I didn't know it then, but 12 July 2004 changed my life.
It was an uneasy relationship at first. An initial first flush of excitement, and then a period of growing disinterest and disillusionment. And then, as spring started drawing nearer, we got back together again. We became closer, almost inseparable in fact.
It's been an interesting year with my gym membership.
To put it into context, I did the Sport Relief mile on 10 July. I got round, but I didn't exactly run all of it. Or even most of it. I started off well, for the first 200 metres or so, and then ran out of steam. But in the bag there was information about gym membership from one of the gyms that had been helping out. There was a free day pass, I recall, although I never used it. It did get me thinking though, that I was finally earning enough money to be able to afford to pay for a gym membership.
It didn't get me thinking enough to do anything that weekend (I was still too sore!), but I pondered it on and off over the weekend. I wasn't thinking about losing weight at all. For a start I didn't know how heavy I was, and I was relatively happy with my weight. Sure I'd have liked to be thinner, but I had almost accepted that I was fat, and there was nothing I could do about it. I'd always been fat, and I always would be.
On Monday morning I woke up, and didn't know that I'd change my life that day. I drove into work, parked in the usual place and walked to the office. I walked past a hotel (which I didn't even know had a gym). I noticed a banner advertising their summer offer. A 6 week no strings membership. No joining fee, no minimum contract. Just 6 weeks. (indeed, they're doing a similar thing this year as part of this scheme
). I started thinking more seriously about it, and gave them a call. I went to look round at lunchtime and paid up there and then. I knew that if I thought too much about it I'd back out. I'd find something else to spend my £60 on. So I joined. I figured that even if I rarely went, I've spent £60 on stuff that's equally useless in the past, so it wouldn't be a huge loss. And I could just walk away if necessary.
I then realised that I had nothing to actually wear to go to the gym and had to go shopping. So much for it just being £60.
The next day arrived and I had my induction. That was the moment I got on the scales. For the first time in many many years. I'd never worried about my weight. Indeed I have no idea what I weighed at any point in my past. Even when I was weighed at the doctors or wherever I never remembered the number. I just ignored it and moved on. So in fact when the scales registered 118kg I had no idea what that meant. Whether it meant I was extraordinarily heavy, fairly fat but passable, remarkably light for my size. The number meant nothing to me. Even when I realised it was over 18 and a half stone, I didn't have many numbers to put it into context with of what I should weigh.
I started going to the gym, and I enjoyed it a surprising amount. As I exercised, memories came flooding back. I'd always actually vaguely enjoyed exercise. I wasn't very good at it, and maybe that meant I didn't get as much attention or assistance as those people who were half decent. I just got left to struggle round on my own. I did used to play on school sports teams, and I played softball at work. I'd make an effort, when it would have been far easier for me to hide on the sofa with some chocolate. But somehow my brain didn't make the connection before I was 26 that I actually enjoyed exercise.
Within a week or two of starting at the gym, though, I'd made that connection.
At first I didn't tell anyone. My mother came to stay with me for a week during those first 6 weeks, and I stopped going. I popped in for a lunchtime for a swim, but I didn't let on. I didn't want to build it up until I knew I could stick with it. I wanted it to be something I was doing for me, not because other people were encouraging me to do it.
Five weeks in, I still didn't know whether to go onto the annual membership. I knew that if I used my membership as much as I had been doing I'd be fine. I'd get value for money. But I heard so many stories about gym memberships going unused I kind of assumed that mine would be one of them if I took one out. Strange that I was put off for so long by the fear of failure rather than a fear of exercise. And then one day I decided to take the plunge. Committing myself to a year of membership, whether I wanted it or not eleven months down the line.
I carried on going to the gym. I lost about a stone in total. At this point my weight loss was somewhat accidental. I remember sitting there and thinking "this is great, I can lose weight and eat rubbish!" I wasn't exactly trying to make a big change and lose huge amounts, I was just trying to get fitter. Some people noticed, and I started to come clean.
And then I came slightly off the rails. At the beginning of October my mother came to stay for three weeks. I went back to the gym for two weeks and then my dad came for a week. Then I went away for a week the day he left. And the day I came back, my sister and her boyfriend came with me to stay for two weeks. And then I was burgled, then it was christmas. Three months just seemed to be wiped out like that. At this point I wasn't assertive enough about it to say - this is what I'm doing, I'm doing it for me, and I want you to support me. I just slipped back into being the person they expected me to be, because it was easier that way. I put most of the weight back on again, and my clothes went back to being tight.
At the beginning of January I wasn't quite back where I started, but I was ready to try again. I only got into it slowly in January, and in February I swam a lot, but didn't use the gym. I lost another four or so pounds, to put me to maybe half a stone off my highest weight. And then in March it clicked. I started really going to the gym, and I started trying to sort out my eating habits too. Nothing too revolutionary, but thinking about what I was eating, and being a bit more careful. The weight started dropping off, and I started feeling great.
Since March I've started being more vocal. When my family come over I tell them that they can't use my car unless they give me a lift to the gym in the morning. On a Saturday morning I tell them I'm popping to the gym while they get showered and have breakfast, and before I do anything with them. I tell them what I want to eat rather than going along with their stuff (even though it's my house, if they're in the house all day they sometimes cook for me).
So, it's been a year, and I've changed so much. Not just my weight, but my outlook on life, and the way I deal with people. I never realised what I was starting on that day in July when I woke up and dragged myself out of bed. But I'm so glad I did what I did that day. It changed my life.
This has been a monster post, but I've enjoyed looking back and reminding myself how far I've come this year.