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Covid Female Humans of HIIT Mental Health Sport

Amy Mackenzie

From a very young age I have always been incredibly active. Growing up I was like most normal kids, swimming lessons, bike rides and trips to the playground. But there was something not so normal compared to others. From the age of 4 I started acrobatic gymnastics. Like many other things it started as a hobby, training once or twice a week. However, as the years went on. It seemed that gymnastics was ‘my thing’, and I was destined to progress and succeed in the sport. By the age of 10 I was training up to 18 hours a week and competing internationally. By the age of 12 I was training 24 hours a week, I had represented my country and was now touring the country performing in the acrobatic troupe Spelbound. Of course this time of my life was such an incredible experience, and something I will forever be so proud of. But of course it comes with a hell of a lot of hard work.

I continued to train these huge hours, until the age of 16, continuing to perform and compete for my country. I decided to step away from the sport at the age of 16, as the demands of the training became too much. Of course by 16 my body was desperate to go through puberty so managing my weight, (which is something that was hugely important in a sport like acrobatics) was tough. I was training 20+ hours a week and running for 1-2 hours everyday to keep my weight down. I just needed a break.

When that break finally came, for a long time I refused to do any sort of exercise. I just wanted to sit and eat chocolate and I think for the first week I had retired that’s exactly what I did. It was great for a month or so, it was still a novelty to just sit and watch telly without knowing you had to get in a leotard later on. But as time went on I began to lose myself. I had no idea who I was without gymnastics. What else was I good at, I had no idea. I had never done anything other than gymnastics. About a year after retiring I got a personal trainer at my local gym. At first it was okay, I had a coach telling me what to do, which was something I was used to but I just didn’t feel as strong as I used to. It felt like some sort of punishment. Of course my body wasn’t in any sort of shape that it used to be when I was training, that was something I found incredibly difficult to cope with. Because of this I went into panic mode. I stopped exercising again because everything I did just didn’t feel good enough. I wasn’t seeing any physical changes or improvements so I felt there was no point.

Another year passes and finally my path crossed with the right people. Those incredible people being my current dance teachers. They coach me, support me and have taught me that I am talented and successful away from gymnastics. I now dance 11 hours a week and get to condition my body as well as perform without such high stakes.

March 2020, COVID-19 hit and the dance school had shut, I wasn’t working so it’s safe to say, my anxiety was through the roof at the thought of not doing what I knew I was good at, burning off the anxious energy dancing usually takes care of. So day 1 of Lockdown, I made it a goal of mine to workout everyday. I had managed to get hold of a spin bike so I was spinning everyday along with endless amounts of home workouts.

Now reflecting back on lockdown and where I am currently at, I have finally realised that for me exercise is so important to keep my mental health at bay. The physical changes my body have made are a bonus. Happiness is the most important and that is what exercise gives me. The fact I feel happy, makes me feel strong, not how many press ups I can do.”

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Covid Female Humans of HIIT Mental Health Running School

Priscilla Lagally

“I was a very active child back then. I join every single sport in school because that makes me happy. My fitness journey started when I was 18 years old. I worked out every single day (not joking), I was obsessed with it. But it was not a healthy lifestyle for sure. I lost weight because I was barely eating. I skipped breakfast and only ate a small amount of food. It was crazy! So you can say my relationship with my fitness was a roller-coaster ride.

There’s times that I’m too lazy to workout because of work. My work is from 9 – 6 or I even work extra hours. It is hard to stay motivated because I’m too tired to exercise – all you want to do is eat and sleep – so that’s what I do and I stop exercising for a few years.

I started to exercise again when my friends asked me to join an Ultra Marathon. It was my first time joining so I had to prepare myself, so I started exercising again, going for a run after work and controlling my eating habits – that was 2017. Exercising helps me to relieve stress too, that’s why I love running.

My goals when it comes to fitness is that – I just want to stay healthy in a good way. It needs to be balanced. I still have a long way to go to achieve my goal but with a little bit of motivation and commitment – I will get there someday.

Honestly, my lifestyle right now is not organised because of this world pandemic. But I started to work out again because I know that is what I needed – working out will help me to be healthy and also it is good for my mental health – obviously gaining weight makes me feel bad about myself but I’m working on loving myself first. That is the most important thing to do.”

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Covid Female Humans of HIIT Pregnancy Running School

Kristin

“I was the kid who HATED gym class growing up. I did the minimum to get by. But I’ve always been a girl after a challenge.

When I was 21 I decided to start a Couch to 5k program. I ran some races and was sporadic, until 2011 when I decided I wanted to train for a half marathon. Like I said, I’m a girl after a challenge (so why not jump from a 5k to a half, right?). In 2012 I ran my first two, and only timed, half marathons, 5 months apart from each other.

After that, I was hooked and I continued to run intermittently. Around 2014, I started trying to conceive, which proved difficult, and in 2015 we turned to IVF, so I was required to stop running. It was worth the pause when my twin boys were born in 2016.

After that, running was put on the back burner, between becoming a mom and going through nurse practitioner school. I still enjoyed exercising, and thought it was a great way to release stress and have “me” time. I turned to home workouts instead, out of convenience.

Fast forward to 2020. My boys are older now. I’m a nurse practitioner.

We are in a pandemic. While I had continued to exercise, I found I missed running. It was one of the one safe things I could do during this scary, stressful time. So I bought some new running shoes and started running diligently again, 3-4 days a week.

Then I signed up for my first marathon. Remember those half marathons I ran? In 2012? Yeah, I hadn’t run that long or far in ages. My marathon is in April 2021. I’m hoping it’s live, but even if it isn’t, I am grateful for the training experience I have had so far. I’m officially halfway there, and I am amazed and proud of what my body can do.

I run and exercise for myself. It’s my time alone to just turn off my brain and move my body. But I also do it for my boys, who see me and tell me they want to exercise just like me. One of my sons has even gone on some runs with me, and I hope that will be something we can do together for years to come.

I have recently started a new phase in my journey: coaching. I want to share my love of running and exercise with people who may be a little nervous to begin, but have a “why” for getting started. It’s not always easy, but it will always be worth doing, and nothing makes me happier than cheering people on and helping them reach their goals.”