I have been pretty active though out my whole life, I started tap and jazz dancing when I was 8 and continued to do so until the age of 19. I was never the stick pin kid, but I was not fat.
After leaving school I ended up working in a legal office, which led me to study law. I didn’t have the finances to study full time so I ended up working full time whilst studying part time.
Looking back, this is where I first went wrong as far as my health and fitness.
Due to working and studying, I stopped dancing and any other form of exercise. It was over these 3 years of study that I ended up putting on weight. I had a terrible habit of eating while studying. You know how it goes, learning and chewing, learning and chewing…. I am sure many of you can relate to this?
After completing my studies I realised how much I missed my dancing so, I joined a Gym where I could do all the classes. I was never really interested in working out on the machines at the Gym (to this day it still does not interest me). I enjoy the motivation of having other people around me. I loved the group classes so much, I decided to do an Aerobics Instructors Course. Bonus - I lost the weight I had put on while studying, which was great!
Over the years at the Gym I taught every imaginable class there was, every new fad of the time - Slide was one of them I remember, and if you know what that was, then, you are as old as me!! :) :) I taught Step, New Body (using dumbbells while doing a whole bunch of warm ups), Sculpt (toning class with dumbbells) Boxing, Pump (toning class with barbells), Circuits, Pilates, Tai Bo (OMG I remember having 112 people in my class for Tai Bo!!!!) Those were the days, I was young, fit and healthy – I pushed my body to the limit, because I could!
I worked at the Gym for over 30 years and even though I was teaching classes the weight (depending on what was going on in my life, went on and off). In the beginning I could stop eating junk food and the weight would easily fall off, but of course the older I got, the harder it became (I am sure you have heard that saying before, but you know, it’s not really until it happens to you, that you totally get it). It was harder for me, having my children late in life, first child at (39) – oh I forgot to mention, that I was not allowed to do any form of exercise whilst pregnant as I could lose my babies :( From memory I packed on 20-25 kgs during pregnancy and that extra weight after giving birth, would barely budge.
I continued to teach classes, even though I was overweight (I would look in the mirror and say to myself “why would anyone come to your classes looking like that?”) – I tried copious amounts of diets, but the weight would take ages to come off and I would get disheartened and give up.
I also had the flip side of the coin, members of the Gym would come up to me and say, “I love having a ‘real’ person take the class, I look at you and know that if you can do it, I can too” – this gave me solace and made me realize that even though I was not happy in my appearance, I was still able to encourage other people.
After my second child at the age of 42, I absolutely packed on even more weight. When I returned to teaching afterwards, I only taught Pilates and Pump. It was then that I noticed when I was teaching Pump that my knee would ache and I would get sharp pains. I still kept teaching Pump. Then I noticed after walking up and down stairs it would hurt and sometimes my knee would give way. I still kept teaching Pump. (if I only knew what I know today!!!)
In the end I went to a Physio, who did all the usual treatments including acupuncture (which I think is fabulous!) It took ages for my knee to heal, so my Physio referred me to a specialist and I had an MRI (yuk, I can’t stand them, you would think in this day and age they would have machines that are smaller, that don’t make you feel claustrophobic and don’t make such a huge noise – I mean, they can make these amazing mobile phones, but they can’t take an image of the body without a huge piece of thumping machinery?)
To my disappointment, the MRI showed signs of osteoarthritis and the specialist sat me down and said you MUST lose weight and stop lifting heavy weights. He made me realise that in Pump class, lifting weights, along with the extra body weight I was carrying was putting extreme pressure on my knees. He told me there is no way to cure osteoarthritis but it will only get worse if I did not lose weight. I was heading down the road of a knee replacement by the time I was 50!
Now that scared the hell out of me, there was NO WAY I was going to have a knee replacement!
Luckily for me around the same time this was all going down, the Gym had recently been introduced to a new form of exercise whilst overseas in Canada called Essentrics. They asked me if I would like to teach it. I went along to a workshop and realised that this was something I could do, as it would not put pressure on my knees. I do remember trying some of the exercises and thinking “I can’t do that!, I can’t touch my toes!, I am not flexible enough to teach this class! (I was told many years ago form a Sports specialist that I would never be able to touch my toes as my hamstrings had atrophied (shrunk)).
The amount of negative thoughts I had going around in my head and the questioning of my abilities would have led me to not even try learning Essentrics, however I knew I couldn’t continue with Pump anymore, so I decided to go ahead and learn the routine, along with the Level 1 manual of becoming an Essentrics instructor.
The more I did, the more I feel in love with Essentrics, I love how my body feels afterwards, I love how I can feel my muscles working but I don’t ache for days and days afterwards like Pump. I love how it flows, I love how it feels like you are dancing. The more I taught Essentrics, the more I didn’t want to teach Pilates, the more I studied the more I wanted to know. I learnt more with Essentrics than any other modality.
After 3 months of teaching Essentrics a few times a week, members at the Gym would stop me and say “you have lost weight” – actually, I hadn’t lost any weight at all, but because Essentrics lengthens your muscles and works on posture, my whole body composition had changed, I looked taller and therefore leaner.
Realising that Essentrics was changing my body, I went on another diet and actually lost weight. I was looking great with Essentrics and a leaner bod, I was very happy – until that emotional eating kicked in yet again! Back the weight came on. People didn’t seem to notice it as much (or maybe they did but were too polite to say anything? They still came to my classes and enjoyed what Essentrics offered, whether or not the instructor was overweight) I felt gross and started doubting myself teaching Essentrics as I certainly did not look the part and my knee started to ache again.
The scare of my knee and the startling fact that I could not lose the weight after many more failed diets led me to a naturopath, who discovered that my thyroid was not functioning properly. It was challenging working with the naturopath and I mean challenging– total detox, slowly introducing a food to see if I reacted. I also did extra tests to find out what foods my body had an allergic reaction to. Slowly but surely with this and a Keto diet I lost weight, after 8 months people started noticing and saying ‘wow you look good!’ I am still not a stick pin and I know I never will be. But here I am a year after starting with the naturopath, solidly focusing on Essentrics and feeling the best I have ever felt.
My diet is probably not as good as it should be, as I write this I know I have to pull back and eat better (I now have the fear of putting the weight back on and I NEVER want to be where I was before), but my exercise regime of Essentrics is the BEST form of exercise I have EVER done.
It works the whole body, putting no pressure on the knees, I know that every Essentrics lunge and plie is strengthening the tendons and ligaments around my knee, therefore supporting it and aiding in the stability of my knee. (Yes I use knee supports, mainly for balancing)
I know that I don’t have to lift heavy weights to look good and for my body to function better. I know that when my knee hurts, it is ok for me to continue to take my classes as Essentrics is based on PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching (that is what Physiotherapists use). I am turning 50 this year and there is no sign of a knee replacement :)
Essentrics keeps me moving, it keeps me flexible, it strengthens my muscles, ligaments and tendons and it goes to show that even when you are told ‘you can’t’ or ‘you will never’ it is so wrong, especially with Essentrics around as I am proud to say, I can now touch my toes!