It was a question that I hated being asked – and still do to a certain degree. I’ve never been a long-term planner, always preferring to be more impulsive and ‘just see what happens’. I struggled planning my week, never mind FIVE years!
But as the years progressed I have found myself enjoying and actually needing structure & plans.
So it was with a wry smile that I saw my Facebook reminder from SEVEN years ago pop up today: 31st Aug 2013 – started on a L2 Fitness Instructor course. It put me in a bit of a reflective moment or two…
To get to that point, I had gone through quite a life-transforming process. Over the previous two years I had gone from a 23.5st, unfit, unhappy, and unhealthy person on a lot of medication, to a much fitter, healthier, happier, and lighter (lost 10st) person. Not only had I changed physically (becoming more active, less sedentary, and mindful of what I ate), but also emotionally (learning healthy coping strategies for life rather than turning to food), and spiritually (deepening my personal Christian relationship with God).
Having discovered that I actually now enjoyed exercising in a gym environment, I relished the opportunity (as a result of being made redundant from an admin job with a local church) to learn new skills which would qualify me to help other people get the most out of their gym-based workouts. The team at Envisage were friendly, knowledgeable, and supportive. Encouraged by their staff I went on to gain my L3 Personal Trainer Diploma (2013), my L3 Exercise / GP Referral qualification (2014), and numerous other fitness qualifications with them over the next few years. I was also asked to join the team and teach on their Exercise Referral course (alongside Sarah and Matt), and later the L4 Obesity & Diabetes course.
Having set up Big Picture Living in 2014, I began working with people living with a variety of health conditions – using my exercise training and personal experiences to provide a client-centered 1-2-1 or group program to benefit their overall health and well-being. This led to my working for a short while as a Personal Trainer with the Sheffield International Venues gyms in Shiregreen and Hillsborough, Sheffield. From here I was honoured to be asked to join Functional Fitness as part of the Active For Health Exercise Referral team in Rotherham, part-funded for three years through Sport England. So even though I hadn’t specifically planned each of these career progressions, I believe God had planned my steps for me and I was loving it.
And then in 2017 another pivotal moment came in my life (with a similar effect to that of being made redundant in 2013)… I had a heart attack! I went to bed on Tues 15th Aug 2017, and my next memory was in the early hours of Sat 19th Aug as I was being wheeled out of my three-day stay in ICU and onto the Cardiac ward. To this day I have no memory of when I rang for the ambulance at 7am on Wed 16th Aug, or when I texted my boss Leon at Active For Health to say I wouldn’t be in that day as I thought I was having a heart attack. I don’t remember the two paramedics and two ambulance crew arriving at my house, and I don’t remember being wheeled into the ambulance where my heart subsequently stopped and I received five defibrillator shocks over the next ten minutes to get it going again! I will however be forever grateful for the amazing NHS medical treatment and support that I received as a result. After a nine-day stay in hospital, I was discharged and spent the next four months recovering at home – receiving many wonderful bouquets of flowers from friends across the country and building up my fitness levels again. My cardiologist fully discharged me in Dec 2017 saying that if I hadn’t changed my life around between 2010-2012 I probably wouldn’t still be here, and to keep on doing what I had been doing.
I believe that although God didn’t ‘give’ me the heart attack, I know He has used the outcome as another of the many stepping stones in the plan for my life and subsequent time here on earth. In January 2018 I relocated to Wakefield, West Yorkshire and began to get involved with a vibrant local church – leading exercise classes for people living with health conditions. At the end of last year (2019) I trained as a Group Leader with Kintsugi Hope and began to lead one of their well-being groups looking at topics of honesty, anxiety, shame, anger, disappointment & loss, perfectionism, forgiveness, relationships, depression, resilience, and self-acceptance. The new course (being held online) starts on Wed 30th Sept at 7pm – if you’d like to join the 12-week course or get some more info, please get in touch.
Bringing this seven-year plan up to date, I am currently halfway through my PhD at Huddersfield university – pictured here with my two supervisors, Dr Matt Haines and Dr Kiara Lewis. I am researching polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and the impact of the lived experience on physical health and mental well-being. I have had symptoms of PCOS since the age of 13, finally being diagnosed with the syndrome at the age of 22. Drawing on my personal experiences, exercise qualifications, and published research, my PhD oral presentations have won the last two Engage PGR conferences. I am currently recruiting women (with the help of Verity) who have been diagnosed with PCOS and who live in the Leeds / Wakefield / Rotherham / Sheffield areas for a 12-week walking intervention due to start mid-Oct 2020. If you or anyone you know would like to get involved please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow is Tues 1st Sept and marks the start of #PCOSawareness month. So each day for the next month I will be posting short blog articles on different themes related to PCOS. Hope to see you back here tomorrow with Day 1 blog! 🙂 Take care & God bless. Sharon