How The Gym Saved my Life

4p.m. on the 2nd of January 2015: A shadow of a girl walked into the gym for her first ever personal training session. She weighed just over 7st, having already gained about 6 pounds. She was wearing UK size 4 gym leggings, couldn't do a single press up and had never really lifted a weight in her life. Constantly on the brink of tears, she was severely anaemic, a habitual insomniac, fighting generalised anxiety disorder, body dysmorphia and trying to overcome many years of disordered eating. That girl was me. Yet I now feel so far removed from her that if I were to pass her in the street I don't think I'd even recognise her to stop and say hello.

9a.m. on the 29th August 2015: Just shy of eight months later, I am 10kg heavier, immeasurably stronger and unbelievably healthier than I have ever been.

Although at this point it is easy to look back and remember a journey of strength, determination and hard work, at the time the story was very different indeed. Countless people have told me recently that they admire what I've done, that they wish they had the determination to spend the amount of time in the gym as I do, that they would love to train with me. And what it is extremely hard for those people to understand is that they are looking at the product of 238 days of hell. The journey has not been easy. Unbelievable amounts of tears have been shed, frustration has reached peaks and I have gone through periods where I have felt more down about my own body than I ever have in my life. It took me about three months before I managed something that even came close to a press up, so even though I can now deadlift 82.5kg, not one part of this came easily to me. I wanted to give up on more than one occasion, I felt defeatist, angry, heart broken every time I scrolled though instagram and saw a picture or video of someone training in the gym who could do more than me. How could I be spending two hours in the gym every day and still be unable to do a press up?!

But in reality, the answer to this question was simple. I had spent years of my life mistreating my body, disregarding my health and paying absolutely no attention towards my nutrition. I had knowingly and willingly continually made myself weaker and more ill for the sake of fitting into a smaller dress size. The bottom line was my happiness solely depended on the weight shown on the scale, and years of treating my body like this meant that I wasn't just training as someone who had never trained before, I was training as someone who at one point could not walk up the stairs without needing a lie down, had periods where I lost my sight completely due to malnutrition, would wake up in the morning with clumps of hair on my pillow from where it had begun to fall out. Did I really think that a few more pounds lost would bring me happiness? That a few pounds gained would make me even more miserable? My life was just a continuous cycle of trying to make my mental happiness equate to the number on the scale. I felt like I wasn't good enough, I felt disappointed in everything I did. I looked in the mirror and wished with all my might that I would see something different, to not feel the shame I felt every single day. I became an addict. Addicted to weighing myself, addicted to hunger, addicted to weight loss, addicted to seeing how much smaller I had gotten. I became my own worst enemy. It was a miracle I could even walk for an hour, let alone spend an hour in the gym. 

But I had made my decision. I no longer wanted to be that anxious, heart broken shell of a girl. I wanted to be brave and strong and healthy, and I was finally willing to accept recovery. The thing people don't understand about recovery is that you don't just choose it once, you choose it again and again and again, every morning, every night you choose to recover. Every relapse, every failure you have to choose to recover. And choosing recovery is not easy. Those first few sessions were hard. Harder than I could have ever dreamed. Hours filled with exercises that I could now do in my sleep, but at the time seemed like the most difficult things in the world. Squats with 2kg dumbbells in each hand slowly become back squats with 55kg. Planks become press ups. Reps became supersets. And finally I was seeing progress.

I never in a million years thought I would revolutionise my life through fitness, but that statement only scratches the surface about what fitness has done for me. I gained 10kg. ten. whole. kilograms. Eight months ago I couldn't even pick 10 kilograms UP let alone dream of adding that weight to my body and carrying it with me wherever I went. But despite this massive (and equally massively scary) weight gain, the most dramatic change came not in my body, but in my mind. In my confidence and in my determination. Training became a form of therapy for me, a time where I was alone with my mind and had nothing to distract my thoughts from telling myself how strong I could eventually become. I could push myself mentally and physically to my limits, to the point where I wanted to cry and scream and give up, but afterwards feel so proud of the power I was developing. This strength and determination started to shine out of me in my day to day life, I became focused: determined to be the best version of myself I could possibly be.

Fitness has not only changed my life, it has saved my life. This blog post has not been an easy thing for me to write, and there is still so much of the story that has been removed and left out as there are dark times that I am still not completely at peace with. I am not writing this blog post for sympathy, or for praise. I believe I am strong and brave and for me that is enough justification. The reason I am writing this blog post is because I would love nothing more than if I could use my blog and my passion for fitness to help other people change their lives too.

My training became the foundation of my strength, upon which I was able to rebuild myself a better, happier, healthier life. Remember: 'the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow'