Many fitness professionals come from a long background of sports, gym, fitness modelling, bodybuilding, or something similar. They have amazing experience and expertise in their fields, built over years in the game. My background is slightly different, and although it's been a source of shame in the past I'm learning to embrace it and see the benefits.
I was never the sporty kid at school. At 14/15 years old I was the one skiving off PE to hide down behind the tennis courts with a guitar and a joint. I drank, smoked, and ate absolute crap. I barely slept, and I did no physical activity. When I was playing in a band at the age of 18/19 the drinking increased even more, and I was still doing no physical exercise. I started uni at the age of 19, and as most people know this is absolutely ridiculous for alcohol consumption! Pretty much every social event revolves around not just consuming alcohol, but in vast quantities. Even if you join a sports team, in fact especially if you join a sports team, you are expected to drink to massive excess on a regular basis. I learned much more about drinking games in my first year than I did about biology.
In my second year of uni a couple of friends started hitting the campus gym, and feeling low in energy and at a pretty unhealthy bodyweight for a 5'11 21-year-old of 9.5 (133lb/60kg) stone I decided to join them. I loved it, but didn't get massive results due to the fact I was still drinking about 80-100 units of alcohol per week (UK guideline is a maximum of 14) and eating ready meals, takeaways, and smashing the energy drinks to try and stay awake in lectures.
Shortly after this I joined one of the faculty rugby teams: Biology didn't have one so I joined Law (Legal Eagles baby, represent!). I had always loved watching rugby and it was awesome getting involved with playing, and I finally started understanding how the game actually worked! I knew a bit more about training at this point, and was trying (not really succeeding) to eat more healthily. I reached about 11 stone.
After uni I dropped a bit of weight again while travelling and not eating a lot, I was probably about 10.5 stone (147lb/67kg). When I became a teacher my diet went to hell, surviving on strong coffee, flapjacks and my alcohol intake rose again to cope with the stress. This time I gained weight, up to 13 stone, and I was feeling very proud of myself about this until I also went up to a 34 inch waist and had to buy all new trousers...turns out it wasn't the kind of weight I was really trying to gain! Interestingly though, during this period of time I had started using my biology background and scientific mentality, as well as what I had learned in the gym and my passion for helping people, to build workout and nutrition programmes for some of my friends.
When I had to take time off from teaching due to stress/depression, my doctor didn't want to give me medication and instead advised I did 3 things: start exercising, sort out my nutrition, and spend at least an hour a day doing something I loved. When he asked me what I used to do for fun before the mental health issues I answered 'the gym', so it all tied in nicely!
As I started training and eating right, and my mental health began to improve, I settled on a new career path. I wanted my new career to tick certain boxes for me:
- Helping others
- Something I was passionate for
- Potential to always learn more
- Positive impact on society
- Potential for a good income
So based on this list I decided to get qualified to work in the health and fitness industry, and went from there.
There is much more to the story since then (PT, nutrition, owning a gym, etc etc), but the reason I wrote this background for you all to read is because I have started to embrace this part of my story much more. I don't see my life growing up being the antithesis of health and fitness as a bad thing any more, I actually believe it allows me to relate more to people who haven't always been into training or eating healthy. Because I've BEEN there! These are the people that need the support and motivation the most, not the people who are already in love with a healthy active lifestyle!
I remember people laughing when I said I was going to work in health and fitness. 'YOU?!' they would say, 'a personal trainer?!'...which hurt at the time, I'm not going to lie. But I'm over it now, and I am confident that this story illustrates that no matter what your past looks like in terms of your health and fitness habits, or anything else, you have the complete and utter power to change that and take a different path.
I had a great laugh don't get me wrong, but you know what? I'm having way more fun now...