I can honestly say that resistance training has improved so many aspects of my life. But before I get into that, I want to give you a bit of background info so you can see what a big jump for me this was. And if I can do it…….anyone can do it!
It all started back in 2014 when I saw a photo of me at the work Christmas Party. I had been pretty slim all my life, but my weight was starting to creep up and I didn’t like the way I felt - clothes that used to be comfortable were suddenly starting to feel tight. I just didn’t feel good about myself, and I realised I had started to not care about myself.
I had a massive sweet tooth. I would have 3 sugars in my coffee and I would happily eat a whole packet of biscuits or have a slice of cake for breakfast. Growing up, I found it quite difficult to put on weight, so eating this sort of stuff didn’t bother me. I was also extremely in-active. I hated the gym as I found it boring, I hated running as it hurt my knees and in all honesty, I was just very lazy.
So when I decided I needed to lose a bit of weight, I thought my diet would be the best thing to tackle. Anything that didn’t involve exercising was a win in my eyes! I decided to give up sugar. I knew it was going to be a massive task, but I was so determined to do this. And I was doing it for myself - no one else. And that is why I think I stuck with it. But as you can probably guess, this just wasn’t sustainable. I stuck to it for the best part of a year before I slowly started to bring it back in. In all honesty, even though I don’t agree that anyone should have to cut a whole food group out, what it did do was change my taste. I no longer craved the sweet stuff!
Despite my hatred of exercise, I decided to join the gym and started going twice a week. But I had no idea what I was doing, I lacked confidence and wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. I would sit on the bike or go on the cross trainer for 30-40 minutes and then leave. I would cover up from head to toe, walk in with my head down, quietly get my cardio done and leave - trying my best not to get noticed by anyone. And it really didn’t take much for me to talk myself out of going.
After losing a bit of weight through diet and boring myself in the gym, I still didn’t get the feeling I was expecting to achieve. I still hated my body, but this time it was because I was stick thin and had no shape. I had started to follow a few fitness people on Instagram and I remember coming across Chloe Madley. It was then that I started to see what weight training could do for a female’s physique - and it was something I was really keen on.
I talked about it for a week or so, then I switched gyms to make it easier for me to go on the way to or from work. It was this change of gyms (from a generic 24hr gym with no personality to a smaller gym where a lot of strong women trained) that led me down the path I feel I was always meant to take.
On the 10th November 2015 I sent an email to Luke. I wanted to start weight training but I had no idea what to do, so thought having a few PT sessions would help.
I was so scared of my first session. The idea of having a PT that was going to shout at me to ‘get down and give me 10’ was stuck in my head. I was so unfit and I was so scared that I was going to make a complete fool of myself and look stupid. I had no idea what any of the machines did. And it all really intimidated me. I genuinely thought everyone else knew what they were doing and they would all laugh at me.
I was a timid, nervous and anxious 35 year old walking into that gym for my first PT session. I had zero self esteem and didn’t believe in myself at all. But I was there. I had forced myself into it because I knew that if I wanted to make a change, I had to get someone to help me.
Straight away, I knew this was the type of training I was going to enjoy. I didn’t make a fool of myself, I didn’t get all hot and sweaty and out of breath and no one took any notice of what we were doing.
I started by doing one PT session a week, focusing on lower body exercises like squats. I was enjoying it so much, I then added in a second session to get some upper body strength stuff in too. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the upper body stuff as I felt super weak. But I knew I had to keep going if I wanted to see any kind of results. Each session made me feel so empowered.
Then came the first ever comparison photo. I couldn’t believe I was about to post a photo of myself in my underwear, but I was so proud of myself that I wanted to do it.
I was starting to see the changes in my body. And then I realised something else too…...I was starting to feel a difference in my head. I was posting a photo of myself in a bikini. I was starting to feel proud of myself and my confidence was growing.
A year later and I was hooked….
By sticking with it and committing to getting stronger, I really was starting to feel so much better about myself. I started to care about myself again. I was holding myself better, I was happier, I felt stronger and this was just the beginning.
I started to really enjoy life again. I felt alive! I took part in the Tough Mudder (2016) in my wedding dress to raise funds for Forest Holme Hospice which was a massive boost for me. I ran alongside a good friend in the Spartan Race (2017)…..a friend that was in the Military...a friend that I thought I had no chance of keeping up with, but I did (and I cried with joy when I finished it!) and I helped (a tiny bit) to pull a Boeing 737 a distance of 50 metres to raise money for Poole Hospital with the rest of the Exclusive Titan Team!
And I started to feel like I didn’t have to cover my whole body up. I didn’t mind if people looked at me, because I felt mentally strong.
This was the best I had ever felt. Even as a teenager I would have my head down and not want people to notice me. This wasn’t just down to my figure, it was also down to feeling like I had a purpose.
And as it all started with a Christmas Party photo, what about this for a transformation…
I am sure you will agree that you can tell it’s not just my figure that has changed. You can see the self confidence in the second photo. And you can see the fake smile in the first one.
With this love of resistance training, came a love of myself.
The title of this blog post may seem rather dramatic, but in all honesty, this is how weight training/beginner powerlifting has affected my life….
* I started to eat more and improve my relationship with food. I now see it as fuel for my training.
* I saw my body change shape. I am gaining curves that I have never had before. I don’t want to be skinny - I want to be strong.
* I saw my mental health improve. Being in the gym is ‘my time’. It’s time that I focus on nothing but lifting the weight that is in front of me (or on my back 😆)
* My relationship with my husband has gone from strength to strength. We spend time on our own, doing the things we love and this has given us the space all couples need.
* I am a fitter, healthier person who can actually enjoy life outside of the gym. Being able to keep up with my husband on a bike ride feels so good.
* I have gained so much confidence in myself. I don’t fear half as much as I used to, and even when I do, I am in a better place to tackle it head on.
* My work-life balance has greatly improved. I used to live to work. Now I work to live. Having the mental boost helped me realise this.
* I have made great friends with similar passions in life.
* I went to college and got my PT qualifications. I now have 10 clients that I train around a full time job. Helping others is a passion of mine and it makes me really happy.
* I now stand tall. I no longer hunch over with no self esteem.
So if you want to get more out of exercise than just losing a bit of weight or ‘toning’ up, I would highly recommend resistance/weight training. You have to stick with it and give it some time, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.
Lifting weights will not turn you into a bodybuilder overnight, so there is no reason to be scared of putting on ‘too much’ muscle.
I now train 5 times a week, I can bench press my bodyweight and I am about to enter my first powerlifting competition (just for some fun)…..this is also the year I turn 40!
Feeling strong is one of the best feelings in the world….especially when you feel both physically and mentally strong!
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Rachel - Strength Beyond The Surface: