It ain’t over till the fat lady swims…

Sometime in the murky depths of February I saw a sponsored post from Diabetes UK on Facebook. Swim the Channel, it proclaimed. In the comfort of your local pool! Raise money! Being a Type 2 diabetic myself, and with my daughter Zoe a Type 1 since she was 9, I was sufficiently curious to click on the link. I scrolled through the page and something inside me was ignited. At the same time the nasty little imp inside my head started laughing. “Swim the channel?” he asked “You? Hahahahaha!” For once I found enough courage to drown him out with positivity and carried on reading.

Before the imp could recover and start harassing me again, I signed up, just for half the distance. I could manage 11 miles I told myself. Swimming is easy, I will lose weight, my blood sugar will stabilize, and I will raise £200 for the charity. It will be wonderful, I need to exercise, I can do this!

Further spurred on by a conversation and a donation from Chris Evans on Virgin Radio I upped my game.

Celebrating 11 miles, half way!

Fast forward about 3 months. On Sunday I swam into Calais and stumbled up the beach to reward myself with a croissant. 22 miles and over £1000 raised for the charity that is so close to my heart.

Am I proud of myself? You bet I am. I can honestly say that this is both the worst and the best thing that I have EVER done.

I knew that physically this would be hard. I am 60 years old, overweight, diabetic, totally unfit with little or no core strength in my body. I had some major expectations of my marathon swim. I believed I would lose a lot of weight. I believed that my diabetic blood sugar readings would drop to a healthier level. I believed it would get easier. In reality, I did drop a dress size, but I didn’t lose weight. My blood sugar readings were all over the place, not helped by the fact that I was really hungry most of the time! I think that perhaps my body was somewhat confused by a regular and consistent exercise routine and it just could not figure out when I needed glucose to keep my muscles going! I also hurt. At every point one of those muscles ached. My back, my knees, even my elbows! My skin shriveled and I broke out in spots. My feet were dry and cracked. A whiff of chlorine followed me wherever I went. As for my hair…where did I put my wig?

But at the end of the challenge I do feel better. I can walk further and faster than before I started, and I don’t get breathless.

What I was not prepared for was the effect of the challenge on my mental and emotional health.

The first day that I got into the pool I aimed for swimming 10 lengths. I managed 20 with several rest stops. At that point I figured out how many lengths I would have to swim to reach 11 miles if I only swam 20 lengths each swim. Just about doable I thought.

By the end of the swim I was routinely swimming a minimum of 34 lengths (1/2 mile) per session with only one or two short pauses. A couple of times I managed a whole mile!

I discovered a determination and a resilience that I really did not know I had in me. Even on the days when I just did not want to get in the water, I dragged my sorry arse to the pool and got in. I persevered despite several incidents of swimming snobbery. On one occasion I was told that I was too slow for the slow lane! She was probably right.

But. I showed up, gritted my teeth and just did it. Kept doing it.

I also reconnected mentally with my body. It likes to be exercised. My physical wellbeing connects with my mental wellbeing. It feels good (apart from the chlorine!)

My husband Nigel came with me every Sunday and I was so grateful, but the rest of the time I was pretty much alone with my thoughts and there were days when I just knew that I did not have a hope in hell of ever reaching France. Those days were the hardest and I remember one day just crying all the way and getting out of the pool with barely enough energy to dry myself. But I dug deep, learned to focus and just kept going.

Time and again I convinced myself that I would not finish the challenge. That I was not strong enough, or good enough to finish. But I was spurred on by my team of cheerleaders on Facebook who responded to every Facebook Live with words of encouragement and who sponsored me and kept me going. There was also an incredibly supportive Facebook group where people cheered each other on and shared their up and downs. I also had the support of a couple of lifeguards at the pool who cheered me on when they were working.

Thank you to EVERYONE who helped me reach my goals. I could not have done it without you all.

To wrap up, here are some of the things I have learned from this grand adventure.

  • Start with one length, one step, one breath
  • If you think you can’t, you won’t
  • If you need support, ask for it, there is always someone willing to help
  • Remember your underwear
  • Moisturise, and stay hydrated!
  • Laugh at yourself…often
  • Never underestimate yourself, you are amazing!
  • Enjoy the croissant!

This challenge has made me stronger, braver, happier. The lessons I have learned have changed me. They will make me a better human being. A better coach.

Will I do it again? Well, once I have taken a brief break from the chlorine, I will continue swimming a couple of times a week, and I am planning some other exercise. But swimming the channel? I’m not sure. Ask me next February!

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to donate, the fundraising page is open until 22 June 2019

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/penny-thresher

Penny is a life coach living in Morecambe in Lancashire. Her business is Corner House Coaching.

She works with clients right across the UK. If you would like to know more, or simply stay in touch here are her details

Email: penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cornerhousecoaching/

She would love to hear how you enjoyed this blog so please leave a comment

Thank you for reading x

The Naked Truth…

This morning I had a brave moment. I stood naked in front of a mirror and looked at my body.

As a 60-year-old fat woman with poor hair and Type 2 diabetes, currently spending a minimum of 3-4 hours a week in a chlorinated swimming pool, this is not something I do very often. I prefer to avert my eyes, getting dressed quickly out of mirror view, only sitting at my dressing table to take care of my face and appalling hair. To apply the bare minimum of makeup. And even that is something that I get through as quickly as I can. A quick check of my clothed body before venturing out into the world is the most examination that I usually do.

When I embarked on my swimming challenge (for Diabetes UK – swimming the channel in my local pool over 3 months for those of you that do not know) it was for 3 reasons.

  • I needed to something to improve my fitness levels
  • I wanted to raise money for this charity on behalf of my Type 1 daughter
  • I thought it would make me accountable – if I went public, I would have to stick at it, particularly if people were sponsoring me!

I have tried the public thing before with varying degrees of success, but sponsorship is extremely motivating!

Healthwise I really thought that I would see weight loss and an improvement in my blood sugars.

What has actually happened, is that I have gained 5lb and my blood sugar is all over the place! I am also hungry. All the time. And not for salad! I also ache. A lot. Pushing myself to do 30-40 lengths each swim from a standing start of no real exercise is a push.

However, my clothes are a little looser, I don’t get out of breath so much and I do feel proud of myself. So, I decided to brave the mirror.

Its not a pretty sight. Don’t worry, I know I overshare, but there are no photographs to scare the children! I can see that my body has changed shape. Its never going to be that “acceptable” sight that adorns our magazines, newspapers and social media. There are lumps and bumps, drooping and scars. The last two of course are connected with Zoe, my daughter. A caesarian scar and droopy boobs after breastfeeding are a reminder of something wonderful. Creating another human being. Someone who I love and am so proud of. I do not regret them. But the rest are testament to years in sedentary jobs, a total lack of self-esteem which resulted in eating too much, and a lack of interest in exercise for exercise’s sake.

I grew up in the generation that played outside. There were only 3 television channels and none of them broadcast all day. I read books, built dens, rode my bicycle. We did PE at school on our lovely field and it was competitive. My mum cooked everything from scratch and once a week we got pocket money for sweets. Sixpence I believe. And I didn’t spend it on chocolate – my joy was a jamboree bag!

I was always a little chunky, although back then I had good hair! In beach pictures I looked long-legged and healthy. But I was the fat one in the class. And it did affect me, I felt somehow less. Not pretty, unattractive and that stayed with me for a long time.

Now I could continue and talk about all the bad stuff that happened in my life and made things worse. My parents divorce when I was 16. Someone I loved very dearly dying when I was 21. Being a doormat for numerous partners and believing that was normal. My first marriage that ended in drunken violence when my daughter was 6. Piles of crap! We all have them.

I could blame my weight problems on all of that. When my marriage broke up, I topped the scales at over 26 stone. At the same time my job became unbearably stressful and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. There is no doubt that all the stress played its part in my diagnosis, which was discovered at a routine work medical. But my life choices were all unhealthy ones.

When I met Nigel in 2003 I was still over 22 stone. He is a Labrador and loved/loves food. So I fed us. It’s what I do. We got a grip in 2008 when we decided to get married and we both lost a lot of weight.

By the time we moved to Morecambe, 21 months ago, my weight had settled at just over 18 stone, give or take 5lbs. Last summer I embarked on healthy habits – better eating, more walking. I felt better but then for six months from August I had a spell of really bad health, including my fall downstairs at the end of November. That fall was really a turning point for me. I have never felt so physically frail, so immobile. It scared me.

Since I started swimming various bunches of muscles have taken it in turns to hurt. It started with my biceps. Although I have not lost the bingo wings I have much improved strength in my arms. Next my calf muscles. Useful in a 3-storey house! This week it is my stomach muscles and my quadriceps (yes I googled!).

My stomach is a really weird shape. Where the muscles are contracting. I have an umbilical hernia that is more pronounced (too small to warrant an operation apparently), with great hollows either side below my waist. The tops of my thighs are like rocks!

Sorry for the visuals. What I am trying to say is that nothing stays the same. With a bit of effort and determination you can change your landscape. It might take a while, and it may never look exactly how you want it but what is more important is the hidden landscape.

Yesterday in the pool I was completely overwhelmed and tearful. Note to self: No-one notices if you cry in a swimming pool. This challenge has become about so much more than me getting a bit fitter, or raising some money for a good cause. It is about changing my beliefs, pushing myself. Stretching my limits.

I have realised that for a long time I have avoided things that might stretch me, physically and mentally. My opening thoughts are often about how difficult something might be. I make elaborate plans to avoid challenging physical or mental situations. To the point where I avoid going to places where I cannot park close by. Where I don’t speak out loud when I believe something strongly. My default thought has been “I can’t”.

Every time I go swimming, I feel fear. Fear of not being able to finish the challenge. Fear of looking awful in my swim suit. Fear of being in the way of faster swimmers. Every time I get past 30 lengths, I feel better. I feel triumph. I am exhausted but I do have a sense of achievement. I feel the fear and do it anyway.

In the end it does not matter what I think. It does not matter what other people think. It is just thoughts. And I can choose to pay attention to them or not. I can choose to love this body that I see in the mirror with all its lumps and bumps. I am choosing to work on making it fitter so it can last longer. Its not easy, and it is not always enjoyable. But I will persevere. And when I get to Calais – bugger the blood sugar! There is a chocolate croissant with my name on waiting for me!

P.S. Its Sunday now and we were back in the pool this morning for an hour. 34 lengths more to add to my tracker. I am at 7.7 miles now and got a new badge!

And the other thing? When I read this blog to my lovely husband before publishing – he told me that he thinks I am gorgeous! Whilst I know that he includes this battered overweight body in his definition of gorgeous he also knows my inner landscape really well. I am blessed to have him in my life!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
  • Email – penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk
  • Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/

This seems an appropriate song, and a great way to live – looking through the eyes of love!

Don’t stop me now…

Back in February this overweight, diabetic, slightly averse to exercise, other than walking the dogs, woman decided to swim the channel! Well, figuratively speaking. 22 miles in my local pool in 12 weeks.

The SWIM22 challenge from Diabetes UK appeared on my Facebook feed at the beginning of February. I kicked the idea around in my head for a few days. Then I asked my greatest fan, my husband, if he thought I could do it. Now Nigel believes I could conquer the world in my pajamas if I want to. I signed up. For 11 miles.

3 weeks in and I have swum 4.18 miles. I feel a little fitter and I have toned up. The first day I set out to swim 10 lengths of our 33m pool but managed 20. On Friday I swam 36 and today another 30. It’s not all plain sailing. I have aches and I am hungry all the time. I am a Type 2 diabetic and my blood sugar has been all over the place (apparently my liver is working hard to cope with the extra exercise and pumping extra glucose to my muscles). And annoyingly, I have actually gained a few pounds, which I did not expect!

But. The exhilaration and sense of achievement is amazing. I am so proud of myself. That in itself is an achievement for me. I am having fun!

My swim time is also giving me think time. Time to mull over lots of things. And because I am doing something right out of my comfort zone it has helped me look at other areas of my life where I have not been as brave as I should be.

Deciding to become a coach was all about me wanting to help people. Coaching set me back on my feet after a tough couple of years. We all hit those bumps in the road, whether its redundancy, bereavement, ill health or simply a feeling that we are lost or out of our depth. Or if we are just plain scared.

Much like my swimming adventure, my coaching journey started as the germ of an idea. My thought process was along these lines.

“Could I”

 “No”

“Maybe”

“No”

 “Yes I could…”

“I can try…”

“Why don’t I just give it a go?”

That’s the abbreviated script of the head chatter that goes on every time I need to make a choice or a decision. Back in the day I listened to the chatter far more than I do now. Back then the chatter always convinced me that it would be better if I didn’t take a risk or step out of my comfy but often unsatisfactory situation.

When I made the decision to try coaching, I bought books, studied, signed up for a course, learned tried and tested techniques and methods. Got a couple of bits of paper that said that I was qualified to do this “job”.

But alongside that training I discovered something else. A spiritual understanding that changed my world and helps me deal with that head chatter. It still barges its way into my brain, but I can recognize it now and deal with it better. I know how to quiet my mind and settle my anxiety about any new situation. This is what I teach my clients to do too.

The thing is although I do share what I know to be true, there is a bit of me that still holds back. Is still a bit frightened to be “out there”. To be spouting what people might consider to be slightly “woo-woo” – for want of a better description!

Let’s dive back into the pool. Well, in my case, step gingerly down the steps into the tepid water!

My swimming is not fast and its not pretty. I plough up and down the pool like a stately galleon, doing my version of breast stroke, keeping my head above water but totally determined to do my best. A bit like my new attitude to life and my coaching. I have encountered a couple of unpleasant “swim-snobs” while doing my swimming and at first it knocked my confidence. Some people seem to believe that our local leisure centre pool is their own personal domain and refuse to give way to anyone else. I started out feeling intimidated and insecure when I ran across these people. But not any more.

We all have self-limiting beliefs. But you know what? There is always a way around them. And often take taking one step, one small action. you can stop the head chatter in its tracks. Drown it out with a small success. The first 10 lengths that I swam planted a small seed of belief in my heart and look at me now. Wrinkly and smelling slightly of chlorine…but almost half way to my first target and believing that I can do more.

Every one of us does the best we can with the tools we have available at any given moment. I have a tool that might help other people in the same way that it helped me. But to help people I need to get out of my own way, be brave in deep water and speak out.

My last blog talked about me releasing the hidden Penny. After I wrote it I realised that I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. It seemed to come from the wrong place. All about me. When I am really all about other people. But I think that what I was trying to say was that I recognize that everyone hides stuff away for all kinds of reasons. I understand that.

This morning I found this picture on my Facebook feed. I think this says it better than I said it before.

And then I read my horoscope

It’s a sign!

If you would like to know more about my coaching or my swimming please get in touch!

  • Phone – 07771 896670
  • Email – penny@cornerhousecoaching.co.uk
  • Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/

The Wildness…

Those of you who have faithfully followed What Penny Did Next know that over the last couple of years I have experienced a significant spiritual shift, marked by several major insights, usually involving a sharp intake of breath and some tears.

You may also have noticed that of late I have been quieter than usual, with my blogs becoming less frequent and somewhat shorter in length.

I think I am ready to share why. Settle in, this is a longer one!

It has been a challenging few months. A time of ill health, with constant infections and a bad fall which laid me out for a couple of months. But as always, I think that these challenges were presented to me by the Universe for a reason. It was time for some reflection on the meaning of life!

If only it was this simple…

This time out brought on another insight. But rather than the sharp intensity of a moment of recognition, this insight has been like riding a wave across a turbulent sea.

It is 5 years now, since I was gifted the opportunity to rediscover myself and start the process of creating a new, less stressful, and better, life. Its been quite a ride. Our relocation to Morecambe was both incredible and inevitable. Both of us feel that we are exactly where we need to be and have a sense of belonging that we have never felt anywhere else. Last summer we welcomed friends and family to The Corner House and celebrated our first year here, and 10 years of marriage, in the sunshine outside our new home.

And then we sat back, to start getting on with our lives.

It was time for me to sculpt my new life, both personally and professionally. I spent time studying, reading, networking and all the other things that small business owners need to do. New opportunities presented themselves. But I felt a little displaced. As if there was something just over my left shoulder that I needed to pay attention to, but couldn’t quite see, or get a hold on.

My poor physical health left me feeling vulnerable and although not depressed, sad and a little lost. There were financial challenges too, and they are always unsettling.

Christmas came and went. It was gentle and quiet. Then it was January.

To be honest, my natural inclination is to hibernate in January and February! Conserve energy, sleep, wait for the spring flowers to poke through the cold soil. I was intensely irritated by all the New Year New You crap on social media. All the endless energy of people flogging the latest nutrition plan, or exercise routine. Pledging to be a better person, lose weight, making resolutions to do things that they should be doing anyway. Boy, was I ever in a blue funk! The wave I was riding threatened to drown me.

I had an idea. I created a Facebook group called Find your Fabulous in February. I wanted to help people feel better, have some fun, step into Spring early. It wasn’t about me, although I admit it was also a way to promote my businesses.

It was amazing. We created a tribe. My wave picked up momentum and rose gently with the tide. There were a few wobbles and the wave dipped but the collective positivity soon had me back in balance and kept me moving forward.

Suddenly I knew what was hovering over my left shoulder.

Thanks for sticking with me this far. Here is the point of this blog.

I was feeling disconnected from myself.

Exploring that feeling further I realised that there are only two places where I ALWAYS feel like the Penny that I want, need and deserve to be. The Penny that is totally, authentically and undeniably who she is meant to be. Who is totally at home in her own skin. Who does not care what people think about her as long she knows that she is the kindest, most loving person she can be to everyone she meets. Who does not judge anyone. Nor expects to be judged.

The first place is my Greek home, in Poros. I have always felt different from the moment I step off the ferry onto the soil of this place that I love. Even when I was there with someone who judged me for just breathing, I always felt more peaceful, more in touch with my soul and that has never changed.

The second place, and slightly surprising, is at CarFest, the annual festival organized by Chris Evans. From our first visit in 2012 until last year in July. There is something about the anonymity of being in a field with thousands of other people simply enjoying the moment that frees you from conformity and allows you to be anything you want.

In both these places I allow my wildness to surface and run free.

Why does my wildness stay concealed for the rest of the time? It’s fear. Fear that I will be judged. As a person, a business owner, a fat woman, with terrible thin hair and a bald patch, a type 2 diabetic, a 60-year-old…you name it, I am afraid. Terrified of being judged.

In my heart I know that none of those things make me, me. I am a good, kind and loving, empathic person who wants to help people and needs to make a living. I discovered something 2 years ago that changed my life and I want to share that because I know it is true and can help other people. Its why I chose coaching.

I made a decision. I am letting her out. She is going to step out bravely and share what she knows, honestly. Without fear of judgement. Speaking her truth. Starting on Sunday when I am giving a talk at an event.

She is going to stand up and stand out. In bright colours and her trademark red lipstick!

Something else. A couple of people shared with me a little of how they see Penny. It was surprising. Perhaps we all need to see how other people see us. It is very enlightening.

The final realisation came when I heard this song last week. I have heard it before but as so often happens with music, this popped up and resonated so strongly with my thinking it almost broke me. There were tears. It reminded me of being young, with everything ahead of me, and there was so much hope. On Friday night, on Monday morning, every day, every journey brought the promise of something amazing. Just because I am 60 does not mean that I am giving up hope. There is always a road leading somewhere wonderful. Or a wave to ride to the beach.

I just need to let the Wildness have its way.

In which I wobble…

Happy New Year to all my readers!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas, spent time with your loved ones and watched lots of old films!

My husband’s gift to me was a stinking head cold that started on Christmas morning as I was cooking dinner and is just departing now. To be fair, he made up for it by looking after me so well. Cooking and providing coffee, tea, mince pies and other goodies while I lounged about on the sofa feeling a little sorry for myself.

Sounds pretty miserable right? But, although I didn’t realise it at the time, it was exactly what I needed.

Some of you will know that I had quite a bad fall down a couple of stairs in The Corner House at the end of November. My whole lower left leg, from the knee to ankle was badly sprained and so painful. Also got a bit of infection in the leg just before Christmas and needed antibiotics, so the whole festive thing was more of a challenge than a pleasure.

Being me, I carried on, pushing myself to walk, drive, sit at my desk. Anything but rest the leg in the way it needed, even heading South for a few days. Thankfully having an automatic car meant I didn’t have to cancel the trip.

But once I got the cold, I really was not capable of carrying on. Did the universe intervene? Enforcing me to rest and recuperate? Feels like it. And for once, I listened. It gave me time for rest, recuperation and a bit of reflection. And a binge watch of the first 3 series of Nashville, but that’s another story!

2018 was a challenging year. The initial euphoria of our relocation had passed, it was time to settle in and put down roots, establish ourselves in our new home and start to live. It wasn’t always easy, although Nigel found a great job and we had the most glorious summer with friends and family coming to visit and celebrate my 60th and 10 years of marriage with us.

For me, personally and professionally it was time for me to decide where my future lies. There were lots of wobbles, particularly as I was not earning very much. But I ended the year with a clear picture of what I want to do and who I want to do it with. I just need to put it all into action. Watch this space.

But my fall has caused a spectacular wobble. My confidence has taken a huge knock. So much so that I have found myself not wanting to leave the house, dreading Nigel going back to work, and putting off a lot of stuff that I need to do to get 2019 up and running. I have found that I don’t trust my own feet when I am out and about. And I am not just talking about walking.

I feel vulnerable. Its scary. I want to pull the drawbridge up and fill the moat. Everything feels too overwhelming, too terrifying. There is a total lack of confidence about me, not something I have felt for quite a while. A fear of failure paralysing me for the first time in quite a while. I have even got my wig out, considering wearing it to boost myself. I am tearful and emotional.

I feel quite physically frail, something I know that I am going to have to deal with, and soon.

But at the same time, I feel that 2019 has an amazing energy, that good things are coming, that we should all jump on board and make the most of it. Its going to be a very positive year spiritually.

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. But I like to set positive intentions. Perhaps writing them here will help me to feel stronger and start that forward momentum.

  • I am going to keep a daily gratitude journal
  • I am going to deal with my physical frailty by starting an exercise class and walking more
  • I am going to lose more weight too
  • I am going to get my business properly off the ground
  • I am going to help more people
  • I am going to live, love and laugh and relish every moment

Yesterday Nigel literally forced me out of the house and we went for a walk along the prom on a frosty sunny day. He instinctively knew it was what I needed. The prom was buzzing, people were smiling, the bay was breath-taking. I felt better. I feel better. And I remembered everything I have learned over the last couple of years.

We all need time out now and then. To take a breath. And then we can get on with it.

Do any of you remember Weebles? No matter how much they wobble they bounce right back up. Well that’s me. Wobbles can be really scary, but like life they are a learning process. I am still wobbling a little, but I will settle. I wish you all the best for this bright shiny new year.

What are your intentions? I would love to know.

Reattaching my wings!