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mental health
How would you best describe or define fitness?
A way to make day to day things feel lighter while reaping the physical rewards.
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
I mostly do strength and conditioning. I aim to train 4 times a week, walk at least 7km a day and practice dance a couple of hours at the weekend.
 
When did you start to experience mental health problems?
I have always been through difficult times, but I haven’t realised how deeply I was affected until later on in life when around the age of 14 I has anxiety attacks almost every day and I was often self-harming as a means to get attention and support.
 
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?
It wasn’t up until the age of 22 when depression completely took over my life (work, university and relationships) and I barely had any emotional support. That’s when I decided to see a therapist and when things changed for the best. Alongside therapy, I joined a Crossfit box in October that year, determined to prioritise my physical and mental health above anything else. And it was one the best decisions I have ever made.
 
What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
I cannot recommend exercise enough in terms of its effects on mental health. I have given myself confidence, I have gotten to know myself better and how I work, I have empowered myself, I have basically taken control over my life. I am now able to see my depression signs and even easily seek help (whereas before I used to just lock myself in the room). Through exercise I have gotten to genuinely love myself and who I am, which is such an important step when dealing with mental problems, as self-compassion and self-kindness are VERY important. I have gone from thinking the lowest of myself to saying out loud to myself what a strong person I am and how I should always strive for the best in my life.
I could endlessly talk about it. It’s completely changed my life and I consider myself very lucky to be where I am now because I exercise.
Any future fitness goals or targets?
I want to become the best version of myself and keep pushing my limits. But working with and being around dancers all the time has completely changed my goals. I went from wanting to be a Strongwoman to now wanting to be very flexible, strong, yet graceful as a ballerina.
 
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?         
Please do not give up. It’s OK to ask for help and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Remind yourself you’re not alone and do not trust the negative things you tell yourself when feeling down. Be kind, be understanding and do more of the things you love. Find a passion and explore it to its unknown depths.Things also feel much worse when alone between four walls. Don’t forget to go outside and look up. Smell the flowers and watch the sunset. And surround yourself with good quality people, I can’t emphasize this enough!

What does the term 'Mental Health' mean to you and how would you best describe it?

 I would describe mental health as everything to do with my mind and feelings and whether they’re in a good or bad place.

If my mental health IS doing well, my negative feelings (i.e. stress) and negative behaviours (i.e. self-harming) are less prominent and I’m more my natural self (which is a little bit silly and hyper, haha).

If my mental health ISN’T doing well, those feelings become more common and overwhelming (i.e. anxiety and feeling irritable) and my negative coping mechanisms become more frequent (i.e. skin picking)

What experience have you had with 'Mental Health' and how had it affected you directly or those around you?

I’ve had issues with SAD, anger, stress, self-harm, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, feeling depressed and wanting to take my life.

 When I was younger it made going to school very difficult. I got badly bullied there which was a huge contributor to these issues, so I would often feel really anxious and lack confidence.

As an adult it’s affected my work life a lot. Sometimes I find it hard to control my stress on busy shifts and often have to suppress my anger in order to remain ‘professional’.

In fact at one point I couldn’t work. The anxiety I knew I would have felt in the workplace and the exhaustion it would have caused me was too unbearable, so I took a month out and went on benefits.  

 It put a negative spin on some of my hobbies growing up too, i.e. I used to play the drums but unfortunately would get anxious every time I practised as I knew people could hear me.

 Some people are really understanding and get along with me well. Others I think find me hard work especially if they’re the ones on the receiving end of my negative emotions. I also think the non-suffers I come into contact with sometimes struggle to see why I get easily upset/offended.

 Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment when you realised you had to make a change or speak out about a current situation or particular stressful period ? 

 Yeah. There’s been three main ones:

 When I was 13 I was coming home most days from school and sitting in my room in tears for about an hour at a time. I knew this wasn’t good but didn’t want to tell anyone. It was only when my Sister was getting support for her mental health issues that I couldn’t hold it in any longer as I thought ‘she’s not the only one’, so confessed to my parents.

 Despite that initial confession I still kept my folks at arm’s length, yet at 18 I admitted to my sister about how I felt in life and broke down in front of her. That conversation changed everything as it was from then on that she convinced me to go to counselling which has been the best decision of my life.

 Finally when I was in my early 20’s and felt my antidepressants weren’t working, I decided to suddenly stop taking them (NEVER DO THIS. It’s dangerous).                                                                                       

As a result a few days later I violently threw up and my folks heard me. Next thing I know they were calling 111 and asking me questions through the bathroom door about any medication I was on. It was then I knew I had to confess about being on antidepressants and that I was struggling in life; something I had kept secret from them previously.

 You have recently taken on some big names in the clothing/fashion industry. What made you want to tackle the issue,how did it all come about and what has come from doing so?

 I started vlogging this summer and wanted my videos to focus on mental health. Some were about mental health terms that seem to get thrown around very casually these days. As a result they trivialise the subject, miseducate people on what those terms actually mean and teach people it’s OK to joke about mental health. One of the terms was ‘Psycho’.

 From there I started to discover products (predominantly t-shirts) with the slogan ‘Cute But Psycho’ which immediately triggered a sense of anger and disappointment in me.             There was no way I was going to sit back and do nothing.                                                                           

 After many emails, Instagram posts and phone calls, I have now managed to get 7 companies to stop selling the products including: Boohoo, Misguided, Not On The High Street, Danni Boutique, Redressed, Save The People and Pink Boutique.

 I am still trying to convince Betches, In Love With Fashion and Lasula Boutique to do the same.

 Luckily a few people have picked up on my campaign including local newspapers, Huffington Post, Fandabby Apparel and BBC Three Counties Radio. I was also the guest speaker at Wycombe Mind’s 25th Annual AGM this month.  

 How do you feel the subject has been treated lately in the media and society in general?

 I definitely think that society is starting to understand the seriousness of mental health and realise that mental health issues are actually very common.                                                                        I believe the media has had a huge impact on this due to its increased exposure of the subject - whether that be in the form of newspaper articles, storylines on TV shows, or the  coverage of the deaths some of our favourite stars, i.e. Chester Bennington taking his own life.

 Celebrities (such as The Royals and Clark Carlisle) coming forward about their own mental health struggles has also really helped to get people talking and end the stigma.  

 As for mental health in fashion, some companies are doing great things to help raise awareness, i.e. River Island have recently teamed up with mental health charity The Mix to create a line of mental health inspired tees.

 But then there’s the other side…

 Mental health is still very much belittled on social media (especially via memes on Instagram) and the subject is perfect bate for trolls too who don’t hesitate is calling sufferers like myself ‘snowflakes’.

 As a society I think our language around mental health and closely related subjects isn’t where it needs to be yet either and that’s predominately down to lack of education. For example, it was only when I started volunteering with the male suicide prevention charity CALM, that I learnt its offensive to say ‘commit suicide’ as it makes it sound like a crime, yet it was decriminalised in the UK in 1961. If I wasn’t a volunteer with them how would I ever know this? I don’t think people realise the negative impact of saying things like ‘man up’ either and I think schools/workplaces have a responsibility to bring in campaigners and charities to shed light on these subjects.

 There are also lots of companies in the fashion world still not giving mental health the respect it deserves either – not just with the companies I’ve contacted, but there was a Christmas jumper that came out a few years back mocking OCD; saying Obsessive Christmas Disorder and recently hoody being sold on Amazon that trivialised anorexia.

 Things have improved and I'm optimistic for the future, but there’s still a long way to go…

 Do you undertake any self care strategies for the ongoing management of your mental health and overall general wellbeing?

 I go to counselling which I swear by. I’ve also had CBT in the past which I found to be really affective and I take antidepressants.

 Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?

 

TALK TO SOMEONE.

Name: Mark Daniel
Age:37
Occupation: Events Engineer
How would you best describe or define fitness?
Being in a clean bill of health and wellbeing.  A plan to help someone improve their health and physical condition usually as a result of sustained and committed exercise, coupled with good nutrition.
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
I have played rugby for over 30 years and played all other sports when I was younger.  Having been a keen gym member, I transitioned across to Crossfit on the advice of a friend. I try to take part in some form of fitness between 5-6 times a week.
Was there a ‘lightbulb’ moment when you realised you had to make a change and how did your transition into exercise, fitness or wellbeing come about?
Having gone through the standard macho denial phase, thoughts, feelings and mild panic attacks threatening to consume me.  An unlucky but trusted colleague caught me at a low point and asked me if I was ok… I wasn’t.  It was at this point of realisation that I began my journey.  Rugby, and more recently Crossfit gives me that time, whether it’s an hour or an afternoon, where I am untouchable.  Nobody can contact me, ring me, bother me or even upset me.  I am with likeminded people who do not judge me and where social status counts for nothing.  I am nothing without my teammates and I suffer alongside every other crossfitter every burpee of the way.
When did you start to experience mental health problems?
I have always been a bit of a worrier but no more than the next person. I’m not sure I can pinpoint an exact time or event which triggered my anxiety and worry.  It was more a case of extrinsic pressures chipping away over time, building up to a point where it nearly took over.
 What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
Sport has always been an integral part of my life.  For me, it clears the mind and gives you something to focus on with that huge sense of freedom.  The benefits of fitness are well documented, its hard work but it’s worth it.  I am currently fighting a decision to retire from rugby (It hurts!) so need to continue my fitness and diversify to keep myself from falling back into that anxiety trap. 
Any future fitness goals or targets?
To keep at it! When I retire from rugby I am keen to broaden my fitness horizons and continue to learn from others.  I’m not too sure if I’ll achieve that muscle up or handstand push up, but I’ll keep at it knowing that I might just get there in the end!
Do you implement and other self-care strategies to help manage your ongoing mental health?
I have been to a few sessions with the amazing people at Positive Steps in Weston.  They teach you brilliant coping techniques and give you the mental tools to take forward.
 
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?   
Talk to somebody! You have no idea the weight that can be lifted off your shoulders just by sharing a problem. Know that it’s a bumpy old road and you’ll have both good and bad days, but ultimately it does get that little bit easier day by day.  Have patience and trust in the skills people give you.  Speak to likeminded people, keep up that fitness or sport, no matter how little but above all, don’t give up on it! 
 
Name: Rob Speare
Age:31
Occupation:Registered Nurse
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
(This can be anything from walking to work to 5/6times a week at the gym/team training)
I am an avid Crossfitter which I have been doing for around 2 years now. I used to go to the gym but didn’t really make that much effort. I have always enjoyed running and swimming, as well as rugby but only pursued that at school.
Since starting Crossfit this has been the only sport I have ever really committed myself to. I love how much it pushes you, including the social and community aspect.

When did you start to experience mental health problems? 
I would have always probably described myself as anxious since I was a child; I develop a mixed eating disorder in my late teens which persisted until I was about 21. On reflection, and alongside that I also developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I was only diagnosed with this more recently.
I have had several courses of treatment for OCD and I am having more treatment at present.
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?
As you can see I’ve tried several different types of sport and exercise and not consistently applied myself to any these, I also went to the gym and had the same approach. It was my husband who suggested we try Crossfit, which I did with some scepticism.
After going through two weeks of hell as I had never endured such intense exercise, I found myself wanting to go back every day. It felt like meditation. I was able to focus my attention on something other than my obsessional thoughts or worry. I was enduring a though workout with other people going through the same – I felt part of something. I was seeing myself become fitter.
What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
It has helped me immensely. Aside from giving me time to focus, it lifts my mood and makes me feel connected to something else and to other people.
Through consistently applying myself to something I’ve not only seen my mental health change but also my body. I don’t think that I’m ever going to be the world’s greatest weight lifter but I now really love an endurance WOD.
Any future fitness goals or targets?
Keep at it. That’s the beauty of being human, I guess. There will always be stuff that I need to work on. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t need to go Crossfit. If I had to name a specific goal it would be to work on my snatch technique.
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?
There are times when everything will look really bleak and tough, with no way of it every changing. It will, but it just takes time. It will be hard to make any change but start off slow, go for a walk, go for a paddle in the sea. I’m not saying you must do Crossfit, it’s not for everyone. Find something you enjoy and make it yours. And never, ever be ashamed of what you have experienced.

 

  Name: Alexis Lee

Age: 36

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.

 

 

Get A Grip shared Saritas contribution to the 'Getting to Grips with' blog series last month.

We would like to now share Alice's inspiring blog post.

 

Alice contacted Get A Grip with this incredible personal journey to share and help motivate others who may be struggling to cope.

 

Thank You Alice.

  

One in four people suffer from a mental illness, I am that statistic, I am that one in four, and I want to share my story with you as a message to others who may be struggling to cope, you are not alone. I had to think about sharing my story for a while, but then I thought, you know what, I’m not ashamed anymore, I’m not embarrassed either. The stigma behind mental health has to be beaten in our society and sometimes you can’t sugar coat what you’re going through.

 

So, who the hell I am? Well, Hello, I’m Alice, I’m 23, and for those who know me, I’m not your ‘typical’ depressed person from the outside looking in and half of those who know me won’t have a clue about what I have been dealing with, but that’s the scary thing isn’t it? Mental health is not easy to talk about, and this is what needs to change. I still find it very uncomfortable talking about my own struggles with it, and I really shouldn’t, nobody should.

 

Mental illness is not a definition of your character, it’s an imbalance of chemicals in your brain and you can get better. I felt weak when I got diagnosed. I was officially diagnosed with Depression shortly after Christmas, although looking back I don’t think I have been myself for a few years. I suffered with anxiety badly in the first year of Uni, I took this out on my eating habits. I started to diet and lost two stone, I was eating under 1000 calories a day, and I was obsessed with weighing myself in an attempt to make myself happy. All this did was drive my self-hatred, but I acted like I was happy to hide how I truly felt, I didn’t want to face the deep routed issues that I so obviously had. Looking back this is where I believe everything started.

 

Dealing with depression has been a rollercoaster of emotions at my worst I just saw no enjoyment in life, my hobbies became a real effort and I kept myself in toxic situations with bad people just to please them. All I wanted to do was to stay in bed and sleep all day, because sleeping was the only time where I didn’t have to think about how much I hated myself and how much I just didn’t want to be me anymore. I had become a depressed people pleaser who looked after everyone else but myself, I had no self-worth and no self-love. I was waking up every day and all I could think about was how much I didn’t want to be here. I saw no hope and didn’t ever think I would feel ok again, I would drive myself mad just wishing to feel normal again. There’s a sense of numbness with depression that just lingers around your mind, even on good days. At my lowest I was signed off of work and I was lost, completely lost.

 

I remember waking up one Saturday morning and I told myself enough was enough. I refused to believe that this was how my life had to be, I just knew I had more to give to this god dam world then to lie in this dam bed lifeless all day. So I got up, put on my gym clothes and forced myself into the gym. I trained for 2 hours that day, I was pretty unfit and felt like being sick, but the rush of exercise made me feel alive again, and for someone who suffers from depression, that’s a long awaited relief. Exercise then became more than just exercise, it became my therapy.

 

 The following month, I got myself back to the doctors and we decided that the best way forward was to participate in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and to start on medication. I started to panic at this point, medication?! Really?! But it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.  This is when I started to see and feel a change, I started training 4 times a week, I cut ties with anyone who was toxic to my wellbeing and I made myself a priority again. I learnt to love myself. To have a healthy body you need a healthy mind, to have a healthy mind you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. One thing I have learnt this year is the importance of who you surround yourself with. Find your people, your tribe, those who want to see you flourish. You are your longest commitment, treat yourself well.

 

Training became a time where I could put my music on and go into my own zone.  A zone which allowed me to let the weight of the world go, a time to focus on myself. Endorphins, the happy hormone, is realised during exercise and I thrive off of it. I still get bad days, more bad than good, but I am getting there and I will completely heal. I won’t ever let anything, not even mental illness, beat me. My journey to recovery would not be at this stage if it wasn’t for the mentality that training has put me in, I see depression as an obstacle, a challenge that I can and will overcome.

 

If you can relate to my story please know that you are not alone. There are people who will help you and you will get through this. A few months ago I didn’t even want to be alive anymore, but I got through.  Your own mind can be a scary place, it has been the biggest challenge I think I will ever face, and I’m happy to say that I am now winning. I believe that anyone can win their battle with the right help and support, so even if one person reads this and thinks, ‘shit this sounds like me…’, then use this as the sign you needed, go get help. Learn to live again and learn to love yourself again. Cut ties with toxic situations and heal yourself. As for me, I’m still on medication for my depression, which I am no longer ashamed about, I’m training harder than ever in the gym and I am attending weekly CBT sessions.

 

Thanks for reading, and for those who are struggling, you’re a bad ass and you’ve got this.

Alice.

 

__________________________________________________________________________

Name:Sarita Karir
 
Age:41
 
Occupation:Ex Primary School Teacher, now driving instructor
 
 
How would you best describe or define fitness?
To be mentally strong and confident, since what people can do physically varies.
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
Daily Crossfit
Boxercise weekly
Badminton
When did you start to experience mental health problems if at all?
I was 9 years old when I started to use food as a crutch for feeling unwanted,unloved. I grew up hating everything about myself and I hated being alive.
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 was 38 years old and my eating disorder had consumed me almost 30 years. I was thin and ill and addicted to all sorts of pills and potions that were supposed to make me even thinner. In the end I planned my suicide. My daughter didn't settle well with her father and I confided in a friend.
I started psychotherapy but struggled to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Then i found crossfit....
What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
I want to be alive!! I feel amazing! I care about myself. I treat myself well! I feel invincible. The friends I have made are supportive. I came out about my MH and my ED to everyone at Crossfit and everyone helps me.
I got my CF level 1, I changed my job so could train more. I cook. I actually cook food! I smile I laugh!
Any future fitness goals or targets?
Yeah billions!
Handstands then hspu then handstand walks
50 du's
Toes to bar
Help others with MH issues, particularly EDs
To be the oldest crossfitter ever
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?
Get help. You cannot do it alone. Tell a friend. Then another friend.
Find a sport that makes u feel good. Do it with people who make you feel good.
Ditch people who don't support you and your goals.
Try yoga. Massage.
Treat yourself well like you would treat your own children.
Get to Grips With..Hilary
Name: Hilary Galvin
Age:24
Occupation: Nurse
How would you best describe or define fitness?
Fitness is unique to the individual. To me it is something that makes me feel good. It is a constant in an often-chaotic life. The barbell will always be there, it will always weigh 15kg. With fitness, you will always get back what you put in, which is so rewarding.
What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?
Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting, 1-2 hour sessions five times a week.
When did you start to experience mental health problems if at all?
I was diagnosed with depression aged 21, but if I am truly honest I struggled with issues such as anxiety, eating disorders and low self-esteem since the age of 12.
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?
For as long as I can remember I struggled with my weight and body image. I always associated being happy with being ‘thin’. Throughout my teens disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food lead to my weight fluctuating between 51kg at my lightest and 92kg at my heaviest. Neither at my lightest, heaviest or in-between did I feel comfortable in my own skin. I had never exercised as a kid and always avoided P.E. in school. When I was 23 I decided I had enough of dieting and restricting myself constantly just to stay in a size 10. I had heard about Crossfit from a friend and I liked the idea of small group classes in a warehouse with no mirrors. It took a lot of bravery on my part to step foot in the box as I was embarrassed of my lack of strength and fitness background. I would get out of breath just thinking about a burpee! But I knew I had to make a change and from my very first class I didn’t look back.
What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?
My life has been transformed as a result of Crossfit. When I joined I was last in every class, I could barely squat 50kg and my form was terrible. I could hardly run 200m without being a red sweaty mess gasping for breath. I can now squat over 150% of my body weight, can comfortably complete a lot of workouts ‘as prescribed’ without scaling and have competed in some small local competitions. The change in my mental health however has been the most important difference to me. I am confident in my looks, I am no longer obsessive with the scales and I find I have much less unhappiness in my life due to this healthy outlet. I no longer smoke, or use drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with difficulties that life may throw at me. I have also made many friends that have a similar outlook on life, which has been an incredibly positive influence on me.
Any future fitness goals or targets?
In the next few years I plan to compete in an individual Crossfit competition, and also hope to compete locally in Olympic Weightlifting.
Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues? 
My advice would be to find something that works for you. Not everyone is suited to throwing a barbell around or enduring long gruelling workouts. Running, yoga or basketball may be just what you need to get that release or take your mind away from life’s stresses. It is never ‘too late’ to make a positive change in your life or to try something new.
Even if fitness is not for you, it is important to try and talk about any difficulties you may have in regards to mental health. You never know who else may be feeling similar to you and may be able to offer some support.

Name: Noel Brown

Age: 35

Occupation: Project Manager

 

How would you best describe or define fitness?

Fitness is the trained capability of the body and mind to cope with challenges.

 

What exercise, sport or fitness regime do you partake in and how often?

CrossFit – 5 times a week

Cycling – twice a week

Running – once a week

Various military physical training activities as part of my Army Reserve work.

 

When did you start to experience mental health problems if at all?

 

I have not experienced serious mental health problems, but like many people I have experienced periods of stress and feeling ‘down’.

 

 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?

During my school days I played a lot of sport but when I went away to university I hardly did anything for my entire first year; I also drank a lot of alcohol and ate awful food. When I returned home after my first year I realised I was having problems sleeping and very strange dreams because I had stopped drinking alcohol. I also had holiday job labouring and realised that I was much weaker than I had been the year before so I when I got back to university I joined a gym and cut down on the amount of alcohol I drank and ate much better. Following university I also took up running in addition to strength work in the gym in order to get fit for joining the Army, and ever since then I have been very keen on exercise. I think one of my main motivations was a feeling that since I am short I needed to work harder than others to be competitive and excel in such a physical environment.

 

What impact has exercise and fitness had on your physical and mental health?

Fitness really helps me deal with stress and challenging times. From getting away for an hour’s training during university studying in the run up to finals, to commanding a team in Afghanistan I found that I can stay performing at my best and happiest when I take time out to do physical training. I also think that without knowing I was fit I would not have had the confidence to begin a career in the Army, and certainly not to be a leader! Since leaving the Army, taking up CrossFit has fulfilled the gap left in beating physical and mental challenges in a team and I have particularly enjoyed the feeling of being part of a tribe. I feel that CrossFit has really helped me cope with a really hard year I’ve had in my personal life.

 

Any future fitness goals or targets?

Compete in individual team and CrossFit competitions; be strong, fit and flexible well into old age.

 

Any final words of encouragement or advice for anyone struggling with mental health issues?  

I am passionate about encouraging people to talk about their feelings rather than waiting until things snowball into big issues! I think we’d all be surprised to know how open our friends are to listening and trying to help.