Guest blog from Elaine Campbell

Baggy Trousers

I don’t often wear long pyjamas  I’m very much a short PJs girl, but in the last few nights it’s been cold enough to make me dig out the long breeks and long-sleeved jumper at bedtime.  It’s probably been a year since I have had them on, so I was delighted to find them very baggy on me.  So what?  Pyjamas are meant to be baggy and comfortable, right?  Well, I don’t suppose your average reader will ever understand fully, but, and this is quite a confession to make, I genuinely cannot recall what it feels like to not have items of clothing pulling across the waist, hips, chest, stomach and uhh posterior regions.  So is this really something I should be proud of?  Yeah, you bet it is.  For even though I still have a long, long way to go, I am VERY proud of how far I have come so far.

I turned 40 last year, and the old adage “life begins at…” I have found to be staggeringly appropriate in my case.  Yet this has not been a set plan, more a journey.  A journey which began with a stark realisation, continued through an affirmation and, finally, an ultimatum from someone whose opinion I value dearly.   Following this, in a spur of the moment decision, I entered the Glasgow Race for Life, and I thought about how I would make this a success this time, rather than follow my umpteen previous failures and give up.  Entering the race for life gave me a focus, as well as my twitter username, and blog address.   I revisited the blog in particular on many occasions as a source of support when I was low, and as a source of inspiration and motivation.

This was a new race I was entering.  Not just A race for life, the race for MY life!  I started following fitness and diet related feeds on twitter and consuming everything I could read on interval training, which I felt was my best chance of success.  Having realised immediately that I would be unable to do any of the plans I’d found online, I set about devising my own.  First I walked a mile from my home.  Half a mile there and half a mile back.  I wasn’t initially able to do it without stopping for breath, much to my embarrassment.  Despite wanting to chuck it on almost every occasion, the thought of the Race for Life kept me going.  Soon I was managing to do the mile walk without stopping, and so I moved up to walking around a nearby loch.  My trusty Endomondo app, and spreadsheet kept accurate distances and times for me.  And I happily watched the kms tot up.

 I did the race for life in a comfortable 63 minutes, and by now was completely hooked on this fitness malarkey.  I had been tremendously inspired by those running the race for life, and later by a friend running the Edinburgh marathon. I was high on the rush of crossing the Race for life finishing line as a walker, inspired by seeing all the runners at the marathon in all shapes and sizes, and I thought; I now want to feel the rush of crossing that line having run it.

However; walking along the public highways and byways at my size is embarrassing enough.  I had got around this self-conscious feeling by wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, with an ipod in my lugs, working on the old childish proviso of “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.”   But actually running would be a huge issue.  There was absolutely no way I could do that in public.  No way.  But I’d come so far, I couldn’t chuck it now……… so I hired a treadmill.  I downloaded the NHS podcast and had a go.  Again, no use, I was nowhere near fit enough to complete the first week, but still undeterred, I again created my own version.  I absolutely astounded myself by managing to get up before work and do my bit before I even got out the door at 7.30am too, aided of course by the fact that it was summer, and even in Scotland, the mornings were light and motivating.

 I kept doing this 2 or 3 times a week during the rest of June and start of July, but I was still getting nowhere with the treadmill (no pun intended) When I was trying to increase the jogging intervals, with hindsight I was trying to jump from 30 seconds to a minute, to 2 minutes etc week on week and getting nowhere.  Again with hindsight too – pacing was an issue.  With the treadmill, of course, you have to run at the pace you tell it to make you run at. This makes it much harder, as at least running outdoors you are able to vary your pace to suit your “knackeredness” levels 😀  I was becoming more disillusioned by the day and more frustrated at my inability to even achieve the suggested “beginner” level at anything!

It was at this point, by sheer chance, that I started chatting on twitter to @jogscotland, who assured me that my local group would be happy to have me on board.  I took some convincing however, given my previous self-esteem frailties, and it was a fortnight or so later when I had thought more about it and concluded that the issues were all of my own making, that I wandered along and took the plunge.  Little did I know it was about to be the best move I have ever made.

I was still nowhere near their beginners’ level; abundantly clear after my first night.  So I felt that I had failed.  Again.  That was not unexpected though, because that was the norm. I tried a keep fit regime… I failed.  It was the way things were, I always failed.   Except, this time, here was a group of people at JogScotland Chryston who were willing to work with me.  Willing to spend time working out a plan for ME, not for “A Nonymous-Beginner” but for ME and MY abilities.  Or lack thereof.  So I’ve been out with jogScotland 2 nights a week since the beginning of September, bless them because it can’t be much fun watching me huff and puff on my paltry wee jogs, and have now just started my third block with them.

Throughout this whole jogScotland journey I have astounded myself with how much I have enjoyed the whole experience.  From battling the elements; the wind, the rain, the cold, the icy ungritted pavements, to getting myself out and mobile on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s day.  Previously – this period would have been spent lazing around the house, feeling sorry for myself.  I struggled really badly, mentally as it turned out, with managing the task of 2×2.5 minutes jogging with a 2.5 minute walk in between.  It took me three full weeks to get over that hurdle.  Much mental anguish, and chatting with my friends about how useless I felt followed, and bless them too they put up with it all, and kept encouraging.  Now, only 4 short weeks later, this current week is 5×3 minute jogs, with 2minute walks in between.  Well on my way to this block’s target which is as near to 15 minutes continuously as I can.

I HAVE lost weight.  How much?  I have no idea, nor do I really want to know right now.  I decided against monitoring my weight from day one.  Purely because it’s what I’ve always done, and how any success has always been measured.  Ultimately too this was often the tipping point for chucking it.  There was nothing more soul-destroying than denying myself food all week, on some mad fad diet or another, along with working as hard as I could at exercise classes, to turn up at a weigh in meeting and be told “You’ve lost nothing” or “you’ve put on a pound.” It’s utterly devastating.  This time I decided to monitor progress on how I FEEL – hence the blog and the twitter feed – on how my clothes fit and on how I look in the mirror, another thing I had avoided like the plague for years, because I hated what I saw.

While I have totted up the Kms actually traveled  it’s impossible to quantify how many millions of miles I have journeyed outside my comfort zone.  What I can say though is that I have enjoyed the journey greatly, and despite having immeasurable pride in what I have achieved so far, I still do not see what I have done as a success….. yet.  The first big milestone I have set is to be able to run a 5K completely.  Then I will start to say I have been successful in my endeavours.  After that?  Well, who knows? Anything is possible.  Especially after a baggy breeks boost! 😉

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