The indoor rowing revelation happened at the back end of last year….
After 43 years of very disordered eating, which, at its height resulted in an obsession, that meant literally trying and failing a different weight-loss method every week, last year, I finally cracked the key to losing weight and feeling great without dieting.
Last Spring, I took the step of seeing Paul Connor at MPA gym in Northwich. I signed up for a 6-week nutritional re-education, which I hoped would finally end the obsession I had with my diet. On my first appointment, after sensing my despair, he simply suggested the issue was, that I had nothing to aim for. He said to me, it was simple if I wanted weight-loss, I just needed to find a goal.
I assured him that I had a goal….to be 8.5 stone and look like Jennifer Aniston! Paul however explained, that this was the crux of my problem. If I obsessed about the dieting and the exercising and the number on the scales, I was always going to be fighting a losing battle, and after 23 years of trying, I could not argue with him!
So of course, by this point I was desperate to know?
“So….what is the answer to weight-loss?”
“Why not try to compete at indoor rowing?” he asked.
“Compete at indoor rowing?” I questioned disappointingly. “But I have never done anything like that? I don’t think I could take the pressure, and everyone will be so much better than me, and I will lose, fail, make a fool of myself, in fact I really can’t do anything like that I am sure!?”
His answer was inspiring, “Enter the event with the MPA team, and we at the gym will support you. You don’t have to beat anyone, just do your best, stick to a training plan, and you will be amazed at what you will achieve. Your confidence and self-esteem will multiply, and a pleasant by-product, that you wont even be thinking about along the way, will be, that you will look and feel the best you have ever felt by the end of your journey.”
At the end of my six-week consultation, I was certainly eating in a less disordered way, but I still had my historic obsession with losing more weight. I went away and tried my very best to ignore Paul’s advice that competing might help me to end my plight. The very idea was so far out of my comfort zone, it really terrified me.
3 months and a Portuguese boot camp later….
3 months later and, after being beasted by a group of ex-army pt.’s in a sunny boot camp in Portugal whilst being fed what felt like 2 boiled eggs and a glass of green juice each day, I did have weight-loss. However, it quickly returned within a month, along with another extra few pounds for good measure.
It was finally time to act, push myself way outside of my comfort zone and take Paul’s advice.
It was now September 2017, and there was an online indoor rowing competition which about 20 people at the gym had entered. I thought, that because it was online, and I just inputted my result into the computer, it could be quite private and if I was rubbish, no one would really notice too much. I bit the bullet and entered the International Row Series.
The first week was tough, and I certainly struggled a little bit, but I constantly asked myself, “what have I got to lose?” When I struggled, instead of quitting I just rowed a bit slower. I had committed to this for four weeks, and I was determined that, even if I never did it again, I wouldn’t let myself down, by quitting before the end of the four weeks.
No diets allowed
And of course, the best thing about this four-week period, was that I wasn’t allowed to diet, or judge myself. Finally it wasn’t about weight-loss; I was trying to be an athlete, to be strong and focused. There was no room for berating myself for eating a chip when I had done a great training session. I let my body have what it needed and thoroughly enjoyed the lack of restriction.
Each week of the competition, I became stronger, and began to enjoy competing against myself to better my numbers; even repeating some sessions, where I knew I could have pushed myself harder. I experienced a new level of training where, I might have finished my work out for the day in 20 minutes, but the intensity of that 20 minutes involved pushing myself to a place I had never been. At the end of the 4 weeks I had actually come 2nd in my 40-49 lightweight category and won a cash prize!
We need another lady for the relay team……
I still was lacking some confidence, although I was part way through a journey which was certainly changing me. I knew the MPA Team from the gym had entered the British Indoor Rowing Championships down in London, but really didn’t dare put myself forward for the event. However, the three ladies who were going, kindly persuaded me to be their fourth relay member, and in hindsight it was a decision I would not regret.
I continued my training… three rowing sessions a week guided by Paul, and a weights session with Jarrod Wood, one of the excellent Pt.’s down at MPA. The four sessions a week seemed manageable and I could fit them in whenever I chose too, as long as each week I completed them. By the time the Championships arrived I had delighted in 8 weeks of not dieting, not weighing myself and feeling fantastic.
The British Indoor Rowing Championships, London, December 2017
The weekend finally arrived. A group of 9 of us travelled to London on the Friday night before the competition, making the most of a very pleasant evening of carb loading! The Saturday morning arrived, and I felt prepared, focussed and the fittest I had ever been. The first race, the 2000m was 8 minutes of pushing myself to my limit. I knew however, that my goal was to do my best time, rather than to beat the others in my category. To smashed my personal best was the challenge, but I knew I could have maybe tried harder. I certainly wasn’t leaving the event thinking that I could have done more, so when it came to my 500m sprint in the ladies over 40 category later in the day, I was going to “go hard or go home!” I was thrilled with my result and achieved my fastest ever time by quite some way.
Relaxing relay time…??
It was time to relax now and have some fun in the Ladies 4×4 relay…. or so I thought! Myself and my 3 team mates had practiced a couple of times with our rowing machine change overs and holding each other’s toe straps. However, I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the fact that we were now in an open age category, which meant that we were on the competition floor in the same race as all the Ladies from the GB rowing team, all tall and ripped in their red white and blue leotards! In some ways it took the pressure off us even more, as we knew we couldn’t win, but what an experience, to even be within a meter of such amazing committed athletes.
In the 4000m race our tactic was to row 250m each and then to switch person, so we would all have to row 4 times each but only 250m each time, meaning we would each go as fast as we possibly could on each of our rows. We started so strongly, and I never knew how far I could push myself until I was in a team and it became about not letting these 3 fantastic ladies down. By the time we had each had our 3rd row, of course the Team GB ladies had finished……and so to the highest of so many highlights of this competing weekend.
The Team GB ladies held our toe straps…….!!!
As soon as the Team GB ladies finished…. instead of collapsing and congratulating themselves on their excellence…. they came to cheer us on! Literally the 4 greatest female rowers in the country gathered around the MPA ladies rowing machine screaming at us to row harder and better our times. As we switched positions they held our rowing toe straps and became part of our team for our final 2 minutes. Coaching us to push ourselves under the times we were currently achieving. Even the event TV camera was in our faces recording this magical moment for the rest of the stadium to be a part of.
As we finished, collapsed from the machine, and fawned over the GB girls for their kindness, inspiration and support, we had never felt a buzz like it. The exhaustion, coupled with the adrenalin, gave me a feeling of satisfaction and pride like nothing else I have ever experienced … except perhaps childbirth!
Time for Prosecco, Doritos and feeling smug….
The slightly tipsy, then rather drunken train journey home, was a time for smug reflection on a sport which most of the team had only begun 8 weeks previously. With 7 novice rowers in the group, we had achieved so much in such a short space of time, and quite frankly all of us had the right to be very proud of ourselves. Paul, was also quite rightly elated, due to only being 3 seconds slower that Sir Bradley Wiggins in his event… and Paul’s 46 you know! The high from this cold Saturday in December lasted for several weeks.
And of course, the pleasant by-product….
Yes, you guessed it! By the end of my 8 weeks of committing to training, with no dieting, no weighing myself, and no “trying to get skinny,” I definitely had weight-loss; I had lost 8 pounds on the scales. Not only that, but I had also gained muscle and lost a lot of body fat, which the read out on my home scales would not appreciate. My body was looking toned and ripped, in a way that my constant obsession and dieting had never achieved. I actually realised that weight-loss was a ridiculous measure; I could be the heaviest I had ever been, but as long as it was made from muscle and not fat, I would always look toned and healthy.
Without question I recommend pushing yourself to try something new within sport. Even if sport, or joining a gym itself, is completely new. I am now 43, with 3 children, and never started exercise until my early 30’s after I had had my first two children. In the last few months I am at the peak of my fitness more than at any other time in my life. Not only did I look and feel great by the end of this rowing training process, but more importantly I grew in confidence and self-esteem which helped me so much in other aspects of my life.
Back in December still high from the competition, I promised Paul and Kevin down at MPA Gym in Northwich, that I would write this article for them, to try to share how joining their gym gave me so much more that I had ever hoped for when I walked through their door last Spring.
Maybe this Spring it will be you taking that first baby step to finally changing your mind set, to stop worrying about weight-loss, and find a goal instead. Maybe you will try pushing yourself far and beyond your comfort zone, to be the best version of yourself that you can be.
You can only try your best in life… but in that one life, make sure that you don’t look back with regrets.
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