“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.”
“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.”
It can disappear in an instant. I grew up as an athlete – competitive gymnastics followed by competitive swimming. I then got into racing triathlons in 2003 at age 19. Sadly in the beginning of 2004 my health started declining very quickly, and for 4 years I had no answers. Finally in 2008 I was diagnosed with endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and eventually adenomyosis.
I had to take 10 years off from sports of any kind, and I was barely able to be active at all – some days even walking was a huge challenge. I fought hard for 10 years to get my health and quality of life back, and I looked forward to racing again! I refused to let illness take over my life permanently.
I’ve happily been back to training and racing since late 2013, and loving every minute! I’ve also started trail running which I love, and I’ve done a half marathon and will be doing my second on Christmas Day! Friends and family ask me why I push my body so hard, and my answer is always, because for 10 years I couldn’t.
I will keep pushing as long as I can, to prove to myself I’m still capable.”
“Since as a young girl I guess I had always been quite active and when I got into middle school I joined up to the cross country group and loved it! I joined army cadets at 13 and the discipline really helped me to be better and more efficient in deciding what I wanted to do with my life in the future, I left at 16 and then exercise went down hill and gained a little weight when college started.
Exercise means life to me and really saved me from my own depression, I had found Bodypump from LesMills at my local gym and it completely changed my perspective on ending everything right there and then and kept me going. After feeling the drive and motivation from the group exercise class it just grew and grew and grew and now I’m a qualified Bodypump instructor myself and run my own HIIT bootcamps 2-3 times a week and learning to become a holistic nutrition advisor. Before all this I had just left London, I was a smoker, never drank, found comfort in food everyday and started becoming even more aware of the fact that I had anxiety all my life. I wasn’t happy and just felt so sorry for myself and enough was enough. Exercise is my way of channeling my insecurities of being different from the rest, to feel strong, to stay focused and committed but to also live my life, to feel and be better than myself, to see the bigger picture and to know that if I feel sad, worried or even having an attack that exercise is my number 1 pillar.
When SAS who dares wins came around I was totally hooked and my passion for exercise got even bigger and soon enough I got myself onto Ant Middletons mind over muscle day camps and got to meet him myself. I still wear the wrist band we all got given from that day and wear it everyday to remind myself that I can do anything I put my mind to and to seal the deal even more… I got it tattooed. HIIT training and Bodypump is the love of my life and I can’t see myself quitting any day soon.”
“I was that girl that walked by a mirror and turned her head away because she would cry every time she saw herself. One day I got fed up with crying and feeling sorry for myself so I started working out with these little home guides from online and counting my calories. The weight started to melt off although counting calories wasn’t sustainable and the workout guides were becoming easier by the day. This is when I found Beachbody! It was a life change. It’s like the Netflix of fitness and it also showed me how to establish a healthy balanced diet. When I use the word diet I do not mean I’m on a diet. I mean diet as in what I eat. I used to associate the word diet with restrictive and terrible habits now I see it as fuel for my body. If I have any advice for anyone wanting to start their fitness journey here’s some tips:
1) ditch the scale and start taking pictures and measurements because the scale LIES
2) diet is knowing what to eat and not what you cannot eat
3) move that beautiful body of yours for at least 30 minutes a day! If you can’t workout that’s fine to just go for a walk!
4) trust the process because it’s so worth it in the end!
I have lost over 20 pounds of fat and definitely gained lots of muscles! We need to realize that muscle weighs more than fat so that’s why I say the scale lies because it’s not taking into account how much heavier muscle is compared to fat 🙂
I’m now a coach for Beachbody and have an Instagram page – @hann__24. I believe in creating healthy habits and moving our bodies to ensure a happy healthy lifestyle!
“I am old now. I have struggled with mental health all my life due to an unhappy childhood. I was anorexic at 15 and experienced suicidal thoughts from 13. I had issues with my body image.
Exercise wasn’t big when I was young and my adoptive parents weren’t interested. I was bullied at school so only took up sports in my twenties, netball, hockey and yoga. I enjoyed the buzz of exercise and the camaraderie of team sport. I found I was good at sport. I brought my children up to be sporty and my husband was mad about cricket and football. I taught full time, hiding my mental health problems and found any exercise gave me a release from negative thoughts and made me feel positive and able to carry on. I first joined a gym and did exercise classes about 25 years ago. I have tried everything from kick boxing, running and aerobics and they all helped with me having a positive mindset and feeling better about myself. I am now used to HIIT, gym workouts, walking, jogging and now have Personal Trainers as well. The Townsend Twins train me.
I was finally diagnosed with all my mental illnesses in May 2019 but have had breakdowns since 2001. I have been on medication since 1996.
I started to increase my exercise regime after my diagnosis. Once I could start cutting back on medication I was able to exercise more. I find getting my heart pumping from HIIT classes gives my mood a huge lift and makes life bearable. I do Metafit and am proud I can do burpees. I also have a mini trampoline. During lockdown exercise has been my lifeline. Without exercise I wouldn’t still be here. Exercise is a huge part of my life and I work out several times a day everyday. I started posting on Instagram in the summer showing how exercise helps me manage my mental health. I am not great at some things but none of my photos are doctored and I post honestly. I now have over 800 followers.
“As a child I never really took part or particularly enjoyed exercise apart from PE at school because you had no choice. I was a bit of a rebel as a child and was smoking by the age of 12, shocking I know, it disgusts me now, but at 12 years old, and mixing with the wrong crowd and an older sibling who also smoked, well I guess I didn’t know any better.
I started running about 17 years ago just after quitting smoking. I didn’t want to gain weight so I joined a gym and started running on a Treadmill. I was very slim but so unfit I could only run for about a minute without stopping. I continued pushing and upping the time on the Treadmill and when I managed a whole 25 minutes I was chuffed to bits.
I lost my dad suddenly 2 years later in 2005 at the age of 55, he was a smoker and didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle, we also have a family history of heart disease /failure, so I wanted to improve my health and fitness even more.
My first official race was the Greggs children cancer charity run in Gosforth, a 5k Cross country run in May 2009, I also took part in this run for the following 3 years. I then entered the Great North Run for 2012 but had to defer until 2013 due to a prolapse and bulging discs in my back. This was a huge set back for me as I was unable to run for 3 months and even after this time it was a gradual increase in activity over the next 6 – 8 months to gain my strength and fitness back. Mentally this was really hard as I was on crutches for 2 months and in chronic pain . To help me get through this I took long walks on my crutches and carried out the strength and stretching exercises the physio gave me to keep my mind focused on recovering.
I ran my first half marathon (GNR) in 2013, my biggest achievement at this point, in a time of 2hrs 7 minutes.
I ran this in memory of my dad and my uncle who had died 4 years earlier of cancer. I always remember crossing that finish line and being overwhelmed with emotions, a mixture of pride and sadness. I then went on to complete the GNR again in 2016 and 2019. I also completed the Hamsterley Forest half marathon which was brutal, 3 miles up steep terrain which I completed in 2hr 10m, my hardest achievement by far.
I run 5-6 times a week, covering around 40 – 60 miles a week. I love how a morning run sets me up mentally for my entire day. I have entered the Manchester Marathon for next October which will be my first ever marathon. Excited but nervous is an understatement.
I set up a Facebook group & my IG page to help inspire and motivate others to increase their activity, whether that’s running, walking, cycling whatever they prefer to give them a healthier lifestyle. From my experience consistency is most definitely the key to success.
“I had a relationship with fitness but it was sporadic. I took fitness seriously in spurts: when I needed to enlist in the military. Before that, I ran track in high school but not seriously. When I was discharged, my health took a nose-dive. I did not feel good about myself and when things didn’t go well, I turned to food. Food was my very best friend. I joined a gym because I didn’t like how I look and how tight my clothes fit. The bigger I bought my clothes, the more I was buying bigger clothes since I outgrew my clothes within months. At my heaviest, I was 210 pounds.
Getting stuck with a year of personal training was the “best”, overlooked mistake I could have made. Two awesome women personal trainers assisted me on my journey. I learned the same way I made time to engage in other activities, I would have to learn to schedule and prioritize fitness. When I started putting my exercise workouts on my calendar, I became more accountable and made less excuses for working out. Even now with gyms closed, I use the weights in my house, download a fitness app on the phone, and get my workout in. Either way, 6 days a week for at least 45 minutes, I am going to engage in some type of HITT, strength training, or cardio. I give myself one day of active recovery and rest. For fun, I like to run races. I see it all as a great way to help with my depression and anxiety and to allow myself “me time” when I will not allow myself to be disturbed. I allow myself to be selfish during my workout times.
What has really inspired me is seeing other women who have embraced weight training, like my former personal trainers. I always thought if women lifted heavy weights, they would look like “She-Hulk”. I learned later it’s not the case. My hat is always off when I see other women doing their thing in fitness, especially women of color. It’s a great feeling and maybe it will open the door for others to put health and fitness in the top 5.”
“By day I work within the NHS and by night I’m an Inclusive Dance and Zumba Instructor.
Growing up, I was super active. I loved playing sports. Hockey was my main sport and I started off by pulling around an old sawn-off hockey stick of my dad’s from when I could just about walk. I love to dance too and I’ve tried hip hop and Bollywood dancing over the years.
My life changed in 2008 at 24 years old – I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic auto-immune condition where my immune system attacks my bowels. Symptoms include blood loss, diarrhoea, bowel urgency, pain and fatigue. My most debilitating symptom is fatigue, which has affected how I can stay active.
Then in 2011, I was the victim of a traumatic, high-speed car accident. Overnight, my ability to exercise was taken away. I struggled to get out of bed by myself and I literally had to take everything one step at a time. I suffered with physical injuries as well as PTSD, depression and anxiety, which took years to recover from.
These personal challenges led me to becoming an Inclusive Dance and Zumba instructor. I wanted to provide a safe space for all, including those with disabilities, long-term conditions and mental health issues to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of dance. It’s also provided a space to have an open dialogue about the issues we’re facing and share our personal challenges. That in itself, has been truly powerful.
Being active from a young age taught me many skills which I‘ve used throughout my life and stood me in good stead to face these challenges. I’ve had to adapt and think outside of the box to find what works for me.”
“I’ve not always had my disability, in fact, growing up I was extremely sporty. I did karate lessons, signed up for every event at sports day, ran charity runs and eventually even got into my county Badminton team! That was an amazing achievement for me as despite my love of sport, I never really had much aptitude for it – especially running – but hey, it’s the taking part that counts right?
As I got older I tried all sorts of exercise classes, gym workouts and developed a love for mountaineering. Indoor climbing is by far what I miss the most these days. I was diagnosed with a mild case of M.E. in my third year of university, and to be honest, I kind of ignored it. Boy did I live to regret that. You can’t beat M.E. you see, thanks to the main symptom of Post Exertional Malaise (PEM) – which basically means the more I exert myself, the more ill I am. So as I continued to work hard and exercise hard, ignoring the signals my body was sending me, and using painkillers and drugs to mask my body’s cries to stop, I just became increasingly ill.
I unfortunately now have a moderate case of M.E. which heavily restricts what I can do. Even small activities can trigger PEM. I have a perching stool in the kitchen for washing up, but I still have to spend a few hours resting afterwards as my entire upper-body will feel like I’ve been lifting weights. I recently purchased a coverless duvet because changing bed sheets left me feeling worse than that time I did a half marathon years ago. I even cut most of my hair off because of the exertion of washing and styling it. Theoretically I could still go climb a wall, but I would ‘crash’ afterwards, becoming extremely ill and bedridden for days or weeks. So traditional exercise is kind of off the table…
With M.E. you can only really talk about activity rather than exercise, because things like washing up may now be a major workout for you. However, M.E. varies a LOT in severity, so you’ll sometimes see individuals with the mildest cases still doing low impact workouts, but the most severe of us are permanently confined to bed. It’s kind of like putting pins & needles and paralysis on the same scale.
I still struggle with doing any kind of activity for activities sake, most of my limited energy is used up on day-to-day living activities. But I’m trying to get into the habit of doing something, even if it’s once or twice a week, sometimes not even that. I like to do 5 minute ‘yoga’, though it’s basically 90% child’s pose. Essentially I get a yoga mat out and do some stretches. I think this helps, as I spend so much time sat still, inactive, that I think my body just starts cramping up, but I can’t really say for sure. I do know that mentally it makes a difference, it makes me feel like I haven’t given up, like there’s still something I can do, it reminds me that I’m not being lazy, that I want to do more, it’s just not good for me.
If anyone else with M.E. reads this, I can’t give you much advice because of how varied our symptoms are. Just make sure to listen to your body. Don’t push it. I know society teaches us that we should push harder, that we shouldn’t take a day off unless we’re really ill, the whole ‘no pain no gain’ but sometimes that backfires. Sometimes your body just can’t take it and if you don’t listen you’ll only make things worse. Had I stopped and listened, maybe I would still be able to work part-time at least, do some of those low impact workouts, be able to make it up a single flight of stairs without stopping to rest.
So that’s my story. Listen to your body, work with it, not against it, do what you as an individual can, and forget what others can do. For most people, exercise is worthwhile and good for your health, but that doesn’t mean you have to go all out. Just getting a walk into your day is good enough for some. We’re all made differently.”