Registered nurse Kim Leslie shares her experience of building a relationship with exercise and how she has maintained it over the years.
Kim is a 59 year old Associate Nurse Unit Manager for a day surgery in a large metropolitan health organisation and works a compressed four day weeks, doing 9 ½ hour shifts. Over the last 13 years she has built her relationship with exercise starting as someone who rarely exercised now its part of her daily routine. Here is her story.
About 13 years ago my relationship with exercise began to change. I was quite overweight and had injured my knee dancing at a family wedding. I was incapacitated for several weeks and it was a much-needed wake-up call. It was the first time in my life that I felt like my weight and overall health was having a marked influence on my quality of life.
My teenage children had started their own health journey and I just knew it was time, luckily everything came together and I was in a place where I could make the necessary changes. I made a big variation to my nutrition by joining a weight loss program and started to exercise daily. There were ups and downs along the way, but within 18 months I lost 46 kilos and I felt the healthiest I have ever felt. I’m happy to say that all of these years later I have continued to live a healthy life and I continue to enjoy the many benefits.
Be gentle with yourself as you get started, my first literal steps towards exercise were just walking around the block and slowly increasing how far I would go. It’s low impact, free and easy to do whatever your level of fitness is.
Whenever I have had a period of inactivity, walking continues to be my fail-safe. I just start walking those blocks again and soon I get back into the rhythm of it.
I find that walking can help clear my mind and to keep it interesting I walk different places, listen to podcasts or audio books and walk with family or friends.
Finding the things that motivate me has been fundamental to maintaining my relationship with exercise. My motivations are always evolving as my life changes but the key is passion and attainable goals.
Feeling healthy is fundamental now that I know what that feels like I very quickly know if I don’t. I also value keeping up my fitness so that I can play with my grandchildren. I still enjoy eating out at nice places and use exercise to offset my calorie intake.
Taking a moment to think about where you are at and what is achievable for you at the moment is always important. For example, having grown up children is a very different experience to having small kids who need you. Different stages in your career may also impact on this and life challenges will have an impact. Find what works for you right now, not just what you would like to do in the future and take small steps.
I often set myself short, medium and long term goals to keep myself interested. My short term goals can include things like exercising a certain number of days per week, reaching my step count target each day or even just parking my car further away when I go to the shops to add extra movement to my day.
Medium term goals are things like planning for a long day walk or more strenuous activity. Last year I walked from the outer eastern suburbs into Melbourne, which is about 22 KM as the crow flies. In the weeks leading up to it I had increased my daily walks and walked to my local shopping centre a few times in preparation
My long term goals usually coincide with big events or milestones. Travel is a passion for me and my husband and we often go on holidays where we can participate in activities.
A few years ago we toured around South America and we even walked up Huayna Picchu (Elevation: 2,720 m) which was quite a physical experience. In preparation, I had done a lot of walking and bike riding to build my conditioning and it was a hugely enjoyable experience.
Trying different things has been key as I can get a bit bored doing the same thing over and over. I don’t always love the activities I try to give them a fair go and f it’s not working I try something else.
Some of the activities I have enjoyed include:
- bike riding
- step aerobics
- aqua aerobics
- No lights no lycra and
- exercising at the gym.
If you aren’t enjoying something try a new activity — you just might find your new passion! Also, try and find someone to go with you, it’s always easier to stay on track if you have someone to keep you company.
Since losing weight I am much more in tune with my body and I certainly feel it when my exercise and nutrition are out of kilter. I have had some ups and downs along the way, gaining some of the weight and falling back into old habits, but have consistently found a way back to healthy eating and exercise.
Particularly during and post-menopause when I’m not looking after myself, the effects on my mood and body are pronounced. I find that I need to keep on top of my health, otherwise I feel sluggish and it can also affect my sleep. My mood is more even when I exercise regularly. My mind has time to decompress and the movement helps me feel good.
Once we get beyond COVID-19 I can’t wait to go on longer walks again further away from home. I also want to travel and walk around places like Japan and Ireland. There are lots of hills in my future!
As I get older I can feel that I am losing some of my strength which is something I would like to work on. I just need to find something I enjoy that will work for me.
But if all else fails I am just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other by walking. For anyone that isn’t sure whether it’s worth it, I want you to get yourself moving. It can be a bit of a hassle finding the time, but it’s worth it!