a saying Susan 009

When I started ‘Getting Fit & Fabulous for Business in 2015’ I got a great response from family and friends who also wanted to be more active and also from fitness instructors. I decided I would offer people chance to show their expertise or views in guest blogs to encourage myself and others to make the most of ourselves. The first of our guest bloggers is Qualified Fitness Instructor Susan Wilkinson of bodySHAPE whose blog will be split into instalments. Here’s the first instalment. When people decide to get fit, they often jump in at the deep end and follow an exercise programme that they find strenuous and uncomfortable. This approach has been greatly encouraged by the fitness industry over the last two years, with the promotion of high intensity programs. Of course, it’s understandable that people are keen to see results as soon as possible, but this enthusiasm rarely results in long-term success. There are 3 main reasons for this:

  1. Trying to do too much too soon can have an adverse effect on motivation – if the workout is so hard that people dread it, they will soon become de-motivated.
  2. A person who has been inactive for some time will probably have poor posture and movement control. Doing strenuous workouts without correcting this can lead to injury.
  3. To get the most out of exercise, you need to have good exercise technique – smooth, controlled movement supported by a strong core. Runners, for example, should hold their upper body upright and use the muscles at the backs of their legs to propel them forward and give them a good stride length. But if you watch people running they often lean forward or round their shoulders and take small steps with most of the work being done by the calf muscles. These muscles get trained, but the tops of the legs stay flabby. When people exercise with poor technique, they don’t get the results they are hoping for and get disillusioned.

So, if you are about to start a fitness program, it’s better to take it slowly and build some foundations. This will pay off in the long run, because you are more likely to stick at your program, stay injury free and get better long-term results. A good beginners’ program should improve posture and movement control and develop aerobic endurance, before moving on to higher intensity workouts. Getting good posture and movement control All of the following common lifestyle factors can lead to bad posture developing:

  • hours sitting every day, especially at a desk or driving
  • pregnancy – women often never fully correct postural problems developed during pregnancy
  • being overweight
  • wearing high heeled shoes
  • inactive lifestyle
  • carrying a bag on one shoulder
  • confidence issues

Posture correction programmes gradually correct muscle imbalances, stretching over-tight muscles and strengthening those that have stopped working properly. Ideally, posture should be corrected before other exercise begins, but it can take months to correct bad habits and most people won’t want to put off starting their fitness campaign. So, the best compromise is to start a moderate intensity programme combined with postural exercises. Susan Wilkinson BY SUSAN WILKINSON of bodySHAPE.


A Colourful Experience!

Pic of me and Thomasin Newton Pic of scarves pic of seasons

I love colour and have been told I have a good eye for coordinating accessories, so when I heard about Image Consultant Thomasin Newton, I couldn’t wait to ask her to analyse my colours and tell me which season of shades suit me.

She advised me to book an appointment when I had plenty of time to myself so that I could enjoy the whole experience.

Flowers grow in all of the colours of the rainbow.  Some birds have brilliant incandescent plumage and some animals have brightly coloured areas to attract mates. We humans dye our hair, wear make up and eye catching costumes to look good too, so why not get professional advice on how to make the most of our God given attributes?

On arrival at Thomasin’s lovely office, she took me into her welcoming studio and asked me to sit in a chair in front of her mirror. Colourful scarves and swathes of silk of every shade surrounded me. Thomasin lifted my hair away from my face with a hairband and asked me if I was wearing any make up or not. She said she needed my skin to be ‘au naturelle’ so that she can see which tones flatter and enhance my natural colouring. As soft, comfortable music played in the background, she placed different hues of pink, blue, green and brown across my neckline. I soon started to relax under her expert gaze.

It quickly became obvious to Thomasin that certain greens and khaki tones in the Autumn palette definitely did not suit me. Her comments confirmed what I had grown to believe, that I need to steer clear of those colours as they drain the colour from my face when held against it and make me look ill.

Black, a tone which can look great on people who favour the Winter palette, also made me look wan. Thomasin told me to avoid wearing black, at all cost.

The Before Picture

The Before Picture

Deciding whether I best suited the Spring or Summer array of shades was a harder task, even for Thomasin who has undergone special training in order to be able to give advice to people. This is where her expertise shone. She told me it can sometimes take time to fine tune your eye to being able to pick the correct complement of colours that suit someone, but it wasn’t long before she showed me that I have Summer colouring.

I love turquoise and along with purple, it is in the logo for my business WRITE WAI PR & COPYWRITING SERVICES so I have lots of turquoise or purple tops that I wear in business to enforce my branding. Thomasin advised me that blues really suit me, especially light blues and teal, but it would be advisable to choose these colours in the future instead of bright turquoise which overwhelmed my delicate skin tones and blue eyes. Thomasin was so diplomatic and full of lovely compliments that I couldn’t be offended by her advice.

I had gone to Thomasin’s studio feeling fat, frumpy and fractious but she made me feel lovely and gave me a feeling of good self-esteem that I had lost after being made redundant before deciding to do what I am good at in my own enterprise.

I left Thomasin’s studio feeling like I had been pampered, as if I had just had a manicure or a massage. Not only that, I was armed with a booklet of shade swathes that suit me to help me pick my outfits in the future.

It was strange avoiding turquoise and fuchsia at first, but as I picked out an outfit for a business function a day or two later, Thomasin’s words rang in my ear. Instead of my black suit and turquoise top, I chose to wear a soft grey silky top with matching cardigan. It was a Christmas function with lots of business women and I posted a picture of myself on my Social Media. The true value of my tuition from Thomasin quickly became apparent when people started commenting how great I looked and how the colour of my apparel really suited me.

The compliments are still flowing in as I have stuck to following Thomasin’s advice. I now feel a lot happier with myself and no longer feel dull or dowdy.

Thank you Thomasin for a wonderful life-changing experience. I won’t be looking back to black!

BWN BANNER pic pic of clothe

‘No Gain Without Pain’

Pain shot through my legs every step I took. I could hardly move one leg in front of the other!

I hadn’t expected to feel quite like this after my first proper session with my personal trainer. My lower limbs ached. I wasn’t surprised that they ached, but I was surprised by just how much they ached. I could barely walk!

I had arrived at the gym late because I had forgotten the traffic is worse on a Saturday and was delayed. When I arrived, James got me to warm up on the treadmill by jogging for about five minutes. He then asked me do a series of lunges, followed by squats. A couple of these would have been fine, but I probably did 10 of each three times, interspersed by bouts of jogging.

Any regular fitness enthusiast knows that you have to break yourself into exercising gently, but I had not done any lunges or squats for at least 10 years, apart from those that occur naturally in my usual lifestyle. I suppose I had to get started somewhere and they say ‘there is no gain without pain’, don’t they?


After the jogging, squats and lunges, I did 10 minutes on a cycling machine and then of my own choosing, I swam for half an hour.

Swimming has always been a love of mine, despite nearly drowning in my younger days. When you are drowning, your life flashes before you and I had thought at the time, ‘I’m too young to die.’ I was 12 or 13 and could actually swim when it happened. My family had gone to Ennerdale Water in Cumbria, where it gently laps into the River Ehen. There is a small, deep pool at a bend in the river with a slab of stone that acts as a diving board. My family used to love going there.

On the day that I nearly drown, I was wearing a facemask and looked down through the crystal, clear water and saw an eel. I screamed underwater and tried to back away. In my panic, I took in water and flailed hopelessly. Gulping, I shouted for help. My Aunt was swimming close by and tried to aid me, but I just dragged her under, in my panic.

Realising things were getting serious; my Dad dived in without undressing and successfully dragged me to the bank. He had to drive home in wet trousers. It was a day I will never forget. He taught me to tread water soon after that.

Despite this traumatic experience, I still love swimming and find it relaxing and therapeutic. At the Virgin Active gym, there is a large image of a beach, which makes swimming particularly enjoyable as you can imagine you are swimming in an exotic location!

Can’t wait for next time!

Virgin Active Pool

The Weigh-In

First Day At The Gym


Grunting and puffing on the treadmill is not my idea of fun, but a 12-minute jog was my first bout of exercise with my personal trainer James Davis at Virgin Active, Chelmsford. I couldn’t drop out at this point because I would’ve been letting Sadie down, the Mail on Sunday journalist who had recruited me and two others to try to drop a dress size, within six weeks. If I stopped now, I would also be letting myself down and my downwardly drooping body!

A gym pic 3 A gym pic 2

I hadn’t run since I was a skinny teenager, but there was no way I would fail this task. After all, I had my Personal Trainer, James Davies, and Chrissie, his Manager, to cheer me on. As I started to jog, at every step, I had the strange sensation of my face dropping downwards along with my belly and boobs. The first three minutes were bearable and I gave it a 6 out of 10 on a scale of how bad I felt. Half way through James and Chrissie gave me some encouragement, but it was definitely feeling harder, 7 out of 10 this time.

Trying to focus on something ahead to distract me from the pain was difficult. Lifting each foot was getting harder and harder. At 8 minutes, James and Chrissie were increasing their encouragement. I didn’t want to stop to walk, I wanted to make it to 12 minutes, but this was killing me.

I tried to develop a breathing pattern and focus on that. ‘Come on guys, give me some more encouragement, please,’ I thought at 10 minutes. The trainers started to encourage me again. James suggested a sprint to the finish, but I didn’t have it in me. I could just about manage to lift one front in front of the other. At last, Chrissie and James started to count down and their cries dulled any feelings of physical agony. Finally, we got to the finishing line of 12 minutes. I had covered about 1.5km and used 135 calories. I felt like collapsing, but was told to walk and cool down for a few minutes.

A gym pic 4 James and Chrissy

James showed me how to stretch and helped me stretch out my hamstring to prevent and problems the following day. I was almost disappointed to be told that that was it for the day, but we had spent some time taking my measurements and doing a three minute step test to check out my heart rate before, after and a couple of minutes after exercising.

I had brought my swimsuit and after a shower, jumped into the refreshing pool. It was so lovely to do a few lengths for half an hour. It seemed easy after the challenge I had just faced. At the end of a pool was the image of a beach and I imagined I was on holiday swimming by an exotic shore. ‘Thank you Lord,’ I whispered. The dip in the Jacuzzi just finished this glorious moment off.

Driving home, I was still busy after my exercise and felt so good. The endorphins were buzzing make the long drive home seem a stroll. I had forgotten just how good you could feel after exercising. It flooded out any memories I had of pain and strain earlier. I couldn’t wait until my next session.

That night I tucked into a pork chop, jacket potato and veg. Knowing the effort involved to burn calories helped me to avoid having a chocolate cake as a pudding.

I had started my journey to getting fit and fabulous for business in 2015.

What Have I Let Myself In For?

The Before Picture

The Before Picture

17.11.14 In a moment of madness, or outstanding courage, I put my name down for a project where many fear to tread. I have agreed to be a guinea pig for the Mail on Sunday and have a personal trainer at a gym for six weeks before Christmas. Well actually it is five-and-a-half weeks.

I’ve sent off a photo and all of my personal details, that normally I try to keep secret!, to a journalist who is going to tell the whole world! Ludicous, I know, but this is what I am prepared to sacrifice in a bid to get back in control of my weight, my size, my image, my self-appreciation and that of my clients, family and friends.

At first, the journalist, Sadie, pried into why I wanted to participate and I had to reveal my innermost secrets that I am borderline diabetic and have high cholesterol. I weigh the heaviest I ever have when not pregnant. On a recent family excursion to London, I kept getting out of breath and feeling tired, so we would jump on the bus or tube to the next tourist attraction. I blamed my son’s friend for being tired, but really it was me (shame on you Sally!).

I was so keen to get picked. I prayed ‘let your will be done, not mine,’ but when I was, the fear froze me. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read on November 11, 14:

‘Hi Sally,

‘You’re in! My editor has given the thumbs up to including you. What he’d really like to see you achieve is a drop in your blood sugar and waist measurement, plus a big improvement in your heart / cardiovascular health by Christmas. I think this is totally doable and it sounds like you’re very committed (which is what we need).

‘What I need from you now in order to enrol you at a club and assign you a personal trainer is:

‘Your full name


Full home address

Mobile number

Which Virgin Active club you want to join

‘They will put you through various fitness tests before and after the six week programme (we need you to get started at the beginning of next week at the latest) and will weigh you and track your body fat percentage etc, BUT we will also need you to pop along to your GP to get your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked. Are you happy to do this? We’ll need you to do so at the start and end of the programme.

‘Please could you also let me know a good day and time during the next week when we could send a photographer out to take some photos of you?

‘Hope this is okay.


I am committed now or maybe I need committed! One thing is for sure, just to juggle my business, homelife and this new exercise regime, I will need supernatural help!


ME AS A CHILD 1 Red Shorts Me at Jean's party.

I was a skinny, stick of a child; so skinny that I asked my Mam to buy me a swimming costume because I thought my ribs stuck out as though I was suffering from malnutrition when I wearing my bikini!

I was always a good eater and used to fight with my three brothers for the biggest portion or last piece of cake. Comfort eating has been a sweet, satisfying solution to most of my problems most of my life, so it was no wonder that when my first boyfriend ‘chucked me’ at 16, I sought solace in the warm embrace of a Mars bar. In my teens I didn’t drink, but that soon changed when I went to Manchester to study. I started off drinking half a pint of orange juice in the Students Union, but there is only so much orange juice that a person can stomach in one night. I have always liked apples, apple juice and then cider. They are all the same, aren’t they? So drinking cider was the start of another sticky downward slide. Before long I was drinking pints of cider.

To cut a long story short, ‘Lanky Legs’ (a nickname at secondary school) soon became more rounded. I was probably ‘normal size’ when I was a student, if size 12 is what you call normal (as in the middle picture above). Well it is when you are 5ft 7inches and weigh 10 stones 8 ounces. I had low self-esteem and didn’t realise I looked normal. I thought I had a big bum then and lacked the confidence to wear clothes to show off my figure. Now I how have the confidence to wear what I want to, but lack the figure as I have piled on the pounds over the recent years (see third picture above)! Hopefully, all that is about to change!

See my assignment for a national newspaper