“I have danced since the age of 7, once I started intense dance training at university, age 19, I began doing more bootcamp sessions and conditioning along with my dance training. As a dancer the industry can be hard, you’re taught very early that to get jobs after you have graduated, you need to be a size 6/8 as they judge you on your appearance.
I was luckily already a size 6/8 but I developed an unhealthy relationship with food for about 2 years. This was because I was scared of putting weight on and not getting jobs after graduating. In my third year of university I tried to educate myself more with how nutrition will complement the exercise that I was doing, I fell in love with learning about this end after working abroad for a year dancing as well as leading activities like stretching and water aerobics, I took further action to gain qualifications to become a personal trainer.
I help loads of people with their health and well-being, but my main focus now is to also to help the dancers that need to be educated on how to fuel their bodies right, to get the most out of their training but to also fuel them for their long days of rehearsals and shows after graduating when they do get their jobs!”
“I have always had a bad relationship with my weight, I was always a big child and grew up thinking it was in my genes and bullied. However looking back I realise I just wasn’t very active, I didn’t play football or run, I played a bit of basketball and other than that I concentrated on my art.
Moving into my late teenage years into my 20s I went out a lot, drank too much and when I went to uni I ate too much pizza! To be honest I don’t think I ate too badly. It was the portion sizes where I was going wrong.
I met my partner Emma in 2009, at that point she was on a weightloss journey and it motivated me to do the same, I went to the gym I looked at what I ate and I lost 7st. However, less than 2 years later I put it back on again, because I wasn’t in the right mental space of mind. I was being told I looked Ill, or people said they preferred the old me! I worked as a regional manager for many years, meaning I was always out and didn’t really plan my food properly and didn’t have time for exercise (well I didn’t think I had time!) and this led to me getting bigger.
Roll on a number of years and we get to March 2019, my mum had developed Cancer and my partner Emma was being tested for Cancer. It made me look in the mirror and I did not like what I saw…..25 and a half stone and ridiculously unhealthy. So I changed….
I decided to walk my dog for an hour a day at least, I looked at my food and I increased my water intake.
I used MyFitnessPal to track my food and set myself a goal. The weight started coming off, I felt healthier, my mind was more at ease and my confidence grew. I set a goal of 7stone in a year for my birthday and I achieved it by the end of 2019.
My journey continues to develop as I push myself more and more, the weight loss started slowing down and I knew I needed to do more. I sponsor Guide Dogs for the Blind, and they text me about a new fundraising event called #100forguidedogs, and it was based around running, cycling or swimming and it came at a time that I was thinking of starting the Couch to 5k running program. So I used that as a motivator and started running to raise money.
I have now completed not only a 5k, but I regularly run 10K and recently completed my own half marathon. I am now into a new stage of my journey, introducing cross training to bring in new exercise to support my running but to also lose fat and build muscle.
To date I have lost just over 9stone, 13” around my waist, 8” around my hips and 12.5” around my chest.
I feel more confident, I have a newfound respect for exercise, I enjoy running and I enjoy my food.
It isn’t all about diets or crash courses, it’s a lifestyle change, I still eat a pizza takeaway or fish and chips but it’s all in moderation.”
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.”
“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 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’ve always loved sport because of the amazing way it connects and unites people together. It gives people a fun escape and a chance to be free. I was a super sporty kid specialising in football & rowing but enjoying a bit of everything really. I realised very young that I wanted to help other people to get active and improve their skills and confidence through sport so I started coaching aged 14.
Sixteen years later I’m still loving it and have coached all over the world with various charities, youth organisations and federations. I really believe sport has the power to change the world & make people happier. I set up Brave in 2016 with the mission of inspiring people to be more confident through trying sport & activities. We’re based in Bristol, UK & Arowcania, Chile. In Bristol we run a football group focusing on wellbeing, confidence and enhancing mental health. In Chile we have an adventure park which we use to help the whole community to get active outdoors and to build their confidence & step out of their comfort zones- and to have fun! One day I’d love Brave to be a worldwide charity making a huge impact on the happiness & mental health of people everywhere.
In addition to Brave I also contribute to The Global Goals World Cup. We are a collective of likeminded coaches delivering sessions to teach and inspire people to be active and activist about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It’s an amazing cause and a very unique group of passionate trailblazers!
When I’m not coaching or running Brave, I’m happiest surfing, kitesurfing, mountain biking, SUPing or playing football with my friends & family. I hope through my work I can help other people to find what makes them buzz too!”
“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.”
“I have always been fit and healthy but things turned sideways when I was diagnosed with “invisible disease” which people know as “hypothyroidism”. My weight started piling off and had very less energy for anything. Later, my sedentary lifestyle made it even worse and I started feeling like a prisoner in my own body.
Then one day I thought that enough is enough because once again I wanted to feel healthy and fit. So, I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I will be consistent in my journey and will never miss a workout and I kept my promise. Since then I started eating right and working out every single day. Those small changes made a huge impact on my life and as a result now my thyroids are normal, I am very active and healthy; and I have lost 33 pounds.
I am still far away from my goals but also very proud and happy for the little achievements which I have achieved during the course. I have much more stamina and much more energy now.
It’s true when people say that, “to help others first you have to help yourself and It’s not a destination but indeed a journey”, so I am enjoying my journey. This has become my lifestyle now and I can’t miss it for a world because health (physical and mental) is everything and most importantly it is helping me to rediscover my relationship with my mind and my body.”