Sarah’s Fitness Journey – Part 1

As a kid I was really active. My favourite things to do was riding bikes, climbing trees, playing football and running around. As a teenager this developed into playing a lot more sports, which I tried everything from sailing to water polo. I was a really keen football player and when I was 16, I had just completed my first season for a Women’s club team, when I contracted glandular fever. This stopped me completely. I couldn’t do anything! Bed ridden for months, very weak and very sick. I still suffered the effects of Glandular fever for over a year afterwards and would commonly take Monday’s off school as I was too exhausted after a normal weekend. Even after I got better, I was not allowed to play football again for 6 months as the risk of hitting my kidneys (that could be fatal), was too high.

This devastated me as football was what I loved and the only exercise I really did. Before all that, I had joined the school gym previously for 6 months and went a huge total of 2 times! The gym environment I thought was not for me, but now I look back, no one actually took the time to show me what to do, so I just felt lost.

Fast forward a good year and my mum past away very suddenly. I was suddenly faced with the task of finding a new home, becoming independent and at the same time as grieving for my mother (my father lives in the UK). Exercise was my LAST priority. After a while I developed a very bad habits and lifestyle of eating takeaways, morning tea pies and bingeing energy drinks! On top of all of this I was in a bit of a grief hole and was drinking a lot every weekend. I also worked at a takeaway pizza place, which did not help with free or cheap pizzas readily available. The weight piled on and it was another good 12 months until I said enough is enough and set about changing my lifestyle.

I firstly thought that I could get fit by joining my old football team. My first game back was the hardest of my life. I remember not being able to breathe, lungs screaming and the player I was meant to be marking always 5 meters in front of me. I had the coach yelling at me from the sideline “GO ANDREWS!”, but I was so unfit I literally could not keep up and felt like I let the team down.

I then joined a gym with a friend and shadowed them around the gym for a bit. I started lifting weights and really got a kick out of how lifting made me feel. Overall, I got a lot stronger but I was not seeing the results I really wanted. That’s when I took an offer from a personal trainer at my gym, Jae, for an 8 week challenge. This ultimately changed my life.

Looking back, I was quite a bad client. I would often ring him last minute to cancel our appointment as I honestly wanted to sleep in (sorry Jae!, I was not a morning person). When I was there though, I worked hard. The hardest part of all for me was actually the nutrition. I learnt that I was not nourishing my body and seeing calories as just a fuel. We would complete food diaries and I would write down, just a banana for breakfast and a small V and a Moro bar for morning tea! WHAT! Looking back now, that seems crazy and Jae was quick to point out that it was not ideal. I still have my exercise folder from that challenge and have never shown anyone as I am too embarrassed. My eating was not great until the last few weeks. Even though that was the case, I still got results! My body fat decreased, my muscles grew, I lost CM’s from everywhere and my strength increased. I went from only being able to do 15 push ups MAX, (on my knees) to 32 on my feet! The most surprising was that my weight also decreased, but not by much as I had thought as I had built muscle mass! I also found muscles that I did not know I had. Just imagine what I could have achieved if I took the nutrition seriously from the beginning.

I continued my fitness journey by seeing Jae regularly and also keeping up with my own workouts. I carried on doing a mix of weights, cardio and playing football. After a few years I realised that I loved the way I felt and wanted to help other people find their love for exercise and achieve their goals, so I went to university. I completed a degree in Sport and Recreation at AUT and have not looked back.

One particular memory I have is after about a year of my fitness journey, I went back to my old favourite bakery (where my love of pies began) and the lady recognised me in there after not going for almost a year and a half (I purposely stayed away). She was like “long time no see! How are you?” I laughed and politely told her that her great pies made me fat and purchased a sandwich. A matter of fact, it wasn’t the pies that made me fat, but my overall lifestyle and not understanding the energy balance equation.

These days I do strength and circuit training in the gym, pretend to run occasionally, slowly getting back into playing football (after having my second boy last year,) dabbling in some regular mountain biking and paddle boarding when the weather is right.

Notable achievements:  13 football seasons, 1 x 12Km event, 6 x half marathons, 2 x Tough Mudder (18km), Step Up Stair Challenge – fastest female team in 2019 and have 2 beautiful children.

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