How I got started in fitness – and how I came back after my epilepsy diagnosis.

Whether you’ve been working out for decades or have just completed your first sit-up, everyone starts somewhere. When I’ve worked with clients, I’m often inspired by the full range of reasons why people start keeping fit – and how they keep going or come back after illnesses and setbacks.

Like many of you, as a child I hated exercise. So much can change… I’d love to tell you how the unexpected way my attitude to working out did a 180 turn!

As some of you who’ve worked with me know, my life unravelled when I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Things got so bad that, not only did I stop training and chuck my diet plan out of the window, I also thought I’d never be able to take part in the bodybuilding competitions I love so much again.

Getting started can be the hard part – but what many of us find really challenging is starting again after tough times in our lives leave us thinking about anything but exercise.

I won’t just tell you about my beginning in fitness, but just as importantly, how I got back on track after the worst two years of my life.

How my fitness journey started

My fitness journey didn’t start out the way anyone would’ve imagined…

I was the sort of person that used to forge notes to get out of PE, I absolutely hated it all the way through school. I just didn’t like team sports. I had no coordination – if someone threw a ball at me, it would hit my head.

I got bullied, so school was tough for me. I didn’t want to be there in the first place, and I didn’t want to play team sports like netball because I didn’t have any friends.

As there wasn’t much about school that I got on with as a kid, the inspiration for my bodybuilding passion came closer to home. My mum used to body build and she’d always been to the gym. So when I was about 15, she ended up taking me – well dragging me – to spin classes, which I absolutely hated.

Then I found weights, and it just clicked. I loved doing my own thing, instead having to think about fitting into a whole team. When you can just zone out and concentrate on yourself, it really shifts your mind-set – once you’ve trained, you feel unbelievably better.

Don’t get me wrong, it took me a couple of years to get to that stage; over time lifting became my main release. Nothing beats shoving my headphones on, picking up my weights and forgetting about the world.

Stubbornness can pay off!

While I was inspired by mum’s fitness to start toning up myself, the other reason I started bodybuilding was that my dad said I couldn’t do it…

I’m a stubborn person, driven by proving other people and my own doubts wrong. In a way, I have him to thank, too – I don’t think I would be here doing what I love today if my dad hadn’t said that to me!

Before my fitness journey really began, I tried out a few exercises… but in all honesty they never stuck. I did dance and gymnastics, but as it was team and group sessions, it didn’t motivate me or energise me the same. I just couldn’t thrive off it or keep going when it got tougher.

But as soon as I got to 16, you couldn’t get me out of the gym. Before college, I would hit the weights; after college, I would end up back in the gym again. You just couldn’t keep me away!

I liked the feeling of lifting, and personally, I found that I when I trained with weights, I got the changes I was looking for – and faster.

My diet

Because I started so young, my diet didn’t change until I found my trainer – it was just the weights that I got into. When I eventually got into body building, at about 17, I saw my mum’s past photos and was inspired to look like that, and excited by how much fun it looked to get on stage.

So, I got into body building and started changing my diet along with the exercise. I didn’t really know much at the time as I wasn’t qualified, but just started by eating more protein and less rubbish!

 

My goals

I never imagined things would turn out the way they have – not a chance! I started competing when I was 17, and obviously didn’t place very well in my first show.

But I was on a basic diet back then, as I had a different coach back who didn’t specialise in women’s dieting. And to be fair, about 10 years ago bikini bodybuilding wasn’t very established or competitive.

I competed all the way through for a couple of years and won a few shows, just for the love of it – I liked dieting and I liked the process.

And then I got diagnosed with epilepsy.

My specialist said I had got no chance and I couldn’t compete again; I couldn’t diet and couldn’t strip my body fat down. You can live a healthy lifestyle, they said, but you won’t be able to get your body that lean again.

So, I took a year out and I just ate rubbish. I didn’t train, didn’t do anything and l lost all the motivation and progress I worked so hard to build up. I was in and out of hospital for about two years having seizures, and it was just so rubbish.

I then left my job because they cut my hours down and they didn’t believe my epilepsy was real. It really was the worst two years of my life; I can’t even explain it.

I started training at an ultra-flex gym and spotted Cuba and saw his fiancée, who blew me away – I wanted to look like her! He had never coached a girl before and after a lot of pestering, I pretty much begged him to train me.

He said that he didn’t know much about epilepsy, but if I was honest with him and told him everything I knew, we would try to do as much as we can. So I did, and I got my training and eating back on track.

Then, in the first year of me competing, I won two shows, and my pro card!

I didn’t think I’d be able to do it anymore. It gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. Before, I’d never got far with bodybuilding, but I’d always done well – but when I went back, I was just winning all the time, which I couldn’t believe. I had to keep pinching myself.

As soon as I went back on the diet plan and got into a regular training routine, doing everything by the book, I didn’t have a seizure for two years.

I want people to know that I’m here for you at any stage of your fitness life – I know how to begin from the beginning, and how to get back up again when health issues or a rough patch makes you feel like you’re starting from zero.

With determination and the right support with your diet and exercise plan, you can come back from almost anything that comes your way.

I thought starting out and getting fit for the first time was hard – and it was! But it was nothing compared with the pain, satisfaction and pride of getting fit again after I thought I’d lost everything.

The purpose of our lives is to be happy