“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.”
“Since becoming a Mum, my attitude to fitness has changed dramatically. I want to be a positive role model for my daughter showing her that fitness is a way of life and makes us feel strong and healthy and that size doesn’t matter.
When I was growing up my family didn’t go swimming or do any sort of family activities together, we ate terribly all the time and I would only take part in PE at school because I had to. I wasn’t educated about the right sort of foods we should eat, I grew up in a time that size zero was the size we had to be to fit in, get that job or man!!!
Since becoming a Mum I have struggled with my new identity and role as mummy and exercise is my therapy. It definitely makes me a better mum, it makes me feel that I can get through the day of mummy… Mummy… Mummy!”
“I’ve struggled with my mental health since my early teen years. I lacked a lot of confidence and self belief growing up. I tried pole dance for the first time when I was sixteen, despite being told I wasn’t allowed to by a negative influence in my life. I removed them from my life and tried it, instantly falling in love.
Due to health and location issues, I couldn’t pole dance much after that until I was 20. I was in need of a huge confidence boost after a series of unfortunate events and to do something that was simply for me. Instantly it revoked a passion within myself, became my way of coping and building myself back up enough to care enough to want to keep living.
I later went on to train to become a pole dance instructor and have been teaching the sport to a range of individuals of all walks of life.