The Unlikely Fitness Columnist

Writer Kitty Dimbleby is on a wellness mission, and in her new column for Smallish, she takes us along for the ride

I always hated sport; at school I’d do anything to get out of PE. I’d use health problems as an excuse to hide in the library while my peers froze on the hockey pitch. In my twenties, I joined a gym, thinking now I was a ‘proper’ grown-up I should exercise, but I went so infrequently that my flatmate worked out (gleefully) each visit had cost me £250. I liked being active, especially once I fell in love with a fit Army officer (no pressure there then), but anything that looked like structured exercise was a definite no-no.

But then, in my early thirties (thanks to IVF), I had two children. My daughter, Chloe, five, was born following a difficult pregnancy, but her first year was a breeze: I bounced back into my skinny jeans, got fit pushing her buggy and was on cloud nine – despite the sleep deprivation. But it was a different story after our longed-for second child, Max, now two, was born at the end of 2015.

I had a tricky pregnancy and birth, and that was just the start of four months of crying, anxiety and terrible flashbacks to Max’s emergency C-section. I knew I needed help. Fortunately, my brilliant GP referred me to a specialist, I was diagnosed with post-natal anxiety and, like many of us, prescribed medication to help.

At the same time I discovered walking the dog, with Max strapped to my chest, was the only thing that made me feel better. When Max was six months old, I left the kids’ dad in charge so I could walk faster and further, and walking turned into running.

At first, all I could manage was a painfully slow 5km, but it silenced the negative internal monologue as I focused on my feet hitting the pavement. I wanted to try other things, so I signed up to some High Intensity Interval (Hiit) classes and was hooked. Finally, in my mid-thirties, I’d got it – exercise was great. Endorphins made me feel good, and I looked more toned and healthy than ever before.

My mental health has improved dramatically and I came off my medication before Max’s second birthday in December. But my fitness journey has not been quite so consistent – a broken rib from a random fall put a stop to exercise last summer, and I’ve struggled to get back into it. I’m an uncomfortable stone heavier, but more importantly, I don’t feel as strong as I did. So I’ve decided to do something about it.My 39th birthday is six months away, and by the time I get to it I want to be feeling fabulous, fit and healthy. I want to start my 40th year the best version of me I can be.

Yes, I’m driven a little by vanity – who doesn’t hate that tight-jean feeling? But also by the endorphins; the rush I get from exercise and realising what I can do. But mostly, I want to set a good example to my children, especially Chloe – to show her that as a woman I strive to be strong not skinny, as well as healthy and happy.

I’ve signed up to some women’s-only fitness classes – I have a personal trainer ready to go, and I am doing a 50km charity walk to raise money for Dimbleby Cancer Care. Looking after two small children, keeping a freelance career afloat and fitting in exercise, whilst also remembering not to scoff the kids’ leftovers and drink all the Rosé won’t be easy, but this column will make me accountable, chart my attempts to get fit and perhaps encourage some of you to join me. After all, if I can do it, so can you.

Tips from Kitty’s Personal Trainer

Claire Watson is the Founder of Bath Yummy Mummies, a small gym offering personal and group women’s-only training. Here are her tips for starting a new fitness regime.

  1. Don’t procrastinate, start today.
  2. Write your goals down so you’re accountable. Sign up to a charity fitness challenge to keep you motivated.
  3. Be more active in your day-to-day – take the stairs, get off the bus one stop earlier…
  4. Track your food and exercise – My Fitness Pal is a great app.
  5. Rope in a friend – it’s easier to be motivated with a buddy.
  6. Reduce your intake of alcohol, sugar and white carbs, and eat more fresh veg, organic meat and fish.
  7. Get as much sleep as you can.
  8. Drink two litres of water daily.
  9. Look after your gut – take a probiotic on an empty stomach every morning.
  10. Be kind to yourself. Don’t make comparisons to anyone else.