As I opened the front door, the howling wind nearly knocked me over! I looked down at our dog, Penny. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to take her, Danny?’ I called to my partner. ‘No thanks, love,’ he replied from the living room. ‘It’s definitely your turn.’ Realising I wasn’t getting out of it, I pulled up my hood and braced myself for the cold.
After the shortest dog walk ever, I joined Danny on the sofa, wondering how anybody did that kind of thing for fun. When Danny and I had got Penny a couple of months earlier, we’d hoped having a dog would get us out more – and maybe even improve our fitness. So far, it hadn’t happened. Although we did walk her faithfully every day, it felt like an effort and we’d get back home as quickly as possible.
Time for a change
I’d never been a fan of exercise. Even if I was just popping to the local shop, I’d reach for my car keys rather than my trainers and, as Danny felt the same, we’d just never got around to being more active. Over the years, I’d occasionally thought that I ought to get fit, but I didn’t actually want to. I’d lost count of the gym memberships I’d taken out, only to go once or twice. I’d always convince myself I couldn’t go because it was too cold, or too late, or I was too busy... Deep down, though, I knew the real reason was that my weight made it feel too difficult. Just walking up the stairs in our three-storey house would leave me gasping for breath, and I’d have to stop halfway through the housework to take a rest.
I was also fed up with being the biggest one in my friendship group – so much so that I’d started to avoid having my photo taken when we went out. I’d tried loads of diets over the years, but nothing seemed to work. Then Danny’s mum joined Slimming World, and when I saw how well it was working for her, it spurred me on to join, too. That was in November 2016, not long after we got Penny. I weighed in at 12st 11lbs and set my target weight at 9st 13lbs. When I found out I could use my Syns to still enjoy a glass of wine or other treats, I was delighted – I knew it would stop me from feeling like I was missing out. In the first week, I lost 4lbs.
An exciting surprise
Things were going well and then, a few months later, some happy news took me slightly off course… I found out I was pregnant! When I told my Consultant, Alicia, she explained that Slimming World works with the Royal College of Midwives to support its pregnant members and it meant I could carry on Food Optimising as a way to ensure I ate healthily and got all the nutrients the baby and I needed. So that’s what I did. When my son, Joey, was born in October 2017, I only weighed 10lbs more than when I’d found out I was pregnant.
Now that I was a mum, those niggling thoughts about being more active took on a new importance. Alicia had talked about Body Magic – Slimming World’s activity programme – in group, and how we could build up gradually to an active lifestyle. As I had a step tracker, I decided I’d start by walking. I set myself a challenge of 10,000 steps a day, no matter what. Each day, I’d put Joey in his pram and head out with Penny for longer walks than before. Some days I was shocked to realise I’d done closer to 20,000 steps by the time I headed to bed.
Food Optimising was still giving me great results on the scales, as well. By June 2018, I’d reached my target weight, and two months later, I reached my new target of 9st 4lbs. By then, Joey had started toddling about, so we’d walk to the local park together. I loved going down the slide with him, and far from hiding if anyone pointed a camera at me, I was now the one shouting, ‘Smile!’ and taking selfies with my family.
Taking it step by step
In September 2019, we gave Penny’s sister, Martha, a home with us, too. Martha loved going out, and both dogs were up and at the door whenever they heard the magic word ‘walk!’. Before long, I felt ready to step things up a bit, so I downloaded the Couch to 5K app. ‘I can’t believe I’m even thinking about running!’ I said to Danny, laughing.
On the first day, I pulled on a pair of old trainers, a baggy T-shirt and leggings, and plugged in my earphones. The app told me I needed to run for 60 seconds, then walk for 90 seconds. ‘I can’t run for 60 seconds,’ I thought, ‘this is pointless.’ And if I couldn’t run for 60 seconds, how was I ever going to run 5K? I didn’t want to go home and tell Danny I hadn’t even tried, though, so I grudgingly gave it a go. As expected, it was tough. ‘It’ll get easier,’ Danny assured me. But I didn’t believe him, and was convinced I just wasn’t cut out for running.
Still, I kept going. And sure enough, I found I could run a little further each time – until I was able to run solidly for 30 minutes and complete my first 5K! As I rounded the corner on our street, Danny was waiting for me at the front door. ‘You did it!’ he said. ‘Amazing!’ I felt incredible. How had I managed to run for a whole half hour when I could barely manage a minute not so long ago?
Running quickly became my new thing and one afternoon, as I was pulling on my trainers, Martha bounded up to me. ‘It’s not your walk time,’ I told her, stroking her head. But then I had a thought... Why couldn’t the dogs come with me? If they couldn’t keep pace, I’d just bring them home. Excited to try it, I grabbed their leads and off we went. It was brilliant fun – Martha bounded ahead, while Penny trotted along behind us. From then on, they’d get excited the moment they saw me lacing up my running shoes!
Loving my new lifestyle
Even before I got my Platinum Body Magic award, I knew activity had become a part of my life. It’s not just when I’m running that I appreciate being so much fitter. As a family, we’re always out and about, and I can’t wait until Joey, now three, is old enough to ride a bike, so he can cycle alongside me as I run. It’s great that I can just step out of my front door and head off on an adventure. There’s no more wasting money on gym memberships, no travelling to classes and no expensive equipment to buy. I never thought I’d be the sort of person who actually enjoys exercise. Now, I’m in a WhatsApp group with my running friends! Even the weather doesn’t faze me these days. In fact, I like running in the rain. I love every second of my active new life, and I honestly didnʼt think I’d ever say that!
Get started with Slimming World
Lots of our members say that doing exercise feels impossible when they start on their weight loss journeys. With Slimming World support, though, they’re able to build up their fitness at their own pace and on their own terms – and they love the brilliant health and wellbeing benefits their new lifestyles bring. If they can do it, so can you!
Ashli’s four foot-out-the-door tips
Don’t put yourself off with an unattainable challenge or try to go too hard too fast. Work out what you can comfortably do now and build up really slowly from that.
If you can, find someone to walk or run with – even if it’s a four-legged friend! It gives you an extra reason to exercise and means that you can encourage and support each other, too.
Dress for success
Put your walking or running gear on as soon as you get up, so you’re ready to go. All you need are supportive trainers and comfy clothes you can move freely in.
Break it down
I loved the Couch to 5K app – it really helped me to split a long-term goal into bite-size chunks.
Weight loss will vary according to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose. If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of the exercise with your midwife.