Tag Archives: personal trainer

The Climb

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Yesterday was exactly one year since I couldn’t finish a fun run. I was doing the Maitland River Run and a surprise asthma attack had me sidelined at around the halfway point, waiting for a medical chap to come with Ventolin to my rescue. I had to make a decision: Do I do the run again this year to prove I can, or do I do something else?

I did something else.

Not because of fear or anything like that. But because, quite simply, I knew if anything went wrong again, that there wasn’t any real first aid stations along the course. It took ages to get medical help, and I was totally unimpressed that one of the official photographers told me he couldn’t help me and that I should walk up to the drink station, which was around 500 metres away. This isn’t an event I want to support.

So, the something else.

Mount Tomaree is a very big mountain. It’s near Nelson Bay. The gradient of the hike is Level 5 – very steep and difficult. But it promised stunning views, and I am generally up for a physical challenge. And so, off we went.

Within the first 5 minutes, I was panicking internally. This was steep, and we were nowhere near the summit. In my head I was trying to come up with the words to say that I couldn’t do it, and trying to justify to myself the reasons for not finishing this attempt. But while I was thinking all these things, my legs were pumping away and my feet were happily doing their ‘one in front of the other’ thing. It’s like they were not aware that I couldn’t do this, and they just kept right on going.

Something I see often, and have experienced particularly when it comes to running, is that your brain will give out long before your body does. You’re mind will challenge what you’re doing and tell you NOOO but if you don’t listen to it, your body can and will just keep going. It’s funny because it’s my mind that makes the decisions to do this stuff, but it’s my body that does it and it’s my mind that tends to be the first to back out.

But I digress.

The walk starts on paved ground. Then it changes to mega steep metal stairs and walkways. Then it changes to steps cut into the rocks. There are more metal stairs and more metal walkways, then more rock steps. And the whole thing just keeps going and going. But it goes somewhere. Directly up. Up and up and up.

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As the ups became steeper, I realised that I was doing it.

And as we got nearer to the top, the views got better.

One more step of steps. One more metal walkway. One more twisting path. And then!

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Amazing. Totally worth the climb.

But to be honest, we didn’t spend a huge amount of time at the top.

Because that’s not what the joy was.

The joy? Getting there.

Setting a challenge and completing it.

When we were at the top, I wasn’t really thinking about the views. I was thinking about these feet of mine. That have been to hell and back, rebuilt, relearning, and now doing the best they can to keep up with the goals and ideas I come up with. I was thinking about the way I was ready to pack it in before I’d even started. I was grinning because despite my brain and my feet, and a killer leg day on Friday, I’d done it. We’d done it. And I hadn’t struggled anywhere near as much as I had assumed I would.

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One of the reasons why?

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There she is, right next to me.

And so, Maitland River Run, you didn’t defeat me last year. And instead of coming back to prove it, I took on something harder, something more challenging, something that has brought me undone in ways you never will:

I took on myself.

 

 

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The Goalposts

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It’s cold this morning, proper cold, the kind of cold that gets you by surprise after months of warm. Cold never used to bother me too much. I was well insulated. I recently went to Melbourne to visit my besty and her family, and we’ve known each other for around ten years, and for the first time ever I told her I needed an extra blanket because I was cold. She was thrilled because for the entire time we have been friends I’ve laughed at her for being cold. The tables have turned.

In the interests of honesty, I have to tell you that the visit to the plastic surgeon a couple of months ago sent me into a huge tailspin. While it was extraordinarily positive, it set off a complete nosedive in my mood. Let me explain.

The surgeon is a beautiful man. He was stunned at what I’ve achieved through hard work – most of his patients who come for skin removal have lost weight via surgery such as gastric banding. He has, he said, a soft spot for people who have lost massive amounts of weight through sheer determination alone. He looked at my body, my excess skin, and said some amazing things. That I more than qualify for medically necessary skin removal. That there’s around 7kg of excess skin in my belly alone. That really, I could just maintain my weight and after the skin was gone, I’d be at a healthy goal weight for my frame. After being substantially overweight for all of my life, this was incredible.

I was quickly disappointed though, given the (well warranted) cost of the surgery. Even with private health, still ridiculously out of reach.

What my brain took out of that was this:

Without surgery, I will never be at my goal.

And once again, I felt like a failure.

Just like that, my brain took over and everything got hard. I filled up with doubts about being a PT. Who wants a PT that looks like me? Unless you know the back story, and unless you realise that my bulk is largely made up of excess skin, I just look… unfit. Everything became difficult. I struggled to see the point of going to the gym, particularly when I was surrounded by teeny tiny PTs. My studies got harder, because it was a reminder that my body isn’t normal for a PT. Everything, everything spiralled.

I went back to the plastic surgeon to ask him more questions and to work out what to do to short circuit this funk before it got completely out of control. I was cutting it close, to be honest.

We talked about goals. We talked about long term plans. We talked about all sorts of things.

That was a week ago.

And today, I’ve woken up with a new approach. It’s been bubbling away and developing for the last seven days.

This photo is from a fun run we did on the weekend. I look at it and the noisy part of my brain focuses on the way the skin hanging off my belly makes me look so big in that area. But now I see my quads. I see the lines in my neck that I never used to have. I see the way my shoulders are back, the pride in my stance. Fuck yeah. I can do this.

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I’ve shifted the goalposts.

Losing weight and getting fit and healthy was never, ever about being aesthetically pleasing. It was never about forcing my body to be something it just isn’t built to be. I knew all along that my build and frame wouldn’t let me be a waif, which is fortunate because that’s not what I want.

I want to be strong.

That first step into the gym, almost two years ago now: it wasn’t about one day looking perfect.

It was about saving my life.

And just like that, skin or the surplus of it, is not such a problem.

Because I’m saving my life. And I can live with the apron. I can live with the saggy, empty boobs. I can live with arm skin. I can live with floppy thighs. And every day that I get to live with these things is a good day because it means I am achieving what I set out to do.

I’ve saved my life.

I don’t look like what you’d expect a traditional PT to look like. But on the other hand, I don’t actually want to look like that.

I want to be strong.

I might not have a body that you would aspire to. But determination? Stubbornness? Drive? I have those, and my god you’re going to need them if your goal is anything like mine.

Because when you’re fighting to save your life, when you’re battling the very shell you’re wrapped in, you need every internal resource you can summon. Because the battle is inside.

Which is a good reason to not worry about how the outside looks.

These are the things that matter when you shift your goal posts.

This is what matters when you realise that you’re saving your life.

Remember When

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Those memory things on Facebook, they can either make your day or break your heart, can’t they. Some days it feels like all they show you is your dead pet caterpillar and what noxious weeds can do to your prize petunia; they can make you wonder why you wore what you did to a social event eight years ago and relive the cringe-worthy moment that you spouted your love publicly for a toad. Day ruined before it even starts. Other days though, you can see a pattern emerging, or evidence of change and growth.

Three years ago today, I was recovering from yet another broken ankle. This was the break that finally pushed me to see a different orthopaedic surgeon, who would reconstruct my ankle, repair my calf muscle and fix my Achilles – the steps towards being able to finally walk correctly after seven years of managing with an ankle I’d destroyed quite well after falling down some stairs.

Two years ago today, I was finally allowed to leave the house after being diagnosed with whooping cough. This was a scary time, I remember feeling like I was fighting for my life. Aside from just breathing, one of the main issues the doctor kept talking about was my co-morbidities. Isn’t that a reassuring phrase. The GP who was managing the whooping cough had written a referral to both a respiratory specialist, and also to the emergency room of the local hospital, just in case. As an asthmatic, whooping cough was quite problematic. But the other issue was my weight. It was a huge amount of excess load to be carrying around with me while I struggled from the nebuliser to bed, and back again. It also made treatment tricky – it wasn’t until the steroid dose was tripled that I started getting any form of relief.

Whooping cough was, I think, my absolute low point. At the time I felt like a victim. Like nothing was ever going to go right. That life was just relentless in it’s taunting and slaps. And even though I was surrounded by good people (albeit at a distance while I was in quarantine), I had a distinct feeling of being totally, utterly alone.

But evidently, something changed.

I had a slow recovery from whooping cough. Extreme tiredness. Trembling constantly because of all the medication and steroids. Gaining even more weight rapidly, again as a result of the steroids. But it wasn’t long after this that something shifted.

Because one year ago, on this day, I hatched the idea that maybe one day, I could be a personal trainer. And I referred to it so vaguely and so cryptically, that if I didn’t know that’s what I was talking about, I’d have skipped over the memory. But I knew what I was talking about.

I’d been going to the gym for about 8 months at this stage. Actually, maybe a bit longer. I’d made progress. I’d turned my sinking ship around and started sailing towards directions unknown, but I was OK with not knowing where I was going – I could feel myself being stronger and healthier and happier.

But I still had the issues of confidence and doubt. In that I had none of one, and a lot of the other. So much so, that when I finally squeaked the idea of being a PT out loud, I firmly believed I’d be laughed at and told to swallow a large dose of reality. But that’s not how it went at all.

As I spoke out that idea, it kept being met with unbridled joy and excitement. My people were confident in me, and urged me to push towards this goal.

I don’t think I’ve shared it here before, but I actually submitted my first expression of interest in the course around this time. When the information date rolled around, I panicked and didn’t go. I just didn’t go. The second time? I went.

Because now, on this day today, in 2017, I’m halfway through the Certificate IV in Fitness. I’m almost a personal trainer.

The facts?

I still have some weight to lose to be where I want to be. Not because of aesthetics, not because of the BMI – but for my goal of where I want to be. But I’m OK with that.

I still do not look like the traditional personal trainer. But I’m OK with that.

Already, I’ve seen that as an industry, there is a tendency to rely on how people look. In getting a job at fitness centres, how you look counts. And I’ve even seen and heard people commenting that they wouldn’t want a PT who doesn’t have a body they’d aspire to. But I’m actually OK with that one, as well.

I know my story. I know my truth. And I know that there are people that I can help, and perhaps best help because of this imperfect body.

And if nothing else, future Facebook memories will attest to that.

The point of this post?

As much as I hate the way the word has been trawled through crappy reality TV and cheap self help books, trust the journey. If you had told me on this day one year ago that I was indeed going to be a PT, I wouldn’t have believed you, even though the idea was in my mind. Certainly not when I was recovering from whooping cough. Not at all when I was sitting on my bottom watching my ankle change colours.

But sometimes, you can do nothing else but trust that somehow, you’re on a journey.

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On This Day

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To the me on the left: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy.  I know you are uncomfortable. Everything hurts. Nothing is easy. Not walking not sitting not standing not anything. Every career path you’ve tried, you’ve struggled at because in your head you feel like everyone you know is judging you because of your size. They weren’t, but it’s hard to change a mind set, and it’s hard not to project your insecurities.

To the me in the middle: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy. You kept it going. The idea of being a personal trainer was still tucked away behind that head of curls and strange ideas. You were discovering, at around this point, that you enjoyed exercising. You enjoyed the fun runs, the weights, the treadmills and the spin bikes and the different things that your body was suddenly able to do.

To the me on the right: You’re stubborn. You’re surrounded by people who love you. You’re brave and fierce and determined. You have value and you are worthy. You’re almost there now. You’ve taken that idea of being a personal trainer, completed the first part of your qualification and started the second. You’ve learned that the number on the scale isn’t overly important, what’s important is having a goal broken into micro goals, and then achieving them. You thought that losing weight would help you to be happy with yourself, and with your body. But then you discovered the joy of excess skin and chafing and random clapping. What you’ve been working for is hidden by a daily reminder of what was. What’s important though, is that it’s there. Hidden, yes. But there. You’ve worked your arse off, literally.

 

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Those memory things on Facebook, they come up every day to remind you or taunt you or embarrass you about what you were doing on this day in previous years. The memories only go back for as long as you have been on Facebook, which proves that there is life outside of social media. Or, that there was.

It was because of the On This Day feature that I realised for the first ever time that my regime of training, walking, running, lifting and generally moving was making a difference to my body. It was 12 months ago, on this day, apparently, that I made this realisation.

It was a photo of me in my Scout uniform shirt. It was the largest size shirt that I could purchase. You can see how it fits – it was tight. And I remember seeing that photo of myself and thinking, “Hang on, my Scout shirt doesn’t fit like that anymore!”. So I put on my shirt and took a photo and compared them, side by side. It was a pretty huge moment.

Anyway, that original photo popped up in my On This Day reel today. I’m not doing Scouts anymore – I finished up last year so that I could focus more on my shifting priorities. So for shits and giggles more than anything else, I went and found my shirt and popped it on.

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The me on the left. The me in the middle. And the me on the right.

Thanks.

 

 

It’s not that hard

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Sorry, yes it is, actually.

Today someone told me that it is not that hard to lose weight.

Someone with quite a small frame, who juggles their weight to benefit things like muscle definition.

Not someone who has battled obesity. Not someone who knows how hard it is to function with extra weight on board. Not someone who will have to make a choice every single day to stay in charge of their body.

So, in response to that particularly stupid and ignorant statement, I would like to respond with this:

It is hard.

And I want you to know that I know that it is hard, which is why I am learning to be a trainer – so that there is someone on your side who knows exactly how soul-crushingly, body-achingly hard it is.

It’s hard when you have that moment when you realise that you need to lose weight. It’s hard to realise that your weight is out of control, and that it’s collected some friends in the form of serious health conditions to keep you company.

It’s hard to recognise the depth and breadth of the changes you are going to make. It’s hard to recognise that you feel a sense of grief and loss about what your health has become.

It’s hard feeling shame, because we’re surrounded by a million different inputs every day on social media and television and in almost every interaction from the moment we put our feet on the floor in the morning – and they all tell us that we do not look the way we are meant to look or need to look.

It’s hard taking the first step into gym.

It’s hard going to the gym when everyone else there doesn’t look like you.

It’s hard going to the gym when everyone else there doesn’t look like you, and you can’t keep up with what they are doing.

It’s hard going to the gym.

It’s hard to feel guilty for resting. Be it 20 minutes or a day or two days, even after 50kg gone I still feel guilty if I haven’t been “active” that day.

It’s hard knowing that as the weight comes off and your fitness improves, there is no ‘fast forward’ button in life. I remember the moment when I realised that this was going to take me a long time: I was pedalling on a bike, and in my head I was thinking about a movie or a TV show that did a flash forward on somebody at the gym. In a simple ten seconds they went from unfit and overweight, to fit and in a healthy weight range. That’s not going to happen. This is going to take time. Commitment. And a choice, every single fucking day.

And it’s hard.

Going to the gym or starting any new fitness regime is hard. Add to it, in my case, an extra 50 kilograms (and still more to go), and you tell me it’s not that hard to lose weight. Stepping on to the treadmill is hard because your knees, they’ve hurt for years. Sitting on a bike is hard because your back screams at you constantly. Weights are hard. Rowing is hard. Classes are hard. Walking is hard. Everything is hard.

It’s hard as you start enjoying the new routine of being active and regaining your fitness and health. You begin realising that there’s time, lost, that you can’t get back. It’s hard seeing old photos of yourself. It’s hard getting your head around your new body and your new shape. It’s hard working out how to respond when people tell you that you look great and that you’ve saved your life and that you must be feeling better. It’s hard when people say that they’re proud of you, like every other thing you’ve ever achieved wasn’t going to be good enough because of your size. It’s hard because if you’re lucky, there will be people who will remain steadfastly by your side – but they cannot do it for you. It’s hard because each and every hard yard is walked and run and carried out by you. It’s hard feeling lonely. It’s hard feeling pressure from yourself.

It’s not that hard, I heard someone say today.

All that says to me is that they have not had to do it.

And to be honest, I’m really glad that you think it’s not that hard to lose weight. Because you thinking that, and saying it in a public setting, sends the very loud and clear message that you have no ability to comprehend and empathise with what this is like.

And I’m also glad that I am able to comprehend it. Because it means that I can use that comprehension and empathy to help other people.

It is hard.

And don’t ever let anyone, regardless of their standing or role or qualifications, tell you that it’s simple or easy. It’s not. It’s hard. It’s bloody hard.

But if it’s worth it, it’s worth earning.

It is hard, and I am proud that I have put in 18 months of ridiculously hard work to get to this point. Still not finished, but closer today than I was yesterday.

It’s bloody hard. But yes. Yes, it’s worth it.