In 2016, I wrote a piece on FFG detailing the rather insane year that changed my life forever, and, well, the course of this blog as well. To quickly summarise, in 2015 I underwent intense back surgery which would see me laid up in bed for sometime. It also took me out of the fitness game entirely. This was an injury that, I was told, would be with me for the rest of my life. For anyone that has a “bad back,” you’ll know there aren’t many things that are more painful. I was petrified, I was also completely convinced that my days as an athlete were over and, no lie, I actually threw away my Nike Cross-trainers. I felt like that was it. I went into a funk and it wasn’t pretty. Depression set in, which I’ve talked about openly before. I put on a lot of weight, which only made the depression worse. So much worse. Nothing in my closet fit me anymore. But… it wasn’t all bad. I was in a situation where I wasn’t willing to forgo style just because my rear end had expanded. So, my journey began in a new direction with FFG. I started looking at style from a changed perspective and it truly motivated me to talk more about size issues in an industry that has some serious prejudices in this department. I had gone from a size 14 to a size 18. It’s not a massive number switch, but it was enough to stir something in me that hadn’t been addressed before. What I thought of as a curse was a true blessing in disguise. It opened doors and windows to new areas that I could write about, it brought new people into my life and it made me rethink the way I work with fashion brands in general. So there you go. That’s the plus side of the situation, no pun intended. But, I was still heavily in the throws of depression, felt terribly unfit and generally didn’t feel myself at all, both physically and mentally.
Over the course of a year, I did a good enough job of being Polly Positive for anyone that would listen. I did a great job of convincing everyone around me that I was absolutely fine. In reality, I was hurting. I had zero strength. I mean that quite literally. I had no muscle tone. I would breathe heavily going up stairs. Even the endless walks, with my crazy travel schedule, through Heathrow Airport, left me breathless. It was saddening and embarrassing. I could also feel it mentally, so much so that I spent most of my days feeling like I was in a heavy fog. But, I couldn’t see a way out of it. I didn’t know how to make a change. Then, something that I will now always describe as “miraculous” happened.
Basically, I was introduced to AMP. It’s a rather long story as to how, but let’s just say it happened when and where it needed to in my life. For some reason, on that particular day, I felt brave enough to do something differently. I hadn’t been in a gym, working out, for coming up on four years. Then one Monday, as the New Year was in full swing, I rocked up to a mews in Marylebone with some shabby workout gear, a pair of trendy trainers that had never seen the light of day, and a rather scared expression my face. On this day I met Matt, Steve and Steve, the three trainers at Amp, or, as I like to call them now, my three transformers.
Now let me take one small step back here and explain a few things that ran through my mind on this morning. First of all, I made a deal with myself on this day, and a deal with AMP really. I had agreed to commit three months, or twelve weeks, of my life to taking my body back. I knew I could never do it alone. I have never studied in any sort of physical fitness or rehabilitation studies. I wouldn’t even know where to start in training with the ailments I’ve had. I knew if I was ever to step back into a physical fitness routine, I would need help. AMP would be that help. I knew that. But, I did have some serious rules for my time during this whole transformation.
First and foremost, and perhaps the most important, was my promise to myself to not look at one number. There would be no weigh-ins, no body fat checking, no inch measuring and certainly no before and after pictures. This wasn’t me working out because I want to be thinner. The only numbers I’m concerned with are the numbers on the bike as I rack up minutes, or the numbers on the weights as I bicep curl until my arms shake. That’s it. And I’ve kept that promise. Why is this important? Well, because I’ve had serious issues with this before.
I’m the girl who obsesses over the number on the scale, the number of calories I’ve consumed in a day or the number of inches I’ve lost around my thighs and waist week after week. I have an unhealthy obsession with this that has led to some rather uncomfortable scenarios in my past. And this adventure with AMP isn’t about any of those things. This is about becoming strong and proving to myself that I can do this despite the rather frustrating deck of cards I’ve been handed over the past four years.
Next year I will be 40 years old and I refuse to be the woman that has trouble running for the train or the woman that can’t lift her dog (yes, I’m talking about big boy Boomer) off the ground for a hug, because she is in pain or doesn’t have the strength or stamina to do so. Let me be clear and say this again, just so that I’m sure the message is getting through. I am not doing this for weight loss. That is not my intention.
So, fast forward again to my first morning at AMP. I’m walking in feeling like a lamb moving towards the slaughter. I genuinely had no idea what to expect. I knew what AMP was, as that’s why I was there. It’s a place to get one on one, or small group, training. It’s a place where you know you are not going to hurt yourself because you have professionals watching every single thing you do, in a specially designed programme tailor fit for you and you only, based on what your body needs. The boys knew what I needed. They knew all about my back problems, my ankle problems and my shoulder problems. Yes, I am a walking talking orthopaedic surgeon’s dream. But, none of us knew just how bad my fitness was.
Dear reader, it shouldn’t surprise you at all that the very first training day was a struggle. My body continuously wanted to give up. But, with the support of the trainers around me and with a true and strong mental goal set, I somehow made it through that very first day. Only four more to go in that week and 59 more sessions to go before the three month completion. Easy peasy right?
I stood in the shower crying for fifteen minutes after that first session. Thank goodness for good water pressure in the showers of the gym. The heavy water hid the heaving sobs coming from the second shower stall. I’m pretty sure there was a tear for every day I had been sedentary. I was leaving it all on shampoo sudded shower floor.
I was back on Tuesday, Wednesday, and well, you get the point. I kept coming back. And today, I’m writing to you after my 21st session at AMP and the start of my fifth week training, for five days a week, no exceptions. I had thought that I wanted to wait until the end of the third month to write and really do a dig down on the start, middle and finish of this whole process. But, today I sat down at my computer and this is what I started to write, because, inside of just one month, absolutely everything has changed. I am writing now, not just as a women that feels like she is once again an athlete, but as a woman who feels like she is reclaiming her life.
Every morning, I’ve spent 50 minutes working, what feels like, every single muscle I possess in my body. I’ve slammed medicine balls; pushed boxes, with 50kgs weights on them, up and down halls; worked out with the trainers themselves on cardio challenges; and more or less challenged myself in ways that I didn’t think would ever again be possible. And I’ve done it all with absolutely no fear. I feel almost as if I’m in some sort of protective bubble because there is always someone there coaching me, pushing me, encouraging me to go harder, faster and further than before, but all with my health in mind.
Today, after four weeks, my body feels like it’s in training for a serious event. There are days when I’m exhausted, days when I’m sore and achy and other days when I feel energetic and ready to take on the world after a session. My body has changed dramatically in just one month. That much I see in the mirror. But, I am no shrinking violet. I’m not wasting away. I’m sculpting. I want to see muscles. I want to see strength in the mirror, with a body that can take on any challenge. You need a strong body to do that, but more importantly you need a strong mind. And while I look in the mirror and see a great change in my shape, the biggest overall change for me has been with my head.
It’s not an easy thing to talk about depression. It never has been and probably never will be. And I do believe every single person has their unique demons that can cause this to creep up in their lives. For me, it’s a mix of so much, that could fill an entire book. So, no point trying to squeeze it all in here. Let’s just say I’ve battled with a lot and have tried 101 ways to Sunday to try and fix “the problem.”
For years after my surgery, people would tell me that the best way to deal with depression is by working out. Of course I knew this as an athlete, as I was rarely “sad” when I was training and competing. I was too exhausted and too focused to be anything other than those two things. But, the moment I stopped training in some form, it almost felt as if my brain turned into a soggy sponge, laden with negative thoughts and sinking downward spirals of emotion. I had a real hard time seeing through that and I have felt so heavy with melancholy that at times it has felt as if I were suffocating.
After only one week of training at AMP, the greatest weight that was lifted from my body had zero to do with physical pounds. The figurative bricks that were stacked on my shoulders, on my chest, on my heart and on my head, had vanished. I felt light as a feather. My body might have been achy as hell, but all I could really think about was how clear and in focus the rest of me really was. I had forgotten this athlete’s high. I’d forgotten the feeling of taking a shower after a workout that was so hard you thought for sure you’d never survive, let alone make it to a hot shower. And I’d forgotten how starting your day with an hour that exercises your body will set your whole day up for success.
I am keenly aware of the fact that I might sound like the biggest “convert” of all time. But, I’ve been here many times before. I’ve been in the best shape of my life, had everything working in the right direction, only to end up on an operating table with a serious injury holding me back from progressing. I’m not taking that chance this time. I’m working with professionals so that such an experience cannot and will not occur.
And this, right now, is just the first month done.
If you want more information on AMP, visit https://www.amp.fit/
For those of you that are thinking you need this in your life, and you live in London, I am also so excited to offer something very special for you. I’m running a competition over on Instagram, for one free month of personal training with AMP. You can come in and workout with me or go it alone for a month. This is one of the most exciting offerings I’ve ever been able to feature on FFG, because I feel like it is a lifetime game changer! Head over to Instagram now to enter!