Shecantry Has A Friend!

Tic Tacs

Me (left) and my friend (right) engaged in a heated competition of Tic Tac Challenge.

Are you sick and tired of my made-up words, poor grammar and predictable failures? Well you’re not alone! I am so bored by myself that today I have invited my childhood neighbour and regular blog commenter, Lesley, to inspire us with a tale of triumph from the streets of London. I hope you enjoy.

SIDENOTE: If you’d like to collaborate and give an account of your own moment of sporting prowess for this blog, please contact me (using the Contact Me page) and I will email you with some interview questions to get the ball rolling!

Name: Lesley

Alias: Les. How uninspired!

Yes you’ve missed a prime opportunity there. I thought you were going to go with something like Sweet Titties. Erm… No thanks.

Right you are. Age? 32

Location: Suffolk, UK

Current Profession: Coaching Customer Advisors in a Call Centre – technically called a Quality Analyst, but what the hell does that even mean?! It probably sounds less fun than it actually is. I get to interact with lots of different people, have some great in-depth conversations with them, build some good relationships, and potentially make a difference to people’s careers and futures.

That does sound fantastic, and I can imagine you are fantastic at doing it! Is there another career you may pursue in the future, if you ever fancy a change? Probably a teacher, though of what subject I can’t make up my mind – English, or Science, or maybe even a fitness instructor.

The family

Lesley, her two miniature boys and the man who thought Sweet Titties was an appropriate nickname

Bearing in mind this will only be read by three random blog readers and Grandpa, please state your secret alter-ego: Not sure that I have one, but I do sometimes feel like a big kid trapped in the body of a 32-year-old mother, who often gets funny stares from the much more sensible mothers in the park, when I am on the play equipment with my kids, instead of staring at my phone from the sidelines!

I love that! Maybe your alias should be Rebel Fun Mum! The thought of you all at the park puts a smile on my face. Rebel Fun Mum sounds better than your previous suggestion.

Fine, but I had been reliably informed that my previous suggestion would be a good one.
Anyway, do you tri? No, but never say never – the idea of jumping in a fresh, green lake does appeal, though the seas around my part of the UK are an interesting shade of grey, with an unpleasant stench, so slightly less enthusiastic about a sea leg of a tri here in the UK.

I can totally understand that. I too have decided that I am never doing a triathlon in the seas of East Anglia. So if you don’t tri, what do you do? Up until quite recently, very little. Always had myself down as one of those people that doesn’t really ‘do’ exercise. I’m quite risk averse, and not overly competitive, so the drive wasn’t going to come from that angle. As my sons grow up, and are both now getting very active, I realised that I wanted to encourage them to get involved in as much sport and activity as possible, and that I really ought to lead by example, so it seemed apt that it was the Mother’s Day gift of a Fitbit that kick-started my newly found love of exercise (Mother’s Day is celebrated in March in the UK). I now mainly exercise in gym classes, and the odd go on gym machines if I can’t get to classes, but whilst the sun makes brief appearances here, I do also like to get out for a brisk walk or moderate run and the occasional bike ride.

A couple of weeks ago, you embarked on a crazy challenge to walk 20 miles (32km) overnight. Tell us about it. One of my long-time friends, who also happens to be my boss, proposed a charity walk; we had recently had a colleague diagnosed with breast cancer, though thankfully she has made a very good recovery, so we felt we’d like to give something back, and came across a night time walk through London in aid of Breast Cancer Care. We didn’t realise until much later that there were options for five or ten mile walks, though to tell the truth, I’m not sure I would have felt much of a sense of achievement after only five miles!

You make it sound like it was an easy decision, but I think if my boss suggested I walk 32km when I should be asleep in bed, I’d probably quit my job and file a complaint with Fair Work Queensland. Even if it was for charity. What on earth made you agree to do it? Since getting my Fitbit, I had been trying to reach and exceed the 10,000 step target set, and had been walking a huge amount more than before, taking every opportunity to walk when I would have otherwise jumped in the car. When this walk was suggested, I didn’t hesitate in agreeing to do it. 20 miles didn’t seem a lot, until we received the map of the route, and I realised we would be covering most of central London!

Surely at that point you felt some regret? Myself and the friends I was doing the walk with often talked about going on some practise walks around our local patch, but as the date grew closer, and we still hadn’t got around to doing any walks together, let alone thinking about how we would tackle that distance, I started to feel somewhat unprepared. I knew my fitness had greatly improved since a few months previous, but I had no idea if I could manage that distance, having only ever done much shorter walks.

The start

Standing at the start line – Les said that a few people cheered them on as a hen party until she pointed out the race bibs and sensible shoes!

What were you most looking forward to beforehand? When we received our competitor’s pack, looking at the map was very daunting, but equally, I noticed that it took in practically all of the main tourist sights in London. Having only ever walked around small parts of London, I was really looking forward to seeing all the sights close up, and without the throngs of crowds found there during the day.

What was scaring the crap out of you? I don’t think I was super scared at any point, but it did cross my mind on a number of occasions whether we would actually make it over the finish line.

How did you feel when you woke up on the morning of the walk? Because the walk took place at night, I had all day to start to feel more anxious about the walk: would we find the start line? Would we arrive in time? Would there be any casualties on the way? Would I be the casualty? I tried to get some sleep in before we needed to leave, so the husband took my noisy children out of the way, though I did a lot of tossing and turning and not a great deal of napping.

How did you get there, what did you wear and what did you take? As there were only five of us in our team, we were able to travel together in one car, and the conversation flowed on the journey, taking our mind off the inevitable. I’d splashed out on a very stylish waist bag (we call them bum bags here, but as a team we preferred the more humourous Americanism ‘fanny pack’) to carry a thin cagoule (should the weather turn), as well as a few energy bars and gels and a water bottle. I needn’t have bothered with the latter, as the regular stops offered water, fruit and some cereal bars or crisps, which as it turns out were more than enough fuel for a 20 mile walk. I also shoved in some blister plasters, and some pain killers. Thankfully I escaped blister free, but I think we passed around the painkillers like mints, to deal with various niggling pains along the way – for me it was my hips.

The team

Lesley and her amazing fellow teammates, all wide awake and happy after 7 hours of walking through the night.

What was it like to stand on the start line? There was a bit of waiting around, and quite a crowd, but as many people set off, we realised that far fewer had signed up for the serious distance than those that pursued a more leisurely stroll! There was a good atmosphere though, and we were all raring to go.

I imagine the first 10km were ok, verging on fun. Am I right? I would say that for at least 15 to 20 km we were all in quite good spirits. London is a busy place, and the city was full of people, noise and things to look at. As the night went on though, we all started to get a bit of discomfort, though I must say I think I was the luckiest, and suffered the least.

When did it get hard? With around 8km to go.

You mean after walking more than an entire half marathon? Yep! I’d have thought knowing the finish line wasn’t too far off would have made things easier, but I think that as the city quietened down during the early hours, and we had passed most of the tourist traps, the walk became a bit more boring. The team was feeling tired, and we had exhausted a lot of the conversation. I downed some paracetamol to ease my aching hips, and made it my job to keep everyone positive, and find things to chat about. They did comment afterwards on my ability to talk non-stop, which is a skill I guess I’ve always had, but it came into its own when the going got tough.

Even when we were little I remember being able to sit and listen to you chat about things for ages; you have a soothing voice. When we walked to school together I liked it best when you would talk about lavender and scones and clotted cream the whole way. I still think of you every time I see clotted cream fudge for sale. You should have been on the radio. But I digress.

Teenagers

A rare surviving photo of Lesley (left) and me on holiday in Ibiza. I think we were about 14 in this photo.

What was the best bit of this mammoth walk? And the worst? I think my favourite part was quite early on, as the atmosphere was really exciting walking along the Thames while many people were still enjoying a night out, though in some ways that was also pretty tough, because we were walking along gazing into the windows of buzzing bars and restaurants, but not able to stop for a cheeky mojito!

Oh yeah that would suck! When did you realise you were close to finishing, and how did that feel? Towards the end of the walk, the sun was coming up again, and the birds were singing. I realised that I still had the energy and enthusiasm within me to have run the last km if I had been allowed to, and it was great to know that I had been wrongly doubting myself, my mental resolve, and my physical ability.

That is pretty incredible, to have that energy left. After a night of no sleep! Did you fist pump at the finish line? We had been given strict instructions not to run, so as much as I wanted to charge over the line, I had to hold back – though I may have done a little cha cha over the line to claim my medal. It’s always great to receive a medal for something like this, and for a moment I can pretend I am a ‘real athlete’.

I love that you did the cha-cha! I might steal that move for a future race of my own. Congratulations on getting the medal and I hope you will join me in my quest to try and make medal bling a socially acceptable form of jewellery for fancy dinners, etc.

Hotdog eating

Crossing the finish line earned each person a hotdog, which Lesley has assured me was delicious.

You mentioned before that you have two little boys. What do they understand about your epic achievement? My eldest understood a bit more about it than the youngest, and my husband has always been my biggest cheerleader, so he let them know that they really ought to be proud of mummy. Also, on seeing the medal, my eldest realised that mummy must have done something very important to win something special like that. They like to join in when I practise some gym moves at home, and I think it will impress upon them the importance of incorporating fitness and activity into everyday life.

That really puts it all into perspective. I am impressed because I was recently given a cactus and as a result have been stressed by the additional responsibility I now have in my life. I can’t imagine how hard it is to fit everything in, being a busy working mum trying to get fit and also grow two human beings into good men. What made you decide to start working out? The turning point, and the date which I can go back to, as I said above, was Mother’s Day, so I plan to check back next year to see just how much progress I have made in a year, however, the pivotal moment for me was one of the many times I (and the rest of the family) have had to take my elderly grandparents to hospital. They are both suffering with health problems, but have now reached an age where to turn back the clock is just not realistic, but I realised that at only 32, I have, I hope, many, many years ahead of me, and do I really want to risk not being in the best of health, and going downhill from now? I looked around me whilst waiting in the hospital clinic, and saw so many people not a great deal older than me, struggling to walk and just not getting the best out of this one life we have. I realised there and then, had an epiphany I guess, that it’s no good just hoping for the best, accepting my fate, moving through life a little bit overweight and pretty darned unfit for my years. I signed up for the gym, got my butt moving, made a few small changes to my eating outlook (though certainly not dieting, for when does that ever work in the long term!?) and changed my attitude overnight.

How has your life changed since joining your gym? I simply see myself as a different person. I am ‘one who exercises’. I won’t lie, I definitely feel the smugness of knowing I have had a good workout most days of the week, but I also try to impress on others that you can turn things around, and everyone has it in them to find something they enjoy, which will also make them healthier, and happier. If I don’t get to the gym I feel frustrated, and if I know I’m not going to be able to go for a few days, I push myself extra hard when I am there. I’m also noticeably stronger, fitter, more toned (and a bit slimmer) and more flexible. Any little aches and pains I occasionally had, and had thought would have prevented me from gymming (a careless doctor once told me after a knee op at age 19 that I’d be unable to do serious exercise again – way to discourage a kid from looking after their health there doc!) have not appeared, and I am sure that those parts of me that were weak, are getting stronger and more resilient with every extra effort.

From adversity to positivity! That’s amazing. But tell me, do you miss cake? I don’t eat cake and biscuits to quite the extent I used to – as a mother of two crazy boys I had been known to fuel myself up throughout a stressful day with just a packet of biscuits, all while telling my boys to ‘eat their greens’ – but I do also allow myself a treat, because I recognise that it’s just a case of basic mathematics; calories in versus calories out. Though of course, I do try and ensure most of those calories are not made up of bakery produce!

I love and endorse this sensible approach. So what is next? My next actual challenge, currently, is a 100km bike ride through London at night, though that is not until next year, so I may try and fit something in sooner. I have got my sights set on trying out one of these muddy obstacle races.

I love obstacle races! I feel another guest post in the future. In the meantime, who or what inspires you to keep setting such goals? In terms of looking after myself, my children are of course my biggest inspiration. I want them to have a healthy, fit mother, who practices what she preaches. So when I tell them to keep up with those swimming classes, or to sign up for a new sport, they can look to me as a good example. I also see my father, sister and husband going out on their bike rides, and feel envious – I want some of that action, and apparently there is a lot of cake, so I want in on that too. Also, I have a friend who has told herself many times that she is not sure she is capable of something, and then she just goes ahead and does it anyway, so reading about the challenges and successes of her on the blog ‘She Can Try’ really helps me to know that sometimes things can seem impossible or just really bloody hard, but you’ve just got to go for it, give it your best, and sometimes great things will happen.

WOW thanks for the plug!

Do you have days where you lack motivation? What do you do to get through that? There have been days, yes, and it can be hard because I usually have to wait until the evening to fit in my exercise, when I would happily just slump in front of the tv, but the fact that I’ve committed to a class helps; I’ve got to go because I’d be letting people down and could get charged, but on a personal level, I have to just recall how much I enjoy it, and the feeling afterwards that I have done really well and pushed myself. Plus, good old ego comes into play too – I talk about my exercise with friends and family, and if I suddenly went quiet about it, questions would be asked, thighs and abs would be secretly glanced at, and judged, and I would lose that feeling of smugness. So, maybe I am actually getting a bit more of a competitive streak after all!

Where can we follow your progress and what should we expect to see? I have been posting tantalising photos of some of my healthful meals on Instagram using #blobbycoach (a pun on the popular fitness guru ‘Bodycoach’) though I have been a bit lax of late. You can follow me @lesley_e_watson

Personally I love seeing your foodie pictures and it has really changed the way I prepare my food. Over the years I had fallen into the trap of thinking healthy food meant boring! I am proud to say I now shake a few pomegranate seeds into the odd salad and I take a bit more time to crumble in a bit of feta cheese with my rocket and pumpkin (roasted with cumin seeds no less!) so I hope some readers will find inspiration in your pictures too.

Thank you, Lesley, for agreeing to answer my questions and share your story on my blog. I think you are a great role model and I love that we can share such a positive tale. I can’t wait to hear about your future adventures! And I promise that if you ever become a teacher I will remove all reference to your exotic Alias from this site.

 

4 thoughts on “Shecantry Has A Friend!

  1. Great work Lesley (and Lauren). My first big event was the Moonwalk through Edinburgh: such a great experience, but it would have been so much better with friends!

    And you should definitely get into cycling in a big way. Reading this, though, has made me question if my love for it is the actual cycling or all the yummy breakfast/cake/ carbs I consume post ride? HUM! Either way, cycling is ace!

    • All exercise is about breakfast/cakes/carbs! The best perk of cycling is finding a coffee shop that does a cake+coffee deal. I’ll take four, thanks. Yes I am cycling alone. Make it five.
      Now I have to google the moonwalk in Edinburgh, it sounds intriguing! I want to do all these events!!

    • I loved doing this with Lesley and her responses made me cry. I feel like she hit the nail on the head with achievable and real rolled into one, which wasn’t even the brief. The brief was ‘please don’t be offended by my questions’ so she outdid that by a long way. I am glad you like it. X x

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