Breaking down Perceptions

 

Welcome to next in the series of ‘Women In Sport Week’ blogs, I am very excited to bring another, different sport (for want of a better description) for you to read about.  Perhaps also, I want to highlight that Nicola H has come to this sport relatively recently and is leading the way in terms of creating new paths at any age, at any time.

I have watched Nicola grow and develop in confidence while working with Stuart Aitken from Stuart Aitken Fitness.  As a personal trainer and someone who thoroughly enjoys the feeling of lifting weights, Nicola’s points for me demonstrate some real progress in terms of encouraging more women to lift weights.  It is important that we take pride in being strong and challenging those preconceptions.

Have a read and get behind Nicola as she embarks on her journey to represent her country  . . . .

1.Have you always participated in some form of sport/ exercise/ activity? If so what have you been doing and if thats a no, has there been any reasons?

At school I was always one of those kids who would forget their PE kit on purpose and write fake notes so I could skip class, I was never a sporty child!  Through my teens I played a little hockey and netball, then I found something I loved martial arts!  I trained in Freestyle Kickboxing for years, until I picked up a knee injury. Following that life just got busy and I stopped all sporting activities for years. However, during this time I focused on my career and my family.

2. I know you have been training with Stuart Aitken Fitness for some time now, what brought about this next phase in your training/ participation in sport/ exercise?

About 6 years ago at the age of 34, I made a choice to get off my arse and get fit! But it is a minefield out there! I really did not want to do fitness classes (not coordinated),‎ the gym was something which was alien to me (full of ‘pretty’ people) and I did not know where to start. So I decided to go with something familiar, something I knew I could do and that was boxing. I did this for about 2 years and during this time my fitness levels gradually increased but it wasn’t enough and I felt like I needed to push myself.

That’s when I signed up for Survival of the Fittest which then led on to the Deerstalker and Spartan Race. One thing I discovered from participating in these races is that….. I AM DEFINITELY NOT A RUNNER!!!!!

This was when I got a bit lost in my fitness journey and I decided that I wanted a bit more structure and someone to support me. Around this time is at the age of 36, I started to work with Stuart Aitken of Stuart Aitken Fitness. ‎Stuart gave me focus and accountability which I had never had before.

Stuart will probably tell you when I first started with him I wanted what nearly every woman wants to be slimmer and leaner. But now I realise I was just trying to fit into expected social norms!

After training with Stuart for a period  of time we both realised that I work better when I set a challenge (something real to aim for) and that’s when Stuart suggested Powerlifting and before I knew it I had signed up for my first Powerlifting Competition.  That’s where my strength journey began and I have never looked back‎ since. Also as a result of the confidence I gained through my PT sessions I started martial arts again, this time taking up Sport Jitsu – this helps a lot with the Cardio.

3. What do you take away from your training and participation in your sport?  Has this evolved over the years or with changing activities?

Training sessions are “protected time” just for me. I work full time in a stressful job and have a daily commute of 3.5 hours in total. During training I can just focus on what is in front of me and most of the time it’s just about getting through the sets and lifting the weights. Nothing else matters during that time. Life is left at the door! I always have a great sense of achievement after every session…..

Powerlifting is a sport where it is just you against the bar and you have to be physically strong to lift the weight but mental strength is also key. I am still working on that element but every day I am getting better.  I also have to give recognition to the women in the Powerlifting Community who are some of the most supportive and inspiring women I have met. At every Powerlifting Competition they are always there cheering and pushing you on, its part of the reason I love this sport and it makes me feel proud to be part of such a great community.

4. You received some really awesome news this year in your powerlifting journey, would you like to share this with us? How did that feel?

Following on from my recent trip to Belfast for my first British Masters Powerlifting Championships,  I have recently been selected to represent Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa from 10th – 17th September this year.

To say I am proud is an understatement! Although, slightly terrified!! I am really looking forward to getting on the platform in September and getting some PB’s.

Thanks must go to Stuart my trainer for his constant reassurance and guidance and my husband Brian for his unwavering support.

5. This blog series is part of Women In Sport Week,I love highlighting real people achieving their goals and truly enjoying what they do.
You came to the sport of Powerlifting relatively recently, what would you say to other women out there who are afraid to lift weights or think they are too old or too overweight or too unfit?

I would say to other women, try anything and everything, what have you got to lose?

You never know what will be the one thing that you connect with.

I turned 40 last year and never would have imagined that I would be representing Scotland at this stage in my life!  You are never too old to try something new. Take risks, believe in yourself and lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky!

Negative body image is something which I have struggled with all of my life. I was bullied at school which led to years of self-doubt and negative thoughts. I used to talk about myself in a really destructive way – and you don’t understand how harmful this can be (especially when you get older and have kids).

I used to feel that my self-worth was based on how I looked and that I was nothing unless I was skinny! This led to dieting (a lot of unhealthy dieting) and when I reached my “goal” weight – you know what – I still wasn’t happy!

It has taken a lot to get to the point where I am now (and I still have off days) but I believe Powerlifting and focusing on strength training has changed my perceptions of my body – where achievement and goals aren’t focused on looking a certain way but are based on what your body can do.  It’s about accepting who you are and being happy with that.

As an example, a few weeks ago I came into the gym and said to my trainer “I am weighing too light Stuart, I need to put on 3-4kgs” the pre-powerlifting me would never have said that but now I really just don’t bother about weight – it’s just a number!  (unless I need to make a weight class!)

If I had a chance to speak to the younger me I would have said “ be who you want to be not what everyone else expects” – would have saved me years of grief!!

If you would like to help Nicola to realise her dream in SOuth Africa feel free to pop onto this crowdfunding link to donate:

Support Nicola to represent Scotland

Introducing my Sponsors: Stuart Aitken Fitness

I have been blown away by the generosity of Dundee’s small businesses in supporting me to reach the Marathon des Sables in order to raise money for local mental health charity , DAMH (Dundee Assocition for Mental Health).

As these become available to me, I will pop up small blogs where the businesses can highlight who they are and what they do, for example.  Please do pop over to thheir website and/ or facebook page.

First up is Stuart Aitken Fitness,  I have actually known Stuart for some time, we both attended Abertay University. I work alongside Stuart but also asked Stuart to help keep me honest with my own training a little while ago, yep even trainers need trainers, for my OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) so I am thrilled that Stuart has gotten involved in my new venture.

Stuarts take on the matter . . .

”When Louise asked me to be involved with her attempts to run the Marathon Des Sables (from now on this will be referred to as MDS), I could not have been happier. Louise is one of the most inspirational people I’ve encountered in the fitness industry. Through her consistent fundraising events, and community get-togethers she organises, she’s always been someone who I’ve enjoyed working alongside. This however, is a whole other ball game (which I know she knows!) so my reason for writing this is to let you in on some of the things I’ll be advising Louise with throughout her time in training for the MDS.

 

Training

Firstly we have to take into account her training. Now I won’t be involved with the running side, as this isn’t where I specialise or have enough knowledge to be of practical help, but I do have experience in helping athletes become stronger and faster from the weight room.

Louise is going to need a consistent weight-training plan, which may come as a surprise to some of you as she isn’t doing an event that requires lifting weights or being visually strong. This is a common myth with weight training, that it is only used to improve strength and muscle tone, it has so many more benefits to any individual who takes it up, especially endurance athletes who commonly miss it out for fear of getting to muscular.

The weight training Louise will be focussed upon doing will be mainly to ensure we give her current muscles a good reason to stick around. We know from plenty of research that a big muscle is a strong, more robust muscle. This means that doing weight training will help her stay injury free and keep her current muscle at a reasonable level, so she is still strong enough to endure what her body will go through during the MBS.

Although her primary focus will be upon getting the miles in and ensuring her body is ready from an endurance perspective, training in the gym will play a big role in providing her with the best platform to have an amazing race.

 

Nutrition

Nutrition is another thing that is quite often disregarded for endurance events, at least right up until the day before the event (carb-loading for example!).

This is going to be absolutely essential for Louise, as she will need to ensure her body recovers optimally every time she trains. Nutrition plays a huge role in this and ensuring she gets enough calories in to keep up the volume of training she’ll be doing, while also providing enough nutrients to keep her immune system in tact so she can keep on top of illnesses.

We’ll need to ensure she gets a good amount of calories into her body, which will have a large focus on getting plenty of protein (for muscle recovery and building) as well as carbohydrate (for fuel during her training bouts) and fat (so her hormonal profile stays at a high level).

 

Mindset

Lastly, and I think most importantly, we’ll need to ensure her mindset is excellent throughout the whole event, and leading up to it. I don’t think this will be something Louise will struggle with too much as she is already strong-willed, but the MDS is completely new animal, and one that will need preparation from her mind. We’ll need to ensure we’ve ran over possible problems that will arise, as well as getting her head into a position of belief and confidence with everything she does. It will also be important for her to visualise and put herself into positions she didn’t think her body could cope with as this will help through the toughest parts of the race.

Overall I really can’t wait to start seeing how Louise progresses through her training, and ultimately when she actually completes the MDS. I know she’ll set herself up right and raise an incredible amount of money for the Dundee Mental Health Association, and I can’t wait to be part of something as special as this.”

Thank you Stuart!  Here are the links to Stuart’s site:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StuartAitkenFitness

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do get in touch, I am still aiming to raise the final amount by early January.  My contact email is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk.

Stuart Aitken Fitness

 

My biggest Challenge yet but I need YOUR help!

The last few days has been a whirlwind of activity as soon as I received an email that was giving me the possibility of a cancellation place in the MDS – Marathon des Sables . What a phenomenal opportunity to raise money for the local mental health charity I like to support – Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).

The problem or shall we call it a challenge, is that, as it is a potential cancellation place, everything is all very last minute.  Including securing corporate sponsorship to pay the initial £2175, unbelieveably I am in the position to say all the fantastic businesses, the people driving these companies have gotten us to a place where I only need to raise just under £600 by approximately Tues/ Wed this week.  A big ask, not when you consider we have already raised the amount to get here since Thurs evening – when all hell broke loose hahaha.

I have been truly honoured to be supported and blown away by people wanting to get involved and support this.  I really think it shows the change in attitude toward mental health on a larger scale but also, something I always underestimate, peoples support and I guess faith in me to achieve what I set out to do!

Why is this important?

I am one of those who is not afraid to say I have had mental health issues, it doesn’t define me, it is not all that I am.  I think this is important to remember this, to remember that mental health is not selective, it doesn’t matter whether you are a fitness professional, a high-flying career woman/ man, a child or an elderly person.  The severity that anyone can be affected is variable and the diagnosis can be variable also.  We need to begin moving away from the idea that those who suffer from mental health difficulties are a certain type of person (yes there are risk-factors but this is not  a definitive) or have a specific job/ background.  1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem!  A family member, a work colleague, a friend, we all know someone.

I want to help DAMH to help meet the needs of there service users,they use physical activity based groups, greenbuds, relaxation periods.  A variety of support is available for their service users, I volunteer and run a ‘Lifestyle with Louise’ where service users can book in to see me and we discuss what can help improve their health and how to go about this.  This is no longer about me, this is about what i can do to help raise the profile of a fantastic local charity and raising funds to help them do this.

Taking on my biggest challenge to date to raise sponsorship funds for this fantastic charity is something I relish, being driven forward with each step, to keep going with the training and the actual race with the belief and support of others makes the decisions easy.

Sponsors:

Once again a huge thank you to those already invested:

Art of Communication – Catherine MacDonald – She has set up this fantastic new business which is transforming her clients interactions with others.

Stuart Aitken Fitness – Stuart has been fantastic at helping me to stay accountable and focused in my gym based training when I often become distracted!

Lift the Bar – These guys are simply amazing!!  A company/ group run by Chris Burgess, a personal training education and mentoring.  Leading the way in personal trainer development!  If you are in the fitness industry please head over and check them out, you will not regret it.

Sole Body Sole – Bharti runs this company, looking after all your foot problems – I have a feeling I will need alot, alot of care of my feet when I get back from this race next year!  Have you seen the pictures????

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd – This company is run independently by Sarah Bridge!

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please get in touch as soon as possible – my email address is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk