A Story of Growth
With what's going on in the world right now I felt it was important to take the time to write a blog that may give people hope, may make people feel that they are not alone and also may just give people a little bit of motivation. This isn't your 'normal corporate website' blog, I have been pretty honest here, so hold tight and here goes...!
Me and My 'Why?'
Before we start - let me tell you that this is a story of hope and strength, despite what the next sentence may insinuate, please read on to find out that there is 'light at the end of the tunnel' for everyone. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have struggled with mental health issues from a young age (probably from when I was about twelve years old) and they have continued throughout my life - albeit with ebbs and flows of 'good' periods and 'not so good' periods. I lost both of my parents relatively young; I lost my mother to cancer when I was 30 years old having nursed her to the very end, and then suddenly lost my father a couple of years ago.
My mother was an incredibly inspirational and strong person and her motto was, 'Don't look at your mountain, climb it!' - and whilst I have tried to remember this adage and follow it, as you can imagine, some days are harder than others.
I know it may sound like a cliche but reading a book by a chap called David Goggins (Can't Hurt Me) was a real turning point for me. (this is the guy in the cover photo for this blog - also seen below)
Who is David Goggins?
David Goggins grew up with an abusive father in a racist neighbourhood and was unable to read and write until he was around high school age. It’s a back story a lot of us have heard many times. A back story of someone that may just coast through life blaming others for their misfortune or even a back story of someone who gets entangled with the hard underbelly of crime. It could also be a case of paradigms, with history repeating itself through generations; a child who has an abusive or neglectful parent then grows up to do the same to his kids, then them to theirs, and them to theirs... until someone makes a stand and breaks the cycle.
Goggins is certainly one of those that didn’t just break the cycle, he pulled it apart piece by piece, chewed it up, spat it out and then set it on fire! His story can’t be summarised in a short blog so I won’t even attempt to do that, but what I will do is outline why him and his story had such a profound affect on me, and millions of others...
After scraping through school, Goggins became a ‘roach guy’ - as in, he used to go into restaurants, cafes etc. and deal with pest control. One night, when he opened a ceiling vent and was showered with thousands of cockroaches, he decided he needed to make a change.
To cut a long story short he taught himself to swim and applied to be a Navy Seal (yes, you read that right, a wannabe Navy Seal that couldn’t swim!). Here are some of his highlights:
He is the only member of the U.S Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks - when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum TOTAL of four hours sleep), the U.S Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training
He was the World Record holder for the most pull ups in a 24 hour period - 4,030 - this section of the book is brutal - his hands were cut open to the bone and he just put duct tape on them and carried on
He has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons and ultra-triathlons
One of his main messages is that you have to 'be comfortable making yourself uncomfortable' - with the idea being that if you push yourself to do things you don't want to do and that 'hurt', day-to-day life will become a lot easier in comparison. In today's world, it is very much the norm (for a great percentage of the population, I know this doesn't apply to everyone) to be cossetted and almost wrapped in 'cotton wool' to have a comfortable life; whether that's by society, ourselves, our family etc., then when something 'bad' happens in our lives, we simply can't cope.
Goggins uses the phrase 'callous your mind': just like you get callouses on your hands when you put them through physical strain / hard work, you can do this to your mind by pushing it to its limit to strengthen and bolster it.
Makes sense doesn't it?
The journey he embarked upon (when he could have taken the path of least resistance) made his mind so 'calloused' that he could cope with anything and has ultimately forged him into 'the toughest man on the planet' (which he is often referred to as by many). He says it's easy for people to feel sorry for themselves and blame their lack of ambition and hard work on their circumstances. I know there is a lot more to depression and other mental health conditions than this, but it certainly made me think about things in a different way and completely changed my mindset.
I wanted to do something to really challenge myself (and callous my mind!) so in around November 2019 I decided to sign up for a half marathon (The London Landmarks - as a complete non-runner and someone who hates long-distance running this was no mean feat! I probably had never run continuously for more than a few miles and even that was when I was still at school in 'peak' condition. I used to be a very good sprinter, but when it came to anything over 800m I was completely horrified and hated it! But that's exactly why I knew I had to do this. Sadly, with Covid-19, the run was cancelled but I have signed up to do it in 2021 and I am doing it in memory of my mother for Macmillan. To be honest, I told myself once the race was done I would never make myself run again because I find it so hard but I've raised over £500 so far so there's no way I'm going to let people (including myself) down by letting Covid stand in my way!
I started going to gym loads and I went from someone who really didn't enjoy it to someone who absolutely loves it! It really has become my lifeline. The endorphins, the weight loss, the confidence in my progression and the self-discipline needed to get out of bed at 4.45am to get there in time to do a session before work has improved my mental health ten-fold.
Obviously my routine had to change with lock down and I must admit, I've found it hard to motivate myself to keep up my fitness regime. But the important thing is that I know I will get back on it when the gyms reopen. I have tried to do 10k steps a day, have been doing a few home workouts and more recently have had the support of my PT, Dale Wallace who has been to my house (outside) to train me once a week (I requested that as a birthday present from my fiance!).
Since around March 2019 I have lost 2 stone and become a lot fitter, slimmer, physically stronger and confident in myself, but the real change has been in my head.
How Have I Helped Myself?
I recently was a guest on a podcast /Facebook Live with Dale, James Crichton and James McDowell, which was focused on the benefits of one-to-one Personal Training. For me, one-to-one PT has been a major key to my success; whilst Goggins was a huge catalyst for me to make a change, personal training has kept me on track and given me a massive amount of confidence in the gym. In the podcast, I was very honest and shared some of my story, touching on how the 'Can't Hurt Me' book has influenced my mindset.
Rather than you just having take my word for it, I asked Dale what he thought of my progress and he very kindly sent me this feedback (which blew me away!):
"The effort Sarah brings to her exercise regime is nothing short of inspiring and incredible. Before lockdown, I remember seeing her put the extra time in before and after her personal training sessions. You could see the energy she put into that, leaving nothing on the table, sometimes twice a day.
Whether it is cardio or weight training Sarah gives it her all. You can see how much of an impact this has had on Sarah both physically and mentally. A lot of credit has to go to Sarah's previous trainer and I cannot wait to continue that progress in the gym environment.
Sarah is an inspiration to many and has quickly made lots of friends in the gym and I'm sure she is looking forward to rekindling that where possible with social distancing of course!
Her drive and enthusiasm is infectious and her story is a powerful one for people to listen to. If Sarah can deal with all the problems she has come across, then it's a testament to prove that other people can too.
If anyone has doubt about what can be achieved or the benefits that exercise can have on your life then you should listen to Sarah's story because I promise you that you will be inspired!"
So there you have it - the first and foremost reason why I managed to change my mindset from a place of self-doubt and unhappiness to one of growth, strength and confidence. Don't get me wrong; I still have a long way to go and I still get my 'not so good days'. The five things I would ask you to take away from this:
Take yourself way out of your comfort zone and do things you don't like (e.g. me taking up long distance running) - get comfortable being uncomfortable!
If you are looking to lose weight, use the MyFitnessPal app to track your food and ensure you stick to a calorie deficit - in all of my research and experience, this is the only scientifically proven way that works - no fads, pills, juicing diets needed!
Read self-development books or autobiographies of people that inspire you (or the audio book if you don't like reading) and listen to podcasts that focus on improving mindset and instilling self-belief (if you need recommendations on either of these please give me a shout)
Don't let your mind tell your body what it can't do - "the human body can withstand a heck of a lot more than most of us think possible, and that all begins and ends in the mind"
Don't stop when you're tired - stop when you're done. "Everybody comes to a point in their life when they want to quit - it's what we do at this moment that determines who we are"
I am currently reading Ross Edgley's book, The Art of Resilience. He swam the 1,780 mile journey around the UK recently and I am finding his story and his motivations incredibly inspirational (there will probably be a follow-up blog about this so watch this space!).
Having the support of Service Care Solutions as an employer has also helped me massively. As well as being an innovative, ambitious and successful company, they have astounded me with their people / HR skills and understanding; whether that be through the support they offer for employees through the mental health organisations Lancashire Mind and Able Futures or just the way they care for, nurture and value their staff.
Whilst I am not in the gym, reading or waxing lyrical about inspirational people, I am busy running the marketing for Service Care Solutions! We are currently recruiting across a wide range of sectors and are looking for people to work for us directly too; if you would like to find out more, please contact us here or call me personally on 01772 956470 or email me email@example.com