The one change that didn’t work: I pounded through exercise classes – until my doctor prescribed rest

I was grief-stricken and exhausted when I began high-intensity interval training. Then came a short, sharp scream in my knees and intense thumping in my chest

Picturing myself during the last three years is a lot like looking at a childhood photo. I know that it’s me, but the gulf between selves is wide. Personally, I was grief-stricken. My mother died in the summer of 2020, alone in a London hospice, while the prime minister and his top officials partied in Westminster. Grief changes a person irreparably; when someone you love dies, they take a version of you with them. And then? A more broken and watchful self is born.

In the weeks and months after my mother’s death, this new version of me developed some strange new habits. I started waking every night at 3am – the hour when my mother died – and could only get back to sleep by listening to Martin Jarvis reading Dickens. I started making my own body cream out of essential oils, raw cocoa butter and 100% unrefined pure natural anxiety – the kind of knit-your-own-earrings-and-sell-them-on-Etsy behaviour at which I would have previously scoffed. I impulse-bought a year’s supply of antihistamines online (adorably, my equally grief-stricken sister did the exact same thing 400 miles away in London). And, most uncharacteristically of all, I started doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) at home in Leith on the living room rug, surrounded by (and often underneath) my six-year-old, my two-year-old and my eight-year-old rescue staffie. While – and this is where it gets ultra-pandemicky – monitoring my heart rate using a pulse oximeter. I know. What larks.

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