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Exercise Changed My Life

I grew up in a Cornish naval town in the 80s and 90s. When I was little, I would wake up early and dress myself in whatever combination of amazing 80s fashions I could find, before theatrically entering my parents room to announce:

“THIS is what I am wearing today, DON’T try to change me!”

I was a confident, self-loving, sassy little thing.

As I got older, some of that unquestioning certainty began to dim, but I was lucky enough to be naturally good at sport. Filling my young life with sport is what grounded me and connected me to myself as well as my peers. All I knew is that I was happy when I was moving and felt energised when I saw the joy that other people around me also got from it. It was never about the winning

By the time I left home and began to realise my sexuality, my ability to accept myself started to erode. The more aware I became of my differences, the less freely I moved, until eventually I stopped all together.

I spent my early 20’s searching for a sense of belonging, including a bizarre stint as a bass player in a punk-pop girl band whose catchy hit song ‘I Like Girls’ meant I found myself centre stage in Trafalgar Square in front of thousands of people at London pride! What should have been an absolute dream moment, was sick inducing. Even the follow up whirlwind summer tour supporting the likes of Bananarama and The Gossip didn’t change what I knew deep down inside, this was not for me.

Eventually I landed a job working for an incredible woman who was reinventing the women’s sportswear industry, and I loved it! She took me under her wing, taught me everything I needed to know about being a successful female in the workplace, and together we created a much needed platform for women’s sportswear

By the time I was 30 I was full swing ‘digital native’ or ‘creative consultant’ or whatever I thought I needed to be in the pursuit of success. I was working with energetic start-ups and impact businesses, living in a cool city with an amazing girlfriend in our own home. On paper I had a perfect life, but I was overworking, living an unhealthy lifestyle, and with no meaningful exercise in sight, my self-acceptance and happiness was at an all-time low. I had lost that sassy 4 year old and grounded teenager, and I needed to get some semblance of them back.

It took an event that rocked me to my core for me to start that journey. One morning whilst out in the sea a man drowned less than 25 meters from me, we attempted but failed to save his life. The event had a real impact on me, and I guess you could say I had a mini breakdown.

Eventually, I took what at the time felt like a huge and impossible step: I entered a gym with intent and started training with a former Syrian army soldier turned champion bodybuilder. He accepted what I wanted for my physical self with no questions or judgement, and had me lifting, moving and connecting with my body. Slowly but surely I become the person I wanted to be. This simple consistent act brought me back to that girl who was able to be happy no matter where she was because she was connected to herself. It gave me the confidence and strength to start therapy, to enrol onto a Personal Training course, and to prioritise my work life balance.

As a member of the queer community, I am aware of what it feels like to be different, to stand out, and that inevitable requirement to have to clarify my identity with every new interaction. Some of us are at war with our bodies, some of us are ridiculed and hated for expressing who we are, and some of us are regularly stared at or made to feel unwelcome in the most mundane of places. We shouldn’t have to overachieve, forgo our own happiness, or live on the periphery in an attempt to avoid these things. We all have bodies to move and shape, to make stronger, fitter, healthier, and connect with.

It’s time we created a safe space to explore fitness and give judgement the middle finger. Which is why I am creating An_Other, a community platform where we (and our allies) can cheer each other on, learn how to move, connect with inclusive PT’s and local clubs, love our bodies and improve our mental health.

THIS is what I am doing now,

NOBODY is going to change that!

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