I’ve been wanting to get fit for a while now, but the idea of having to actually exercise has filled me with dread. I always hated PE at school. I was one of those kids who was good at the academic subjects but wasn’t competitive and pretty useless at sports. Thus, I didn’t even put in any effort when it came to PE – I just wanted those two hours to be over.
For those of you who looked forward to those two hours that I dreaded, here is why I hated it so much. Firstly, there was the changing rooms. I developed somewhat ‘earlier’ than the other girls… And though other girls may have worn push-up bras in an effort to enhance their assets, I was keen to look ‘normal’ – ie, flat. There was no privacy – I was expected to show my entire body to a room full of girls, who were inevitably comparing both themselves and each other’s bodies. I shied away from all this. If I wanted them all to see me naked, then I’d make some money out of it and become a page three girl. This wasn’t my chosen career path and so I soon developed a sneaky way of using my school uniform to cover my bits whilst I changed… Plus, there’s the old monthly visitor. They also started early with me. PE teachers have no sympathy for the huge amount of pain they cause, instead expecting you to be an Olympic sprinter. And then there’s swimming, and when you’re ‘on’, you have to quickly make up an excuse as to why you aren’t swimming that week. A sudden onset of the flu, sickness, diarrhoea, ANYTHING but the truth!!!
Fast-forward 13 years and you get to today. I realise I haven’t done exercise since, erm, I left school in 2000… My epilepsy tablets keep me thin (there is something good about having epilepsy!) but I thought I’d better get fit…
First of all I tried Zumba with a friend. The first time I went, I couldn’t keep up and was having lots of absence seizures. I kept on taking breaks and drinking loads. After that first time, things got much better. I actually began to enjoy it, even though I looked like a complete fool with two left feet… But then my friend couldn’t go anymore. That was the end of Zumba.
I was a bit concerned about my blood circulation and the fat in my blood (which led to my grandmother getting dementia and subsequently having mini-strokes and a brain haemorrhage, from which she died). Having seen what she went through, I was keen to avoid it for the sake of myself and my husband. I’d read that Pilates was good for blood circulation but I wasn’t brave enough to attend a class, so I bought a DVD. I found the breathing hard to get used to at first but then it was ok – and I could certainly feel it working on all areas of my body.
My husband then tried to persuade me to join a gym. I was reluctant at first but then I thought it was something we could do together. So I signed up, gathered my gym stuff and went for my first ever session after work one night.
I think the above image sums up my feelings of the gym well: I do like an idiot the entire time I’m at the gym. I got there, and it wasn’t a good start. I struggled for about half an hour with the locker. In the end, I ad to get someone to help me. Once I got over that obstacle, I walked around this room like a lost sheep looking for the allocated spaces to change. As I walked to the showers, the toilets, and back to the showers again a scary realisation dawned over me: such allocated spaces of privacy existed merely in my imagination. Just like school, I was expected to bare all to every woman in there, who no doubt had perfect bodies. I took my gym clothes and my body issues and crammed myself into one of the tiny toilets. Being careful to avoid the tissue on the floor, I got changed and made a mental note to think of a strategy in future that would mean I wouldn’t have to change in the toilet (eg wearing an appropriate top under my work shirt… I’m still working on the trousers…).
Another hurdle leaped over. Now I look the part. Sort of. My husband introduced me to the equipment and I was impressed that it was so much more than an exercise bike and a running machine (though they were still the most popular). I could set it at my level, or have rolling hills, and there were even fans in the equipment. Wow.
I started off walking on the treadmill, then used the stepper, then used the bike. And I have to say, my husband was verrrrry impressed with the latter. I lasted longer and rode further. I was always out on my bike as a kid, but I don’t remember the seat hurting my bum quite so much. I’ve now got a triangle firmly printed in my rear end. Nice.
Then I tried some weights. That room was full of ‘strong men’ who appeared rather daunting and weren’t in the least bit attractive. I have no idea why girls like that, but that’s for another day! I tried to scurry away, back to something safer, but my husband reassured me that it was ok… And it was…
But then the problems started. I had an absence. And another. And another, and another, and another… We stopped everything and went home. As soon as I stopped, I started feeling a bit better and I didn’t have a tonic clinic seizure.
When I got home, I researched whether exercise could induce seizures and I found some interesting results. Although there has been no research into it, and I know that technically anything can cause a seizure, many people have had experiences similar to mine (or had other types of seizures brought on by exercise). This is because your blood sugar level lowers when you exercise, making you more susceptible. I hadn’t known about this restionship before, but it was one I needed to be aware of. One neurologist advised eating something sugary half an hour before exercising and taking it easy.
So on my second visit, I ate a Twirl an hour before (too early) and forgot about everyone else – I just took it easy. I only had two absences and next time I will eat the Twirl nearer the time and hopefully have no seizures!