Joining CFI changed my life. It sounds dramatic, but there’s really no better way to put it. The intensity, fun, and community feel of CFI improved my fitness, my health, my confidence, and my happiness levels so much – since I signed up I’ve changed my job and taken so many other steps towards having the life I really want. I’m not at the end point yet, and maybe I never will be. But I’m on the way. And I couldn’t have done it without the coaches and athletes at CFI.
I had convinced myself I just wasn’t the type of person who cared about exercise, having felt bored and unwelcome at conventional gyms – it was 7 years since I last set foot in any kind of training facility. I paid zero attention to fitness, and besides trying to eat healthily, had kind of lost connection to my body. Despite having an objectively good life, I was lacking confidence, and felt stuck without being able to put my finger on exactly what was wrong.
Then I watched Fittest on Earth, and saw the joy, the energy and the community spirit between the athletes. Something shifted inside me, and I knew I had to give this a go. With some trepidation, I booked a No Sweat Intro with Derek at CFI for the next day. It was such a lovely experience to come into the gym, see the people around, have a chat about my goals for starting, and identifying the likely roadblocks ahead. My main one was embarrassment – looking a fool in front of all the fit people, who I thought would immediately realise I didn’t belong. My main goal was to feel good inside my body – like I belonged in there rather than just dragging it around.
I got through the ramp on pure excitement, always feeling like more when I left a session. Derek always made me feel like I’d succeeded and was welcome at the gym – that it wasn’t important how fit I was, but only that I was working to get fitter. The first two group classes were challenging but fun, and I struggled with being the least capable person there – as I knew I would.
At my 3rd group class, a combination of adrenaline, being out of breath, a full class, and being unable to power snatch the embarrasingly empty bar (at least 4 people came up to me and gave really friendly advice on how to do it, making it clear to me that they’d witnessed my failure), had me leave the class to have a panic attack outside. I was sure I’d thoroughly embarrassed myself, and was wondering how I’d get my stuff without anyone noticing, so I could quietly disappear so the fit people wouldn’t get a chance to pity me. Then Colm came out and talked to me about what happened, and how to come back in. I still felt pretty grim, but making a practical plan to address the problem, and being asked to come back helped. I had an individual session with Derek to manage the lift and improve my confidence doing it, and then re-joined classes. That was a turning point for me.
These days, I love nothing more than a workout that takes my breath away. Because it reminds me that I can be dizzy, breathing so the whole gym can hear me, or sore as hell – but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be there. I always thought that if something physical was hard, it wasn’t for me. But pushing through that with the help of the coaches, and seeing how hard the other athletes push themselves, has taught me that isn’t the case. The fittest people sweat the most, because they work the hardest at it. That’s the best thing about being in classes with people who are so much further than me: They’re doing it better, but it’s still hard. It will never stop being hard. And that’s the point – to keep pushing. That’s something I’ll keep coming back to in life, as well as with exercise, now. Not to stop because something is hard – because that’s when it’s about to get rewarding.
I’m still not even close to being among the fittest people at the gym, and I’m certainly not the loudest or most noticeable. But I feel like I’m part of something. I love moving now. I can reach the top of the rope at the gym. I can run, fast, for an hour if I want to. If I see a bench, I can barely keep from jumping onto it. If I hear music, I want to dance. I show my son how to use the monkey bars at the playground. I basically enjoy having a body, in a way I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. I recall telling Derek when I started, that I wanted to be able to throw my own weight around. Now, whenever I get the chance, I do. And CFI got me there.