Leading by example

I consider myself to be a good mother, always thinking about my three children, making sure they are all happy and healthy. However, I’m not great at looking after myself.

I drive the kids to their favourite sporting activities but don’t partake in any sport myself.

I send them off to school with tasty and nutritionally lunch boxes but I make do with boring, basic and sometimes down right unhealthy lunches myself.

I help my teenage daughter keep ‘on trend’ with her clothes but don’t buy clothes that often for me.

My husband is always encouraging me to take more time for myself but for some strange reason I rarely do.

Do as I do

So I’ve decided that to be a better mum, I need to lead by example, show the kids that I value myself enough to put myself first now and again.

I’ve decided to get fit, not just for the kids but for many reasons…

  • to have more energy,
  • to sleep better,
  • to feel strong,
  • to lose weight and, most importantly;
  • to make sure that I’m going to be here for as long as my kids need me.

It’s more than just showing I value myself though, I also want the kids to see that I eat healthy and exercise regularly. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. They need to see I have a balanced meal, I am careful about portion sizes, that all this is just a normal way of life. I want them to learn from my behaviour.

Demon Diets

When someone decides to lose weight, the first thing many people do is join Slimming World or Weightwatchers but I’ve tried those and they don’t really work for me as I don’t want to be weighing out food and counting points/calories in front of my three impressionable children.

If it works for you then great, but for me I also don’t want to introduce the term ‘dieting’ to my three kids as it has, in my opinion, very negative connotations.

I’d much rather they thought that the best way to stay healthy is a balanced ‘diet’ and regular exercise, be that walking, the gym or partaking is sport.  I don’t believe it should be about denying one certain types of food but rather everything in moderation.

Time to dust off those trainers

Debbie Woodward - working out at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo

I want to make changes I can stick to, not just a quick fix. I want to lead by example and show my kids the right way to get fit. So, with the help of Avena Leisure here in Sligo, I’m taking back control.

Avena were offering a two month summer membership and were also running a special offer on personal training sessions. I always thought that personal trainers were reserved for the super rich and the super fit but I was surprised to find that their one to one personal training sessions cost €25 for an hour instead of the usual €40. So I was committed to 2 months gym membership and 8 PT sessions.

I now completely understand ‘no pain no gain’

At my first PT session, my trainer, James took my measurements and spoke to me about my gym experience in the past, this was a really short chat! He then spoke to me briefly about nutrition (he emailed lots more stuff to read) and asked me to keep a food diary over the next week. He then told me about the concept of HIIT (high intensity interval training) which apparently has been proven for to burn calories, build muscle and improve metabolism. I nodded in agreement but didn’t really grasp what was about to happen.

Gym and Swimming pool at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo Family Friendly things to do in Sligo Saucepan Kids

He took me into the gym for a 5 minute warm up before heading into one of the fitness studios where we started my HIIT training session. Oh my, I don’t think my poor body had ever worked as hard. I didn’t think I would get through it but I did and I was really proud of myself and rewarded myself with a chill out in the hydrotherapy suite.

Where the personal training sessions happen at the fitness studio in Avena Leisure Centre Sligo

I didn’t follow any particular ‘diet’ plan, I just stopped eating rubbish, made an effort to eat regular balanced meals everyday and increase my protein to help those poor aching muscles.

James emailed me a tailored programme for the gym which I did about 2-3 times a week in between our weekly PT sessions.

Losing pounds and inches

I stuck to the programme, going to the gym a couple of times a week, having a swim in the 20m pool on my own or with the kids and being careful what I ate. After the eight weeks, James took more measurements and my weight. I was 17lbs down.

I’ll admit that I was slightly disappointed as I would have expected to lose more weight however James explained that, unlike straight dieting where I might have lost more weight, I was building muscle which is heavier than an equal volume of fat. This meant that I was losing lots of fat but also gaining muscle.

The proof of this was that I had lost an amazing 13 inches off my body! 13 inches! This, along with the fact that I can maintain exercise for longer, lift significantly heavier weights and do core exercises I couldn’t dream of at the start, proves that this regime is working. I’m absolutely positive I would not feel this good and be as motivated as I am to continue if I had resorted to a ‘diet’.

After 8 weeks working out at Red faced after workout at Digging out the trainers to work out at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo Family Friendly things to do in Sligo Saucepan Kids

I was still a little nervous before each session but James was an amazing personal trainer, varying the session from week to week, introducing me to things I’d never dreamt of doing like boxing and spinning. He pushed me every week and changed my gym programme to keep the intensity up. I was also able to email him in between sessions if I had any questions about anything exercise or diet related.

I have to say that after 8 weeks,  It’s been hard, but I’ve LOVED the whole experience.

If you want to take time out for yourself, get fit and lose weight, get down to your local gym asap and sign up. If you’re in Sligo, I can’t recommend highly enough Avena Leisure in Ballisodare, Sligo. A huge thanks to the guys there, I couldn’t have done this on my own.

Avena Leisure Centre Sligo Family Friendly things to do in Sligo Saucepan Kids

Avena Leisure centre run special membership deals throughout the year. Check out their website or Facebook page or give them a call on 0719130882. They’ve also just started up a new series of popular HIIT classes at 7:30am during the week and they’re only €5.

I am only at the start, but I’m excited to be on this journey…

Disclaimer : I was given my two month membership and eight personal training sessions by Avena Leisure centre for the purposes of this review. My opinions are, as always, honest and 100% my own.




  1. Well done Debbie. Are you going to do it by yourself now or keep up the gym and PT? I’m trying to figure out my next step in motivating myself to get fit and I’m thinking PT might be the way to go, I’ve an u used gym membership and I really want to work on my core and upper body strength.

    1. Thanks a million, I’m definitely going to keep going with the gym and PT for another couple of months. It really works.

      The personal training sessions have been invaluable,. He really pushes me to work harder than I ever would have by myself. I know then what I need to do when I work out on my own.

      It’s interesting to see how proud the kids are of me too.

      My core has been the biggest improvement. Sure you only have to look at the before and after photo!


    1. Thanks Naomi, I just think that the assumption is to join a slimming club but what sort of message does that teach our children? I love the fact that I’ve done this through sheer hard work and making healthy (not low fat) food choices.


  2. Wow! that kind of loss is so great, inches and lbs! Getting out the door for some exercise is more than just me-time, it’s mental health time. I know I really feel it when I don’t get out and about.

    1. Thanks for that Jill. I totally agree, getting to exercise at the gym is about so much more than just working the body.

      Like you, I love the time to myself and I always feel fantastic when I get home too.


  3. Congratulations Debbie. You look healthy, sound delighted with yourself, and I’m a firm believer in showing your kids that you need to take time just for you sometimes.

  4. Wow Debbie! Well done and congratulations on writing such a wonderful post. It takes alot of strength to hit publish sometimes so good on you. Having been a serial dieter, trying to weigh food in secret so as not to let my children see me do it, I absolutely love your attitude. The ‘diet’ industry is so unhealthy. Your approach is so healthy. You look amazing (as always) but what strikes me even more is that you sound so energetic! I am thrilled for you, you’re inspiring x

    1. Oh my goodness Nicola, I don’t know what to say. You’re so kind to say such lovely things. Living in a house where we all love our food, I just couldn’t bring myself to ‘diet’. The kids are really supportive of my working out and always encouraging me to eat more protein


  5. Amazing Debbie! I am so impressed!

    Tell us, were you able to do core exercises when you started? I have just started and anything to do with my arms or core is hell, like they literally don’t respond to my brain when I am trying to do a push up or anything like that!

    1. Hi Patricia,

      That’s a great question! No I wasn’t able to do any core exercises at all when I started. I could just about do a ab crunch but I couldn’t hold a plank for even one second. I still can’t do a proper push up, I have to kneel but I getting better.

      It does hurt but stick with it, it will be worth it.

      Let me know how you’re getting on 🙂

      Kind regards

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