My name is Lisa and I’m a personal trainer and coach.
Which part of me still finds slightly funny. (ME? You’re avin’ a larf) It’s incredible and really exciting that I can say that.
When I was younger I didn’t get involved in sport or exercise at all. Now I know I’m hypermobile but back then, I was just an extremely bendy child who didn’t know where the ends of her arms and legs were. I was clumsy and I couldn’t run, catch or hit anything with a racket or hockey stick. This meant I didn’t join in and ended up with the belief that I’m not sporty. I don’t do sport.
Run? Only if zombies are chasing me.
Go to a gym? I don’t think so.
This limiting belief ended up becoming a really big barrier to me doing any exercise. Ever. Well, what was the point? I was rubbish at it.
About 10 years ago, being bendy suddenly started causing me problems and my physio recommended Pilates. I found a class and enjoyed it. It was gobsmacking. It stopped me getting debilitating hip pain where I couldn’t even put on my own socks. Still exercise-wise, 2 Pilates classes a week was my limit.
Move on to November 2016, and I was struggling to cope with my mum’s memory problems. After chatting with a friend (or as the case may be, telling Claire all about it and sobbing) and trying to figure out together what might help, I decided to give a free trial at a gym a go.
The gym is at the end of my road so it’s easy and it’s semi-personal training. There’s always a coach there to cheer me on and help me with technique. And I need quite a lot of help. Not being a sporty child meant I simply didn’t know what certain exercises were or how you did them. (In my first week I had to ask for a demo of a sit-up, just to make sure.)
My gym uses a coaching approach, we talk a lot about accountability and ownership of our own exercise and we reflect every week on what’s going well, what hasn’t and what we think might help us improve. I’m a qualified coach and the fact it’s the same approach, really appealed to me. It almost felt academic, and perfect for the part of me that defines myself as someone who can do learning but can’t do sport.
And I went. I didn’t do my usual thing of joining a gym, going for a month and then never again. I went.
3 times a week. Pretty much religiously. Well as religious as I get anyway. The training is a mixture of strength and conditioning or weights and cardio. I began to enjoy it. Endorphins are real! Not an urban legend used to trick people into exercise as I previously suspected. I began to change shape because I was lifting weights and exercising 4 times a week, including my Pilates class. Sometimes 5 times on the weeks I could fit in a 2nd Pilates lesson.
As I’m hypermobile, I’m really flexible (which isn’t half as much fun as it sounds) and means I have poor proprioception or essentially bad body awareness. For example, it took me years of Pilates to work out what a straight back feels like. I also don’t automatically use all of my muscles in the same way as other people do. This year I started using my lats (back muscles or latissimus dorsi) and I’m 44.
But even with this disadvantage, I started to become more confident about what my body is capable of and I was astounded to discover that I’m not that rubbish after all. I’m still clumsy but my body awareness and balance are much better than they were. I can lift weights. In fact, I can lift quite heavy weights for someone of my gender, weight, height and lifting experience. Feeling strong and healthy is quietly addictive, being able to lift heavier and heavier weights, for someone who thought they couldn’t and shouldn’t exercise, is one of the most empowering things I’ve experienced. In December last year I took part in a powerlifting competition and managed to get a personal best where I deadlifted 75kg. (more than my body weight.) When I think back, it was just so much fun, competing and cheering on all the other members of the gym but kind of baffling and hilarious too. Me? Powerlifting? In a competition? When I don’t have a 70s ‘tache or a leotard?
I started to wonder how I could do more – how could I share this with other people who think like I used to, that exercise isn’t for them? I had a mad idea that maybe I could become a personal trainer. But shut it down as a moment of insanity. I then had a conversation with Gil about it possibly being time for a change, and being asked what I was thinking of doing, but feeling too embarrassed to mention the crazy flight of fancy. I was gobsmacked when Gil asked me if I’d thought of doing something to do with fitness but she could tell it really excited me and was becoming a passion.
The chat with Gil gave me a lot of confidence and it started to feel like a credible option and that I might be able to be credible personal trainer. I started looking at how you a became PT. I talked with my coaches at the gym who (shockingly) thought it was a great idea and gave me tons of advice.
I decided to go back to college. I started my Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing in September 2018, which I passed in December. Then in January I began my Level 3 Cert in Personal Training at Trafford College. One of my favourite moments was when I was practicing a timed 2km row at the same time as another classmate. 26 years my junior. I still shake my head when I think about how different I am now.
I’m now a qualified personal trainer.
It’s a complete turn around for me. It feels like a ‘we’re not in Kansas any more Toto’ moment. I have occasionally been asked if I was trying to alert friends to the fact that I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve not. Those of you who know me well, (I’m looking at you Emily Shields) know that bad grammar is my kidnap alert.
I love feeling strong and healthy and exercise is massively important to my mental health and well-being. Which is more important than ever now that my mum has finally been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The dementia diagnosis and the past 2 years of helping my dad to care for mum, has changed my priorities completely. It’s a devastating disease and it’s only going to get harder. Which is why I want to enjoy what I do and have fun. In fact I need to. It’s time for that change. I want to spend more time nearer to home and I want to work less and do something less stressful. I’m hopeful that becoming a personal trainer and doing more coaching will go some way to helping me achieve that goal.