Leaning back in the outdoor hot-tub at Seaham Hall Serenity Spa and looking at the building, a crisp bright white, towering into the pale blue sky above me, I could not quite believe how new it looked.
The last time I was here was over 10 years ago and it still looked brand new. Inside was just the same….When Dan announced this was where we would go for my 40th birthday, I had of course been thrilled (2 nights somewhere lovely, just the two of us), but I have to confess that secretly I was a little worried. I had visited the Spa before and loved it: indulgent luxury and pampering at its best. But it was a long time ago….surely it would be really tired now, a bit frayed around the edges, the mosaic tiles full of black mildew, the woodwork chipped and the soft furnishings worn. I was even more worried when I visited the website and it looked just as I remembered it.
Luckily for us, my fears were completely misplaced. The Spa was spotless inside and out, it seemed like something recently opened.
So, as I lay amongst the bubbles, I couldn’t help but wonder about the value of maintenance and the power of that investment.
And then I thought of me. Forty but not feeling so fabulous. A woman with aching joints, prone to days of anxiety, piling on the weight in fits of self-pity, always finding an excuse to open a bottle of red wine, waking up tired, never making the time to exercise….
It is very clear, that if I carry on like this, without taking care of my own body and mind, that in another 10 years, I will feel and look every one of my 50 years. Is that what I really want?
Of course not! So when will the excuses stop?!
In my blog The Power of Play, I wondered whether or not exercise doesn’t feature high on my agenda because it was never on my parents and questioned if I really wanted to pass this legacy onto my own daughters.
I have also been thinking a lot lately about ensuring that our girls stay true to their natural selves. Just as they are now, slightly wild, running until they are breathless, scaling anything their arms allow them to climb, always having a go and persisting until they can.
Equally, I want them to remain entirely confident and comfortable in their own skin. And whether we like it or not, body image plays a significant part in how we feel about ourselves. I want the girls to remain in love with their own bodies and what they allow them to do. In awe of the amazing capabilities and resilience of their very beings. I want them to always be happy and relaxed when naked. I want them to walk down school corridors heads held high with a certain amount of swagger and an ability to bat away any criticisms that come their way from girlfriends, frenemies and (breathe!) boys.
How will they do this when they don’t see me celebrating myself and the achievements of my own body? I have always been careful never to mention diets, losing weight and I certainly don’t call myself fat in front of them. But I am beginning to suspect that is not enough. I need to go further. I need them to know I love my body, squidgy bits and all, after all it did a pretty incredible job in growing our three beautiful girls. I need to celebrate my form, glorious in its imperfections, beautiful because of who it holds.
The problem is, I don’t love my body. I just don’t. I don’t hate it, but it’s hard to love something you are struggling to fit into most of your wardrobe. It’s hard to love a body whose calves ache at the top of a sprint up the stairs or whose chest heaves trying to keep up with the girls on their scooters. It’s hard to love a body you have spent 40 years measuring against celebrity ideals. And yet I must. I need to lead by example.
I know I always feel better about myself when I do exercise.
It has been almost 18 months, pretty much since I went back to work, but I do remember the glow it gives you. Plus, I might do one run and I instantly feel 4lbs lighter (I’m not I know, but in my mind, I have done something and so must automatically look so much better!).
Equally, 18 months ago I completed a 5k Major Series, having trained for only 3 weeks and I can honestly say I have rarely felt so alive, so empowered. I ran the whole way, stayed with my team, climbed steep banks, cargo nets and crawled through feet of mud and icy cold waters. It was incredible. I felt invincible. In the aftermath I felt like wonder-woman, I wanted to sign up for a triathlon, a marathon, a sky dive! Why oh why did I let that go?!
I want to feel like that more often! Strong, in control and in tune with my natural wild woman, who can flee, can attack, can hunt, can survive.
Equally, I want longevity! I know we are all exposed to the vagaries of cancer, ill-fated accidents and so on, but I want to give myself the best fighting chance. Pre children, I wasn’t afraid of death, but now, it terrifies me. As does the ageing process….who wants to grow old, to feel the ebb of your mental agility and the sapping of your limbs?
So all in all, it’s time to stop making excuses. So, this week I have been for an early morning run and today had an empowering one on one session with #workoutlikeamum, a fellow mum blogger studying to be a personal trainer and inspiring us all daily. In declaring my baby steps here, I am hoping to hold myself accountable, to keep going.
A little bit of maintenance and investment in myself which goes beyond the odd manicure and so hopefully sometime soon, the girls will sit on my bed, watching me get ready, soaking up Mummy’s admiring gazes at herself (not because I am thin, but because I am strong and because I am invested in all that I am). And whilst they watch I hope that sight will be embedded deep inside their self-conscious, images of positive self-love and self-care to protect and strengthen them as they grow.
Ps thanks to Pinterest for the images
Pps we stayed at Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa in February 2017.