All about Ali

About me…now 59yrs old and 35+ years as a FitPro (condensed into one page…!)

Well, its fair to say I’m not your obvious Fitness Instructor material.

Far from being a natural athletic type who has always been slim and healthy and fit as a fiddle, my journey into the fitness industry was as a result of rather the opposite. I have….

* a rare vain disorder requiring much surgery,

*restless leg syndrome,

*arthritis that began in childhood and rubbished my right knee,

*an awkward gut with marked food intolerances,

*a couple of major allergies and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

*a family history on both sides erring on being rather large so I was a chubby child and have fought weight issues all my life.

You see what I mean !?!

In spite of this I was very active and represented my school & my county at many sports including swimming, netball, hockey, badminton & shot-put. I was not an exercise fiend and not outstanding –  I just liked those sports.

At 13 my knees began to hurt. A lot. Enough to spur my mum to have it medically investigated as the pain began to affect all my sports. *By 15 I was advised to give up exercise.  I had arthritis and the docs thought that long term I may have real trouble carrying a baby & expected I’d be struggling to walk by the time I was 50. They even suggested I may be in a wheelchair by then. A heck of a blow at such a young age and I was too young to fully comprehend or question. So, I ceased most exercise except for swimming  – which was deemed ‘safe’ – and was unhappily resigned and uncertain about my future health & fitness.

I trained to be a beauty therapist. I worked in & managed some top salons, including Harrods. I really liked the job but found I became more & more interested in women’s overall wellness concerns rather than aesthetics.

I married at 20 & became pregnant unexpectedly quickly. I was none too well & had to give up work at 12 weeks. But it turned out my knees were the least of my worries during pregnancy. Neither of my pregnancies were easy or straightforward. I also gained a lot of weight which depressed me so after my second pregnancy, in spite of the medics early advice to abstain, I went to local exercise classes to, “lose weight, get fit, have fun!”    As a new class member the only was advice I was given was to ‘go at the back & take it easy.’ (well, it was 1984…)

*Being told not to exercise followed by the*experience of local classes as a post-natal woman – were the seminal moments that propelled me to become an instructor myself .

*As a  class participant:   I wanted thorough instruction in an effective class. I wanted to feel confident in an instructor but back then it was rare to have qualified instruction.   I also needed to feel comfortable in a varied group of average-ish women like me, rather than self-conscious in a room full of intimidating bodies doing daunting exercise. I wanted to feel good about achieving one or two classes a week in my bonkers life , not a failure because I hated running & didn’t want to exercise 6 days a week.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If If I wanted to see change I had to become an instructor.

However, at that point I was even less obvious instructor material!

I was full time mum to a 3-year-old – plus breast feeding a 6 month [hyperactive] baby and running a farm with my [then] husband.

[Typical of us women to take on a degree course in those circumstances, huh?]

Nevertheless,  I took the plunge and in 1984 I started a degree course. By 1986 I’d achieved P.E.A. (with  Credit). To this day, this Physical Education Authority qualification remains one of the most comprehensive & respected in the fitness industry.

*As an instructor:      I wanted every class member to feel confident in all aspects of the classes. I wanted to keep informed & current on female health & fitness  concerns & pass that information on usefully to my clients. I wanted my class members to feel confident that they were being professionally observed & guided whilst feeling unselfconscious within the camaraderie of a group.

*Education, progression and enjoyment were – and remain – my aim rather than competition or perfection.

I re-launched my classes in a 90-minute format so they allowed enough time for me to instruct thoroughly. It also meant they were comprehensive training for those who could only manage one class a week. To my joy, my style worked & demand grew. Within a year I ran a huge variety of successful classes each week.

The fitness industry was still in it’s infancy, but I had found my vocation.

ONWARD INTO THE 90’s :

From the late 1980’s the UK was following the lead of Australia & the USA in the aerobics boom. I had the resource of new ideas & research due to the establishment of FitPro.UK,  of which I am a founder member. The timing of my decisions meant that I was in the company of other like minded professionals at the forefront of the emerging UK fitness industry.

Over the years I introduced ‘STEP’ Aerobics to the UK and helped launch ‘FitKid.UK’, along with other innovations in the growth phase of the 90’s.  I’ve been privileged to work with & learn from some truly inspirational industry leaders some of whom, like me, continue to instruct & provide expertise to the UK fitness community to this day. I’ve consulted with the NHS in the specialist areas of Continence, Post-Natal Exercise and the Management of Pain. I have also lectured, written professional articles & mentored a number of instructors.

In the background of this professional success my personal life has been a challenge, to say the least. But I know I’m not alone. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many women over the years and ( as my mum used to say)    Life is what goes on while you’re planning it!  So I’m aware that most of the women I instruct aren’t interested in fitness as the main part of their days,  as they all have such varied existences. Rather, they just want to be responsible for their overall health and be well.    Same as me.

This personal and professional experience informs everything I now do as a instructor and as a woman. I now offer support and more holistic wellness to women via my Group Classes and Personal Training – not just an obsessive drive for exercise or to  ‘stay young and be thin’.                                                                  

Hence , My professional mission statement:

   Don’t live your life just to be fit ; just be fit enough to live your life. 

LIFE AFTER 50:

In 2013 I took time out to care for my very elderly parents, so they didn’t have to go into a home. In 2014 my personal life hit a dreadful phase with the menopause thrown in for good measure. I was on my own as a full time carer in overwhelming circumstances. My frail dad fell over most days  – but I could pick him up single handed & safely. Mum had a kidney removed at 86, needing much care to recover alongside dads needs.

I am quite certain that my residual fitness & understanding of a healthy lifestyle gave me the stamina to cope with the physical & emotional demands I faced. And face.

My own fitness is by no means super- elite. I live by my own mission statement & exercise does not rule my days, even as a profession. But my wellness & understanding of the balance of my own unique health needs, acceptance of my own body, has been invaluable to get me through my life experience AND keep my mental health intact.

That experience directly informs my current instructing style and focus. I am no boot camp instructor. Nor, at my present age of 59 do I perceive being over 50 as ‘senior’. I’m the Grandma that can do handstands alongside all four of my grandchildren and I still loathe running but I’ll own any dancefloor until 3 am!

I now have a great opportunity to employ my life experience & accumulated expertise to specialise in the areas I feel most passionately about.

These include;

  • Pre, Peri & Post-menopause exercise & wellbeing
  • Correct pelvic diaphragm [pelvic floor] & abdominal [core] exercise  (including immediate post-natal)
  • Appropriate age related exercise advice
  • Gait & posture awareness
  • The older novice or returning exerciser
  • The exerciser who is understandably nervous or daunted due to  injury, illness or surgery

I have been challenged by all of the above, either personally or professionally. I really enjoy positively supporting [mainly] women as we age together.

I am a woman who is (variously) fit in spite of my body & circumstances rather than because of them. Because of that my motivation has always been to make wellness accessible & enjoyable to those may be daunted, doubtful or uninspired.

We women are amazing in all our glorious similarities & differences.

I hope my professional style reflects and respects that.

I intend to keep learning & hope to instruct for as long as I have something of value to contribute.

Ali :0)