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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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Family Humans of HIIT Mental Health Sport

Becca Todd

“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!”

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Holly Clyne

“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.”

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Cancer Humans of HIIT Male Running Sport

Rob McMurdo

“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.”

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Humans of HIIT Male Sport

Gareth Mate

“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.”

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Female Humans of HIIT Running School Sport Uncategorized

Nelly Kasei

“I wasn’t really sporty. I spent most of my primary school in choir. I loved it because there was less effort.

However; I became adventurous when I joined high school. Started off with field hockey which ultimately introduced me to running

Running wasn’t my favorite but I loved field hockey and it was the only way to stay fit. Slowly by slowly; I started falling in love with it and it became my way to go for fitness.

I have been running 10 years plus. Not consistently but a few times a year. This year with everything that is happening; I have taken it a notch higher and it has been my stress reliever. So far I am loving it; I already know that I am running more than last year and I hope to continue like that. For me; it’s more of a mindset than it is of a physical effort. 

Anybody can run; it only starts with one step at a time.”

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Ryan Harris

“I was an athlete throughout my childhood up through high school. Played multiple sports. Even after high school I stayed active for several years playing flag football. It wasn’t until my late 20’s when I got married and my wife and I started our family that I found every excuse to not be active. 

Then about 5 years ago when my son started playing youth soccer and I realized I was so out of shape I could not keep up with 5 & 6 years old on a soccer field. This is when I decided it was time for no more excuses. I just needed to find something that would keep me motivated. 

A good friend of mine introduced me to obstacle course racing. I looked into it and thought oh this looks fun. I soon realized that I needed much more in the way of fitness to be able to run these races. I started working out and training at a local gym 3 to 4 days a week and also running several times a week. Once I realized how much better I felt physically and the benefits I would see from a healthier lifestyle it lit a fire in me. I soon found that my passion was running. 

I set a goal this year of running 1000 miles while also maintaining a balanced life with my family! My wife has also joined me in the fitness journey of life and we workout together several times a week doing her beach body programs.”

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Humans of HIIT Male Mental Health School Sport

Paul Nicholson

Throughout school I was obsessed with sport, I played as much as I could, my whole life was consumed with playing some game. I was immensely competitive and still am today.

From 11 I played for 2 rugby teams, ice skated 4 to 5 times a week, If not we played roller hockey or football. After leaving school this huge void opened up, I began a career in hairdressing and it was a party lifestyle, I gained weight, drank too much, smoked too much and dabbled in recreational drugs.

I started to realise that I was struggling with drink and I couldn’t just have a few, I had to shut the lights completely out. This took its toll professionally, physically and mentally. I hit rock bottom and was around 112kg, so unhealthy and something snapped and I became suicidal.

One day my best friend decided to take me for a game of squash, I can pinpoint that session in summer 2009, as the beginning of my recovery, it awoke my physical side and my competitive nature. We played more and I found new partners, eventually I started at the gym and since 2009 it’s become an integral part of my life. I wanted to end my life and now I wake up earlier every day to be more proactive, I train to be obsessive and it keeps me on the right path. 

The knock on effects it has, my productivity stoked by endorphins and the positivity, I’m almost coming up 40 but I feel younger and more energetic now than when I was 27. Never underestimate the mental health benefits physical activity can yield, it takes time to get there but you’ll never look back.”

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Gemma Marriage

 

“Growing up I always loved being out on my roller skates, sometimes whilst my brothers pulled me along from their BMX bikes! I basically wanted to be in Starlight Express! In school I hated PE, I wasn’t popular and didn’t enjoy any of the activities offered, so I didn’t really get involved in sport.

Fast forward to 2012, I moved to Suffolk to support my husband who unfortunately lost his life to cancer. Finding myself far away from friends and family but needing a support network I reminisced about my childhood roller skates and decided to try out for the local roller derby team.

I was instantly hooked! It’s a full contact team sport, and I love that I can take out all my stress by hitting other people on skates, but it’s also very tactical, so every training session I can lose myself thinking about strategy and gameplay, giving me a chance to switch off from real life.

Eight years on, I still skate at least once a week. We are not able to play competitively at the moment due to coronavirus, so I’m going back to my roots and taking my wheels outside. Right now I’m taking part in a virtual roller marathon, raising funds for a community skating project.

In 2019 I gave birth to my son, and now I’m finding toddler friendly ways that I can skate. Skating was great exercise physically through pregnancy and brilliant for my mental health during the post-natal period. Through derby I have many new friends for life, skating has had a massive positive boost for both my mind and body!”

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Claire Jones

 

“I have always enjoyed sport although I wasn’t the best at typical school sports like netball and hockey. I gave them a go but was never good enough to make the teams. I always wanted to do the typical boys sports.. football, cricket. I’ve always loved running and cross country and did that through my teens.

At uni I met a couple of girls who played football. I joined the women’s football team and loved it. After uni I carried on playing football and got my coaching badges. I kept running and going to the gym to keep fit.

After I had my daughter I gave up coaching as it took up too much time with a young family. I still tried to keep fit by running and going to the gym. I then started to suffer with a bowel condition..

In 2012 I was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis. My only form of treatment was to have my bowel removed. I was given a permanent ileostomy which saved my life. As I recovered I wanted to get fit again.. I set myself targets.. events or distances I wanted to achieve, whether it was a distance or a strength goal. I’m now fitter and stronger then ever. My ileostomy has given me life.. I am determined to live every minute. I go to the gym, have run 2 half marathons, regularly run 5 and 10ks, I have done a duathlon and I cycle.

Keeping fit and active is a privilege, it helps me feel better and allows me to spend time with my daughter when we are out running or cycling together!”