Do scary sh*t

Francie with hubby Kelvin, Francie before her a-ha moment, and her generally kicking butt

An interview with Francie Long

Meet Francie, Irish ex-pat living in Northland, lover of trying scary things and personal game changer. We've been connected with Francie on Instagram for quite some time, @franciechanges and what we love about her is her sheer determination towards achieving her goals.
We had a chat with her recently and posed a few questions to discover where her strength comes from. We had a grand plan of making this a short snippet blog, but in the end we thought you should hear her story straight from her. If you don't have time to read the full post, scroll to the end for her take-away tips on creating a kick-ass life.

Please enjoy our chat with Francie Long.

Was there an 'a-ha' moment for you when you decided to make lifestyle changes? If so, when was it, what was it and how did it come about?
A little over 3 years ago I was 35kgs heavier than I am today and full of lifelong anxiety and stress. We had a family holiday planned with my brother Cathal and now wife Emma, who were coming over from Sydney, along with my Aunt and Uncle from Ireland. Before this I had started yoga and walking and had dropped some weight. I only knew this because my clothes had become looser I was way too scared / in denial to jump on any scales. However I was by no means healthy or fit as [I am now]. I wasn't focusing on what I ate, alcohol and cigarettes were still part of my daily vices. We had planned to do the Tongariro Crossing (my brothers idea obviously not mine!) and I had started walking more in preparation for it but I was literally waking up at night in a cold sweat about the thought of it. I felt 100% sure I wouldn't be able to do it. I had visions of having to be airlifted off but in the end due to a stressed induced summer cold and adverse weather conditions we couldn't do it. I was doing a wee dance on the inside when we woke up that morning and got the call the walk wasn't going to happen.

We had a great holiday but I struggled to keep up with everybody. Mary and Des (my Aunt and Uncle) are in their early 60's, running rings around me out cycling and basically being overactive achievers! I remember walking out to Cathedral Cove one of the days and being out of breath sucking on my inhaler, feeling frustrated and angry with myself. I made my husband get the boat transfer back with me to Hahei instead of walking, making some lame excuse that I wanted to see what the coast looked like from the sea.

It was after this holiday that I realised I was missing out on so much and that unless I started making some drastic changes then I would continue to miss out on more and more. It turns out I don't do things by half.

The week after we came home from holiday I set the date of 3 March 2014 as the day that life would change for me.

I bought a set of scales and a 3 month subscription to Weight Watchers on-line. I smoked my last cigarette and made a decision to temporarily give up alcohol as it was a major trigger for me smoking. Only my poor suffering husband Kelvy and brother Cathal knew the details of this plan to change my life. I didn't want people to know in case I stumbled at the first hurdle and failed once again. Lets just say I wasn't exactly a dream to live with those first few weeks and I went in to total social hibernation. I basically removed myself from any situation where I would feel under pressure and may crack which ended up going on for a fair few months. dramatically

What's your biggest motivator? Both in the past and now your current?
When I first started out on this journey it was the total weight loss cliché of the scales. After finally putting my big girls pants on and stepping on the scales and being shocked by the number laid out in front of me I used this to spur me on. Watching the numbers slowly drop week on week was such a huge motivator for me for probably the first year but as with everything, over time your motivations change.

I think I was like a lot of people who starts out on a weight loss journey the scales are the be all and end all. You can become obsessed with them and the numbers and when they don't work in your favour you can get very easily frustrated and to a degree can self sabotage so I would recommend changing up your motivators.

It's been great having friends around me that I can work out with as you end up motivating each other. The best things are having different friends for different activities so you never have anyone not to work out with. My friend Jo will do yoga any day of the week and I can harass her in to a walk even though she will moan going up the hills. I know that there's no way that I would ever get her lifting weights or jumping around the place! I also have a great friend Ann from work who is up for anything, totally hard-core (and in her mid 60s), she makes sure I give it all in our after-work workouts. She has also just mastered headstands, total rock star!

From the looks of your posts, yoga plays a big part in your regular activity - who introduced you to yoga and what was it about yoga that you really connected with?
I've been asthmatic since childhood and hated any form of exercise from my teenage years as I hated getting sweaty, wheezy and out of breath. In the end I gave up any real exercise apart from the odd walk. I saw an advert in town for a yoga class and for some unknown reason I thought maybe this would be something I could do, after all yoga is only breathing and a bit of stretching right?!!

I convinced my friend Maria who was over for the summer from Sweden to come with me. We rocked up to a class that consisted of myself, Maria and this very fit looking guy who turned out to be one of the local sky divers. This class and teacher, Leighia, literally went on to change my life. I couldn't do a lot of that first class, my downward dog was literally held for 5 seconds. I shook violently through warriors thinking my legs would collapse and arms were going to fall off and my arms reached my knees in forward fold. Between my lifetime confusion of left and right and Maria's grasp of English as her second language, it made for much confusion and giggles but we floated out of this class experiencing our first yoga high and plotting our next yoga adventure. It didn't take long and soon I was doing 3 classes a week.

It's not just the physical practice that has me hooked, (yes the more advanced poses I can do now are pretty damn cool) but just flowing through Sun Salutations, breathing and getting out of your head can bring such calmness by the end my practice. It has me coming back to my mat everyday.

I will be forever grateful to Leighia and her belief in me. She always showed great patience, showed me how to modify, pushed me when I needed and told me that everything would come in time. I always wonder if I had stumbled in to a different class with a different teacher whether I would have had this major love affair with yoga and whether I would have stuck with this journey.

I have been blessed with another excellent teacher and friend, Lara, as Leighia is now in Auckland. I can only get to one class a week these days, so I mix it up with a home practice using online classes from Yogaglo and CodyApp.

Where does your determination come from?
I think I have become more determined the longer I've been doing this. I really didn't think I would get to where I am now when I started. I see the things I can do now that a couple of years ago I thought would have been impossible, so I suppose that spurs me on to see how far I can go. I went back to the Coromandel about a year after I first went and walked out to Cathedral Cove again except this time I wasn't wheezy, didn't need my inhaler and felt awesome, no frustrations or anger!

My Manager was at a medical conference a few months ago where she listened to a speaker talk about obesity and diets. The speaker recited a statistic where 97% of people who go on a diet will regain the weight they lose. She said she thought of me during the talk and that I was pretty special being one of the 3%. That comment made me stop in my tracks and actually give myself some kudos!

Who are your biggest supporters and why do you love them?
I have 2 major supporters in my life that have supported me 100% on this journey. My husband Kelvin and brother Cathal.

Poor Kelvin has watched me through the successes, the tears and the tantrums and bless him he's still here supporting. He helps me food prep and listens patiently to me rave about the latest health craze. He shared the excitement when I finally held my first crow pose after he watched me face-plant so many times. The list is endless but basically he's a pretty awesome human being and husband.

My brother Cathal has been my awesome virtual personal trainer. He is very determined and stupidly fit and I think I have been his pet project over the last couple of years. Daily WhatsApp messages of encouragement when needed, sympathy when I was down and a kick up the arse when I wasn't motivated. These have all been vital! There may have been more than once that I lied told him I had done cardio when I hadn't to get him off my back! We're quite polar opposites in a lot of ways and maybe that's why he's been such a good support person or maybe he just likes to torture me...

What's the best thing about completing a workout?
I never in my life thought I would enjoy exercise. I thought people were quite weird who enjoyed the gym. To be fair I still haven't set foot in a gym, however I have found the joys of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Strength Training. I'm not sold on regular Cardio though! The endorphin's are the best part of a workout as well as going home with a clear head and being a nicer person!

When the weather sucks, it's really early and you don't want to get out of bed, what do you do to get yourself going?
I tend to exercise in the evening for this very reason!! However I try and arrange to workout with friends as you're way more likely to get it done as you don't want to let your mate down. I have two great friends Jo and Cat who come round every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:30am and we get a yoga class in before work as well as a quick cup of tea catch up which is win win.

What advice would you give your 20 year old self? Or what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
Oh my life I wish I could go back and tell myself that everything will be OK. That I would meet this awesome guy who would love me for myself. I'd tell myself that I really needed to work on me and not hide and bury all my emotions because it will come back and haunt get me later. Oh and I wish I could have started a yoga practice at 20, imagine what my handstands would be like now!

Where's your favourite place to spend a weekend and why?
I pretty much live in paradise up here in Northland, with awesome beaches to hang out on and islands to explore. A day spent out on Urupukapuka is always special, you get a good walk in over the hills with spectacular views and pristine beaches to swim in, no need to go to the Tropics!

Outside of a workout, what makes your heart sing?
Doing scary sh*t!

I try and make myself do stuff that I wouldn't have done a couple of years ago. Lets be clear this is not jumping out of a plane or bungee jumps or anything daft like that, I just mean doing stuff that gets me out of my comfort zone. Like when I went to my first ever yoga studio in Auckland by myself, I nearly chickened out as I thought I wouldn't be able to keep up and that I'd embarrass myself. It took lots of deep breathes and talking to myself before I got in the door. I must have looked a tad erratic lurking outside the studio but it was totally worth it!

What has been the most significant part of your journey in life so far?
Becoming more confident and comfortable in my skin as well as learning to deal with my anxiety. This has been as hard if not harder for me than all the physical exercise and learning to eat well. I tend to bottle my feelings; I just shut down and stop talking. It doesn't matter how much weight you lose or how fit you get you'll still have the same problems if you don't work on your mind-set as well. I'm still very much working on this aspect of life.

Who inspires you? Why?

My cousin Mark and his wife Karen had a beautiful wee girl called Keela who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in Feb 2015. She was so strong and put up one hell of a fight but we were all devastated when she left us on 30 August 2015. Watching how Karen and Mark coped going through the most horrific thing in life was heart-breaking but seeing how they channelled their pain into fund rising events in Keela's memory is beyond inspiring. Anytime I feel like giving up or don't want to get a workout done I think of Keela as I know she'd do anything to be here and be able to do it.

What's your guilty pleasure?
Dark chocolate, peanut butter by the spoon straight out of the jar, trashy holiday reads and Taylor Swift

These last few statements are condensed to offer a few words of advice to our readers from Francie.

1. Set yourself goals and find out what works for you.
2. Prep your meals, it'll help you keep on track for the week
3. With exercise, find something you love or it will never stick. There's no point in forcing yourself to do something you hate
4. Exercise with friends or find an online platform that sets out the exercise for you to do at home (I use Fitness Blender).
5. Take photos! I wish I'd taken more to document my journey. Especially keep the photos you hate! Even if you don't share them, it gives you something to look back on and visualise how far you've come.
6. Celebrate the non-scales moments. Like climbing that hill or buying new clothes because your old ones don't fit.
7. Stop comparing yourself to other peoples journey's. With the amount of images on social media at the moment it's easy to say you're not where you want to be. But look back at how far you've come and don't let others deter you.
8. Be accountable for yourself. I started my Instagram account so I could share my story in way I was comfortable. It's also allowed me to connect with like-minded people. Find the way that works for you (with friends, family, a blog or whatever).
9. Do scary sh*t

Sweaty selfies, and Francie's workout group from her office

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