From zero to hero in 12 weeks (of walking). A Case Study.

It’s difficult for me to talk about real life clients because the nature of the work I do with them is very personal. As an Exercise Referral Specialist I often work with people who have health issues varying from mild to serious to life changing and one of the reasons they choose to work with me is that I assure them of the utmost discretion. After all, who would want their personal and intimate issues being exposed to the whole of the internet?

Nevertheless I would like to tell you the story of how one of my past clients went from zero to hero. In the spirit of keeping my promise of confidentiality, much like in a Hollywood movie, the name of the client and some of the details about her circumstances have been changed. As I miss watching the Walking Dead I shall call her “Lucille” so I don’t forget the cliffhanger and don’t stop trying to guess who got whacked in that episode…

Lucille was in her mid 40’s when we first met. Her goals were to improve her general fitness and regain some of the mobility that she lost over the years following an injury and subsequent surgery. She was morbidly obese despite a reasonable diet although, after a bit of digging, it transpired that in addition to grilled meats and vegetables she was also consuming a fair amount of cakes, biscuits, cereals and other foods laden with chemicals, sugar and trans fats.

She wasn’t completely inactive as she was already having a couple of leisurely swimming sessions per week. However her big nemesis were staircases that she was unable to tackle unaided. She had problems controlling her anxiety attacks when out and about. She was keen on overcoming this as she embraced the idea of spending a few hours in nature walking for health purposes.

Couple walking on some hills

As a side note she was also interested in losing weight but didn’t want to make this a priority. So I had to sneak in the weight loss side of things as this would be a priority in cases like this. Because she was on a tight budget we agreed that we would get together once per week only and that she would carry out her homework in between sessions on her own initially and eventually with a friend.

On our first session together we spent some time developing a fitness plan that would fit in with her routine. I wanted her to experience small wins straight away so that she could build her confidence and go from zero to hero in no time. At this stage we focused on waking up her metabolism and tweaking her diet slightly so that she stopped wanting cakes.

Get walking for fat loss

One way to get the metabolism to start burning fat like a furnace is to do High Intensity Interval Training.

“What is HIIT training?” I hear you say…

For those of you who are not familiar with HIIT it’s a style of exercising that involves alternating periods of training at max intensity with periods of training at a slower pace. The difference in intensity is great for improving your fitness quickly and for stimulating fat burning for a few hours after exercising.

The thing is HIIT doesn’t mean exercising like an elite athlete from the word go. Quite the contrary: you workout at 100% of the intensity that is available to you at that moment. If that’s walking a bit faster than a shuffle then that, today, is what you do to get breathless. Tomorrow you will have to work a bit harder to get the same effect.

With Lucille we worked on this in different ways: we incorporated sprints in her swimming and also in her walking with a view to create a 30 minute workout routine. For the latter, due to her anxiety about leaving the house on her own, we started with a few laps of her garden a few times a day. Eventually, as anticipated, boredom spurred curiosity which trumped fear and she became almost aggressive in her determination to venture outside.

All the small things…

As soon as we made this transition (it happened in less than 2 weeks) we started the outdoor walking in short bursts of a couple of minutes going left out of the gate and then back home, followed by a couple of minutes going right out of the gate and then back home. We established a good comfort zone for her at first and then we pushed the boundaries on a daily basis to make that comfort zone bigger. Micro increments each day soon resulted in her enjoying a 25 min walk away from home without any issues.

In between her walking and swimming we would work on increasing her overall strength. We also had to tackle the staircase which, as I know only too well, can be an almighty monster to fight against when your legs and knees are injured and don’t work as they should. We achieved this by focusing on basic body weight exercises adapted to make it easy for her to perform them as she struggled to get on and off the floor. Within a short period of time she reported feeling a lot stronger and more in control of her life.

By week 4 she had also shrunk by a significant amount: her face looked slimmer and her clothes looked really baggy on her. I thought she only lost an inch or maybe two but she was very proud to show me that it was a lot more than that. It’s no surprise really because one of the many health benefits of walking is a full reset of the metabolism with particular attention to lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone and, although it can be useful for fat loss, when released in large quantities due to stressful situations it contributes to the accumulation of belly fat.

It was at this point that we hit a bit of a plateau with the walking: she reached 30 min and was unable to go any further than that. It turned out that a few years back she suffered an anxiety attack after walking for approx. 30 minutes and this memory was still affecting her to this day. We talked about this event and then compared it to today’s circumstances. It had no relevance so I encouraged Lucille to let this memory go and not allow it to dominate her present.

It worked. She soon smashed her 30 minutes barrier and resumed making progress by increasing her walking distance by a few minutes each day. Impressed by this, one of her friends decided to join in and get her own fitness levels up to scratch. This worked like magic: not only they both got fitter and slimmer but they also reconnected as friends offering each other support.

Zero to hero magic starting to happen…

As she went from zero to hero the staircase ceased to be a monster

As Lucille’s courage increased with her fitness and confidence we started to turn our attention to the staircase. Suddenly it was no longer a monster but “just another thing to master one step at the time” and this is exactly what we did: one step unaided every day. By the following week she was able to do half the staircase confidently up or down and by the end of the week after that, in true zero to hero style, we had a few instances of doing the whole lot unaided up or down. This was perfect because the attitude was one of “I can do it” as opposed to “I am scared to do it”.

By week 8 came the big announcement: “my friend and I have signed up for the Moonwalk in London next year!”. Wow! This is either a marathon length (26.2 miles) or half marathon length (13 miles) that people walk under the Full Moon usually in May. It’s a charity event in support of research into breast cancer and once you are registered you receive all the recommended training and eating plans.

By week 10, armed with her newfound self confidence, Lucille had landed herself a new and better job. She was able to move her resistance training up a notch as by now she could also easily get up and down on the floor. As she embraced the idea of the Moonwalk she started to walk further and further every day, now being able to get as far her nearest coffee shop (a couple of miles away) where she could sit down for a few moments if necessary before heading back home.

By the end of our time working together Lucille had completely overhauled her life in many respects: she was now looking forward to moving every day, she was considerably smaller, had formed a few new healthier eating habits and was strong enough to tackle staircases unaided. Moreover she was inspiring her friends and family to follow her example and make a few changes themselves.

I was very proud of this client and how she managed to get hold of her fears and gently but surely learned to overcome them in a way that didn’t leave her rattled. Instead she was inspired to go a little bit further each time. What started out as help in improving her general fitness lead her to find a point of focus (the marathon length walk) that would keep her going for the majority of the following year (and possibly every year after that). It was also the catalyst for making major changes in her personal life and feel better for it.

She was ready to make the changes, all she needed was some guidance, a good plan and a lot of encouragement and voila’ that’s how you do magic!

If you are also ready to bring this kind of magic into your life all you have to do is connect by booking a complimentary breakthrough call using the form below. We will have a chat about your current situation and how you would like to see it transformed. There is no obligation to sign up for anything and I will do my best to point you in the right direction to go from zero to hero!

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