Look really carefully at this picture.

I want to draw your attention to something pretty special, to something that is the most amazing thing that I have seen in a long time.  Something I inspire to be....or more accurately something I aim to have.

No, not her gold medals.....God no that is far too much like hard work.  I am referring to her perfect, shiny, toned, bouncy and ripped abs.

You see since the Olympics, I have been inspired more by just their drive and ambition.  I have been inspired by their bodies.  I NEED to get into serious shape.

Throughout my adult life I have always had an interest in healthy eating and fitness.  I have dropped from the food and exercise wagon a few times.  When having my babies for example.  But its always been at the back of my mind to achieve a certain look and just recently, this is at the top of my priority list.

Through the support of my family and friends, I have been able to get to the gym more regularly than I have done in a long time.  Bored with my normal routines I have been researching certain exercises, coupled with a cleaner eating plan and I am slowly starting to notice small differences. 

Of course I am no where near the picture that i show above.  The "baby belt" needs some serious work (mothers, you will know this look, its like a muffin top but we can blame the fact we have kids on this....).  And I think I need some serious guidance and some pointers on how to really shift things up a gear.

So I appeal for help.  I am not looking for a freebie personal trainer.  I am appealing for a virtual trainer.  Someone who can lead me in my goal me to look like our dear Jess (without me becoming a triatlete).

Anyone willing to take the challenge will be rewarded with blog recognition galore.  They will receive super shout-outs on Facebook and Twitter, and the oppurtunity to to have a virtual client willing to take on the ultimate challenge.

So, anyone up for it?

Hugs on the last day of school
Thats me with all the hair!
There has been a lot of talk in the news this week about the nations 16 year olds getting their all -important GCSE results. 

Instantly I am propelled back to that time.  Of waking up early and eager to get to the school office to get my results, anticipating that this little slip of paper could determine my future.  If only I realised back then that the future would hold more worries than I would care to imagine than just this.

It also made me think.  Who was I back then?  Who have I become? Should I be proud?  If only I could have a glimpse in the future.

So 17 years later, here is a letter from a woman, to a girl…

"Dear Colette

I write to you on the morning you are getting your GCSE results.  I know you have worked hard, but I also know you could have worked harder.  You know that.

The friends, who have led you astray these past few weeks I can tell you now, will not be part of your future.  You have bound to be friends forever, and they will also hold a special place in your heart, and you WILL be in contact again.  But for now leave them behind you.  They each have different paths they wish to take.  Give it a few years and you will understand this.

However you do have two friends in particular who will go on to be the best friends you could hope for in your adult life.

When you open your results this morning, please don’t be disappointed.  You have done ok.  Not brilliantly, but ok.  And that will get you started.  You will just have to work that little bit harder at college to prove to everyone that you are capable. 

You are not a natural academic, you will come to realise this in time.  But you do have a lot of confidence and that will count for a lot in your future.  Just keep striding forwards with your head held high, and for goodness sake, wear a pair of heels.  Those clumpy DM’s do not impress anyone!

I know you look in the mirror and see someone fat.  You are not.  The last few years you have been the slimmest you have been for a while.  Just go easy on the chips and mayonnaise at college.  And the beer!  I know you won’t believe this now as you are not keen on exercise, but in the future you will adapt to a healthy lifestyle that makes you love exercise and the benefits it can bring. 

Be kind to the boy that keeps asking to walk you home from school.  I know you are seeing someone else at the moment.  Someone much older.  But this kind, local boy will one day make you the happiest woman alive, and will give you the greatest gift of two wonderful children.  Yes!  Children.  I know you don’t wish to consider children in your future, but they will be there.  And you will be overjoyed.

Stop smoking.  Seriously.  Stop.  They may be cheap now, and it may be a little dark and dangerous habit to impress the peers.  But when you are trying to give them up in the future when they have drained your health and your bank account you will wish you never started.

Dye your hair.  Please.  The bleached front and brushed out perm look really does nothing for you.

Work hard.  Put in all the hours you can and save up as much money as you can.  You have a wonderful life ahead of you and so many nice things to look forward to and pay for…..DO NOT, I repeat  DO NOT apply for that credit card.

Be nice to Mum and Dad.  You may not realise this but in the future when you have children of your own you will appreciate what they did for you and the sacrifices they made.  Think twice before you slam that door.

Ring your Grandparents.  You don’t have much more time left to talk to them as adults.  They are good, kind, knowledgeable people. Pick up the phone, pay them a visit.  They love you more than you will ever know.

Learn how to apply make up.  Seriously, you still don’t have a clue in 17 years time and that “grunge” era did women our age no favours!"

So there you have it.  My older “responsible” self advising the girl I used to be. 

What would you say to your 16 year old self?

They live amongst us.  We see them in most of the places we visit on a regular basis, and they know us as much as we know them…..but we never speak.  They can appear at the local shop, the gym, work and the kids’ school. 

Let me explain:

I am lucky enough to work next to a major Supermarket.  Well it all depends on how you look at it.  Lucky in the sense that I can pop there at any time to get my essentials, but unlucky in the sense that they do the most AMAZING salad bar that I just cannot resist the urge to tuck into for my breakfast.

So there I am, in the car park waiting for them to open.  And around me are my stranger friends.

There is the man who leans on the post reading his paper.  His socks are pulled to up to his knees which are neatly encased in some rather fetching sandals.  He glances up every now and again to check the time on the giant clock outside the supermarket.

There are the two workmen, eager for their morning fry up.  They side step around the front entrance chatting about football and what their plans are for the weekend.

Sat in the car opposite is an old man.  Ready with his reusable shopping bags to grab the early morning discounted bargains.  I will see him later inside.

I take comfort in my stranger friends.  These are the people that I see most mornings, to whom I never speak to, but if they were not there I would be concerned. 

I don’t just have them at the supermarket.  They also appear at the gym, at the same time each weekend on the same machines or set of weights.  We quietly work out side by side, occasionally stopping to rest, change the channels on our Ipods or take a drink.  We never talk.  No, we never talk.

They appear at the school gates.  The parents of other children in the older classes.  We smile, we nod, we pass. We never talk.

I was quite touched recently by the depth of feeling my stranger friends have for me.

I have changed my gym patterns, meaning that my gym stranger friends have not seen me for a while.  I bumped into one in the changing room one weekend.  We smiled and exchanged a look of recognition then went about our business.  Just before she was leaving she turned and said:

“I am glad I bumped into you, we were getting worried”

Surprised, I questioned “Worried? How come?”.

She then went onto tell me that I had been the talk of the mornings gym goers.  When I had not turned up for a few mornings on holiday.  Then after a couple of weeks assumed that I had just decided to change gyms.

It was very sweet and I assured her that it was just because we had a shift in family life.  We stood and put the worlds to rights for a bit, before I left and pondered why I had not struck up conversation before with this lovely lady.

So, next time you see your stranger friends have a chat.  They could turn out to be a real friend!