Tracey Thornton – March 2019 – #IWD

Tracey is an inspiration to many and you will see why when you read her story.  Don’t let anything put you off trying something new because as Tracey has proved, YOU CAN DO IT!

Weighing up the Positives.

When the COGS were first set up, I was secretly desperate to join. I love my football and come from the generation of women who were not permitted to play as a girl. I am a Crawley Town supporter and the thought of being able to play football whilst wearing the Crawley Town badge seemed like a dream come true. I knew that the COGS welcomed ladies of all shapes & sizes, with different fitness levels and playing experience. For me there was one big barrier to joining and I mean big. At only 5 feet 1, I weighed nineteen stone, eight & half pounds. I wasn’t just overweight, at size 24/26 I was morbidly obese.

Tracey when she was a size 24/26 and below, very proudly, wearing her Greatest Loser Slimming World sash in 2017.

That is the sad thing about being obese, it stops you doing the things that you used to love to do or trying out new things. I couldn’t walk very far without getting breathless, let alone run or go dancing. With the benefit of hindsight, I had not realised just how much a worrier being so large had made me. I found myself fretting that a chair wouldn’t take my weight, finding pants that actually fitted me was getting trickier and I worried about being unable to fit through the turnstiles at away games, having got stuck in one. I had got to the point that I would hide in order to avoid having my photo taken which made social situations stressful. More importantly, there were all the health concerns that are associated with obesity that kept me awake at night including high blood pressure and diabetes. I am very blessed that I have a very supportive husband who didn’t laugh when I confided in him that I wanted to stop putting on weight so I could join COGS. He gently asked me what I was going to do to make it happen. So in 2016 I finally admitted I had a problem with food and that I needed help. I joined a weight loss group with my husband and I am not exaggerating when I say it saved my life. Much to my surprise and relief I lost five stone pretty quickly and I made the decision to start some gentle exercising to improve my fitness levels.  As I hadn’t exercised for several decades, I started by walking very short distances, gradually increasing the distance and speed. I was then encouraged to try Tilgate Parkrun. I walked my first attempt and then slept for two hours to recover but I have got a little faster and it is a great (and cheap) way to get fit. At this point I felt fit enough to attend my first COGS session. (The first session is free by the way).

If joining a weight loss group was the most important thing that I had done in health & fitness terms, then joining COGS was definitely the second. Having a coach leading the sessions meant I knew I could exercise safely (this always concerns when I try a new way to exercise). The hourly sessions of drills and games have improved my fitness levels and have become an important motivational tool in keeping the weight off. They have also given me the confidence to join a weekly circuit training session. As I approach my big 50th birthday, I relish the mental challenge the sessions offer and the sheer enjoyment of learning something new. My confidence has grown, from someone who could barely kick a ball at the first session, I now take part in tournaments, playing against other teams.

The one element that was an unexpected benefit of being a COG is the strong friendships that I have formed, a huge advantage of a team sport. I can honestly say it the most fun way to exercise and is a great stress release. COGS love social events and there is always someone with a camera which certainly helped me with my anxiety at having my photo taken. Now there will always be the size 26 me lurking in my brain which is why I still attend my weight loss group. But the smaller me (8 stone, 9 & half pounds lighter me) is a happier and healthier person. I can run, I can pass a ball & on occasion, I can even score a goal and even make the odd save in goal. (Yes I know; I am a very short goalie).  I love the fact that I still have much to improve, my turns, my positional play and my headers. (To be fair, I have to jump higher than most).

Weighing up the positives, COGS was an important incentive for me to lose weight in the first place and continues to motivate me to keep it off. I had a lot of weight to lose so having something to keep me motivated was very important to me. My only regret is that I didn’t seek help sooner. COGS is my favourite way to exercise and it just proves that you are never too old to make a change and/or try something new.

I never thought I could ever be this happy, wearing shorts!

Happy Tracey wearing shorts!