version of myself, whatever that version looked like.

Once you set your mind to something, you would be surprised to learn just how determined the human body and brain can be. We are wired to be successful, programmed to do things we never thought possible. I knew that this would be a long term plan and made sure that I had very few expectations in the beginning. I needed a routine; a schedule that I could follow and keep following to see results in the future. I had a goal. A specific; measurable; attainable; realistic and time-specific (SMART) goal. That goal, irrespective of how far away it felt in the beginning, was to reach a target weight of 80 kilograms in one year. And, over time, this goal became goal 1 as I pushed myself further and further beyond what I could ever have imagined possible.

The key with any weight loss journey goal and accompanying mindset is that you have to believe whatever changes you are choosing to make will be sustainable. This is a journey that I now believe has no ending; no finish line and no trophy at the end for participation. The reward is in the sacrifice.

Comparison of scale measurements
Then vs Now (Using a Tanita scale)

I will forever be a work in progress.

Over 14 months into my weight loss journey (which I now describe as my fitness journey after moving my focus from losing weight to toning and shaping my body) and only now have I come to realise that I will never be done; this journey will never be done. I think from the beginning I had this misguided idea that when I reached my goal weight, I would be finished. That this journey would come to an end and I could move on to the next thing in my life. Having come this far and achieved this much, I can confidently say that I don’t believe anyone will ever ‘end’ their journey. Our bodies are always changing; our minds are always growing and our aspirations are ever-evolving.

We owe it to ourselves to allow an air of adaptability; life doesn’t just stop while we journey the path to weight loss, to fitness, to mental well-being or health.

Many of the changes I have made to lose the excess weight are changes that I have implemented for the long haul. Sure, counting calories is most certainly not for everyone but it is the approach that has worked for me. Into the maintenance phase of my weight loss, I will continue to be mindful of calories. I will continue to run and exercise multiple times a week. I will continue to push myself to do better and be better because that is just a part of who I am now.

EveryBODY is different, as is every weight loss journey.

Be honest, how many times have you searched online for weight loss tips and secrets? I know that I did, more times than I would care to admit. It is only natural to turn to others who have had weight loss success when considering our journeys and lifestyle, much like the way people tend to ask for my advice. This can be pretty helpful in identifying different weight loss tactics and for motivational reasons, seeing someone else achieve their goals is inspiring. That said, it is so important to remember that what has worked for me may not work for you. What was useful to me may not be useful or suitable for you.

Most of what I learned didn’t come from Google or other people. Every time I tried something, ate something different, or exercised in a new way, I monitored my results closely. I kept an eye on what was happening with my own body and quickly learned how different foods affected my weight loss. I was surprised to learn that certain foods agreed with me more than others and over time I adapted my dietary habits and exercise routines to match my goals and to keep myself on track. Nobody knows your body the way you do and though other people can give you basic knowledge or tools, the only person with the power to implement any of it and feel the difference is you.

Motivation is subjective

A common question posed to me is one of motivation; how do I stay motivated to keep going? I truly wish there was a one size fits all answer for this but sadly, there isn’t. What motivated me is probably very different from what motivates you. Initially, my motivation was medical, I had a desire to stop using Warfarin in favour of a more manageable medication which required a certain amount of weight loss. As my journey progressed and I started seeing results, these results became my motivation. The more weight I lost, the closer I was to my goals. The closer I was to my goals, the more motivated I became.

The trick here is to stick to your plan long enough to start seeing the results to motivate you further. We are creatures of habits and falling back into old ways is far easier than the path less travelled.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own.

Gym selfie – 2019 vs 2020

Small changes + patience = big weight loss

A lot of what I eat and how much I exercise now is very different from what my diet and training looked like a year ago. When I started, I was hardly cutting out all carbs and sugars or strength training 3 times a week. Most of the changes I made (food/exercise or otherwise) happened over time and after learning what was working for my body and what wasn’t. I started small; I swopped sugar for agave nectar in my tea and cut back on the number of cups of tea I drank a day (at 32 calories a cup, zero-calorie water seemed the better way to spend my calorie budget). There is no point in trying to change everything at once – Rome was not built in a day and lifestyles aren’t changed on a whim.

I hated exercise, I didn’t enjoy the gym and I most certainly could not run. I started walking. At first, only a few times a week and gradually this became every single day. After 6 months, I started running. Over a year later and I can run 5km 2-3 times per week. Progress. When walking and running wasn’t enough anymore, I had assistance from a personal trainer who drew up a strength training program for me. Between my road runs and my time in the gym, I have developed a steady exercise routine – a year ago, I was walking 5 times a week. Small changes to begin with lead to big changes over time as you get stronger, fitter, and healthier. Exercise becomes easier, eating less becomes easier, pushing yourself becomes natural.

Support is not only helpful but also essential!

This journey is relentless. There are days that I would break down and cry because I had worked so hard but didn’t see the results I had hoped for. I had moments of self-doubt and many times when I wanted to throw in the towel completely. The most helpful thing that you can do is have a support system around you, ready to pick you up when you need it the most. Documenting this journey for friends and family on social media became something that I needed to do. It motivated me and pushed me to do better and when people noticed the progress I had made, I felt so good about myself. My partner, my children, my family, and my closest friends were an integral part of my journey. A network of people that I was able to vent, cry, and celebrate with.

I did attempt to document my weight loss and training on a public social media platform but I caution you to be wary of some of the content floating around. Despite the weight loss community being very motivational and supportive, there will always be the odd few who seek to rain on your parade. Remember, what works for one does not necessarily work for all.

However, I struggled with losing my identity. I didn’t want to be known (and only known) for being someone who had lost weight. I am still Shevy with a lot more to me than successful weight loss. Losing myself to this achievement and then being forced to live up to self-imposed expectations was a constant fear. I worried that people would assume they needed to justify their weight (gain, loss, or otherwise) to me and I didn’t want people to think that I was judging them on their bodies, nutrition or fitness habits. This journey can be all-consuming and you may find a degree of irrationality to your thoughts; these fears were unwarranted and I have been blown away by just how amazing people have been and how supportive the people around me truly are.

Success may look different in the end

I recognise now that this idea of what I wanted for my body, in the beginning, was probably unrealistic. Abs of steel that you can wash your clothes on? I don’t have them. This comes down to that adaptability thing again. I had plans for surgery to remove excess skin (I have plenty of it) after I had lost the bulk of my weight but unfortunately, previous veinous issues thwarted that dream. Being told that a part of my plan is simply not possible for medical reasons was very disheartening. I was disappointed; frustrated and told myself I was giving up. Quite thankfully, I don’t give up despite telling myself I am going to on multiple occasions. Learning to adapt and regroup is one of the most difficult parts of this weight loss journey but it is and will be essential.

I don’t yet have the body I had hoped I would however, that does not mean that I won’t keep trying. I will keep pushing, keep working, and progress. My expectations of myself have changed and my goals are changing all of the time. I am healthier, I am happier and I am fitter than I have ever been in all of my life – this is what success now looks like to me.


Thank you to every single person who has supported; motivated and inspired me along this journey. It has been a rollercoaster ride and I can assure you, this wellness story is not yet finished. I truly hope that by showing the world what one woman from Reading can do, many others will find the courage to follow suit.

Do you have any questions for me regarding your personal weight loss journey? Perhaps you have your own weight loss journey to share!

Get in touch

Shevy xx

October 2020 – lost 60.5 kilograms