Most of us aren’t destined to be Olympians or Greek gods and goddesses, but we all can find some kind of movement, sport, exercise that we enjoy that makes us willing to move away from the TV, bottle of wine and box of chocolates.
Spurred into action by medieval archery
Where should I start? I suppose 2007, when I found myself on my own with not much of a life; just work and home. So, when a friend’s dad was raising money for a good cause – “Have go sessions with a medieval longbow and arrows” – I gave it a little whirl. Oh boy, oh boy! I was hooked from the first arrow. I loved it and spent a fortune that day. When I got home I looked up the nearest field archery club and booked myself on a beginner’s course, choosing to shoot an English longbow as I find them the most beautiful. I practiced like a demon and in 2012 I came in 5th in the championships, in which we pit our skills against the target and course layers (not real animals, only pretend ones).
It was the start of my new life. However, I wasn’t very fit and I weighed 268lb at 5ft 2″ (more of your friar Tuck than your maid Marion).
Consciously deciding to be active (despite being afraid)
Then Boxing day 2011, I got up and thought: “to hell with this!”. I hurt ache and I wanted more out of life. So at 45, I decided that it was time to change. At first, it was hard work. I had to change the way I ate and started to do things to get me off my tush more. As I have arthritis, bad knees and curved spine, I wanted something I could do safely. Looking back now, yes, there was the cautious element but also I was SCARED, plain and simple – scared of failure and of being laughed at, but if I wanted to change, I had to take the bull by the horns and go for it. Taking the first step was hard, but when I make a decision, I get a tad focused – you can ask any of my friends this. Bit by bit, I increased my physical activity gently at first and building up to the program I do now. Twelve months later, I’m 178lb – US size 10 / UK 14.
Training in Bagua Zhang and meeting two amazing teachers
About 8 months ago, I found something called Bagua Zhang. It’s a martial art used for health and longevity but it also has roots in defence and fighting. My first lesson, I think back now to my teacher (Sifu) Ryan and what must have gone through his mind. But as the true teacher he is, he only commented positively. I know I wasn’t very good. Oh… and I used muscles I didn’t know I had. “Ouch”, was an understatement. It kindled a flame in me though. I wanted to learn I wanted to be able to move like that with grace, power and relaxed ease. I have two fabulous teachers and if I don’t grasp things the first, second or third time they continue till they find a way I do understand. They have the patience of saints.
There are so many true teachers out there. Don’t let a bad one put you off. Find another and don’t be afraid of going for what you want. It’s your life so enjoy it. Don’t be scared of trying something not mainstream. Not everyone likes the gym or cycling. Look for something you really want to do. I learnt if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not for you. And if you do enjoy it, you will give up so much stuff that is bad for you, just so you can get better at what really matters to you. It becomes like a mini cosmos you do because you want to, and you want to, so you do.
Starting a journey journal and finding balance
Now, for me, it wasn’t just diet. I was determined to find out why I ate the way I did. So, I started a journey book that was filled with emotions, what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I made a list of things I wanted to change about me and started to change them. I used self-help books, CDs and even booked a couple of sessions with a life coach. I was learning that you can change anything you want but the key word is WANT. I found my triggers and boy there were quite a few, but I decided nope, I have all the power and you are not going to beat me. You can reprogram yourself. It’s hard but it can be done.
My fascination into getting healthy grew. I wanted to learn to box and to learn Kung Fu. It is linked to Bagua but isn’t the same. I discovered I loved it just as much but just not the fighting for me; it’s the balance that it brings – the more I practice the more centred it makes me. My favourite classes are when I get to go through sparring moves with my teachers. I don’t care if I end up on the floor. It’s all a learning curve. One of these days, I’ll be good enough to hold my own without them holding back. I want to be the best I can be you see .
One of my teachers suggested I give meditation a go and it took me a while to get to grips with it, but wow it’s cool and it helps you to focus on the external parts of your life too. It’s the most valuable tool I have ever learnt.
Forging forward into new endeavours and my concluding thoughts
Then Christmas 2013, my friend Mick whose daughter Shauna Coxey is one awesome climber (look her up), asked me to go bouldering with him. Now, I’m scared of heights in a big way but I refuse to let anything stop me. So, I added another ‘string’ to my bow so to speak, and I hope to be fit enough one day to try base jumping. EEEK!
Now it’s 2014 and the weight is still going down slowly. I have ambitions and goals but the main one is to be fit and happy. It’s been like learning everything from scratch again, finding new ways to improve both my mind and my body, but I am well worth my time and energy. It really is a case of liking who you are inside.
I may be 46 but if I want to skip down the street I will. Bystanders can snigger all they wish but I have the power because I am HAPPY.
There is a huge wide world out there of stuff to learn and to do (from skipping to mountain climbing). So get off your tush and find some fun things to do. Because once you find the fun (the part that makes you dash home from work so you can be in time for a class or you sneak off to practise when your family are watching TV), you’re half way there. It’s the wonderful spark that lights up the days of the week. Find that and you have won the first battle.
One last thing, a few words of advice given to me by Sifu Phil that I’m passing to you because it played a very big part of my journey just eight little words:
You can be whoever you want to be
It’s your life and your choice to be happy; no one but you is in control.
Thank you to all those who are part of my life and for all the help you have given me. And let me know how you gave something that looked like fun a go and how it goes.