HUFFING and puffing I’d push uphill until my face achieved beetroot status; trying to chat whilst walking at anything more than a snail’s pace has, until this summer, maintained mission impossible status.
After tripping over my yellow M&S tracksuit bottoms and finishing last in the school’s 200 metres in 1990-something I vowed that my days of competitive sport were complete.
Every piece of evidence showed that I was not cut out for sport (with the exception of smashing a ball with ease in rounders).
My swimming teacher was dumbfounded by my ability to remain out of breath, my PE teacher concerned by my regular calamaties, and my tennis coach lectured me on the merits of raising my racket in preparation to strike as opposed to thumping the ball back in shocked self-defence.
I’ve tried running a few times but despite having legs like a baby giraffe and carrying little more fat than a butcher’s knife I still couldn’t master the walk for one minute, run for one minute system. Every attempt in my 20s resulted in me ordering a pint of cider to recover.
Through constantly uncovering evidence to back up my claim that I am not athletically gifted I reinforced my personal mantra: Sophia isn’t fit, doesn’t do sport, must rest.
Whilst my friends would lament my claims with cries of: you’re always out walking, you eat well, you skip around the mountains and do yoga – I’d maintain my mantra. Sophia isn’t fit, doesn’t do sport, must rest.
Imagine my surprise when last year I was medically diagnosed with a 3.5cm hole in my heart which of course meant – a deficient supply of oxygenated blood, especially on exertion. I’d had this atrial septal defect since birth.
Wait a minute… I’m not unfit, I’ve been technically incapable of normal cardio exercise? My brain did a double flip (though admittedly it wasn’t captured on camera so there’s no evidence of my secret gymnastics expertise).
On March 29th this year I underwent open heart surgery to close the hole. Since then I’ve been walking up to 5.5 miles a day, completed five full days of yoga, and I’m ordering new running shoes. Last night Hanson and I adopted a jolly run / walk approach for four miles.
So here’s the rub: my BODY has never been trained to do cardio exercise but now it can because it’s physically capable, and I expect that part to be relatively easy. The tricky part is… MY MIND has been EXPERTLY TRAINED that Sophia isn’t fit, doesn’t do sport, must rest.
So, now I’m unpicking 40 years of telling myself I can’t do sport, and retraining my brain that I can so that it turns off the automatic ping that means I want to quit before I start (you know the repetitive ping your car does if you’re slow to put your seatbelt on? That one.)
Now when I do cardio I don’t need a rest, I just need to help my mind stop freaking out and recognise that my revved up heart rate is a normal part of exercise. Pre op dancing would leave me pure white and in need of a 30 minute lie down. Now dancing expands my energy and makes me skip – I need to retrain my brain, and in this case my body can help by taking the lead.
Change can start in one of two places: in your mind or in your body. When both integrate you’ve got successful transformation. Think of it like this if you smile even when you feel neutral your emotional state will improve, or if you start to think happy thoughts and recall happy memories your body will start to act in alignment.
My personal work now is in tandem: to recondition my mind (subconscious) and my body so that cardio exercise is fun and pleasurable (thinking of all the dolphins!). I’ll be carefully monitoring all evidence that tells me my cardio fitness is on the up.
I’m inviting my mind for a workout that’d turn Rocky Balboa green. What are you doing to grow?