My relationship with fitness and has changed and evolved over time. It has been positive and negative, there have been false starts and restarts. I am not an athlete or a competitor, I am just someone who loves movement, loves the positive and transformative effects exercise can have, and I have now made my love of fitness my career.
Where it all started
Nearly ten years ago fitness to me seemed like something others were doing, it was like some secret club that I would never have a chance to be a part of. I was an outsider looking in. I was never sporty growing up, I participated in trampolining for a number of years and enjoyed that, but I was gangly and uncoordinated and generally hated exercise, especially running. I remember being told a number of times how un-sporty and awful I was at exercise and those comments stuck.
When I first start trying to get healthy and fit I quit and joined the same gym 3 times in a year. At that time I was studying at Uni and worked in bars and nightclubs from late night to 6 am, leaving work as the sun was coming up. My diet was made up of Jagerbombs and cup of soup, I did not drink water, not even a single glass, instead, I drank coffee and coke all day long. I spent most of my weekends asleep or hungover.
Back then my lifestyle was making me miserable, depressed, unmotivated and lonely. I was in an unhealthy relationship, in a dead-end job, and felt isolated and alone and alcohol was no longer enough to push those feelings away. There was no sudden epiphany, I didn’t experience any trauma or loss, I just slowly started realizing that the only person who was responsible for making a change in my life was me.
Instead of blaming everyone around me, I started to shift my mindset to make my health a priority. It became something I valued, rather than something I ignored. I made myself a priority and stopped putting myself last. These shifts took time, tiny steps day by day and many stumbles along the way.
The first steps
I quit my job and I started a new incredibly stressful job in Child Protection where I was bullied and overworked. Fitness became somewhere I could go to manage my stress, anxiety, and frustration from work, an outlet to clear my head and manage my emotions. I was being made to feel small at work and was still in a crappy relationship. The gym was the only place where I felt no longer small, but powerful.
During this time my relationship with fitness and my body changed, fitness became something that I was getting better at, my body became something which I could see changing and transforming. Seeing progress became addictive and as a beginner, I was seeing massive improvements from each session. I still remember how proud I was when I nailed my first push up and pull up.
Movement was my therapy
Shortly after this, I was involved in a fairly major trauma, which sent me to intensive care for a week and required major surgery. I left hospital completely losing all the muscle and strength I had gained from my hard work in the gym over the last few years. I was a tiny shell of myself both physically and mentally.
During this time fitness became a form of recovery from the trauma. I rehabbed my broken body and found strength in being able to move, being able to lift things, and noticing the function and strength return to my body. Lifting become my therapy. The voice in my head was there every day telling me I am good enough, I am stronger than yesterday and I am unbreakable.
Somewhere I got lost
Along this journey that voiced changed, it planted seeds of doubt in my mind. The ex-partner who told me I needed to hit the gym because my butt jiggled, the trainer who told me I could get on stage if I was just a little leaner, the male co-workers who made comments about my body and my training. Those voices and these negative feelings and beliefs from my past that were usually only outside of the gym had now started to creep in.
The relationship I had with others and with myself had become unhappy and destructive. That same voice was there telling me I am not lean enough never good enough, never perfect enough. This is where my love of fitness and health had now become obsessive, restrictive and punishing. Where I was always pushing myself, never giving myself enough rest or recovery and struggling with feelings of inadequacy.
On the outside I was fine, I looked great and didn’t even recognize what was going on whilst I was living in that crazy obsessive bubble. The problem was I was surrounded by people who deep down felt exactly the same way, I was taking advice from others who also felt small inside and out of control.
So much of this was me and my own insecurities, however I was also surrounded by the brainwashing that comes from the fitness industry a focus on aesthetics, leanness, perfection, and pressure to look and behave a certain way. Food shaming, body shaming, and orthorexia are rife in the fitness industry, punishment and suffering are celebrated. Only now I can reflect back on it and see just how much it screwed me up mentally.
Slowly things began to change
Things all really changed for me in January 2017. After an epic fail in a new job in my social work career I made an impulsive decision to go to Nepal, with the intention of going trekking. I had done little to no research and figured I would work it out when I get there.
I ended up spending 30 days worth of hiking through mountains at altitude, in the peak of the winter, with barely any other tourists in sight. I went in and around the Himalayan mountains, up to Everest base camp and some even higher and more picturesque spots. My favourite moment was at a peak at Kalar Pattar which is the highest part of the Himalayas that you can climb without special climbing equipment. I scrambled up there nearly whilst everyone else was knackered in the hut and just enjoyed the view, peace and achievement.
It was an amazing experience, and I started to reflect on all my body could do, not what my body looks like. All the hours in the gym were now paying off to let me achieve with ease these impressive and uncomfortably long days of hiking and climbing at altitude.
And slowly and surely that voice that was there many years ago came back, telling me I am strong, I am powerful, I am unbreakable. I remembered the power and the strength of my mind which created feelings of power and resilience, rather than insecurity and doubt.
Where I am at now
While I was there in the freezing mountains I knew that I was not the only one going through this, but that everyone around me was. I was in the majority, not the minority. I knew that this is the important stuff we should be talking about, sharing and being open with, not hiding behind and feeling suffocated by these thoughts and feelings.
I can look back now and recognize that there were a lot of things in fitness that I didn’t do very well and a lot of things I did that kind of ruined my body. I recognize there are also a lot of things that probably I pushed on to other people too, I have to own that.
I’m at the point now where the bubble has popped, and once you see some of the BS that goes around, you can never unsee it. I am here to point out BS when I see it if it helps someone from stopping going through experiences I did.
I have a very healthy relationship with my body, food, and exercise and the things I love in the gym. Feeling strong and powerful are also the things I now enjoy doing outside of the gym. I love exploring in nature going on adventures in the outdoors and I still push my body and challenge myself to be the best version of myself in a way that is kind and from a place of compassion.
If you can relate to any of these feelings, you are not alone.
I am lucky enough that I get to help others who may be stuck in those feelings of insecurity and never enough. I work with women and men to build a healthy relationship with their body, food and self.