‘I’m a 49-year-old mum and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been’
I am a personal trainer, and despite spending my whole career in fitness, having my second baby nine years ago – and then going back to work full-time – really threw me. I was sleep deprived, eating at random times of the day and I was not exercising in the way that I was used to. While I wasn’t overweight, I felt very out of shape for me.
I wanted to regain the love of exercise that I’d always had, but was really struggling for energy and inspiration. Fortunately a new gym opened near me offering callisthenics classes, a form of strength training using your body weight. Exercises range from simple moves like push-ups to more advanced ones that are similar to gymnastics moves on bars and rings. I’d always loved playing on the monkey bars as a kid, and so it really appealed to me; it looked like the fun I was craving.
To begin with I couldn’t even do a pull-up – but then nor could lots of people in the class, but the instructor was really kind and creative and he made us all feel like we belonged there. It turned out to be a lot of fun; I was mixing with people of all different age groups, and we were all out of our comfort zone. It became this collective experience to laugh, chat and really bond – the people I started with all those years ago I still train with today.
Gradually I got stronger and stronger – I can now do those pull-ups, and in fact, occasionally, if I’m in the park with my kids, I’ll go play on the monkey bars with them and do pull-ups and just mess around – people don’t really expect that of a 49-year-old mum, and that makes me smile. It’s super empowering.
As I found my way back into exercise, and the children, now nine and 11, eventually slept more consistently through the night, I also got back on track with my healthy eating, being more aware of portion size and making sure I ate mindfully, instead of grazing. I’ve also upped my protein as I’m trying to build muscle. My diet is pretty consistent – if I undereat then I can’t train. I didn’t put on excessive weight during the pregnancies, but I have dropped about 4kg (9lb) since I started in (I’m now 58kg, or 9st 2lb, at 5ft 7in), I’m happy with that, but more importantly for me, I’ve increased muscle mass.
Strength training is so important for women, particularly as we age; it helps to offset everything from reduced muscle mass and bone density to pelvic floor disorders. Since I started callisthenics my confidence has skyrocketed. I am so much stronger and more powerful than I was before and I love it.
Callisthenics has challenged me in ways that I never imagined and not just physically. It’s given me a huge mental boost. The way I train, performing the same movements over and over again, failing, achieving, pausing, recovering and then going again, has enabled me to develop a resilience I never knew I had and the best bit is my two girls see what I get from it and know they have a strong mum.
What I eat in a day
I do intermittent fasting – but only really because I get up for work at 5.45am and I can’t face anything at that point. I have breakfast after I’ve finished seeing my PT clients at 10.30am.
Breakfast: Porridge with a banana, blueberries, cinnamon, almonds, dates and peanut butter.
Lunch: Tofu, noodles and vegetables.
Snack: A carrot or cucumber and an energy ball.
Dinner: Salmon, wholemeal rice and vegetables with a few chocolate-covered cashews and a pear for dessert.
Carbs: I tend not to eat many white carbs, but prefer healthier carbs like rice noodles, couscous and bulgur wheat. But if I’m out for pizza with the kids on a Friday night, then I tuck in and enjoy it.
Caffeine: I have three coffees in the morning, then nothing after midday.
Alcohol: During the week I don’t drink at all – alcohol messes with your training, even a small amount. But if I’m out at a dinner party or an event, I’ll have a glass of wine or a nice cocktail.
Sleep: There never seem to be enough hours in the day if you’re a parent and work full time, and exercise. I try to be in bed by 10.30pm and asleep by 11pm but my alarm goes off at 5.45am. Luckily though when my head touches the pillow, I drift off instantly and sleep deeply all night.
Lucy Joslin is an instructor at BLOK gym and Mission E1