Leading By Example – an update

For the last sixteen weeks, I’ve been working out at Avena Leisure Centre in Ballisodare, Sligo in a bid to become a healthier, stronger and fitter Mum. You can read about how I got on during the first two months of this journey so far.

The results

After four months the results are as follows:

  • Weight lost – 34 lbs
  • Inches lost – 22.5 inches
  • Dress sizes dropped – 2

A different kind of challenge – mental v physical

It’s been the most incredible 16 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it has not been easy, at times it has been very hard, but it is a different type of difficult. This has been physically challenging whereas I always find traditional ‘dieting’ mentally difficult.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve tried many different diets in the past and I have always found them to be a real mental challenge – counting points, weighing every morsel of food, standing up in front of peers, being weighed in public and depriving myself of all the interesting food I enjoy. This mental difficulty has, I believe, played a major role in my constant failure to diet for any length of time.

Going to the gym is physically difficult, however I find that this is much easier to cope with and recover from than the mental difficulties associated with ‘dieting’. If I’m physically tired after the gym, I can take a day off to allow my body to recover, I can have a hot bath to soothe those aching muscles or even just get an early night.

New mental challenges

I’m not saying that there are no mental challenges to my approach, there are, they are just different and easier to overcome. Getting to the gym can still be a challenge as I’m a busy working mum of three – finding time will always be a challenge for parents.

However, as the months have gone by, I’ve found it easier to make the time as I want to go to the gym.

Interestingly, in a reversal, it is now more mentally difficult for me if I don’t do some exercise which is a fantastic place to be.

What’s the secret?

I have been following an exercise programme for the last four months which has been updated as my fitness levels have started to slowly creep northward bound. I’ve been going to the gym two to three times a week and meeting with James, my personal trainer, once a week.

Debbie Woodward - Saucepan Kids - working out at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo personal trainer improving fitness
The gym at Avena Leisure Centre, Ballisodare, Sligo – I love this place!

Exercise has changed how I look at food

I love my food (I’m a food blogger!) and I always will.

Importantly I’m not depriving myself in the way I would have done on a ‘diet’ (I don’t even like using the ‘d’ word for its negative connotations!) however I am being more careful of what I eat (I’ve cut back significantly on the rubbish – biscuits, crisps, sweets, deserts etc.) and how much.  I’m also very conscious of making sure I have enough protein to repair my body after workouts.

I eat the same meals as my family, I enjoy our weekly homemade pizzas, roast Sunday lunches, occasional takeaways and the occasional glass of red wine. I don’t buy low fat products as these are often worse for you than ‘full fat’ due to the additives and extra sugar.

Like many of us, chocolate is my weak point. Now if want chocolate, I’ll think yes I can have it if I want it and I do have it, I just won’t have too much as I know that it’ll take me time in the gym to work it off so it’s not worth scoffing lots of it. I also have a small square of healthier (relatively) good quality dark chocolate rather than the sugar-ladened milk chocolate.

Debbie Woodward - Saucepan Kids - working out at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo personal trainer improving fitness
How many times would I have to lift some of these kettlebells to work off a slice of cake!

Benefits of a personal trainer

Going to the gym is great but I can honestly say that nothing beats having a personal trainer to motivate and guide me. It’s not in my nature to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I think this might be true of others also.

Even a few sessions with a personal trainer will have a huge impact on your fitness journey. Their expertise means that they will be able to tailor your programme and workout to your specific abilities and requirements, whether your goal is weight-loss, general fitness, training for a specific sport or event.

My routines have been built around the fact that I broke my knee a year ago and as a result there were some a couple of exercises I was unable to do. My personal trainer, James, set my programme to work around this and also strengthen my knee and now I’m running up and down the stairs at home now which I definitely wasn’t able to do four months ago.

For the greatest impact James is constantly changing my workout routine – every week the session with him is different and my ‘homework’ is different too.

This has helped in a number of ways. Firstly, it has given me faster and better results as my body has not been given a chance to get used to a certain series of exercises and is constantly being shocked and pushed. Secondly I’ve not had a chance to get bored with the same routine.

Talking of boredom and motivation, probably the most telling success factor is that I’m here writing about this after 16 weeks. Of the diets I’ve tried before I can only think of one or maybe two occasions where I’ve lasted anywhere near 16 weeks and even then whilst the weight loss would have been comparable the positive change in body shape I’ve experienced this time was not even close. Also I was probably as miserable as sin (ask James – husband this time) with all the deprivation where as this time I’m in a fantastic place mentally.

What about the cost?

Meeting with James on a weekly basis has been perfect for me. I appreciate people can’t necessarily afford weekly sessions but fortnightly or even monthly personal training sessions would reap rewards.

Also the cost of traditional dieting clubs – the enrolment, weekly fee, special calculators, cookbooks, ‘diet’ food products on sale at meetings etc all add up and this money could be better spent on a personal trainer. Also I’m spending a lot less on junk food. My whole family are feeling the benefit.

Ask yourself a tough question, how do you value yourself? Don’t you deserve to feel fit and feel strong? The example you set to your children and the people around you will benefit them too.

Christmas is coming up, why not ask your family to give you some personal trainer sessions as a Christmas present?

Feel the difference

I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this good for years. Friends and family are all noticing. A stranger even stopped me in the supermarket this week having recognised me from my previous post, asking how I was getting on at Avena. That lovely lady said I was inspiring and motivating her to get out there and put herself first and show good example to her kids , I couldn’t believe it. It made my day!

People in the gym are often asking me in the changing room, what’s the secret? I tell them there is no secret, it’s purely exercise and it’s hard work but so worth it.

Even my personal trainer, James, is impressed with my progress. I’ve just started to lift weights in the gym now that apparently not many ladies are able to do.

All these things increase my motivation and general feeling of wellbeing and I can’t recommend it enough – I’m becoming into an evangelist (or gym-bore) in case you hadn’t guessed!

Debbie Woodward - Saucepan Kids - working out at Avena Leisure Centre Sligo personal trainer improving fitness
What a difference 16 weeks can make

Avena Leisure Centre

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, look no further than than Avena Leisure Centre in Ballisodare, Sligo. A huge thanks to the team 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 also have a range of exercises classes for everyone from pregnancy yoga to Aquafit. I know their twice weekly HIIT classes (at 7:30am) are proving to be very popular.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my fitness 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 on your sustained determination and your honest and open blog, 2.5 stone lost – well done!!! we will do that Lough Gill cycle ride in 2017.

    1. Thanks Sharon, you’re so kind. I really appreciate the comment 🙂 Yes it looks like I should be good to go for that Lough Gill cycle next year!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *