As I’m writing this, I’ve just gotten back from the gym where I had a personal training session with my trainer Darren and my colleague Nooreen, funded by Next Jump as a reward for being voted Top 10 Employee of the Month. My muscles ache, I’m tired, but I’m also buzzing from the endorphins – and I can’t wait to go back to the gym tomorrow.
I haven’t always had a passion for exercise though. A year ago, if you’d have told me I had to go to the gym tomorrow, I probably would have strongly protested. Not only did I hate exercise, but I also ate badly, and I really didn’t have a clue how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Flash back to when I was 13 years old, and very overweight. Standing in our school playground, it was the worst day of the year– the day we had to run 800m in gym class. I set off, ran for literally 20 seconds, but then because of my size, ran out of breath, got a stitch in my side and started hyperventilating. I then proceeded to have a monumental freak out – crying at the sheer embarrassment and pain as everyone else ran on ahead of me. I think that was where my hatred and fear of exercising, particularly running, started.
From then onwards, despite being unhappy about my weight, I never managed to shift it. I joined gyms and tried fad diets, but nothing ever worked. I then went to university where I discovered that 1) I can’t cook and 2) alcohol will make you put on weight. By the time I left, I was still overweight, and to be honest, really unhappy about it.
Fast forward to 2010. I started at Next Jump, where employees are encouraged to exercise as a way to strategically disengage, and where they believe that a healthy body will help make a healthy business. I’m not going to lie – I was sceptical. Ok, I could deal with going to the gym twice a week to participate in the team-based fitness competition, but exercise wasn’t for me. And so I was introduced to the gym, but would always stick to my comfort zone – the exercise bike or the cross trainer. Of course, I avoided the treadmill like the plague.
It wasn’t until September last year that everything changed. Like I said, at Next Jump if you are one of the Top 10 Employees of the month, you are rewarded with 4 personal training sessions. Having won a few times over the last 3 years, I’d collected up quite a few sessions, but had never redeemed them. I was approached by Dovile, one of the healthiest and most motivated people in the office, who asked me to use some of my personal training sessions with her. Despite initial hesitation, Dovile was so eager and encouraging that I agreed to go with her.
The first time I met our personal trainer, Darren, I was terrified. He asked me about my height and weight, and then proceeded to tell me that my BMI meant that I was technically obese. He hammered home what this meant – a higher risk of developing serious and life threatening diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It was a very sobering moment, realising that being fat not only made me look bad, but it was also seriously jeopardising my health and my future. But Darren also hammered home that there is absolutely no reason why I couldn’t turn everything around.
The next few weeks were ridiculously painful. Darren and Dovile, who had now become my exercise buddy, introduced me to many different forms of cardio workouts, which work large numbers of muscle groups and are great for losing fat – I have never been so sore. I was also reunited with my old enemy the treadmill. Dovile, being one of the fastest runners in the London office, encouraged me every time we went to the gym, and eventually my walking on an incline turned into jogging for intervals. Soon enough, I was able to run for a prolonged period of time. One of my proudest moments was the first time I ran for 25 minutes without stopping; I remember finishing and just looking around with disbelief that I’d been capable of doing something that had seemed so impossible before.
As well as helping me with exercise, Darren also asked me to keep a food diary. He taught me about when I should eat, what types of food I should be eating, and what to avoid. Since it’s almost impossible to eat unhealthily at Next Jump, I had no problem with this, as Next Jump provides us with healthy breakfast and snack options. Cooking became something I enjoyed, much to the pleasure of my housemates who benefited from this new found passion.
Over the next few months, I started to see really significant results. I was losing weight steadily, but I was also becoming stronger and fitter. Something was different this time to all of the other times I’d tried to lose weight. I’d been given the tools to completely turn my health around, and I had unbelievable support from everyone at Next Jump. Although it has required a lot of self motivation and self discipline, I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without 1) having been given the opportunity to educate myself about food and exercise from the personal training sessions I was given, and 2) having the support from everyone around me. Everyone genuinely cared about how I was doing and really wanted me to succeed.
It’s now 7 months in, and my life has changed in many ways. In total, I’ve lost 18kg, dropped 3 dress sizes and have lost about 7 inches from my hips and waist. More importantly, my BMI has gone from obese to normal – so I’m no longer putting my health at risk. My energy levels are at an all time high, and I’ve never felt so engaged or productive at work. I don’t feel like I’m on a diet or like I’m trying to lose weight any more – in fact it’s become a way of life. I actually enjoy running now; I go to the gym out of choice 4 times a week and I’ve learned to cook and make healthy decisions about what to eat.
Before: Summer party in July, After: Holiday party in February
Every year, Next Jump takes part in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, a 5.6km run. Last year I ran it in an hour. In fact I pretty much walked the entire thing. My goal for this year is to half my time and run it in half an hour – and if this last year has taught me anything, it’s that with help from Next Jump, the people here, and some new-found self belief –there is absolutely no reason why I can’t.