Like everyone else, my journey from fitness enthusiast to professional has been a rather convoluted journey, with many bumps, twists and turns – but a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, eh?!
I shall back track to my playground days where all throughout school, not one for academia, you would always find me running around at break times, swinging on the monkey bars by my ankles, or indeed staring at the clock waiting for the lunch bell to ring or the end of the day so I could lace up and hit the turf or the track for whatever extra-curricular activity I had signed up for that term. I always loved sports, on all teams – hockey, netball, gymnastics, rounders, cricket- you name it; if it involved huffing and puffing and working up a sweat – you bet I did it. However there was a slight problem in my eyes – I was overweight and didn’t quite fit in with my other team members. Being in all female education, which as we all know from Hollywood chick flicks like “Mean Girls” is quite a hostile environment, and my size was often pointed out to me in various ways. This only got worse as I entered senior school and boys were added into the mix when our school would have mixers, or I would go to local Youth Club or Cricket Club. My generation was also one of the first to enter the age of “Cyber Bullying”, and as my Mum pointed out, when they were kids, if you were bullied, once you were home you were ‘safe’ until you entered the gates the next day. However, with my experience, we had mobile phones, MSN, Piczo Websites and BEBO, so bullies could get you in person at school, and also in what should be the security of your own bedroom. Quickly my self esteem plummeted and I became very aware of my appearance.
From my early teens my focus was drilled in me for the sole pursuit of “Getting Skinny”, and I unfortunately fluctuated in weight for years, caught in a hamster wheel of the restrict/over exercise/ binge cycle. Then wanting to pursue a career in Musical Theatre and Dance, the emphasis still remained on “getting skinny” and I would go through hell or high water to get there. This involved spin classes, any sort of cardiovascular work and short, sugary fixes of chocolate to fuel my days. I stayed in this pattern on and off for years, and it built up to the point in my 2nd year at Musical Theatre College on 1st January 2014 where I had just turned 20, was 5’6”, weighing just over 8 and a half stone, and still wanting to be thinner. It was needless to say I had a distorted perception of my body and an unhealthy relationship with exercise and food.
My brother had bought me a block of personal training sessions with an ex-ballet dancer at my local gym so I could learn from someone who understood the dancers’ world and could relate to my experience and hopefully share their wisdom in an effort to break my cycle and restore some balance. Like everyone else, the New Year meant it was time to create a “New Me”, so I used this app called “Instagram” (Don’t know if you’ve heard of it?!) to use as an online diary to track my workouts and food choices, and hopefully my progress, christening myself as “The Fierce Fitness Foodie”. I remember her putting dumbbells and kettlebells in front of me and looking at her as if she had asked me if she could eat my first born child when she asked me to lift or swing them, because like a lot of people, I thought lifting these would suddenly “jack me up” like Arnie, and my biggest fear was to be, well, “Big”. I am so grateful for that PTs patience, the amount of times I cried, shook and didn’t understand what she was saying, thinking she was trying to sabotage me – she was a total saint and really helped me change my outlook on fitness. It was by no means a linear progression – I understood one moment, then it felt like I was lobotomised and I was back to square one, bingeing and smashing cardio to try “undo” said binge. It took about until the summer of that year when I begun to understand more about fitness and the importance of nutrition, then renaming myself “The London Fitness Guide” as I wanted to try out all different crazy exercise classes in and around London, as I had definitely caught the fitness bug!! From then, I decided to further my learning by enrolling as a fitness instructor in my third and final year of education, so that I could use it in tandem with my performing career for myself and to earn an extra bit of moolah on the side for other dancers who may be in need of exercise or nutritional support, as like my PT I could use my experiences to relate to others in similar situations.
However, my Musical Theatre aspirations came to a sudden halt early on in this third year and I had to leave due to a family matter, and then pretty much fell into fitness and the world of blogging. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, even if the reason isn’t clear at the time! However, this family meltdown of course hit me hard and the first thing to go was my Achilles heel: my relationship between food, exercise and my body image. Through 2015 I again found myself on that dreaded hamster wheel, and felt I couldn’t own up to it as my position as a blogger and now a fitness professional was becoming more widely known. I had created an alter ego that I had to live up to and couldn’t admit I had failed, and let myself of “my following” down.
Despite this, I had an incredible year with regards to my fitness: I tried out so many classes and different workouts to feed my insatiable hunger for knowledge with regards to fitness, blowing my mind all the things I could do with my body. I have also worked for fantastic fitness firms: starting my career at HIIT Gym, Lomax, Paola’s Body Barre and now where I sit and stay at Core Collective in Kensington.
So even now, I’ll admit I am by no means perfect and I am a work in progress, just hoping to retrace my steps and find my way back to balance. For 2016, my fitness mantra is the pursuit of “Athletics, not Aesthetics” – picking out athletic or sport-specific goals and with correct nutrition and training, we see that aesthetics are merely a by-product of being able to do fulfilling and exhilarating physical challenges. My first challenge, which I shall explain in my following post titled “Operation Peak Physique” explains this further in detail, and exploring my first challenge which is the IGO N60: The Norwegian Quadrathalon.