I'm not the same person I was one year ago. Especially not ten years ago.
I grew up in a good family. Just normal, everyday people. I was fortunate enough to do gymnastics as a child, but overall my teenage years and my early 20's were quite sedentary. If you told people I knew during that time that I have become a Personal Trainer, they'd definitely be surprised!
Our lives are journeys. Now, I don't like using that word. It seems a bit mammy-pamby to me, but it's true. We don't stop growing or once we reach physical and mental maturity. We stop growing when we die.
Think about it. Identity is important. What makes you, you? For some of us, this is an easy question to answer, but for many, it's quite difficult. I see myself as intelligent, fun, compassionate, determined. As females, we grow up with a focus on external appearances. This isn't a huge deal. There's absolutely nothing wrong with telling a young girl she looks lovely in her new outfit, or that she has beautiful eyes. However, if these comments aren't balanced, we can subconsciously "train" our young girls to think that it is super important to be beautiful, and that if we don't look good, then there is something wrong. I know that this isn't the intention of people, because sometimes you just don't know what to talk about with young kids, so why not talk about clothes? But I think we need to realise the importance of celebrating other parts of ourselves too. This also goes for boys, in their own unique way.
Personally, I enjoy getting genuine compliments from my husband and other people in my life about my appearance. Of course I want to look nice, I want to present well. But to have someone genuinely compliment my intelligence or my skills really hits the spot! It means so much to know that "I am more than just a pretty face". Because just like Neghar Fonooni says in the image above:
We have been blessed with amazing bodies. The things our bodies are capable of really does astound me. My body has given me the ability to think, create, perform, transform. That's pretty freakin' cool.
This is true and I am so so grateful for the ability to change. Hindsight is a great thing, and while I was happy in my sedentary teenage years and early twenties, what I have learned and applied to my life has made me so much happier. I have great satisfaction, knowing that I now have the knowledge to help myself and do the right thing by myself. And I get to help people learn what I have learned too. That's awesome!
Don't get me wrong. The changes that have taken place in me in the last 15-20 years have come with their challenges, and in a way they are still challenging me. But, if change was simple, it kinda would be boring, right?
I have a bit of an inferiority complex. Sometimes, I don't feel like a "proper adult". I look at other people my age, and they have nice clothes, fancy watches, they even have clothes that require ironing. I like being barefoot, wearing my Muppets t-shirt, relying on my phone as a time piece, and doing handstands wherever possible and whenever appropriate. But you know what? I accept that I don't conform to my own ideas of how a "proper adult" looks and behaves because I am happy, and I bring value to the world in my own unique way. If I was to have a job that required me to wear heels everyday (yuck!), have a full face of make up, do my hair (as in, more than brush it!), and wear a dress, I would not like it. I might enjoy the novelty of it for a short while but I'm pretty sure that after a couple of hours I'd get sick wondering if I had lipstick on my teeth. I love the fact that I am me, my husband loves me as I am, and that it's ok to not conform to anyone's mould.
I am Hannah. I am fun. I love gymnastics. I love food. I love sleep. I am intelligent. I like learning about the human body. I like learning about how things work. I work on cars with my husband. I love wearing casual clothes but I also love getting dressed up - occasionally. And I love the mould I have created for myself. I challenge you to do the same.
I hear it all the time.
"I wish I wasn't so fat"
"I wish I had (insert celebrity's name here)'s body"
"Ughh I hate my thighs"
"What can I do to get rid of my saggy arms?"
And you know what? I can totally relate! Despite being in a really good place where I have come to accept my body as mine, and accept responsibility for it, I still have plenty of times where I struggle with the way I look or the way I perform. It's natural.
One of my clients (who shall remain anonymous), was struggling with depression. Apparently her psychologist set her the task of listing three good things about herself, or three things she liked about herself (I can't remember which). Sadly, my client could only come up with one thing. One thing!! This is unacceptable! Now, don't get me wrong. I know that someone in a depressed state will struggle to do a task such as this, so please don't think that I am without understanding or compassion. But for anyone, of any mindset, this is unacceptable.
Who told you that you weren't allowed to like yourself? Who told you that if you liked yourself, or even just parts of yourself, that you were full of yourself? Who told you that liking yourself was a bad thing? If your current view of yourself is a matter of humility, then you need to re-learn the definition of humility. Because last time I checked, humility didn't mean putting yourself down, or hating yourself.
Question: How do you feel when you think about yourself? How do you feel when you think about the things that you don't like? It's pretty depressing, right?
Now tell me this: how are you supposed to feel inspired to improve yourself when all you're doing is focusing on how disgusting you are or feel? Don't get me wrong, this can be a very powerful motivator. But it needs to evolve. If you're constantly hating yourself, you'll always be punishing yourself. "Oh man I suck! I ate ice cream again! I'm never going to lose enough weight to fit my old jeans!" Yes - wanting to fit into your old jeans is a powerful motivator. But what about the rest of the sentence? "Oh man I suck!" Actually, you don't suck, you're just a human being who likes ice cream. You don't suck, you just need to figure out a better plan to work ice cream into your life so you can control your cravings and not blow out by eating a whole tub because you feel deprived.
What do I dislike about myself?
I dislike the fact that I'm carrying slightly more body fat that I deem ideal for my body, and I don't like my laparoscopy scars, and there's probably a couple of other things that I don't like too but I just can't think of them. It's taken me a long time to get to this point.
What do I like about myself?
I like my eyes. I get blue eyes from both of my grandfathers, and the blue is a really cool blue. So, thanks Grandad & Grandpa.
I like my shoulders. I suppose this is because I've done so many handstands and cartwheels. Yeah, maybe I'd like them to be a little more defined and a little stronger, but I still like them. I still like the strength they currently have and their shape.
I like the fact that I finally have biceps! They're not big at all, and they're probably almost outweighed by the fact that my arms are getting saggier with each passing year (lol), but that's ok!
I like the fact that while I don't exactly have the abs of a crossfit athlete, my core is strong enough to enable me to do some pretty cool things.
I like the fact that while sometimes I feel like my hips and butt are a little too wide for my liking, they give me a good shape.
And I like my feet. Because while (to me) they look like little paddles, I love walking around barefoot and feeling the muscles in my feet work. I love knowing that I have so many muscles in there that help me be firm and balanced in my activities.
I believe that if we focus on our good points, we are going to feel better. And in feeling better, we will see and understand our worth. We as people are valuable and precious. We can't let other people, or photoshopped images determine our worth because we don't look computer generated.
Let's have a change of motivation. Start with three things you like about yourself. If you can't think of three things, start with one. If you can't think of one, just give it a crack! Because when we start understanding, believing and knowing with every ounce of our being that we are worth good health and good fitness, our lives will change for the better.
Yep, I’m human too!
As a Personal Trainer I am supposed to be a shining beacon of health and wellness. There are many times when I definitely do not feel that way, either mentally, physically or both. Our bodies are just like yours. They have a mind of their own! Life in general can be cruel – people don’t always understand that.
I’ve never been bothered on my body image as a whole. No big deal. But…
I remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, telling my Grandmother at the dinner table that I
think I needed to go on a diet. She (correctly) scolded me and told me that it was nonsense. And
even I knew it was daft – even if I did need to go on a diet (which I didn’t), I wouldn’t be able to stick
The next time I remember being aware of my body was when I was about 14 years old. I was going to an end of year function for a large music group I was involved with. At the hot pools. With boys. With a boy I liked. I decided that because my bum wasn’t perfectly smooth, I was going to walk to school every day (looking back I really didn’t have anything to worry about).
After that I can’t remember much about my body image until I was in my early twenties. I had always been slim, so I didn’t think that I needed to “work on” anything. I saw my reflection in a shop window and then a little while later saw some photos and didn’t like what I saw. I wasn’t fat as such, but I just didn’t like it.
Fast forward to 2014…
After working hard, being dedicated with my food, I got down to 21% body fat. That is on the lower end of the normal range, and is beginning to go into the athletic range for females. It was so nice to be feeling fit and strong and healthy all at the same time. And right in time for my best friend’s wedding too! Hi ho hi ho it’s off to London I go (and while I’m there try out all the yummy new foods)! Not long after I got back from my friend’s wedding in London, I received some heavy news that knocked me for six. I’d experienced grief before but nothing like this. I had an idea of what to expect through grieving but this was intense. This is what I was talking about when life can be cruel. I maintained my workouts (I knew it was important to keep going), but man did they suck. For a long time I felt like I was stuck in a vacuum. I felt unhappy, with no motivation or general willingness to fully take part in life.
Unfortunately I’m one of those people who either want to eat their feelings, or not eat at all. But
then I get hungry and I know I need to eat, but I don’t know what to eat. It’s a horrible cycle. My
body was slowly expanding, a big change from the 21% lean machine I was only a few months prior. And while I didn’t get fat as such, I didn’t enjoy the wideness of my hips, or the layer of fat on my stomach.
Months passed and life was improving. I hit a point where I just couldn’t take the extra weight any more so I did a cycle of my 6 week nutrition plan. I’m so glad I have a system that works. It took 7cm off my bum (and then some), boy was I happy about that! I was beginning to look a little more like my normal self.
Just before Christmas last year we were hit with another big one. Just when I feel like I’m coming out of the black hole, into another one I go. Yaaayyy…. See what I mean how life can be cruel? Back to square one. Time to eat my feelings again #nomnom
I have always believed that if I can’t accept myself where I am, how can I expect my team to? We should always be striving to better ourselves, but we need to be careful not to become obsessive. We need to give ourselves a break and understand that even though we need to soldier on, we need to be okay with having bad days. Because bad days are just that – bad days. Once we wake up in the morning we know that a new day is full of possibility. We need to be honest and real with ourselves (and our trainers!). We need to understand that sometimes we don’t like something about ourselves. We can’t change genetics.
Personally, there are things I want to change about myself. But, I know my body type. It’s unrealistic for me to think that I could ever look like Cameron Diaz or Miranda Kerr. I’m ok with having lumps, bumps and invisible abs, because they’re the scars of life and I wear them well. I’ve come through the hard times and I continue to. Of course I will strive to keep improving – but it’s no big deal if I carry a little fat. And better than what my body looks like, I know what my body can do. Aside from athletic feats, I know that my body is wonderfully made. What it is able to do is so much more important than how it looks, providing it is healthy.
One of the first things you are told as a PT, is that your body is your business card. Everything about you is a reflection on you, and sometimes, people see your body condition as a reflection of your skills as a PT too. There is a lot of pressure to be the ‘ideal’ – whatever that is. After a period of personal growth and honest reality, I no longer subscribe to that school of thought. Health, wellness, fitness and strength has no single perfect standard.
The rain over the past day or so is making me think about what kind of things influence our exercise habits. What are some reasons we may not want to workout?
Let’s go over some of these reasons…
Weather. If you’re a person who prefers to train outside, it can be hard to find the perfect weather when it comes to training. Depending on where you live, a good part of the year could be wiped out due to extremes in weather. Let’s face it, we need to be sensible and look after ourselves. There’s no point in exercising in bad circumstances if it brings on injury or sickness. The whole point of exercising is to increase our fitness levels / health / wellness. Getting injured, heatstroke or hypothermia is not going to help us with that. But, if we have a gym membership or train indoors, we have no excuse. We have an all-weather venue to use.
Is it a lovely day outside? Awesome! There are so many ways we can get creative and take advantage of a spectacularly sunshiney day. One of my favourites is Stand Up Paddleboarding. Put on your beach gear, lather up with some sunscreen, soak up the sunshine and cool off in the water as necessary. What could be better? If it’s one of those awesome days where it’s rainy outside and cosy inside, that’s great too! You can still do something fun like Dance Central on X Box, Wii Sport, or if you’re feeling flexible, Twister!
You’re sick / injured / hormones. Ok fair enough. Depending on what’s going on, something light might still be ok. Listen to your doctor / physio, and pace yourself. A nice walk outside or on the treadmill might be appropriate. However, if you’re coughing and sneezing all over the place, stay at home. When it comes to germs, sharing is not caring!
You’re on holiday. Well, hopefully you’re making the most of your trip and exploring! There’s nothing better than an adventure! You might be staying somewhere with a gym, or you might be camping. There’s no reason why you can’t do something while you’re away. Bush walking, the motel gym, skiing…
You don’t know what to do or how to workout. Fair call. Everyone starts somewhere, and even the best athletes and trainers were beginners once. I have one piece of advice for you: ask for help! Whether it’s a friend who goes exercising regularly or a trainer, someone can give you ideas and guidance. But, keep it simple. There’s no sense in starting with a 5 day weights split if you’ve never done any exercise before. Go for a walk, a swim, a bike ride, or (as mentioned above), ask someone to guide you through some exercise. Knowledge is power, so give yourself the power to change your life by asking for help.
You have no time. This is one I struggle with. Everybody is blessed with the same hours per week, some of us just struggle with priorities. Granted, there are a lot of hard working people who truly struggle with time. But even they need to take time out for themselves so they don’t burn out. Remember – unless you decide to do the work, you won’t get the results you want. This is your responsibility.
There is one other thing that can influence our exercise habits. Mentality. The mind is a powerful tool, and sometimes we struggle to drag ourselves out of our mental pit. This is a real problem, not something that people just make up. While exercise can be a huge benefit to people struggling with anxiety, depression and grief, sometimes these people have a real issue just getting out of bed. These situations need to be handled with sensitivity and compassion. To everyone struggling with this kind of situation, if you need help with exercise, don’t let people (trainers or other) put you off because they don’t believe your struggle. Search for someone helpful and reliable to help you in your journey.
Exercise benefits everybody. Get moving and (most importantly) have fun!