This is me!
I believe that there are three crucial elements in order to have a successful relationship between a personal trainer and the client. Honesty, trust and confidence.
A lot of people have barriers which prevent them from exercising, whether it be going out for a walk, getting to the gym, joining classes or sports clubs. Many will say they don’t have time to fit in fitness which I do agree is difficult in today’s busy society. However, if we are talking honestly, I think the real reason people don’t exercise is due to lack of confidence, motivation and a lack of belief in themselves.
I am an extremely private person but I have decided to be honest about how I ended up becoming a personal trainer. If I am asking my clients to be open with me it only seems fair that I practice what I preach and share my story.
“I can’t do it”, “it hurts,” “it’s embarrassing”, “I’m not as good as everybody else,” “I’m going to be the worst there,” “I’m not strong enough,” “people will be judging me,” “what if I can’t do it,” “what if I fail?”
Do any of the above ring true? I believe that if we are being honest with each other then these are some of the real barriers to people taking up exercise and more importantly preventing people from sustaining exercise.
Trust me. I have had all these thoughts, and continue to have these thoughts. Guess what, they are only thoughts - they are not facts and not the truth.
The truth is - you can do it, yes it might hurt but the discomfort will lessen the stronger you become. No, people will not judge you because everybody is focused on themselves and not you. You are strong enough and if you fail at something, so what - you gave it a go and we can find something else that you can do and that you can excel in.
It sounds a cliché and cheesy but the only barriers are the ones that we create for ourselves. Yes, circumstances can make things more difficult but there is ALWAYS an alternative. It’s just about having the patience, confidence and belief that you can do whatever you put your mind to and you can do it well!
“Clare, what do you know, that’s easy for you to say but you don’t really understand.”
Answer: I completely understand and here’s why.
I always say that I came out of the womb with a love for sport and fitness. I have been sporty and very active from a young age - Running, hockey, tennis, athletics, walking, tree climbing, cycling, roller blading - you name it I loved it, anything outdoors I was there.
I had an amazing three years at University studying law and embraced the sport and social side by being an active member of the hockey club and still doing my running. In 2008 I qualified as a solicitor and got my first legal job. I loved my training contract and worked with a great bunch of people. I continued with my running and hockey and was loving life - both work and play!
In 2009 my life was about to take a turn and to this day I continue to battle against these changes.
I was out running with my dad enjoying a run through woods when I stumbled into a wasp’s nest. I sustained over 80 wasp stings all over my body. I won’t bore you with the details but since that run I was thrown plenty of challenges which continue to come my way.
A few weeks after the stings whilst at work I suffered loss of vision and the use of my left side. I was taken to hospital and eventually placed under the care of a neurologist. In the months that followed I struggled to walk across a room without having to stop for a rest. I was not able to use my left side and dropping and smashing things became an everyday occurrence! The amount of mobile phones dropped, milk cartons burst in supermarkets and favourite mugs smashed because of my clumsy left side is uncountable! I had regular physiotherapy to build my strength and coordination but my condition plateaued and I felt in a stale mate. I was stuck in a weakened body and not able to partake in my first love, running and sport.
I think a lot of people that know me would probably describe me as stubborn minded. Which in this case has proved to be my friend. I refused to let this change dictate how I was to live my life and I made a pact with myself to build up my running and to run a half marathon.
I roped my dad into the run and we entered the Leeds Half Marathon in 2010. I will never forget my first “training” run back. It was Boxing Day 2009 and my dad and I went down to the canal. We ran the whole way together which consisted of running and walking - probably not even a mile. My mum was at home with her phone by her side in case I needed her. They knew me better than to tell me not to do it and I can’t thank them enough for supporting me in my mad ventures to get my strength back. It wasn’t about running a half marathon it was about proving to myself that my body could do it, it did have the strength and I could have confidence in it again to keep me moving and keep me healthy.
We completed the half marathon together and as a family, my mum, dad and two sisters, we continued running together and completed 10ks regularly. I wouldn’t be where I am without the incredible support and patience from my family and a close group of reliable, amazing friends.
I could feel myself getting stronger but still battled with my left side weakness and fatigue. I got back to hockey but during matches my body would stop working and I would have to lie on the side of the pitch until it started functioning properly again. My hockey team were amazingly supportive but it became clear that hockey and my new body did not go together so I made the hard decision to leave hockey.
I continued to want to do things that proved my body could do things despite its limitations. I completed an ultra event across Scotland with an amazing friend and put my family through hell with worry (sorry!) I then entered a marathon and completed it in a time that I didn’t think was possible - 3hrs 22. During marathon training things took a turn for the worse and my body started to struggle and my condition quickly worsened.
Other body systems began to struggle and fight against me. My left side started to weaken again, my neurological systems worsened, my bowel stopped functioning and I had a heart scare. I started to suffer from random anaphylactic reactions and due to my bowel not functioning I was unable to keep my food down which resulted in a massive loss of weight.
In the spirit of being honest, I was terrified. I lost complete confidence in my body, I was not able to fuel and nourish it because my digestive system wasn’t working. I was scared to exercise because of the anaphylactic reactions and the worsening of my neurological conditions. I was desperate to gain body weight but was not able to keep any food down which obviously impacted on everything. I was terrified that my body was no longer functioning in the way I needed it to and the strength that I had built since 2009 had gone.
I was introduced to an amazing dietician and to this today I thank her for all her support as without her I don’t think I would be where I am today. I had to have three “medicinal shakes” a day to build myself up and continued with this for nearly 2 years whilst trying to reignite my other body systems to get things back in working order. My neurologist encouraged me to continue with my exercise but I was faced with limitations that I hadn’t had previously.
I was not able to run at this point and my exercise was limited. I had lost my confidence and felt pretty lost. It was again my family that solved this problem! I was bundled into my sister’s car and she drove me a few hours to pick up a little something that would change my life forever. Welcome Mabel! Mabel is my little crazy cockapoo who my sister found for me at 8 weeks old. I had a new focus and a little thing that needed exercise and building up herself. Sure I wasn’t able to run but Mabel and I slowly built up our walks and she gave me the confidence to get my daily exercise and fresh air! As Mabel grew and developed so did I and before I knew it I had a new running companion! Mabel and I continue to run most days and she brings endless amounts of fun and energy daily - so thank you to my sister for finding this little miracle!
I continue to have to use a machine every day to function my bowel and have my continuing neurological symptoms. However, in some ways I feel stronger, physically and mentally, then I ever have. I understand my limitations and I work within these to become the strongest person I can.
I was still a solicitor until last year. Outside of work I was focusing on strengthening my body, building my muscles and gaining weight. I researched every area of fitness and nutrition to try and improve my health. I really understand that to be healthy is not about being the strongest, fastest, leanest person. It’s about having a healthy body that is optimum for you and makes you the person you want to be. The body is an incredible thing and should be looked after and kept healthy. This is worth the time and energy because without this you won’t have the body to live the life you want and deserve.
It has been a process of accepting that I am now in a body that I was not born with or intended to have and learning how this new body works! I continue to learn everyday. Although it isn’t the body I had grown to known and respect this new body - although physically weaker - is stronger than anything I could have hoped for. It has got me through some horrific health battles and although I regularly fall out with it I have learnt to respect it because what it has overcome is pretty damn impressive.
I have built up my running and physical strength through many variants of exercise such as resistance, strength, endurance, flexibility and power training. It was this adaptability to exercise that made me realise the true importance of health, both physically and mentally. I wanted to help others discover the true abilities of their bodies and hence my drastic career change into the world of health and fitness.
True, I am not the stereotypical, muscular, curvy personal trainer. However, I believe I have much more to offer than physical strength. I have developed a deep understanding of how the body works and how to adapt to overcome limitations thrown its way. I believe that anybody, no matter what their limitations can enjoy and embrace some form of exercise and the positive effect that this can have on your life both physically and mentally is worth all the pain of overcoming your barriers out together.
So please, if you think that you can’t do it, think again. You can do anything you put your mind to it and I respect each and every one of you who takes a deep breath and makes the step towards overcoming the obstacles. Let’s all work together to smash things down that are thrown our way and become a stronger person than we ever thought possible. Exercise is not just about physical strength, it’s about building friendships, creating a community, improving your mental health and building self-respect and confidence which overflows into your daily life.
So, when you next tell yourself “I can’t do it.” Think again because YOU CAN DO IT and with the right attitude and support you WILL DO IT! Here’s to making friends with your body and smashing down those barriers to become the best person you can be and enjoy the life that you have! We can do this team - high five!