From the resus table to Fitness Ambassador
From the resus table to Fitness Ambassador
Well it has been a very long time since I last wrote a blog. Partly due to being very busy, partly through lack of feeling very inspiring. But today I am feeling rather proud of myself and want to share why...
Today I can truly say I am the fittest I have ever been, both physically and mentally. I have a wonderful family. I have my own film production business going from strength to strength - a dream of mine since childhood. And now, added to the mix I am a fitness brand ambassador for a great company Fuel FX.
I know I sound like I am bragging, this is partly why I haven't done this for a while... But I'm not. Really. Two years ago I was on the resuscitation table having my heart stopped. Twice.
Facing my own mortality
I put my affairs in order; The savings I had, I passed to my husband. I had written four letters: One to him. One to my mum. Two for my little boy - for his graduation and for his wedding day. They said the usual stuff, I love you, live every day, remember me fondly. That kinda thing.
It's hard though, I am rather a tough person. I've had to be and that's cool, but expressing weakness is NOT in my nature anymore. So, expressing what it really felt like being just 31 years-old and facing not seeing my little boy grow up isn't easy. Let's just say it sucked! Especially when I had believed I was super woman, capable of anything and completely immortal :-)
From early 2015 to Feb 2017 I went through tests for near as damnit everything - brain tumours, heart problems, adrenal cancer. The doctors desperately seeking why my resting heart rate would sometimes tick over at 186, three times what it should be for my age and size.
At first I thought anxiety, it was only natural, I had faught panic attacks all my life (or so I thought). Then it became very clear it was a physical abnormality. But what?
Funny really, I had spent years convincing myself those horrible ill feelings I had were mental health issues and fighting to overcome them. Now I had the doctors telling me it was my body! I spent a LOT of time in and out of hospital, I can tell you for someone with OCD, an extreme aversion to germs and ill people, it was interesting!
About to have my chest cut into at the CIU a diagnosis was made
After a lot of investigation - I was actually in the Cardiac Intervention Unit about to be cut into when a senior Cardiologist came to see me and discuss my case - 'I don't think you need this procedure' she said. A few tests later and it came back (for those of you interested in long medical terms) I had Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) as a result of autonomic issues caused by EDS, a genetic condition that along with hyper mobile joints, gives me symptoms such as low blood pressure and high heart rate.
To cut a very long story short I decided I was going to face the life-long condition the same way I had faced my mental health difficulties and I was going to do every damn thing I could to live the best life possible with it. I had managed to put on two stone on the beta blockers I had been on for the last year. They had slowed my metabolism so much and I had been the most inactive I had been in my life due to how I felt. I also now had to take daily salt to raise my blood pressure, which didn't help, but I was determined to get healthy.
I read everything I could about the condition. Although Googling illness is never a good idea, you never hear the good or even the run-of-the-mill stories, it's really skewed towards the bad and extreme. But I educated myself on a much deeper level and with the doctor saying OK I weaned myself off beta blockers. I could have been on them for life and really for my condition they weren't life saving, so I made the choice. That was a fun month or so, trying to sleep sat up on the sofa with heart rates over 160 unable to lie down or it'd shoot up even higher! (Obviously always ask your doc before doing anything like this, it is painful, hard and dangerous!!)
Slowly but surely the side effects of coming off the tablets subsided and I was left with just my own natural state. The rates still high, but more manageable (the salt really helped), I set about a diet and fitness regime I made for myself.
Exercise, diet and general lifestyle
At the start I could not do many things due to the fluctuating heart rates and blood pressure. Also more than about 3-5 minutes of exercise and my HR would go way too high and not come down for hours!
Little by little I worked up from 3 minutes on the rowing machine and added other sitting exercises that helped keep me stable. To be honest I am quite proud telling this story as I am the most impatient person in the world!! So not being able to do stuff was horrendously frustrating. But as the inspiring Henry Fraser (@) would say 'always look at what you can do!' Slow progress is progress, and I found (thanks to the Fitbit my mum gave me for Christmas) that each fortnight or so my resting heart rate would drop.
Also there were loads of things I cut from my diet - caffeine is a big no no, so is red wine - very sadly as when I was making Journey to Le Mans I lived on both! Also carbs, refined white flour, so I stripped my diet back to a very old fashioned protein and veg. I can wholeheartedly reccomend this both for physical health and anxiety as it helps stabalise BP and blood sugars which can be triggers for anxiety disorders.
Setting goals: stats of a fitness model and low HR
I found very quickly that what was hard at first became easier and easier and the results could be felt AND seen. So, I started goal setting. I decided to look up 'perfect body', and the stats of physiques I admired. I have always been one to have very big goals, small ones don't interest me. When I get into something I have to have an extreme goal for it to take my interest. So as soon as my goal post moved from 'be alive to see Christmas', I decided I wanted to have the stats of a Victoria Secret model and a resting heart rate in the 60s...
Now I am not suggesting this was exactly realistic, or anything anyone should particuarly aspire to (well the VS model part), however for me it was all about showing my body I was now in control I was in control of how it performed, how it felt and how it looked.
For me it was the control and sense of empowerment I wanted more than the goals, but achieving the goals helped drive me forward. It has been a long road and I might, if anyone is interested (comment below), tell you the whats and wherefore's sometime. But after two years I can now train like an absolute beast. I got through a physical audition for Ninja Warrior and kicked arse in the final 200 (from 90,000) - I couldn't take part in live shows this year, but maybe next year when I am 2 years out of the care of a cardiologist and will be insurable!!!
I now climb, swing from trees, kayak, swim, do kettle bells, do taekwando and push my body to the limit. Every. Damn. Day! What's more, I have beaten my stat goals and have a resting rate of 66bpm.
Becoming a brand ambassador for Fuel FX
I have always had a fantastic diet; being married to a chef, if I had suggested vitamin type supplements it would be an insult! However when training for Ninja Warrior it was clear that however hard I tried I could not stuff as much protein as I needed into my diet. At exactly this time I was approached by a fitness clothing company and asked to be a brand ambassador for them. I wouldn't have worn their clothing so I felt it was rather fruitless to simply brush my ego by saying yes. However the seed was planted, why not ambassador for a product I would actually use.
I knew Tony the owner of Fuel FX as a friend of a friend, I had discussed being an ambassador for their website a year or so ago with our mutual friend, however I never pursued it as I felt I wasn't in good enough shape. This time, everything just felt right, Tony and I did coffee, he gave me some Fuel to try and I did...
There is a huge range to choose from and different flavours of each. For me I wanted to keep the calories relatively low and protein high, also it had to be caffeine free, so he suggested a few solutions for me.
I came home and tentitively tried a couple - I am very fussy about what I put in to my body!!! And actually they were very nice. My immediate favourite was Slim Fuel. Perhaps it was the name, perhaps it was my preconceived ideas about it when I had discussed the ingredients with Tony (it just fitted best with what I wanted to achieve), or maybe it was the amazing strawberries and cream flavour...
At first I used it in addition to my diet, which if I am honest I feel made me put on a pound or two, albeit lean muscle, but very quickly realised it was much better as a replacement, either for breakfast or a pudding.
It is so easy to use, the flavour means it is great as a shake - I even find with water alone it is creamy and doesn't have too much of an artificual or 'whey' kinda taste. However the flavour works as a smoothy with bananas, yoghurt and strawberries. Or, I personally like to mix it into porridge and ass a few berries. It is very filling.
Well I am not going to stop setting goals and moving forward. In terms of fitness I think I am where I want to be now, I am mainly turning my goals to my business. I am jumping on a plane and flying off to Cannes next month with two documentaries and an epic TV series. Considering what I have come through, where I am is quite simply a joy every single day, so whatever is next I am just going to make sure I enjoy every minute of the journey.
If I have learned anything, life is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so grab every day by the balls and live :-)
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