The truth about how I LOST my fitness

(and my half-hearted attempts to find it)

We’ve all seen the blogs, Facebook posts, magazine articles, the before and after Instagram pictures. Strangers extolling the virtues of fitness with these kinds of statements:

“I lost 4 stone then ran a marathon”

“I went from couch potato to Miss Universe contestant”

“I hated exercise, now I work out twice a day 6 days a week”

Kudos to them, if that’s your bag. But what about the reverse? What about those who have run marathons, camped out in the gym, Zumba’d their way to fitness and in the process changed weight, experienced the alleged exercise high only to “take a little break to recover” and 6 months later find themselves a stone heavier and unable to run for a bus?

That’s me. Now. At this very moment. I don’t run anymore despite the fact I have immediate access to a safe off-road Promenade and am completely in the knowledge that the lack of exercise is having significant negative effects on my mental and physical health. And it’s been far longer than 6 months, believe me.

Those who know me will have seen me post fervently on social media about my long runs, and running clubs and, most importantly at the time, the races I took part in. But the last race I ran was the Edinburgh Marathon Relay in 2017 – I ran 4 miles and wanted to die for most of it. Gone are the days of three runs a week and an LSR – long Sunday run. Gone are the days of popping out for a short 10 miler. So far this week I have managed a stroll along Portobello Prom and I went all out on Friday, walking from Pamela’s in Prestonpans to home (work out that mileage if you like).

My point of sharing all this? No one talks about the alternative before and after. The love of fitness lost and felt never to return because you just can’t get motivated again. And that’s the problem – the vicious circle: stop exercising – decreased fitness levels – possible weight gain – try to run but your lungs are moments away from erupting violently from your chest – you think “stuff this, I’m so unfit” – stop exercising – decreased fitness levels……..you get the picture.

And no one tells you about the additional, associated symptoms of no exercise. No one talks about poor sleep patterns, irritability, apathy, headaches, and the overriding lack of motivation which is ultimately the ringleader in this situation; no motivation means you just can’t be ar*ed doing ANYTHING.

Don’t get me wrong, I dabble in exercise. The odd gym session (although it’s been 8 weeks since my last visit), MacAttack Bootcamp once a week and, when the car is low on petrol and my apathy dictates that I can’t even manage it to the petrol station, I’ll walk to work.

Do I wish I was marathon fit again?  Yes. But not so I could run one again, but so that I could experience the benefits that come with exercise. Am I likely to get back into fitness?  I have no idea – motivation levels are currently at a minus.

What I don’t intend to do is beat myself up about it. I have felt guilt and laziness and shame over no longer being the fit freak I once was. But I realise that by thinking I SHOULD exercise, I’m simply setting myself up to fail.

Longer term I’m testing how small amounts of simple day to day exercise can affect my mood, my creativity and productivity, and most importantly for me, my sleep.

I have run hundreds of miles, have squatted, deadlifted and bench pressed several KGs in weight, and fitted into my sports bra far more comfortably than I do now. But that was then, this is now. I will not compare myself to how I used to be in order to guilt myself into exercise.  Instead, I will remember what I have achieved in the past and use it to spur me on into the future – hopefully a future filled with fitness.