6 years ago, right before Christmas, I lost my father. This came completely out of the blue and was a huge shock to us all. As lots of people do when they lose a loved one, I decided I wanted to do something for charity in his memory.
I chose to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge the following July. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this challenge, it’s approximately 26 miles of hiking, with three sizeable peaks – Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough (each a climb of around 700m) thrown in for good measure!
This would be no small feat in itself, especially as at the time I weighed over 17 ½ stone and was in size 22 clothes. I threw myself into the challenge; training with a friend, walking upwards of 15 miles at weekends and I even climbed Kinder Scout in preparation for the event. I had this in the bag, right?
I was excited on the day and was taking 3 sea shells to place at the top of each of the peaks, with messages for my dad written on them – he loved the sea and was always tinkering on his little fishing boat. The day itself was wet, windy and cold but that didn’t dampen my spirits as we started at 7am on the hike up the first peak. I was carrying my rucksack of essentials for the day which weighed around 20kg plus I was carrying my own substantial weight. The walking was fine, my legs were strong from years of having to haul my weight around, and of course – I’d done the training.
Then the first problem arose. We got to the first peak and we had to scramble over it. Erm.. this was news to me – I hadn’t done any training for rock climbing! So here’s me stood in a line of about 40 people waiting to climb over this peak , to get on with the next one to complete this epic challenge, and…. I froze.
My friends were trying to encourage me and tell me I could do it, so I tried my best but I just couldn’t see how I would get my body up there! In the end I had to get pushed over the rock face by a bloke who was stood behind me, I was mortified as he literally pushed my backside up and over this rock to get to the next part where I was able to scramble myself up and walk to the top. OMG that was the lowest feeling in the world, or so I thought! After getting over the embarrassment of having my rear end manhandled by a stranger, I then found out this was the easiest peak and that the other two involved even more climbing. At that point my heart sank. I felt defeated – how would I manage the other two if the first one had been such a drama? There was a time limit to complete the challenge and, feeling like I would be holding my friends back, I told them to go on without me.
When I got back to base camp, a lovely lady gave me a foil blanket, a sugary mug of tea and a hug as I cried my eyes out. I felt like I had let my dad down, I hated myself, I hated my body as I felt it had let me down and I just wanted to go home. She came over and gave me my medal and I cried my heart out (I’m filling up now as I type this it was such an emotional day) but she didn’t look shocked or surprised. She just said “well done love” and called me a taxi.
For the next few weeks I beat myself up pretty hard over this, but then I decided to do something positive that would make my dad proud of me – I registered to do the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll half marathon in May, which would give me 5 months to train. My dad was born in Liverpool and I love rock music so it seemed like the perfect fit! However, I was still over 17 stone, I had lost a little bit of weight with all the walking, but I knew I’d need some help if I was going to compete in this challenge. With this in mind, I decided to join a running club who were offering a beginner’s course.
The first day of the beginner’s course came around and I was very nervous; I can’t tell you how many times I nearly didn’t make it out the door. I thought of so many reasons not to go – people would laugh at me because of my size, I wouldn’t be able to run even for a minute, I’d have to get left behind like at the Three Peaks – all of this was going on in my head!
Despite all this I turned up, put my head down and did as we were told. We ran for 30 seconds and walked for 30 seconds, for about 12 minutes in total. Now you might think 30 seconds is nothing but for me it was very hard work… I was out of breath, I was sweating and we were hardly moving!
I went home feeling elated that I’d completed the first session, but at the same time I was worried. A 12 minute run felt like such hard work – how would I ever run a half marathon?! Amongst the negative self-talk though, a stubborn part of me said “You know what? I will do this. I will do it for me, for my dad, and for all of the people out there that think they are too big/unfit to run, I will prove that you can!” That was all it took. I turned up every week, I listened to what they had to say, and gradually the running intervals got longer and the walk breaks got shorter. By the end of the 12 week course I could just about run 5k.
So the day of the Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon came around and I was excited. I’d written the time splits on my inner wrist so I knew what time I needed to be at certain points in order to finish the race and get my medal within the cut off time. And you know what? I bloody did it! I am pleased to say even with a huge hill near the beginning I actually completed the half marathon in 3hrs 15 mins! My family were at the end, and even though my legs ached and I had blisters, and I looked like I had been put through a washing machine because I was soaked in sweat, my face said it all. I did it, and my dad would be so proud of me!
So after that I caught the running bug, and you’d find my name on the starting list of every local race that had a half decent goodie bag and medal! Over the next year I bagged myself 53 shiny race medals, with a selection of 5k, 10k and half marathon distances under my belt. A belt which by now must’ve been tiny with all this exercise, right? Well, not quite….
Running made me hungry, and at this stage I really didn’t have a clue about food and nutrition so just ate whatever I fancied. If I’d done a run then surely I’d earned a few treats? I wanted to mix up my fitness a bit more so joined the local gym, mainly because they offered a spin class and I thought this would help with my running. They also offered a stretch class which I’d heard was good for runners and would help avoid injury, so I booked myself a place. Little did I know that the instructor of that class would end up helping me change my life in so many ways…..
So here I was, running, gymming and spinning several times a week, but not losing much weight at all. I always tried to tell myself that if I was healthy then my weight didn’t matter anyway but – much like the other negative voices in my head – this wasn’t entirely truthful.
I’d been single for a few years by this time, my divorce was finally going through after splitting up with my husband some years earlier, and I blamed my crappy life on being overweight. In my head, this was why my career was going nowhere, why no one wanted to date me, why my life was shit – everything was down to the fact I was fat. I hated myself and how I looked, to the extent that catching sight of my body in a mirror or photograph just appalled me. I thought about my dad, and how life can be tragically short. This was no way to live, feeling so miserable and unhappy with myself – there had to be a better way? Something needed to change.
With this in mind, I got some money together by cancelling some subscriptions and giving up treats in my weekly food shop, so that I could have 2 PT sessions a month. I decided to approach the instructor of my stretch class, to see if he could help me…
It’s funny really, as when I first walked into that stretch class to see a fit, buff body-builder about to take the class, my brain played that same old record – what was I doing there? I had no right to be there amongst all these skinny, toned people, they’d laugh at me if I couldn’t keep up…..but it wasn’t like that at all.
At the end of the class I decided to approach him and find out if there was another way, rather than spend my life running miles and miles and not losing any weight. I was intrigued by the idea of lifting weights for fat loss. I was surprised to learn that he himself had actually been obese, but had slimmed down and had gone on to train hard to do body building. So he’d been in my shoes and knew what it was like to be big and unhappy – this was the PT for me!
There was no denying that he now looked amazing and I wanted to know his secret – I wanted that for myself! I was like a sponge. Each week I would ask more and more questions, and I was a willing and obedient student, doing whatever he told me to do, eating whatever he told me to eat – even when it seemed like a lot of food! I was amazed to learn in the first couple of weeks that I’d lost 7 lbs – it must have been working!
After about 2 months I started to notice even more changes in myself. My clothes were feeling a little baggier, the weights that had seemed so heavy to start with were starting to feel easier, I felt less self-conscious in the gym and for once I felt like I actually belonged there with everyone else. I still hadn’t ventured into the “bloke” section (the free weights area) at the gym yet, that still scared me a bit! But in the meantime I was happy to work on the machines and have my PT sessions in the studio doing circuit training. I was no longer a gym-phobic!
Over the next couple of years, I made the difficult decision to part ways with my PT because he moved to another gym that was out of my price range, and because I’d been such a willing student then I finally felt that I could probably have a go at doing this on my own. So I carried on with my training, steering my own ship, sticking to the plan and I continued to achieve my goals.
And then one day I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “wow – I’m actually happy with how I look and what my body can do!” which was a scary thought at first. As women we fear being seen as vain or arrogant if we admit we like ourselves, so we tend to point out the negatives first before someone else does…. crazy isn’t it?
Anyhow, I looked into the idea of becoming a PT and spoke to my friends about it before I was brave enough to sign up to do the qualification. Whilst they all told me to go for it, those old thoughts returned to haunt me…. was I committed enough? Good enough? Would people sign up to train with someone who wasn’t a size 0 underwear model? Would they see me and think I was a fraud?
I’m glad I stuck with it because in the last x years I’ve continued my learning journey – people think that PTs probably spend every waking moment in the gym, but I think I’ve probably spent more time with my head in a book than doing press-ups! I’ve specialised in many different types of fitness – chair fitness, boxing fitness, senior fitness, pre and post natal, nutrition, life coaching and I’ll continue to keep improving my knowledge, keep learning, keep striving for more. Because I’ve finally realised that I’m worth the time and the investment to be the best I can possibly be.
Jan 2018 – Emergency First Aid at work including defibrillator
Jan 2018 – Hattons fundamentals and advanced boxing courses
May 2018 – Diploma in Personal Training with Premier Global Level 2 and 3 including CPD courses in Senior health and Women’s Health
May 2018 – Chair based exercise course Amac
Aug 2018 – Spin Instructor with Focus training
Sept 2018 – Qualified in Seated Sosa, currently studying standing Sosa
Sept 2018 – Pre and post natal coaching with Girls Gone Strong
Nov 2018 – Leadership in Running for fitness with England Athletics
May 2020 – Level 4 Nutrition Course
April 2020 – Life coaching including Goal setting, Happiness and Life purpose