Getting Fit when you’re Fat


Pretty much exactly a year ago, I was given one of those lovely medicals the NHS has started giving people as they turn 40.

Nothing BAD was found, thank goodness, but my GP did sternly tell me that my weight was likely to affect my health more as I got older, and a combination of poor diet and ridiculous stress meant my blood pressure was too high for someone my age.

I was surprised how much I took the results to heart – the idea that idling around, drinking too much coffee and worrying myself half to death on a weekly basis might be affecting my overall life expectancy was pretty depressing, actually.

Truth be told, though, I’m not one of those people who’s going to rush off and join a gym and lose 10 stones in a year. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to make any changes that I didn’t want to keep up permanently – that any changes I made had to be things I could live with, and commit to.

So I started swimming. I’ve always loved to swim, but my attendance at the local pool was pretty sporadic. Now, I started swimming regularly for 30 minutes, three times a week. I pushed myself to swim a little further each week – starting with an admittedly puny 10 lengths of breast stroke and working my way up to swimming 40 lengths of alternate front crawl and breast stroke.

Alongside the swimming, I bought a bike, and started cycling to the local shops (unless it’s chucking it down in which case I’ll still drive – I’m still me, after all). And I walk the dog, every day, even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes.

I took some steps to improve my diet, keeping a record of what I eat, and cooking more at home. It’s pretty basic stuff – more fruit and vegetables, less convenience food. I take the view that life’s about the 90% though – the odd pizza on a Friday night, or bar of chocolate to balance out a horrible day at work are very definitely still on the menu.

And it’s working. I’ve lost a steady half pound a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. As of today, I’m just over three and a half stones lighter than I was this time a year ago. I can feel that I’m stronger, and fitter. Where I used to want to cry after 10 lengths of the swimming pool, I can now swim 40 lengths without too much pain – although I have to seriously talk myself into doing the last 10.

Often, I motivate myself by holding imaginary races with pensioners in the next lane – although it’s embarrassing how often I lose. Or I do my version of “What would Jesus do” which is “What would Mirka do? Not give up and have a chocolate biscuit, I bet.” 

It’s not been without challenges. To say the least.


For starters, I look ridiculous in a swim hat. Why don’t these things come in different sizes, FFS? I look like a beach ball trying to squeeze into a condom. Or something.

Starting any sort of exercise regime when you’re seriously unfit is problematic. In December, I pulled a calf muscle badly, and spent 2 days in and out of hospital convinced I was about to die from DVT. In March, I trapped a nerve in my chest wall, between two ribs, which was ridiculously painful. I also shamed myself thoroughly by begging my ridiculously lovely and patient GP for an ECG and a breast exam after he casually said, “The good news is the pain’s definitely not heart or breast-related, and should resolve in six to eight weeks,” which I took to be GP-speak for, “It’s 50/50, you’ve either got heart failure or breast cancer.” 

Christmas happened. I went on two cruises.

Basically between December and March, I lost and gained weight, swam and didn’t swim, and basically my fitness levels went to pot.

As my latest injury has started to ease, though, I’ve started swimming seriously again, although I have been taking it easy, building up from 25 lengths and adding 5 more lengths each week. It feels nice to start to get some fitness back.

But it’s still hard. I love to swim, but it’s weirdly hard to pull yourself away from work for an hour and do the getting changed, swim and shower routine, isn’t it?

And often the hardest thing is not listening to the voice in your own head that tells you that you’re really crap at this fitness lark, and why aren’t you in the park doing lunges or putting a cross-trainer in the spare bedroom and eating Scan Bran muffins for breakfast (Google them, if you dare). As if you’re ever going to be one of those fit, healthy people and not a rather-too-fat, neurotic wreck. AS IF.

But I figure I only need to ignore that voice enough to keep doing what I’ve been doing for a year. I’m a little way down the road, compared to where I was. And perhaps in another year, I will be a bit further still. That’s something. It’s certainly better than nothing.

I think the key thing is not giving up, not going backwards, and going easy on myself when things do go a bit off-plan. It happens. Life happens. And it’s all about the 90 percent.

What do you think?


26 thoughts on “Getting Fit when you’re Fat”

  1. I think you are going fab , it’s so difficult to get fit and healthy. It shouldn’t be, it should be a way of life, but the alternative seems far easier. I lost the weight, but I’m certainly not fit. I need to get off my ass and do it. Good luck xx

    1. It’s a daily conversation with myself, “I know I will feel better after I swim, and I’ll be glad I’ve been, so GET UP and get to the pool, woman!”

  2. This is so flipping inspiring Sally and well done you for making little changes that have had a huge impact, love your style on this.

    I have PCOS so my weight fluctuates all the time and losing and maintaining it is hard work. Yes according to those ridiculous and totally rubbish BMI charts, I’m not overweight but I can put on 7 pounds at the time of the month and it always feels a struggle. I love Mirka’s blog Fitness 4 Mamas too, really gives me the kick I need, to run or power walk rather than drive, on the school run. Keep going- and I’m so impressed you can actually get a swimming hat on, needless to say my hair never fits in one. They need to make ‘big Greek hair’ size swimming hats. The bouffant used to rip the school ones at swimming lessons and I would get shouted at weekly. Agh good times.

    1. I love all of this, except mention of running. I have a friend who has a friend (no, really) who has to wear two bras to run in. I suspect I’d need four.

  3. Amazing result with no starving involved. I agree about the 90% too. I”d be happy with 3 1/2 stone in a year. So far I’ve lost 1.4lbs since Tuesday. Not a very impressive result compared to yours. The thing is – it’s not just the 90% it’s also the consistancy. You have to keep it up for life or it doesn’t work. Well done.

  4. Mirka Moore @Fitnes4Mamas

    So pleased Vicki has sent me link to this post as I am currently on holiday on Crete. Thanks Sally not only for mentioning me but also for thinking of me so highly! I am most of the times very good when it comes to food, but not always! I love treating myself to nice wine and dark chocolate…. doing right now actually!
    I think you are doing great, it’s very import at to acknowledge you need to change a few gambits and looks like you are doing the right thing! You know I love swimming and can assure you I look ridiculous in a swim hat too and guess what? I do not care! Stick to your exercises, continue doing what you are doing, a bit every day or every second day, and am sue you will get where you want to get! Join my #FitnessTuesday linky and share your updates with other mamas! KEEP FIT xxx

    1. Hope you’re having a fabulous holiday – the ONLY good thing about swim hats is that the only place you wear them you’re unlikely to be the only one, and everyone looks silly!

  5. I know how hard it is so well done you! Also I promise to always buy you a jumbo size bar of Dairy Milk chocolate when your stress level is at Def Con 2.

  6. Was going to say something flippant, but wow that’s a brilliant loss, well done! You’ve reminded me I’ve STILL not done the blood tests for THAT check up (3 years ago for me, oops!) and now I’m wondering if that might be the thing that kickstarts me into action. I love swimming too, but it’s the getting changed and washing hair after I hate. I want to lose weight, I really do, but I’m like you, I don’t see being strict with myself as fitting into an enjoyable lifestyle. Then of course there’s that voice that tells me I should just love myself how I am….. it’s a battle everyday!

  7. I salute you, to get started is hard enough but to keep going when giving up would be easier is fantastic. I’ve started jogging, not something I ever thought I would enjoy but then I started to think of it as a slightly faster walk in the countryside and I like those so it’s sort of working. I’m building it up slowly too, sometimes if it’s flat I can jog for 10-15 mins then walk the rest of the way. Other times if there’s a huge hill (slight incline) I just do 3 1/2 mins and think it’s still better than not trying 🙂
    Reading about your own efforts is definitely an inspiration and helps to motivate me, and I”m sure others so please keep going. I reckon the effects are not lost on Flea either x

    1. I think that’s what I’m pleased about – I suspect I could have lost more weight, more quickly had I started running and cross-training and the like, but would I still be chugging along a year later? Probably not, knowing me!

  8. Oh my, I am actually sitting here sharing a pint of Ben and Jerrys with my son, who just accused me of eating all the caramel core bit… I have been telling myself to get more serious about my fitness for about 2 years now, because you are absolutely right – our forties are when we build health into our old age! And I do want to be a seriously active old lady and get up to all kinds of trouble. Thanks for the inspiration, I really needed to read it. Going to make a plan now.

  9. I think you have done amazingly well – what an achievement! Like you, I also had one of those health checks last year and was advised to lose weight and exercise more. I joined slimming world, which has worked for me but the plan is similar to what you are doing – lots of fruit and veg and cooking from scratch instead of convenience food. I have upped my exercise… a bit… but still need to do more. Swimming would be a good one for me. I am never going to be one of those people who runs marathons or lift weights or enjoys jumping around getting sweaty!

  10. My knees hate running! I love to swim though, Its great what your doing. I just can’t wait till I move into a house and can take my Elliptical our of storage.

  11. you have done amazing to lose so much in a year, those people who lose ten stone in a year must be bloody starving and miserable all the time. I am on a diet and i am finding it torture and the weekly weigh ins make me feel like i am back at school. I think i need to take a leaf out of your book and start exercising although the idea of it fills with me dread it needs to be done to shift all my extra weight and i pretty sure the pensioners would most definetly beat me in a swimming race and i am only 31 x

  12. I totally agree that the whole getting undressed and wet and washing my hair thing is the bit of swimming that really puts me off – I’ve yet to find an exercise I love . . . which can clearly be seen 😉

  13. Three and a half stone in a year is absolutely incredible! And I think you’ve got exactly the right attitude… A few permanent lifestyle changes and a balanced diet 90% of the time… Much more sensible and maintainable than a fad diet or calorie counting. It’s important to be happy and not spend your life frowning at the scales. I think you’re admirable for this post and for all you’ve achieved.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *