Jess Hay's top tips on making fitness a priority no matter your size

Kinderling News & Features

Maintaining even the most remote level of fitness can seem like hazy mirage in the parenting desert.

After daycare drop off, washing, cooking, making sure everyone stays alive, as a primary carer we’re usually the last person we take care of.

One mum who believes you can make fitness a priority not matter what your 'starting point' is Jessica Hay.

Jess is a mum of two, a fun-run ambassador and at the start of this year decided that at 198kg, she had to overcome her fears and put her health first. Something clicked in her brain and she signed herself up for a community parkrun. But signing up was probably the easiest part, because despite what movies like to tell you, there's nothing about exercising that looks or feels the way a fitness montage does.

1. Take the first step. Literally. 

Most towns and cities host a volunteer-run Park Run, and that’s where Jess first got her start. She recalls that the very first time she took that first step, as not so much empowering but as a shock to the system. "At 198 kg walking to the corner of my road was hard... So 5km was a big shock to the system," Jess says. "You've got to get your head into it, you've got the try and really just break through that barrier." She's the first to put her hand up and say how painful it can be!

2. Ask for help

The amount of negative self talk that we self-flaggelate ourselves with can be our undoing.  Jess says that overcoming that self doubt is harder than the exercise itself.  

Put yourself at an advantage by having a friend to literally haul you toward the finish line.That very first park run Jess broke down in tears half way through. "I burst into tears... I was ready to give up... I was really lucky that a friend had actually run back," she says. "She’d already finished and she ran back and said 'No! You know you can do this!" and I had a few more tears... I got it done, and that sense of achievement was great."

Listen to Jess on Kinderling Conversation

3. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else!

One of the biggest factors that contribe to that self doubt and mental barrier is the constant comparisons we put on ourselves when we see others exercising. Jess is adamant that you will never run like anyone else, and that's what makes it your fitness and not anyone elses.

Speaking about her own experience at various park runs, Jess describes; "I soon learnt that I don't need to run like everyone else. I need to run to my own limitations... I look like a sloth with greyhounds running past me but I’m running at my complete maximum…  what's keeping me going is that I don't need to keep up with everyone else. As long as  I'm pushing myself that's okay."

4. Overcome embarrassment

One of the things that can hold us back from getting outside for any form of exercise is pesky embarrassment. So many beautiful people swanning about in active wear can be a real character crusher when you just feel like a slob slowly slapping your way down the footpath. This embarrassment about appearance ties into the self doubt aspect of the mental barrier that Jess believes can be our biggest obstacle; that we don't 'look right' and therefore don't deserve to be wearing tights as pants and working up a sweat. 

"I know I don’t look like your normal fitness freak out there... I need to wear leggings or tights that don’t give me chub rub... I need to do what works for me," she says. "I just have to drown out what everyone else is looking like and know that I'm out there, I'm working hard... It's just a matter of really getting a mantra in your head."

5. Make your own goals and know your limits

If your goal is to be able to get to the end of the day with a touch more energy, or if your goal is to run a marathon, you need to be realistic and kind to yourself. "Don't try and do what someone else is doing. Don't try and keep up with someone else," Jess adds. "Figure out what you can do and just keep pushing your goals from there. I shuffle, my run wouldn't, you wouldn't even think I'm running sometimes but it's a shuffle and that is me working at my maximum capacity."

6. Dream big

It doesn't have to be running-a-marathon kind of big like Jess, but anything that you want to work toward bit by bit should be your goal.

"I made this almost irrational self belief in myself that  I can run a marathon one day but I know I can do it... Aim high, keep chipping away at it, try not to think about what everyone else is thinking or doing because trust me," Jess says. "Someone's looking at you and thinking 'you're so brave for doing that, maybe I can do it.' As someone said to me the other day, you know you're starting a really positive ripple so let's do it!"

Want to see more of Jess' journey? She's the YMCA Fathers Day Fun Run Ambassador and documents her fitness struggles and successes on her Instagram page @TheLongWeighDownWithJess.