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"Going to the gym has had a positive impact on how I feel about myself and the other parts of my life" - Dr. Alison

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Hi! I’m Alison and I joined PureGym a little over a year ago. I work as a Doctor and I am currently undertaking Anaesthetic Registrar training to become an Anaesthetic Consultant. My job involves long hours of shift work including nights and weekends, and sometimes months of revising in preparation for exams, which leaves me with little free time at times, but I wouldn’t change anything for it.

In 2016, I spent 9 months studying hard for my exams during my free time. Over this period, I didn’t do the regular exercise I normally would be doing, such as hill walking and climbing to keep active. I also snacked on lots of chocolate which led to me to gain weight, and generally feeling unhappy in myself. The only exercise I got was running to emergencies at work and I didn’t feel very fit.

Getting back on track

By Christmas 2016, my exams had finished and I decided that I would get fit in the New Year (as I’m sure many other people would do).  I was determined to feel more energised and lose some weight. As my other half, who is in the Royal Air Force, was going to be deployed abroad for 6 months, I thought, joining the gym would give me something to focus on while he was away.

Easing my way in

During the first month since I signed up to the gym, I didn’t make it anywhere near the gym. I just kept making excuses as to why I was “too busy”. It wasn’t until February that I finally went to the gym. At that point I wasn’t feeling particularly confident in going to the gym to do a workout alone so I booked myself on to a Pure Legs Bums & Tums class, thinking that I would be in a class with other ladies in the same boat.

Going to my first fitness class

I turned up early and got a space at the back. The other ladies in the class and the class instructor were very nice and made me feel at ease. I got stuck into the class and really enjoyed it (even if I did feel like I was the least fit person there), that when I got home, I even booked onto my next Pure Legs Bums and Tums class! The next day, I could barely walk due to the soreness in my legs - much to the operating theatre’s amusement at work! Although my legs were still feeling sore from the class, I went to my next class and was surprised to find it actually helped and my legs felt better afterwards…from there I was hooked!

After the first week, I tried some other classes including Pure Pilates, Pure Aerobics, Pure Abs and Pure Cycle. However, Pure Legs, Bums and Tums is still my favourite. I particularly like the Sunday evening class as I always feel like I have a good workout by the end of it.  I like the fact that with so many different instructors teaching classes at Pure Gym, you get to enjoy a great range of ways to work out, even if you go to the same class.

Fitting gym around work

Alison deadlift

When I first started out in the gym, I went to 4 classes a week and my shift work turned out to be of benefit as it meant that I could try classes at different times of the day by working around my days and nights. Now I go to the gym 3 times a week – it has become part of my normal week and fits around my shifts.

Next step – hiring a PT

After a month of going to classes, I decided that I would hire a personal trainer as I still had yet to workout in other areas of the gym besides the studio. I hired Harold Rice as my personal trainer as I enjoyed his Pure Legs, Bums and Tums classes. He introduced me to various exercises and equipment as well as giving me a programme to do and chatting through my dietary habits.

For the first few months since starting my PT sessions with Harold, my weekly workout regime consisted on 1 PT session, 2 workouts following a programme he had set and a Sunday class. I was losing weight, feeling fitter, and slimmer, and also increasing the weight I could lift, which felt great!

Feeling toned and getting stronger

After around four months I found I particularly liked deadlifts and squats so I asked my PT if we could do work on a powerlifting programme which includes these exercises, which he was more than happy to put together for me. Over the next few months my 3 gym sessions a week included squats/bench/deadlifts and each session I was increasing the weight of each lift and as I progressed my training programmes did too. Before Christmas this year I managed a personal best of 100kg squat and 120kg deadlift. It felt amazing!

In total I lost 12kg in 6 months and since I started lifting much heavier, I gained about 3kg. The transition to powerlifting was a brilliant boost to my confidence as I no longer cared what weight the scales said; the weight on the bar was what was important to me!

Noticing the changes

I went from “soft around the edges” to having great muscle definition, especially in my upper body. My bottom is in much better shape. I’ve dropped a size in my work clothes and my jeans and clothes fit again. I went from looking for clothes to hide my figure to ones that show off my flatter stomach. I now fit into older clothes that had previously been too small. During the 3kg weight gain since lifting heavier weights, I have noticed my body becoming more toned and muscles becoming more defined. I now look strong which I like, and the number on the scale no longer matters to me.

I also enjoy climbing, mainly indoor bouldering (no ropes up to ~3m height). The increased strength from my gym work, especially upper body strength, has meant my climbing has improved massively and I have gone up two of the grades of difficulty.

Alison rockclimbing

How the gym has helped me

Since starting going to the gym, I feel more positive about myself, which has also had a positive impact on how I feel about the other parts of my life. When I started I hated the way I looked and so I did not have any full body photos as I was too ashamed to take them. The changes I have seen in my body have been a massive confidence boost to me, and I now feel proud when I look in the mirror. I know my body isn’t “perfect”, but through this journey I have realised that nobody’s is and everyone has something they want to change. I now believe that it’s more important to love yourself for who you are, which I think has made me happier.

My tips

Alisons meal

For anyone looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, my number 1 advice would be to set realistic goals, and try to find ways to enjoy your healthier lifestyle by picking activities or meals you will enjoy as then it is much easier to stick to. Even when I work 80 hour long weeks, I still make time to go to the gym 3 times a week because I love going to train, and always leave the gym feeling better. I think the main motivator to go though is the fact I actually really enjoy lifting the weights and at the end of a session the exercise endorphins and sense of achievement spur me on to go next time.

Some of the things I’ve achieved…

Alison deadlifting

In the last year I’ve managed to deadlift 1.7x my body weight, squat 1.4x my body weight and bench 0.7x my body weight and the numbers are continuing to increase. I can also now do pull-ups which even as an athletic child could never manage. I also completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks hike with my Dad which is 24.5miles in just over 10 hours which I would definitely not been fit enough to do this time last year.

What's next?

Alison and her dog

In the next year I have another set of exams to pass for my work, but I am determined to keep up my new gym habit and continue to get stronger. I’d like to compete in a local powerlifting competition to see if I like it. Next year after my exams are finished, and when I have more free time, my Dad and I hope to complete the Welsh 3000 Challenge – a 24 mile walk to the top of all 15 of the mountains over 3000 ft in Wales, all within the space of 24 hours without using any form of transport.

If you’re just starting out in the gym my top tips would be:

  • Start with classes – they are great as you don’t need any fitness knowledge/skill to try them and the Pure Gym instructors are friendly and helpful. I also liked it as it is social and you can pick classes that you think will suit you
  • Invest in a PT, even if just for an initial few sessions as they will design you a programme tailored to you and show you how to use the equipment correctly so you can get optimal results. All the PTs at my local PureGym are great and friendly. Then if you can afford it, you can continue these, and if not you have an exercise programme you can use anytime
  • Keep an eye on what you eat – you don’t need to necessarily diet or restrict yourself to certain foods, just appreciate how much you eat and what you eat to make sure all your hard work at the gym means a change for you.

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