“6 years ago, I had a hard time keeping up with my kids playing in the backyard. I was tired and out of breath. I decided I needed to lose weight and I began running. I ran my first kilometer, and I was so tired, that I could not move off of the couch for half an hour afterwards. However, I kept at it, and began going for longer distances. I lost almost 50 pounds, and have since run many marathons. My goal one day is to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon, and I also want to complete a full Ironman. The most interesting thing that has happened to me on my journey, is how it ended up encouraging so many others, including my three sons. All three have run in various events now, and they are all continuously training for a better lifestyle.”
“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.”
“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.”
“From being 5 For 22 years I played football, week in and week out. I started to lose the excitement that football gave me and so aged 28 I gave up. I searched for something to get me excited – swimming, cycling, rowing and nothing did..
Then aged 29 having started to get out of shape I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.. the NHS were amazing and within a week I was operated on, as I lay in the recovery room out of shape and blown away by what had just happened I decided at that point I would become fitter than I had ever been in my life.
After a couple of months of rehab and not being allowed to exercise I found Parkrun, the rest was history.. I increased my running until I was running every day, then I tried a half marathon, it never stopped and before I knew it I was signed up for a full marathon. Fast forward 3 years and I am fitter than I have ever been, complete 20+ half’s, 2 marathons, have a 5k time of sub 19 mins and have run circa 2800 miles.
I will always remember the time when I was rock bottom, unfit, unable to exercise and remember how it made me feel.. I run every day and Inspire others to do the same. The goal for the next 2 years is to complete an Ironman and complete the journey of Illness to Ironman.”
“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.”
“As a boy growing up I was always fit, running around riding bikes and roller blading which I still do.
As I grew up the busyness of life started to creep in. Work more work, marriage and children. I then started a business.
Back in December 2018 I had my first breakdown. It was too much. I was stretched too thin. February 2019 I took up running.
I now try to run 3 days a week. I say try as sometimes I can’t do it. I blame my medication, or I blame my depression.
The hardest part is getting out of bed, putting on clothes and getting started.
My best runs are the ones that I find takes the most effort to start. They end up being the most rewarding.”
“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!”
“My name is Gareth, I’m English, but live in the Netherlands.
I have always loved sport and continually enjoyed being outdoors. Sport and the outdoors provides a hobby and a release from the daily grind and demands of working life.
It regulates my mind, makes me happy and can de-stress my body and mind.
It provides me with the challenges in life I need and hopefully allows me to inspire others to get outdoors and share their passion too!
I cycle 52 km to work daily, run regularly. I helped others to set up and run Parkrun in Rotterdam and love to hike mountain trails whenever and wherever I can.
In the past I have run many marathons, competed in triathlon events and played a variety of team sports at a good level.
I write through my website all about the outdoors and actively encourage others to follow my lead and use the outdoors as a learning tool and a way fulfilling and more enriched lifestyle.
I have the philosophy of doing as much as I can while I can. Making the most of my days and living life to the full.”