As we all know trying to pick our GCSE’s for our entire future at the age of 14/15 is well in my opinion ridiculous! But still I made my choices then went on to sixth form college to make more choices of subjects for a career that I had no idea of who, what or where I was going to be or do in life. But still I choose my subjects as that’s what society tells us to do. I smashed my first year at college, academically I never had a problem, I usually excelled at what I put my head into. However the 2nd year went to pieces finishing with only 35% attendance for the year as I was more interested in working 2 jobs and earning money. Somehow tho I still left college with A Levels and decent grades. Now the difficult part, telling your parents that you was not interested in more studying let alone going to University to do more studying for god knows what career! I took a year out and worked…a lot! Usually holding at least two jobs consistently. My favourite was the bar work alongside the banking job, plus 4 months waitressing in Spain. However whilst in Spain I began to think maybe Uni should be on the cards. I loved psychology and biology and was currently obsessed with the American series CSI so I bit the bullet and applied to study Forensic Science. I got accepted to all the uni’s I applied for and chose to go to Stoke to study.
I literally lasted 3 months at Uni. I had been bulimic since 14 and it was always manageable but at Uni it got out of control. I can see now that it was a massive trigger being at Uni as it was not where I wanted to be in life but just felt lost at to what my next chapter was meant to be in life. I was tiny but of course couldn’t see that. My binging was out of control and the amount of laxatives I was taking plus excessive exercise took over. I had no interest in studying, I just wanted to be a skinny as possible and work out. At Christmas that year I returned home from Uni and did not go back which was a massive relief. My parents could see it wasn’t suiting me and thankfully didn’t push me to go back but I still felt like a massive let down as I knew I had a lot of potential with this career. I did entertain going to a Uni in London but realised I did not want to study for now.
I quickly got a job in the office world and within a few months I applied internally for a much higher position which I was told I would not get as I was too young and not experienced enough….however I got the job. What I quickly realised though was that the office environment was an absolute nightmare for me. Constant tea breaks, biscuits and sweets surrounded you with birthdays and cake always being available….I can never say no either so it was torture hating myself that I was eating junk now in the day too! I’d chomp away on boxes of dry cereal to distract myself from the office junk but I’d usually give in and end up binging in the office too. Then I’d leave work going straight to my local gym that I had joine
d in Hornchurch. I would take part in all the classes then finish with at least 30-45 mins on the treadmill (I was also doing the same at the weekends with a ton of classes). After 2-3 hours training and feeling great, I’d end up going home to then binge on chocolate and sweets. A typical nightly binge for me: entire box of after eights, family packs of chocolate buttons, maltesers, haribo (star mix of course), chocolate peanuts, chocolate raisins and other family size packs of chocolates that I’d have grabbed in the shops. Easily I’d consume £15 worth of junk a night followed by a cocktail of laxatives and I was now mixing them with Andrew Salts as the worst had happened and I had built up such a tolerance the laxatives had stopped working even taking 20 a night no longer had an effect so my weight kept creeping up.
I had left Uni under 7 stone and now was edging to 9.10 stones. Now I know that does not sound a lot but the gain was quick and freaking me out. What if I just never stopped gaining weight?! I was barely sleeping from the anxiety of it all and the disgust for myself and lack of control but I still could not stop my pattern. I was also always in pain, where the laxatives had stopped working so was bloated and cramping, I still took them in the desperate hope they would kick in. Work and my friends/family had no idea how bad I had become as I hid things so well. I guess people had their suspicions but back then it was not something to talk about. I was also on anti-depressants but kept that to myself too. It was just what my life had become again, just like Uni but worse the weight kept going up this time!
Being in the gym so much my Body Pump & aerobics instructor (and also absolute role model!) spoke to me one day after one of her classes and made a suggestion that set the ball in motion. “Amy you are in the gym so much and clearly love it, have you thought about becoming an exercise instructor?” Well let me tell you, firstly…MY ROLE MODEL….was suggesting I was maybe good enough to teach?? It blew me away and I had hand on heart I had never even considered teaching! And secondly….I had never even contemplated I could get paid to exercise?! Erm YAAAS! Isn’t that the DREAM?! But then I looked at Helen and asked “is it even a career tho?” It wasn’t ever on the list of careers we are shown in school/college etc if you know what I mean, totally brainwashed by institutions that we must work 9-5 and be employed. Helen looked at me and laughed and broke it all down for me. I was sold! I went home that night, found the course that I liked the look of, ££££ later I had booked my ETM Level 2 Diploma and began 12 months of studying and exams whilst working in the office.
Now I am used to just excelling at what I put my mind to. However this was the biggest challenge I had ever had to face. Firstly I failed my initial Anatomy & Physiology Exam. I was devastated. Thankfully I passed the second time round but the THE PRACTICAL EXAM. Oh My F*CKIN God. I am telling you now, I was absolute SHIT! Like proper shit haha! I realised that yes I can follow instructions as a participant in classes no problem BUT trying to then be the instructor well that is a whole different level. You are flipped to the front, not only are you trying to mirror image your participants but they want you to talk, cue, pre cue and look happy at the same time. HAHAHAHA! I was awful and wanted to quit the course but the money I had spent was all my savings from working so I refused to quit. Eventually (with a lot of practice) I passed.
Sadly shortly after I passed my ETM I had a total breakdown. Work were amazing and they believed in me so much that they signed me off sick with full pay for a minimum of 6 months. I however was broken. My eating had continued to spiral out of control, my weight kept going up, the exercise routine was endless hours after work plus the weekends. The sleepless nights and anxiety were horrendous plus I had decided the anti-depressants we’re not helping so just stopped them without weening myself off them. It all came to a head 12 years ago, April 9th. I fully broke. I have never publicly shared this but I took an overdose of a ridiculous amount of very strong back pain killers that I stole from my Dad’s cupboard as I was living with him at the time. I had been out drinking that night and I was so angry at myself for another binge that I made a decision that night that I no longer wanted to live like this. Is it selfish? Well I can look back now and see the effect it took on my close family and friends but at the time I DID NOT CARE.
I was tired of caring what I weighed and exhausted from my crazy routines of over training and self hate. I had finally made a decision and felt at peace with what I wanted to do. Now the universe decided not to play ball. I had gone to bed that night with plenty of alcohol in my system plus 20 or more of these intense pain killers and slept well easily 9 hours. I should have just slipped away that night. Instead I woke to my dad being very confused why I was still in bed when I was meant to be going out that morning for a friends birthday. I was so disoriented that he realised quickly something was wrong as I wasn’t making much sense plus all the empty packets of the pain killers were dotted around. The ambulance was called and I was forced to go to hospital but I did not want to go at all. They took me in anyway despite my lame attempts to stay home. I was in hospital for 2 weeks. They couldn’t pump my stomach as I had been asleep long enough for it all to get in my system. Instead put on some drip that helped my body break down what i had taken. They explained that I would die in 2 weeks if not of organ failure and that would be horrific. Still I didn’t care. I was numb. It was the most humiliating and shameful experience of my life. My dirty secret was out there for everyone to see. I know some people had an idea of my weird eating habits especially as I would rarely eat a meal in front of people but this was so raw. I blocked a lot of close people out after all of this, too ashamed of what I had done and was making me feel even more alone. My God-Parents took over as no one quite knew how to handle the situation. I had to move to Chigwell to stay with them once I had been discharged. Too be honest it was like moving into a protective bubble, away from my past and meant I could be in a totally different area without the worry of running into any of my old friends and even family. I apologise to those that felt like I pushed them away but I was trying to restart my life and I just found it incredibly tough trying to stay in contact with those that now knew my situation and too be honest a lot of people found it very upsetting that I had done this and were I guess disappointed in me. I just did not want anyone to feel sorry for me as I was in such a fucked up headspace.
My God-Parents were amazing and I am still so thankful they took me into their world. Melanie my God-Mother is a Personal Trainer and Life Coach. Mel guided me with my eating and well being, getting me to set goals, affirmations and also creating a safe environment to allow me to still exercise BUT set me challenges also daily. I used to cry at the dinner table as I hated eating meals with people, and part of my new routine meant that I had to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together alongside my training, life coaching and pyscho-therapy provided by the NHS. This new routine soon became the norm, I stopped fighting it all and began to actually enjoy meal times which shocked me! I could not believe how much I began to actually enjoy foods that I usually pretended I did not like to avoid eating them. Turns out I love porridge too haha!
Mel let me settle into my new routine over the first month then she suggested booking onto my Level 3 PT Diploma to help me understand the nutrition side alongside the exercise, especially now as I was using the gym more rather than doing as many classes. It made sense, while I was off work I could really sink my teeth into the studying so I invested into the best course I could find with all the fancy add ons (I later discovered the add ons were unnecessary and overpriced but we live and learn ay?!). Over the next 11 months I began my PT studies and fully resigned from my office job as I knew in my heart that chapter was finished for me.
I created a CV to start moving forward with getting aerobics classes to get some real teaching experience. One morning (after sending my CV to hundreds of gyms over the next weeks) and was asked if I could cover an aerobics class at Angel Islington Fitness First! OMFG it was happening!!! I couldn’t say yes quicker and it was all confirmed for the following week! Now let me tell you something, I am NOT a City girl nor did I have a clue about the corporate world back then but my goodness I had a shock. Off I set on the train with my route printed out so I didn’t get lost, google maps didn’t exist back then haha. I arrived on time and was sent downstairs by a very stern looking receptionist into a smallish studio with 20 members waiting for the class to start. No smiles, just a look of who the hell is this? But I smiled and explained I was covering (absolutely bricking myself of course). I then began my very basic aerobics routine I had carefully planned from my training. At the end of the 45 minute class everyone had walked out except 2 ladies that I think just stayed as they felt bad for me. At the end of the class I went back up to the reception area to fill in my invoice and spoke briefly to the receptionist. I said I wasn’t sure how it went as most left very early into the class. She turned and looked me in the eye and said, “We wont be having you back, it did not go well.” Then she turned back to the computer and ignored me. I was mortified. It was worse than I thought, I was truly SHIT.
I returned back to Mel’s and decided teaching classes wasn’t for me and now I was thinking to quit the remainder of the PT course as I thought teaching would be my new career but I clearly sucked at that so I would probably be an awful PT too. Randomly I spoke to Helen and glumly told her what had happened in the class and explained it just wasn’t for me. Helen would not accept defeat. Instead she said going forward every Wednesday (or Monday I cant quite remember) I was going to join her back at Abbs Cross Gym for her famous Legs, Bums & Tums class. She got me to teach each week alongside her at the front of the class until I was confident enough to fly solo. I reluctantly agreed but didn’t actually expect to go. But I went, every week to that. Starting with just 5 mins then back over to Helen. Over the weeks I was teaching 5 then 10 then 15mins and so on of the class. It was fun and I felt safe. The members already knew me as a participant and were very kind and supportive. One night Helen called me to tell me she couldn’t make the class, her car had broken down so I had to go in on my own and cover the entire class…ON MY OWN! The flash backs of that class in London came flooding back. No way was I going through that again! But Helen explained that I didn’t go in then the class would be cancelled as its last minute and everyone would be let down. She reassured me I would be fine as everyone already knew me now plus I had basically been teaching most of the class the past few weeks, she was just there at the front with me. So I agreed, I didn’t want anyone to be let down. The class was AMAZING! Everyone stayed and they even thanked me for the class. I was buzzing. I called Helen and rambled on at how great it was. She laughed and confessed her car was totally fine and she just needed me to go and bite the bullet and do this. I cannot thank Helen enough for all of this. Your support and guidance got me back on track for my new future.
I went on to finish my PT course too and landed my first job in the gym as a fitness consultant and PT for a franchise company in Hackney. It was fun but after a few weeks the most popular group exercise left so my new boss booked me onto my Les Mills Body Pump & Body Combat courses. I was so excited as I loved Pump and had tried Combat too before and knew I really liked it. Body Combat was 3 gruelling days over 2 weekends. I learnt so much but was busted however, 2 weeks later I had to do the same with Body Pump. I passed both initial modules and my new boss wasted no time in putting me on the timetable literally giving me 2 weeks to learn the rest the routines and start teaching at her gym. Thankfully her gym had never had any Les Mills classes before, so despite my newness in these classes, it didn’t matter as the members had no expectations of these classes. My teaching quickly progressed and with that my class numbers grew with now waiting lists. It was so rewarding and i couldn’t believe i almost gave up at the very beginning. I was also given freestytle classes to teach which I loved as gave me the freedom to make up routines and use my own music. I was flying. My exercise outside of the classes was still very heavily cardio based and my weight sat around 9 stone which i no longer minded with my healthier eating as the classes and my routine kept me in check. I had also picked up clients from my classes which I loved as I hated approaching people on the gym floor about PT. Instead they came to me, it was perfect.
After 10 months, I set off to Australia and New Zealand on my own. Now travelling and partying mix so easily together but trying to keep up my fitness routine and no classes to teach meant that my weight quickly piled on. I tried to get on the cover books in Australia but only managed to cover 5 classes in 6 months out there as opposed to my usual 15 a week (that i would 100% push myself in whilst instructing). After 6 months I had enough, upset with my weight gain and returned home. The experience taught me a few things, 1. I needed routine, 2. I am an Essex girl and that was just too far for me on my own, 3. I needed to find a way to keep my weight in check without needing to do some mad exercise routines alongside my classes as i wanted to have a life too.
On my return to the UK I quickly got back into an exercise routine and got myself a job at Esporta in Ilford. My new boss me booked onto Les Mills Body Attack and RPM (code for Spin but pre choreographed). Now these courses were in my opinion 100 times worse especially with the weight gain and plus the fact I had NEVER even done a spin class before. I DIED. My fitness was out the window from the 6 months and I failed the initial training for RPM. I actually threw up on day 1 haha. I just about passed the Attack module which the Instructor made a point of telling me I had barely passed. It was embarrassing but I knew i was unfit at this point, carrying a lot of extra weight. I even failed the video submission that they gave me 3 weeks to submit before I could then submit a further video to fully qualify. One of the instructors at Esporta had gotten to know me very well and I explained that I had failed the RPM and again with the video submission and she took me under her wing. She brang me over to the Chigwell David Lloyd to start team teaching RPM with her until I was ready to resit Day 2 of Module training RPM.
Now let me tell you something about Claire Bloom, she does not beat about the bush and she was ruthless haha! She had me team teaching back to back RPM classes at the lloyd for 4 weeks and she does not mince her words. The “fluff” as she referred to in my teaching vocabulary was quickly removed. She explained i needed to stick with clear and relevant teaching points rather than spluttering out random “lets go guys” and other unnecessary jargon I seemed to come out with. It was like module training all over BUT after 4 weeks I was so ready. My fitness had rocketed and I knew the routine inside out. Claire you are forever one of my Guru’s and an amazing friend. My day 2 resit was at Leyton Mills Fitness First where I also got to know the Group Exercise Manager Julz. Im a massive believer of fate and if I had never had failed and had to physically go and do a resit at a different gym I would not have met Julz who a year later interviewed and gave me the job as group exercise Manager for Fitness First Dev Square then onto Ilford Fitness First. To this day, Julz cannot get rid of me and I am forever his Wifey.
Body Attack I eventually passed after having to redo the entire weekend as I didn’t submit my full video to teach originally due to the camcorder battery dying in the class that my friend was filming and I had left it too late. So I REDONE attack and eventually passed. I then went on to do GRIT and Body Balance with no problems as I was hungry for more now I understood the systems and just wanted to keep developing myself.
Over the years I smashed myself teaching classes, sometimes 7 or 8 in a day including 7 spin classes a week! My body had hit a plateau and my weight fluctuated. I tried to not weigh myself too much and the binges had slowed. My body began to feel the repercussions of all the classes and my own training. I had really fallen in love with the principles of Body balance, it opened my eyes to a different way to train. My body yearned for the stretches and I reaped some benefits of the more holistic methods in the programme. I began to get curious about Yoga as Balance incorporated a lot of Yoga in the practice. I began taking part in Yoga on Fridays after my typical mental GRIT and Body Pump classes. I had no idea there were so many different types of Yoga! I quickly learnt that the one I had been attending was known as Vinyasa (meaning to flow) with my fabulous instructor Elaine. I began to get hungry for more knowledge of Yoga and wanted to explore the more challenging poses that looked impossible at first.
After 6 months of attending Elaine’s Yoga, I was totally hooked! I set off and attended a Yoga Teacher Training course abroad in October 2016. However it turned out it was a whole new mind field of postures, breath, chakras, bandhas, mindfulness and so much more, my mind was blown. I was also totally demotivated as I had such a fear of being upside down that I felt like I would never be able to even attempt any balances. Slowly though, with lots of epic fails and layers of cushions around me, I began being able to do basic headstands with the wall as security and moved away from the wall but was still petrified of falling. My overall practice grew stronger in a few months but it all went on hold as I went into surgery due to one of my implants had ruptured. They operated in the December so Yoga went on the back burner plus the recovery meant no stretching across the chest so I left the Yoga for the moment till the scars etc had healed.After 6 months of attending Elaine’s Yoga, I was totally hooked! I set off and attended a Yoga Teacher Training course abroad in October 2016. However it turned out it was a whole new mind field of postures, breath, chakras, bandhas, mindfulness and so much more, my mind was blown. I was also totally demotivated as I had such a fear of being upside down that I felt like I would never be able to even attempt any balances. Slowly though, with lots of epic fails and layers of cushions around me, I began being able to do basic headstands with the wall as security and moved away from the wall but was still petrified of falling. My overall practice grew stronger in a few months but it all went on hold as I went into surgery due to one of my implants had ruptured. They operated in the December so Yoga went on the back burner plus the recovery meant no stretching across the chest so I left the Yoga for the moment till the scars etc had healed.
The weeks turned into months of no Yoga. In Feb 2017 my whole life changed as I knew it. My marriage came to an end, my world as I knew it came crashing down. My anxiety and panic attacks reared their ugly heads, I was a total mess and on a lot of medication to get me through my days. I was teaching Body Pump classes so spaced out but I didn’t care. I just needed everything to be numb so it didn’t hurt anymore. And to top it all off we had just bought a property outside of a village in Essex. I felt alone and isolated, sad to have moved that fair bit away from my family and friends. This was meant to be my new home to start a family, but instead I was now living alone feeling so empty.
After 4 weeks of this mental state, I finished work early enough one day for it not only to still be light out but also a warm early evening to appreciate the beauty of the new area I had moved to. I live in such a beautiful area but I had not paid any attention to it since moving there. That particular evening I grabbed my Yoga mat, walked over the road to the park (its stunning) and began to do some Yoga. It was incredible. The liberation, the peace, the blue sky, the warm breeze and the movement just flowed. I felt present, awake for the first time in weeks. It quickly became the highlight of my week, making sure I left work once a week before it was dark to do my Yoga over the park. I was even known as ‘That Yoga Bird’ by the minors that were usually chilling over the park when I was doing my yoga. I became more confident practicing my inversions as the grass was so soft that if I fell it didn’t hurt.
I was evolving and and with the Yoga came a new found peace and strength in myself. My anger and sadness began to fade away, i was getting stronger mentally and physically each day. I no longer relied on the medication to get through my days, it was the Yoga that I began to practice daily that gave me life and light. I had to share this magic of Yoga with my classes and participants. I chose to let go of teaching pre choreographed Body Balance to allow myself the freedom to teach exactly what I loved with Yoga, just flowing with the energy I felt in the moment within myself and the class energy. My love flowed through my classes and the members began to follow suit, absolutely falling in love with the Yoga and how good they felt during and after the classes. They believed in me, as I in them.
Over these 3 or more years I have had the privilege to learn so much from so many incredible Yoga instructors and I am eternally grateful to have connected with them. They inspire me greatly and have seriously blown my mind with their phenomenal classes and everything they stand for. A massive thank you especially to Lisa & Richard that have allowed me to develop in ways that I never believed would have been possible without them. You have both taught me so much. To date I still teach some Les Mills classes but I love my freestyle toning classes and the freedom it gives me to be creative in class. However, hand on my heart, Yoga is my favourite class to teach to date, the joy I get from sharing my practice, the small improvements, the excitement and happiness changes bring to others is so refreshing physically and mentally. My body has changed more from the Yoga than any diet, HIIT, spin classes and weights ever has done. I am so excited that I am now able to share my Yoga practice in this time and connect with such amazing individuals that are too now reaping the benefits (inside and out) from the classes. So thank you to all you fabulous humans that have not only stuck by me, but pushed me to keep going through all the ups and the downs, you inspire me, you lift me and you ALL give me so much life.