In ‘Why I keep training after black belt’, I mentioned that my main reason for continuing my training was for health and fitness benefits. Health and fitness have only been important to me since I was 18. I was very overweight and really, really unfit. Only after needing to upsize in clothes yet again, did I realise that I needed to take control. I feel it is time to share my journey, to share an experience from someone who never really liked exercise who is now an avid gym goer and also a black belt martial artist. I’m still progressing towards my health and fitness goals, but I didn’t want to wait until I reached the finish line if it could inspire anyone else in their fitness journey. This article shares with you where it all began. It explains why health and fitness is THE most important reason for me to train, and how I went from unfit to become a black belt.
At the age of 18 I was very overweight and very unfit. I preferred to ‘hide’ behind oversized clothes than do something about it. Exercise hadn’t interested me at school. I guess it was a mix of not feeling I was ‘good’ at it, not being encouraged by teachers, and being picked on by a group of girls about my size (among other things they seemed to dislike about me). This was between the ages of 11 and 13. A combination of these factors led me to retreat within myself, lose confidence to talk to people, and do nothing to stop the continued weight gain. I moved school when I was 14, and whilst people were much nicer, I still didn’t enjoy exercise.
So, fast-forward to 18 years old, I woke up one morning to put on my large size jeans…to find that the jeans did. not. fit. It was then that reality hit me. Right at that moment, I realised that I’d have to go up yet another clothes size…a size that fashion didn’t really cater for young people. However, as I was thinking about this, something triggered in my mind. A voice told me I could do something about it and I had the power to do it.
The road to health and fitness begins
My mum always talked about the importance of health: once you lose it, it’ll never be the same again. This started to make sense, and alerted me to the fact that I had taken it for granted, at the expense of facing large health risks.
Within a few days, I joined my local gym, but boy was I apprehensive! This centred around two main thoughts: ‘what if everyone else there is skinny?’ and ‘what if I’m not good enough?’. With some words of encouragement from my mum (thanks mum!), I mustered up the courage, paid for my membership, and entered the gym for the very first time.
I won’t lie. The first day, week, and month were very challenging. Aching in places that I didn’t know it was possible to ache, and the disappointment of realising truly how unfit I was. There were a few unpleasant comments and mocking too. Although it hurt every time, that courageous part of my mind that talked me into starting the health and fitness journey continued to talk me into not giving up because of what others think.
Enter the dojang
At the age of 22, I saw a banner at my gym advertising a Soo Bahk Do martial arts club. By now, after a few dips in motivation, I regularly attended the gym, and was intrigued to see how far I could take improving my health and fitness. Together with my younger sister, we signed up. The first few weeks and months felt just like the start of my exercise days: constant aches and stiffness. Over time, this improved, which was a sign that my fitness was increasing.
I wanted to see how far I could advance my health and fitness. Taking a martial art helped me rise to that challenge.
Martial arts offered many fitness benefits that my gym schedule didn’t at that time, although some of my gym workouts did complement my martial arts training. The improvement to flexibility was a key area of acceleration for me. The journey wasn’t easy, but I didn’t want to give up.
The health and fitness journey continues…
My sister later stopped training, but I went all the way to achieve my black belt. Me. The girl at school who had looked for any opportunity to NOT exercise. The girl who was mocked every time she did anything at the school exercise class by a group of girls for 3 years, which then put her off wanting to try. And, the girl who’s always not been good enough to achieve anything that was exercise-related. This same girl had moved from very overweight and unfit to becoming a black belt.
At the time of writing this article, I’ve lost a total of 37 pounds (17kg) since my journey began. The last 19 pounds (9kg) has only really been lost over the past 6 months, from a moment when I found a new level of discipline. I am now both much stronger and fitter than ever. It’s one of the biggest achievements towards my health and fitness goals to-date. Many of my fitness friends point out that a good portion of my weight is now muscle. This explains the weight fluctuations I often experience, and why I’d always now advise people to pay less attention to the scales, especially if they’re after weight loss AND increased fitness.