Name: Alexis Lee
Occupation: Software Developer
How would you best describe or define fitness?
Fitness is a set of skills, which anyone can train for, that help you accomplish your goals.
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
CrossFit classes 4 times a week, plus "play day" on Sunday, when I do testing, work on weaknesses and invent some crazy metcon for myself.
I cycle to work and anywhere else I want to go. I want to do more running but I'm not sure how to fit it in.
When did you start to experience mental health problems if at all?
I have always been anxious and adopted a very negative attitude while growing up. In my 20s I surrounded myself with party people - on the surface we had a lot of fun but over the years things got nasty. Eventually a pair of bad breakups led to me moving to Bristol and finally severing ties with almost the whole group.
Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment when you realised you had to make a change and how did your transition into exercise and fitness come about?
I had to take some time off work so I sought help from a doctor, who recommended among other things that I get some exercise. Also my hands were starting to rest comfortably on my belly and I knew something had to change or I would be a total mess by 40! This was about six years ago and I wasn't doing anything. I started with running, then briefly switched to cycling after knee problems. For several years I did Les Mills classes - Body Pump, a high-rep weights class, and later Body Combat which focuses on high intensity movement and strikes. These were a terrific introduction to training in a low pressure environment, but eventually, I felt my progress had stalled which led me to CrossFit.
What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
Absolutely huge. It gives me constant affirmation of my commitment and constructive energy. Day to day, stiffness aside, I just feel great. It's like taking off a weight vest. Maybe a bit narcissistic but I love how I look now! Pretty fly for a geek guy.
When my Mum needs stuff hauled about at her field, or my friend needs help moving house, I can get a ton of work done. Before I would have gotten tired quickly and felt useless, now I run it like a WOD for time.
Any future fitness goals or targets?
A competition next year, maybe? It's not a comfortable idea. For now I'm mainly focused on upper body strength and improving my gymnastics movements (toes to bar, chest to bar, handstand).
I've been playing about on a long board, one day I'll learn to snowboard. I wouldn't have had the confidence to do this without the fitness I've built up.
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?
Parent yourself - challenge yourself to be more, be patient as you struggle, forgive yourself when you fail, celebrate your successes and don't worry about being a "real adult". Practice your coping skills and use the experience to drive you forward. Notice thought spirals and stop them cold. Maybe accept you're a little bit broken and just see what you can accomplish from there, you might surprise yourself.