A few months ago, having just recovered from quite a complicated pregnancy which had me crippled by diabetes and other conditions, all the while working and travelling full time, and continuing to do so whilst supposedly on maternity leave, I felt totally depleted of energy and totally out of shape. I decided it was time to take charge of my health and turn things around... Whereas I would have relished a quick fix solution, the reality is that when you combine a stressful life with health issues, there is no easy way to get better.
Thankfully though, I didn't know that at the time...
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you one thing: getting back into shape when you are on the wrong side of thirty, have had a couple of c-sections and have the working hours of a slave in the gallows, well... it takes some serious commitment, but, dear friends, believe me, it is worth it... I am now two sizes smaller than a year ago, and a full size smaller than before my babies, but most importantly I feel fit and strong and don't flinch at the idea of taking the stairs instead of the lift anywhere!
Let me tell you: if I managed, so can pretty much anyone. So, what are my top five tips to get fit and stay healthy?
1. Find a work-out that challenges you
The first step to getting back into a healthy lifestyle is to challenge yourself. The thing is, I probably did work out a bit before this massive overhaul, after all I went to reformer pilates a couple of times a week and rarely missed a barre class. That said, the fact was, I had been banned from pretty much any exercise bar yoga and swimming during my last pregnancy, thanks to some pretty scary complications, and by the time Little Madame arrived I was seriously in need of a work-out regime overhaul. Enter The Pilates PT team and the Model Method (click here for more information), a method combining HIIT and Reformer work to deliver a fantastically effective body transforming work-out. I started going twice a week and met with the most incredible PT there, Nadine, who got me to think about my next lifestyle hack: it's not enough to push yourself with a couple of grueling sessions a week, exercise must become part of your life, as much as taking the kiddies to their Saturday afternoon birthday parties or making that morning meeting religiously day after day.
2. Diversify your work-outs
I already had pilates and barre, but Nadine got me thinking about things that I didn't necessarily think I would enjoy. The idea was to up my game in the cardio and high intensity areas, so she sent me to check out Kobox, which I loved immediately, no surprises there (not so much love anymore thanks to a slightly sub-par customer service...) and then she coaxed me into going to Psycle. If you follow my Instagram, you know that Psycle has become a lot more for me than just a work-out, I have met some incredible people there but also I've discovered a work-out where I can really let go of all my worries and stresses. And the burn is in-cre-di-ble. Fast forward a few months, and my exercise week looks like this at the moment: Monday Psycle / Tuesday Heartcore Pilates / Wednesday Jump / Thursday Barre or Yoga / Friday Dance / Saturday Psycle / Sunday Heartcore Pilates. Thats' right, no rest day... just an alternating schedule between toning and high intensity exercises, to keep my body pushing hard and my mind engaged.
3. Fix your diet
Although I had been working out like a devil at the weirdest times of the day (6AM, 8PM, lunchtime, Sunday before 8AM... whenever I had time basically), after a couple of months on the routine my weight loss plateau-ed, something that Nadine reminded was due to my being a little lax on my diet. After all, abs are made as much in the kitchen as they are in the gym... So, we got down to downloading MyFitnessPal on to my phone, and adjusting the macros... More protein, and much much less carbs, much to the despair of the bread-loving Moroccan that I will be for life! It was hard at first, because I followed my diet to the core, at least until I had lost the fat I wanted and gained muscle instead, and felt comfortable enough to let go of the app and just trust myself to make the right choices. These days, I just follow a simple rule of 5 days of virtuous eating, and 2 days when I indulge in my favourite treats. Rest assured my diet is pretty simple: just plain common sense approach to food, healthy choices, food preferrably prepared by myself from scratch and absolutely no silly fads (alka-what?!!)... But remember: no healthy diet, no healthy body!
4. Make being healthy a priority
This brings me onto the most important lesson I learned in these last fourteen months: if you don't make your health a priority, well... who will? What I am trying to say is, when you want to be at your desk before 7:30 in the morning, and see your children before bedtime, and still have time for some social life, a little sleep etc... well you can't add exercise in your super busy schedule unless it is a priority. How I do it is quite simple: I schedule my work-outs first thing in the morning, this way nothing gets in the way, and I can't make up any excuses as the day gets worse (ie... I had a horrible meeting just now I'll just skip spinning and go home and snuggle next to my babies to feel warm and happy again... yes, I've done that). Yes, it means sleeping a little less in the morning, but I read somewhere that all the skin renewing happens before 2AM anyways so just go to bed earlier, you'll look fresher in the morning and the flush from the exercise will make you look dewier at your early meeting or school drop-off! Same goes for the diet bit: prioritising your health means preferring the nicoise salad (dressing on the side) to the pizza, but in truth it becomes quite easy with time to make the right food choices...
5. Don't beat yourself up
The last thing I'll leave you with is this: we all have strong goals and the best intentions, but often life gets in the way. That delicious Pouilly left from Saturday's dinner tastes amazing with Monday night's salmon and greens, sharing a plate of scrumptious doughnuts with your girlfriend on her birthday is a fabulous treat, and there are Sundays when it just feels so lovely to snuggle up in bed with Hubby, the babies, the cats, for a glorious lie-in. I say just do the things that make you happy, eat what tastes fantastic, and don't begrudge yourself for letting go from time to time, pleasure is a massive component of happiness and being happy is key to being healthy... Remember it's all about the balance!
As you read this post, remember I am no wellness guru... Just a busy mamma of two who decided to steer her life around from a sluggish mess of stress overload onto a healthier, happier, stronger turn... I may not look like a top model anytime soon (I would need to grow at least a foot for that and let's not even talk about the plastic surgery I'd need!!!) but I feel strong, healthy and fit, and that is quite an achievement for me and I hope some of my lessons might be useful to other women who may be struggling to keep a healthy lifestyle.
PS: I am ever so thankful to Nadine, my fantatic PT, for being such a fantastic taskmasker and helping me achieve this transformation in my life, always with the sweetest prompts and the most positive attitude one could wish for, even at 6AM on less than five hours of sleep! Nadine has now set up her own studios, as well as being the master trainer at London's Studio Lagree. You can find out more on her website: http://www.arabesquelondon.com.