February 20, 2014

Carnival Chronicles: Confessions of a fitness newbie

As you can tell, I'm getting really excited about Trinidad Carnival! 

It's the running theme on this blog this week and I have a lot of posts lined up. 

I've had a tough time trying to figure out the angle I'm going to take when writing about my Carnival health kick though, since it's quite a personal experience about my body and I felt quite vulnerable sharing some of these details. I'll admit that I've rewritten and edited this post quite a bit before publishing it because I didn't want it to be 'too much' or 'too blase' but I figure honesty is the best policy when it comes to blogging, so here goes. 

I was prompted to write this post after my Mum quarrelled with me the other day about the pretty drastic measures I've been taking to prepare for Carnival. She pointed out that it's a very shallow frame of mind to be in because it's all about looking good. Let me start off by saying, I whole heatedly accept that dieting for Carnival is shallow, plain and simple. Every one of us wants to look fit and ready on the road and I have no shame in admitting that. As I mentioned before however, this is also about FEELING good on the road, and for me that entails getting my ass in the gym. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for my curves and certainly don't want to look like a white broomstick, but rolls and cellulite aren't my thing and I plan to solve those 'problems' as best I can before hitting the road. This diet is about a lot more than getting fit for the road though. 

I have always been extremely clumsy and uncoordinated. People joke about this stuff all of the time, but I'm an actual hazard to myself and those around me. As a result, I avoided most sports and physical exercise as a kid and I detested running and working out because I was so terrible at it. 

I've also always taken for granted the fact that I was slim. I ate and drank everything my heart desired with little consequence until I was 25. While my friends were complaining about "Freshers 15" I was actually losing weight by the week at Leeds University and continued to binge drink. It was only after two years of scoffing cheese in the Dam, that I noticed that I wasn't fitting into my clothes anymore and my body wasn't what it used to be. I didn't take a hint and adjust my diet to suit though and continued to gorge as though I was my skinny 15 year old self. I happily ignored my housekeepers' warnings that I was "getting a fat face" when I came home for Christmas. I also started drinking beer for the first time in Amsterdam and justified my daily consumption with a 40 minute bike ride to and from school which was more cardio than I had ever done in my life. I was unfit and didn't even care because I didn't want to be one of those people who was obsessed with their weight. 

Moving back to Barbados just over a year ago changed that mentality pretty quickly, and it's due to a combination of factors. 

Firstly, I started dating a guy who was really fit and healthy. The more we hung out and cooked together, the more his healthy habits started to rub off on me. I realized that I didn't need to throw a handful of cheese on everything and that things could still taste good without a dollop of mayonnaise.  

Secondly, I started noticing how unhappy I felt when I was in a bikini, surrounded by fit friends who had a good relationship with the gym. We spend A LOT of time on the beach in bikinis and I started to feel like a lazy slob. I was focussing on how gross I felt rather than enjoying a beautiful day at the beach with friends. I needed to stop wasting my energy on those negative thoughts and channel them somewhere else. 

Thirdly, starting a company forced me to re think my daily habits and to tune in to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle on productivity and success. I know this sounds incredibly cheesy and obvious, but I never paid it the attention it deserved until I started looking at the most common traits shared by some of my role models. Most of them have a routine that they've followed for years and fitness was part of that routine. It struck me that those successful entrepreneurs treat health as a lifestyle and wholeheartedly embrace healthy living by ensuring that here's a good balance: they work smarter, not necessarily harder. 

Finally, I realised that the excuses I had used for so many years ( which included but were not limited to: "I have terrible knees", "I'm not a runner", "I'm too clumsy","I don't have time to work out" - Plus MANY more!) weren't going to cut it any longer and I needed to get over it. I needed to start somewhere, no matter how slow and painful it was going to be (Little did I realise how painful it would be!) 

As a pretty bossy person, I don't enjoy being pushed or told what to do in the gym, ESPECIALLY when it's something I'm not good at. But having friends who just ignore my stubbornness and encourage me to keep going was exactly what I needed. At first I felt demotivated when I couldn't work as hard as the fit gym rats next to me but I soon got over that. Ain't no shame in picking up a 5lb weight and doing some kick as curls with it, once I was doing them well. I cried A LOT and threw many tantrums along the way, but I'm starting to get the hang of it (by that I mean working out, not behaving like a stroppy child).

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I feel the need to give a clear picture of what a huge lifestyle change this has been for me since deciding to get 'Skinny for Trini.' This isn't just about looking good on the road; it's about constructing new habitual actions and recognising the power of habit. For the first time in my life I'm consistently working out, I'm making healthier food choices and I can last more than a minute on the treadmill. 

Going to Carnival has given me a clear deadline, and being fitter by then is one of my first goals. After that, I will continue to work out and set myself more goals (perhaps Kadooment) because I'm not letting this hard work go to waste. It's been incredibly hard and REALLY annoying at times but I'm slowly seeing results and feeling better about myself. Having a boyfriend who cooks amazing, healthy meals and a group of friends to work out with every day has helped me tremendously but there are still so many challenges to kick-starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I'm a results oriented person, so waiting to see a noticeable difference was really testing my patience. Why couldn't I see abs pop up after a hard week in the gym? I'm also SO tempted by bad food and often can't be bothered to go work out when I'm caught up in something. Programming these lifestyle changes into habits has proven to be extremely challenging...How the hell was I going to keep this up?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this long post!