The world of fitness presenting….

So following on from my last blog, I thought I’d dive into the world of fitness presenting… everyone wants to be on that stage at an fitness convention and all most people see is the glamorous side of it all. I had a fantastic 2016/2017 presenting and loved every single minute of it, and yes it is like a drug, once you’ve done it you get a buzz from it and want to do it all again. And yes I’m not going to lie, I do miss it and hope to do it again in the future.

First Solo gig as a Presenter

Before I was a presenter, and since, I have and still continue to notice brands not fully showcasing there brands in the best light. Why have 3 presenters on stage doing exactly the same thing? If you’ve got 3 presenters on stage, one should be showcasing low impact, medium impact and high impact. You’re showcasing it to fitpros who may be put off high impact. As a rehab instructor, people are moving away from high impact due to the amount of pressure it causes in the joints. Especially your hips, knees and ankles. Use your special population instructors (eg disabled instructors) that you may have teaching your format to present on stage with you. This truly showcases your brand in the best light.

Using 2 presenters with different options is more beneficial for your brand

So the world of presenting is not as glamorous as it looks, you have the hours of learning new choreography or even creating it first, sourcing the right music and playlist for the event itself. Learning how you will present it and what cueing style you will use, do you need to go through technique at the very start, or as you go, do you need someone to stop the music as you go. Combating the nerves, even the most polished pros that have done it for years still get nervous. I always got very nervous the closer it got to me going on stage and my way of combatting that was either to stay busy or just pace up and down. Once I was on stage and past the warm up, I was fine and then my true presenting personality would come out. When not presenting, time is spent on the stand pushing the brand itself. This is where you are stood up for hours on end, trying to get people to engage with you. Some brands have mini demos on there stands or where you can go (mainly the rebounding or hula hooping brands) – this is part of the down side people do not see.

On stand with Chico

You also have hours of travelling – driving, getting stuck in traffic. When I was presenting at Ribby Hall near Preston – it took me over 8 hours to drive there due to the M6 being a car park, despite prior warning and coming off and going the back roads – so did a lot of other people! You could be at the event on your own, staying in hotels by yourself, living out of a suitcase. Or you could be sharing a cottage with other presenters from other brands. The whole event you are on ‘duty’ you are representing that brand the whole time you are there. Even though you may not be on stage, and sat in a Costa – you are always representing the brand you are with and being professional the whole time is vital. Yes you can let your hair down and have fun, but it’s the way you do it. You always have to be happy and have lots of energy regardless of how you may be feeling. I know when I was presenting Clubbercise at the Instructability awards a few years ago, I was really ill. Whilst driving to Watford, I started to feel very ill. I took some tablets, put on my instructor face and carried on like there was nothing wrong despite feeling awful. When I got back home the next day and collapsed I had what was the start of full blown flu. Seeing the pictures of me after and how pale I was I can see it on my face. Only those that knew me, knew how I was truly feeling.

How pale am I…

You spend a lot of time away from your own friends and family, which at times can be very isolating and lonely. In 2017 I presented at 3 fitness conventions for 3 weekends on the trot, I was up in Lancashire for 2 weekends continuously. Yes I had to come back and work in between too. So I was working for 4 weeks continuously without a day off, teaching my own classes in the week, still doing my day job and prepping for the next event making sure you nail it! Making sure that you have enough clean clothes ready for the next weekend and making sure you are wearing different leggings etc. Also the weekend events always have a themed meal you attend, so even if you don’t dress up for the theme you still need to dress appropriately as you are still unofficially working!

With cottage mates at Ribby Hall, 2017. Can you guess the theme?

Yes I have been working hard to get myself the right qualifications to launch my own brand. I want to be a qualified tutor before I do so, which I am in the process of doing. IncluSeat is coming guys, the name fits in with my business name InclusFit and I’m hoping to do some Masterclasses soon. It’s a seated concept that will include dance, combat, balance, strength and conditioning. It’s going to be amazing. If you would like to host me and my concept for a masterclass, or have me demo at your event, then please contact me.

Exciting times ahead

National vs Local

This blog is going to be in 2 parts….. so here is part 1!

Back in 2013, I took the biggest plunge of my life and retrained via Instructability to be a gym instructor. Before this, I had worked in many industries including Energy, investment banking and Veterinary. Some I enjoyed and others I didn’t. When I left university I was led down the 9-5 office route due to my disability.

Even though I had ambition and went as far as I could in some, an office environment was not for me. Through redundancy in the big banking crash, I got a job at a local vets as a receptionist part time. With my disability I struggled with full time hours. I loved the job, but unfortunately for me, there was no progression to go higher up and this is one thing that drives me, to be the best I can be within a role. I fell back in love with exercise through discovering Zumba and leaving an abusive relationship.

I accidentally discovered Instructability, and applied to do the course which was funded by Sport England. So at the age of 33, I jumped into the unknown and retrained. During my training I was working and for 5 weeks I worked continuously without a day off. When you have a goal, you go out and achieve it.

my instructability group

I passed both courses, and from the 12 week work placement, I was offered a casual contract with my local council. 5 years on I’m thriving in the team I’m now working in. I’ve been given every chance to progress and encouraged too as well. I’ve now been given more responsibility which I’m loving.

As a FITPRO with a disability I have had a lot to prove especially with teaching fitness classes as a lot of FITPROs in my area still do not take me seriously or refuse to have me cover classes for them. One or 2 do, but there is a perception that I just teach low impact classes. If this is the case, then how come those under forty who have been to my regular Zumba class have found it too high impact?! Despite the local FITPRO clickiness, I have actually gone on and proved a lot of them wrong. I have and continue to work with Clubbercise to make them an inclusive brand and train up disabled instructors to teach it.

First training as a Clubbercise Master Trainer

I have become the UKs first ever disabled fitness presenter, presenting at major UK fitness events including IFS, MOVE IT/FIT, LIW, Elevate, and Project Mayhem weekenders. I have been nominated for the UK Active flame award twice….. yes twice for the work I do within the industry to make it fully inclusive, and yes I’m working on my own seated brand & in the process of becoming a qualified fitness tutor!

Presenting at the Project Mayhem Ribby Hall Weekender

Since last September, I have concentrated on projects / work locally and have been inundated with offers for work… it’s not all about being up on the stage trying to be the best you can be nationally – local results can be more beneficial and so much more rewarding, which I have found in the past 10 months!

My Amazing Open Door group – day centre for those with Learning Disabilities.

Life as a fitness presenter is not as glamorous as it is made out to be…… so want to find out more… part 2 is on its way!

Marriage, Babies and Friendships…….

As we get older our amount of friends drop. We either see their true intentions, some move away, but the one thing my friends and I have noticed, when friends get married and have kids. It is funny how the friendship dwindles if you are single and / or do not have kids. Even with those that are married but choose not to have children.

It is like, Oh you don’t have kids so you won’t be able to converse with us! But it’s not our fault we haven’t found Mr (or Mrs) right to have kids with, or that we are a couple that have chosen not to have them.

It’s like they are unknowingly penalising you if you are in this situation.

Also they may not even realise the mental health conditions of a single person. That person may not have many single friends left to socialise with and may rely on those friends that are married with kids to be able to have a social life. So if that suddenly drops, they may end up having no one to go out with, or meet up with.

We do not mind meeting up with the children present. Sometimes it’s just about getting out and having company.

Even though my anxiety and panic attacks have improved, one of the triggers is when I have cabin fever and am in need of company.

I have personally had comments like you’re always doing stuff, it’s on FaceBook. Look closer – those that have a fantastic circle of friends do not put much on social media. Where those whose circle of friends has dropped due to no fault of there own, they are more likely to be online etc, as they are always waiting for their friends to ask them if they want to do something.

So next time you think about the friends you’ve not seen in a while or the ones you have hardly seen since having kids, make the effort to see them. We all have our own battles; they may have a lot more ‘stuff’ going on than you think.

It doesn’t take a lot to meet up for a coffee or even a walk every now and then, it actually may make their day.

The mental aspects of Fear…..

My next blog is slightly shorter.

Fear is something we all face everyday, but how we deal or cope with it can be completely different. Even the most out going people can be completely different with fear.

When you have had any kind of mental health condition then fear is very paramount and can actually get in the way of something that could be very good. But most of the time the fear of rejection is what we overthink and actually stops us from doing or even asking something that we really want to do or ask.

I’m a very outgoing person but when it comes to taking the reins in asking a guy out then I just crumble as the fear stops me from doing it, due to me always being rejected in the past that I automatically have that fear ingrained in me. Or if I do get the guts to do it, it comes across as just friendly. I get a instant rejection or the guy has his own fear of some kind, could even be the same fear despite all the signs saying otherwise. We shouldn’t let fear get in the way of life but unfortunately it does.

Imagine how good things could be if we eliminated the fear we all have engrained in us. People that should be dating would be, or you may go for a job you normally may not go for! Or try something new that you normally wouldn’t have.

I recently came across this quote and it is so true. “We all have our fears but we need to put them aside and take the bull by the horns as you never know where it may lead……. “

The social media effect…..

In the past few weeks it has been released that obesity levels are rising, and I’m writing this blog following on from something that was said to me following this news event – they said to me ‘you’re obese and need to lose weight, especially in your job’.

Now, I’m not overweight by any stretch of the imagination, let alone obese. I’m a size 10-12, which is below the UK average in clothes size. (Currently standing at a size 16). I’m not saying who said this, but it has had an effect on me. When you have had to cope with depression, anxiety and panic attack’s in the past, and still get anxiety/ panic attacks under certain situations, this comment is not helpful. Not forgetting that I constantly struggle with image due to Cerebral Palsy.

I actually think I’m OK body wise all things considered. Yes, there are areas I don’t like, but that’s up to me to work on and no one else to say so. We all have body issues, but just consider how much harder I have to work on mine. I’ve been in an abusive relationship where I was constantly told I was fat, and my self confidence just completely went from me! No one knows how that makes you feel mentally when you’re constantly being belittled because of your weight.

Anyway it got me thinking – has the media and more importantly social media, affected society more to be a perfect size? Has it made people think curvy is not sexy? Models have to be a certain size, models and even fitness models are pushed to have that perfect lean thin look. Why do companies think that this is the ideal way to market fitness, not realising that the mental implications on the general public. Their potential clients. I have seen a rise in curvy fitness instructors, which I LOVE, as this shows clients that’s it’s about being fit and healthy and not being a size 8! The media have portrayed that a size 6-8 is the perfect image – that is not realistic and actually can affect people in other ways. So as an example, as a single disabled woman I have always struggled with dating.

Unfortunately, dating sites all go on that first impression, aka your looks, so you swipe either way. They don’t let you get to know someone for their personality, which is what is a fundamental part of a relationship. A relationship is not built on looks alone; but most guys in my world unfortunately, want that so called perfect image -that image the media have portrayed. What about the perfect looking man? I’m just asking an open question.

So if you don’t fit that image of the perfect woman on a dating site, like having a disability, health condition etc most guys run a mile in the opposite direction. Having a disability I don’t get asked out when I’m out and about, as I’m different to all the other girls, and yet I’m not asking for much in wanting a nice guy to actually have a relationship with. And yes disabled people can have a fully normal relationship with a person they are attracted too. Which is another thing the media have distorted. For the majority of us we are perfectly able to have a sexual relationship. What has happened to the good old fashioned way of getting to know someone? Chivalry in most men has died out. I have very rarely had guys on dates hold a door open for me, pull a chair out, walk on the outside of the path for me. Alot of ladies still like a guy to have these qualities. Unfortunately most men have given internet dating a bad rep and it’s now so much harder for us single girls to meet a nice honest guy.

So, my question is, is the rise in mental health conditions partly to do with the media portrayal of that perfect image and everyone trying to conform to it?

Everyone has that one part of there body they hate, but has to accept. Beauty is more than just the exterior, it’s about what is inside and who we are as people. But most importantly it’s about being happy with who you are as a person and loving yourself the way nature intended you to be. You were born the way you are for a reason. Keep to that and be the best you can be, be happy and you will attract the right people around you for just being yourself.

So, how do I feel about the original comment of my being obese? I’m not obese, I love the body that I have been given. It’s not perfect, but none of us are, whether you are a model or not. Trust me, there is no such thing as perfect.

EMD – ‘Feel For’ Zumba Pilot

Just over 2 years ago I was asked by Exercise Move Dance UK (EMDUK), the National governing body for dance fitness, to be one of their Ambassadors. I jumped at the chance and it was a real honour to be asked.

Last summer they asked me to take part in a pilot for their ‘feel for’ project. The project was created to engage those that would never exercise before, to come and try an inclusive class, that would suit all fitness levels. EMD asked if I would do a pilot for a seated class. The timing was coincidental, as work had agreed that I could run a seated class for them, due to some clients asking for a daytime seated class from the demos I had done for SAMs (Swindon Advocacy Movement ), and Swindon Learning Disability Forum.

A demo for a learning disability group in Swindon

Zumba was a great class to start with, as I am licensed to teach Zumba Gold – a low impact speciality of Zumba. I love teaching it, and I can do my own choreography which was important to me, as it meant I could change it to meet the classes needs. At the start of the 12 weeks, it was quiet and took a few weeks to build up. But after advertising it on some local free for sale sites on Facebook, talking to support workers to spread the word and also with our local Be Active (Mind ) project coming along, the word spread and numbers increased. I was getting a good set of regulars. There aren’t many classes where people with either a physical or learning disability feel comfortable going to, with an instructor that truly understands their needs, and where they are treated just the same as everyone else. They do not want a slow style class. They want an upbeat class that’s the same speed as those that are able bodied and non-restrictive. There’s a misconception that disabled people cannot do fast or upbeat choreography. Actually I’m going to squash that, the more time disabled people have to think about a move, the more they can’t do it. The less time they have to think, the better, as they find the move easier and more effective. I’m more likely to fall over on a slower song as my brain has more time to think so I over think the move then face plant the floor. The quicker the move, the more seamlessly I do it and therefore stay on my feet. This is a thing that not all instructors realise. And this is something Beto, ( Zumba Creator), picked up when I danced on stage with him.

On stage with Beto

On stage with Beto

I had people with various conditions come to my class including ataxia (which is a form of CP), Cerebral Palsy, marfans, Parkinson’s, Down’s syndrome, complex learning disabilities, autism, to those with limbs missing. After a month, I could see a vast improvement in their conditions. Their co-ordination was better, and were really enjoying the class. As time went on, I was seeing an improvement in those with complex learning disabilities and they were starting to copy me. This is an amazing feeling when someone who hardly speaks, and is very slow at processing does what you do! They communicate how much they like the class by hugging you – that is such a special feeling. One even got up on stage every week and did there own dance. This is really important to me as it’s them gaining confidence, and having the ability to do a dance in-front of the class. It is also giving them a chance to have that opportunity which they wouldn’t normally be given. I also had various wheelchair users come to class. One started slimming world before coming to my class, struggled to lose weight before, came to my class and within 2 weeks had lost 3lbs, this is a lot for a wheelchair user as they do not burn the same amount of energy as those who are not in a wheelchair.

EMD – Feel for Zumba Class

The ‘feel for’ project was a success, and the class has continued growing. I’m mixing the class up now with some strength and conditioning to help them to be stronger and continue to improve.

There is no reason to discount those that have disabilities. Treat them with respect and think outside the box and the rewards you’ll feel will be huge.

You can gain discount on insurance (which includes equipment cover, if you cannot work due to injury and discounted PPL) and courses with EMD with my discount code SJAMES.

For more information about me, please go to www.inclusfit.co.uk

Cerebral Palsy – What is it?

March is Cerebral Palsy awareness month. You may ask what is cerebral Palsy or CP as I refer to it.

CP is a neurological condition that either happens at birth or shortly after.

It consists of a few brain disorders that affect movement and posture which in turn causes limitation to activity. It is non progressive and affects every individual differently from mild to severe.

CP is a umbrella term that includes a wide range of movement dysfunction. CP can be classified by the following attributes:

• movement – muscle tone, is often increased or decreased along with type of movement. Eg ataxia.

• Severity of the disability. No 2 people will be affected in the same way.

• Anatomical – so parts of the body that are affected. Eg Hemiplegia, Diplegia, quadriplegia.

So in basic terms, it affects the wiring of the nervous system, meaning the signals sent to the body get mixed up and so the muscles don’t do what they are being told to do. That is the simplest way of explaining it.

And to the contrary to what some people think, it is a physical disability. Some individuals may have an additional learning disability / disabilities on top, but not everyone with CP does.

I only have CP that affects me physically. How did I get this disability?

I was born able bodied, at 9 weeks old, I had a near miss cot death – mum checked on my brother for a minute, came back and I was blue. She resuscitated me and I was rushed in to hospital. I was in a coma and then was diagnosed with CP, due to the lack of oxygen to my brain when I stopped breathing. Yes, I technically died and now on my second chance of life.

I am very lucky that it doesn’t effect me too severely. I have a unique form of spastic diplegia that effects both sides of my body. I will go in to the main forms of CP later on but My right leg and left arm are affected along with a slight speech impediment which has vastly improved doing the job I am doing.

There are a few main types of CP. I’m not going to go into all of them or in to too much detail or I could be here all day. But they are:

Spastic Hemiplegia

Hemiplegia affects one side of the body. Will present in the same way as someone who has had a stroke. Depending on what side of the brain it affects, will determine what side of the body it will affect. Basically if it affects the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected. So both the right arm and leg.

Spastic Quadriplegia

This affects all 4 limbs and has an increased muscle tone in both arms and legs.

Can affect the posture including how the head sits and the movement of the head too.

Spastic Diplegia

This refers to the leg spasticity and often to some degree effect the hand and /or arm. There is an increase in muscle tone in the leg muscles and the individual may have issues with co-ordination and strength. This can present asymmetrically too.

Ataxic CP

Ataxia is defined as failure of muscle co-ordination in particular irregular muscle action. This is sometimes sits alongside spastic Diplegia.

Ataxia is the result of a dysfunction of the cerebellum.

Individuals with CP will often have spasms and this will be different in everyone. For instance I will get spasms with sudden loud noises, being snuck up on especially from behind. It will cause the body to jolt. I will do so just once or twice but again this is different to the person with CP.

This current spell of cold weather has also affected those with CP. Cold weather stiffens the muscles and cause pain. It can cause more fatigue, struggling to get up and moving in the mornings, as well as making walking harder.

Exercise and CP go hand in hand, especially strength and conditioning training. I have personally seen improvement in my own cp with exercise. Better balance, I hardly face plant the floor any more unless I’m really concentrating on one thing or someone startles me or knocks me. I have become stronger and more flexible.

CP stiffens the muscles up and what exercise does is that it helps loosen them.

Exercise will benefit those with CP differently and the type of exercise will be different to the individual. So to me weight and body weight training is what suits me along with dance fitness! Zumba, Clubbercise and a dance – stretching class in the form of VeraFlow.

Some find yoga or Pilates is very beneficial, where others find swimming or horse riding, beneficial.

You also do not even need to leave the house to exercise especially with the amount you can see on social media, YouTube and even paid subscribed websites.

With Rhys - a client with Left side Hemiplegia

Those with CP I have worked with in the gym have gone on to prove exercise Is beneficial for their disability. I have been bought to tears watching them do movements medical professionals said they would never do. I can tell you there are no words to describe how that feels as a trainer, to see you helped that person achieve that. Also having CP myself they can relate to me more as I have been through similar experiences to them, but I can also say if I can do it, you can!

I always see the ability in all my clients and everyone out there needs to do the same. Disability often shows you are stronger, achieve more and always proving people wrong when they say ‘oh you can’t do that because you have a disability’.

People with disabilities are exactly the same as those who are able, same emotions, feelings. They want to fall in love & settle down and want to be social and do everyday activities.

It’s just the media have portrayed an image conscious world where if you don’t look perfect you don’t fit in, or you can’t fall in love with someone that doesn’t look perfect! Which is the completely wrong message to send out.