Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Travel. It broadens the mind…and the waistline!

Travel was always something that was on my mind; right from being a 15 year old girl wanting to work as a holiday rep, to having a dream of living abroad and to just taking any opportunity I could to see somewhere new in the world. The start of my twenties was spent studying and building my career so when I completed my degree in 2014 after four and a half years of part-time study alongside full-time work I was itching for some excitement and adventure.
A couple of incredible holidays in Europe last summer well and truly gave me the travel bug and to cut a long story short within a month of returning home from Ibiza I was extremely fortunate to have been granted a one year career break meaning I could chase my dreams and have the adventure I longed for and after it all return back to the job I love within the NHS.
Australia was my destination of choice; having visited twice previously and always having had a strong desire to sample the ‘Aussie lifestyle'. Plus the fact my sister moved out there a couple of years ago, there was only ever one country it was going to be (although I did throw a couple of others into the mix as the year progressed!)
Sydney soon became my new home
I have to admit during the process of deciding to go and the early planning stages, training and keeping fit didn’t really enter my head. I was so caught up in the excitement at finally having this opportunity that that was all I could think about. As my departure date got closer however it became the one thing I felt most anxious about. Which sounds silly to think that I was heading to the other side of the world, on my own, with no job lined up and other than the first 3 weeks no plan whatsoever, the one thing I was concerned about was how I was going to maintain my health and fitness…and of course with that my toned body that I’d grown to love over the previous 12 months. But I’m sure you other gym-addicts out there will understand this completely.
Whilst it was a consideration of mine I accepted that at certain times in life you have different priorities and that the upcoming year was going to be a chance for me to live my long-awaited dream and that would be my priority. I realised my fitness would have to take a backseat; and that was ok.
And I'm off...
So the first four or five months I did pretty well. I had access to a gym and my diet was still pretty good and when I lived in Sydney I would spend as much of my free time as possible outdoors seeing the sights which often meant plenty of walking. So after heading off to a land Down Under in January by the end of May I was still looking fairly toned and feeling pretty healthy.
It all went downhill from there. June and July brought the Australian winter (and yes they do have proper winters if you’re in the Australian Capital Territory just as bad as the ones we have in England) so as so often happens out came the yummy food, training became more of a chore especially without my usual gym network and venturing outdoors on evenings and weekends wasn’t particularly appealing when it was often less than 5 degrees. And admittedly I simply enjoyed myself with my family in Australia and with my new found friends; partaking in weekend drinking sessions a little too often (and the fact that Canberra has an amazing pancake parlour really didn’t help matters).
I came home for a few weeks in July for a wedding and it was only around that time that I realised I’d put on a few extra pounds and wasn’t looking anywhere near as toned as I was before I left. Heading back to Total Fitness for a couple of workouts I also quickly realised how much my fitness levels had dropped.
Up until this point in the year, other than a few weeks off here and there to travel, I’d been mainly working in Australia so had had a routine and some control over my eating habits (not a very tight control I may add based on what I’ve just told you above) but the next part of my adventure was to purely travel. A little bit more time in Australia and then also onto New Zealand and Fiji. So after being home for 3 weeks I headed back to my second home and had the most amazing 2 months seeing and experiencing such incredible things every single day.
Anyone that has been travelling will tell you it’s often impossible not to gain a few extra pounds. On the road every few days, staying in hotels and hostels (and the occasional wooden hut on a random beach) you eat what’s available, you also eat what you can afford (no fillet steaks on the menu when you’re on a traveller’s budget) and let’s not lie you enjoy yourself simply indulging in whatever you fancy to eat or drink as after all you are on a holiday right? Normally living by this rule on a 1-2 week holiday is absolutely fine. Living by this rule on a two month holiday is absolutely not fine. If I thought I had become a bit untoned and unfit in the first 6 months of being away I pretty much made it twice as bad in those last 2 months.
KiwiYo in NZ delivering the goods
Now I’m all for accountability and it drives me mad when people make so many excuses why they simply cannot exercise and be healthy so I hold my hands up to some of it as no I didn’t need that extra chocolate bar and yes if I had really wanted to I could have swam around a Fijian island every day. Although I’ll give myself a bit of a break; when you’re living on a remote island in the middle of nowhere that has two food options for dinner…burger and chips or simply don’t eat then you do kind of lose a bit of control over your diet.
More food...
I had a fantastic time though and I knew once I was home I would be fully back on the health and fitness game. So I tried not to stress about it too much while I was away but I’d be lying if I said I completely embraced it all and didn’t mind this part of it one bit.
I did mind. I minded a lot. I’d spent months and months working to get to where I wanted to be health & fitness wise and happy when I looked in the mirror. And to watch it dwindle away literally before your very eyes, despite the amazing experiences you’re having each day, was simply soul-destroying. To anyone that’s reading this that doesn’t live the ‘gym-life’ you’re probably thinking I’m absolutely crazy. I’m here travelling the world, seeing amazing places every day and eating what I want and I’m complaining about a few extra kilograms; but that’s what the gym-life does to you (and I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this nodding your head in agreement!)
So at the start of October 2015 I returned home with a lifetime of memories, all adventured out, a host of new friends across the globe and feeling very blessed. Many people would say to me ‘oh I bet you’re gutted to be home in the English winter’ and whilst I’ll not lie it wasn’t exactly thrilling to be back to the cold weather I was actually very happy to be back on British soil. For a number of reasons but a huge part of that was because I was craving routine after living out of a suitcase for 10 months and moving cities and countries every few days, weeks or months (now that I’m back in a routine working the 9-5 I’m not quite sure why I ever got tired of moving cities and countries so often but anyhow!). And with that returned routine came the control back in my life over my lifestyle.
I cleaned my diet up right away so very quickly felt better on myself and then started the training regime. I’d decided long before I came home that I would be enlisting the help of a personal trainer again to help me get back in shape (I’ll be doing another post soon about my thoughts on having a personal trainer) and that turned out to be the best decision as those first few weeks were HELL.
Looking a little 'chunky' on my return
It felt awesome to be back training but it was hard. Not just from a physical aspect of the sessions being very challenging on my body but also from a mental perspective. Knowing that 12 months ago you could easily do ten lots of ten sprints as a warm up to circuit training and now you were ready to collapse in a heap after five, it was frustrating to say the least. And I knew I had such a long way to go. My previous fit body could often recover from a tough session in less than 24 hours yet now I faced a three day recovery from a legs session that saw me often crawling out of bed or wincing every time I stood up from my seat…and don’t even get me started on approaching stairs.
But I was back on it. I was following a 80% clean eating diet. I was training 5-6 times per week and I knew I had to just push through this first couple of months. And I’m so glad I did. Now I’m two months into it and I’ve lost the extra weight that I had put on purely in fat on my travels and I feel fitter, stronger, leaner and so much better in my own body. This morning was a real moment for me as I went to Bootcamp as I do every Wednesday morning. It’s a killer of a class and I’ve travelled to the other side of the world and sampled a number of similar classes yet none have even come close to the physical challenge of this one.
Bootcamp got me like...
I noticed at the last session I was coping better and today I felt on top of the world. Now don’t get me wrong it was still as gruelling as ever and I still spent the majority of the session in a sweaty mess desperately trying to get my breath back ready for the next circuit station. But this morning I could do it. At no point did I question my ability. At no point did I feel like giving up. I knew from the first minute to the very last minute that I had it covered. And at that point every minute spent in the gym, every chocolate bar I resisted, every event I’d sacrificed going to in favour of getting another workout in, was without a doubt worth it. I’m back!
8 weeks in

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