The following was very kindly written by a former client of mine Joanne Henson, who in the space of two years transformed both physically and mentally. What makes Joanne’s story so interesting, is that, like so many people, there was no lack of effort. Far too often the perception is that we need to work harder to get results. What Joanne discovered, is that how you work is more important than how much.
As a result of transforming her own life, Joanne is now a Health, Fitness and Wellness coach in her own right. If you’re interested in making some lasting changes to your life, then I wholeheartedly recommend getting in touch with her. Not only does she have the skills necessary to help, but she’s been through it herself. Here is her story…
This is the story of how I learnt to exercise and eat properly, after years of doing both badly.
Anyone who knew me ten or fifteen years ago would praise my dedication to exercise, and consider me fit and healthy. But in fact, I was wasting time in the gym doing ineffective exercises. I was eating junk and I totally believed in the calories-in-calories-out myth. I thought that exercise, particularly cardio, could cancel out a bad diet and that if I just did enough I would eventually get the lean, defined body I’d always wanted.
I didn’t though, and gradually, after ten years of doing increasing amounts of cardio and the same old weights routines (yes, that’s right, I did the same weights routines every week for ten years), it began to dawn on me that although I was spending more and more time in the gym, I was actually getting fatter and seeing no improvements in my muscle tone or body shape at all.
Why it took so long for me to realise this I don’t know, except that throughout that time I believed that just ticking off gym visits was enough and that increasing the time I spent exercising, particularly doing cardio, could only be a good thing.
But, I did start to wonder if I was spending too much of my life in the gym – four or five early morning cardio sessions (sometimes over an hour long) and several lacklustre weights sessions in the evenings. Yes, sometimes I even went twice a day. I was bored and frustrated at the lack of results, so finally I decided that I either had to learn how to make my visits more effective and more interesting, or I would cancel my gym membership and find something else to fill my time.
I got very close to giving it all up as a bad job.
But before I did, I thought I’d give a personal trainer a go – just for a few sessions, to give me some new ideas. And several people at the gym recommended Jeremy.
I sat down with Jeremy one fateful morning and he asked me what I wanted to achieve in the gym. Without hesitation I answered “more muscle” – I’d always wanted well defined shoulders and arms. And Jeremy asked “Then why are you doing all that cardio?” And in that instant I realised I’d spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of my adult life doing an exercise which was totally unsuited to my goal. A massive “Doh” moment – what an idiot!
Not surprisingly Jeremy’s recommendation was that I give up the cardio. Can you imagine how scary that was for someone who believed she could burn off any amount of crap food if she just did enough cardio? But, because I realised that everything had to change, I did it. I stopped going on treadmills, stationary bikes, cross trainers and step machines – overnight.
Over the next few months I learnt to exercise effectively, with weights. Not the half-hearted weight training I was used to doing, but really challenging, satisfying stuff. I also found that it raised my heart rate like I’d thought only cardio could, whilst increasing my strength, endurance and coordination. As a result, I halved the amount of time I needed to spend in the gym, because the workouts I was doing were so effective.
So far so good, but I also knew that my diet needed to improve. I’d always seen food and exercise as two opposing forces – do enough of one, cancel out the other. Exercise had been a form of punishment for eating badly. I needed a major mind shift.
Jeremy’s approach was to bring about a gradual change, suggesting small tweaks each week – protein for breakfast, eat more regularly, cut down the sugar, eat green vegetables every day… every week I took a small step toward a cleaner, more effective way of eating. Somehow, along the way, I lost almost one and a half stone, without ever feeling hungry or deprived. Because I was eating better, I didn’t need to count calories anymore.
Everything then came together – that is, good food and effective exercise became intrinsically linked for me, and I found myself wanting to eat properly because when I did, it had a direct effect on the results I got in the gym.
Six years on I still eat well and exercise properly, partly because I want to, and partly because I feel rubbish if I don’t. I’ve also studied personal performance coaching so that I can help other people develop and maintain healthy lifestyles. Knowing what I know now, I really want to help other people undergo the same attitude change I did and to enjoy feeling fit, energetic, well-nourished and alive.
My top tips?
Stop punishing yourself with cardio
Pick up some weights
Eat lots of good quality food
Get advice from a professional
You can read more about Joanne as well as following her blog at www.joannehenson.co.uk or on Twitter at @Joannemh