A year of activity that has changed my life

Becoming the active mum, I so wanted to be, over this last year, has made me grin from ear to ear. During 2019 I did start getting more active, doing regular exercise classes (wearing big cover-up t-shirts) and even successfully completed the Couch to 5K over the summer. However, being over 40 seemed to really change the way my body reacted to exercise. The things I used to do to lose weight and feel better were no longer working like they had before. I could feel my physical and mental health start to deteriorate. My waist was getting thicker than it had been for many a year (without being pregnant!) and I saw myself becoming more round and less able to do the things I wanted to do. My confidence in my ability also plummeted in equal measure to the increase in leg pains I was experiencing.

A few years ago, I was more active with my children and would go in the sea with them regardless of what I knew I looked like. However, I realised I had again become the mum with the bags watching the kids do something active, rather than doing it with them. This was the case for my son's birthday in November 2019, where I used the excuse of the bags and taking photos while he and his friends took to the trees at Go Ape. There was just no way I could contemplate putting on a harness, and the thought of being given an extra big one was mortifying – in fact I worried that I might have been too heavy to go in it with the weight limits. This gave me renewed focus to not be that mum again, and make changes to ensure I was up there with them next time. Having never nailed the bad habits, I had piled back on the weight and was no longer the healthy role model for my kids I wanted to be. Things had to change for good this time.

Fast forward to August 2020, 3.5 stone lighter, and it finally was me taking part in Go Ape, uncompromising harness and all, and I am so proud of this photo. We had a great time up in the trees, this time for my daughter's birthday, and I felt fantastic. Undoubtedly, regular exercise has helped, along with a more consistent, healthier diet. Not just to lose weight – which of course has been good from a health perspective, my knees are very grateful – but to keep me focused and on track. My fitness instructor really helped me understand that by changing the type of exercise I was doing, increasing strength exercises as well as just cardio or stretch, it would benefit my body, helping me see some changes and enabling me to be the active mum I so wanted to be.

When the world started changing this year due to COVID, I was so worried that my new routine would be upset and that I'd go back to square one. The thought of online classes filled me with dread if I'm honest. However, Tracey at TFitness, Hadleigh, was incredible and adapted her business slowly but surely into the amazing studio and support we see today. She offers so many online class options that there really is something for everyone, at whatever time you want to do it. It is all so friendly and accessible, which in turn has helped me to keep showing up to my mat.

The mix of online and recorded videos works great for me as I can fit it around my commitments. I also do daily dog walks with my rescue pooch Charlie and mix in a bit of what I call a 'jogette' at the weekend – not quite a run and a bit of a dabble at jogging! My Bluetooth headphones are a must-have for any of my solo activities, for music when I'm jogette-ing, audio books while walking and for following an online class. They have helped me to 'escape' into my 'me' time. I am now far more confident with my body than I have been ever before.

A year on, and just over 3.5 stone lighter, I value the gain of physical and mental strength, as much as the loss of weight. Exercising regularly has helped me cope with the uncertain times we've had this year, being an anchor in my day that has made me smile and continues to do so.

Jo is signed up to the 100 Miles for Suffolk Mind and plans to achieve 100 miles over 100 days with friends and family.

Join Jo and the team of This Girl Can Ambassadors and set your goal today by signing up at www.suffolkmind.org.uk/100milesforsuffolkmind