A journey of self-discovery – finding my new why!


With life slowing down (in what some are calling the great pause), most of us have been able to stay home and stay safe, I have been busy thinking. I have had time to take a step toward answering a question that has been hanging around in the back of my mind for the last year or so.

Where do I fit in?

There are many personal trainers or fitness instructors in the world and specifically in Windsor and Maidenhead where I live and work. Where does what I have to offer fit in? Where does my passion for strength and functional fitness fit in? Simply – why do I do what I do?

I have been full-time in the fitness industry for two years now (part-time for 4 years previously). When I set out to make this my full-time job two years ago I knew I wanted to help people fall in love with exercise, working with clients who were short on time or motivation to make it to a the gym to workout on their own or join a group session.

As I started to take on clients, I generally found that they would express a desire to feel better for moving and using their body, if they lost a bit of weight along the way, then great.

I listened to them talk about their desire to lose ‘a bit of weight’ it made me feel slightly uncomfortable and it took a while to work out why this was. As someone that has had a preoccupation with how I look and how much I weight for many years, I got it. I understand the desire to lose just a few kilograms. But thinking about how I’ve successfully done that in the past has been a combination of some form of restricted eating and movement. I felt uncomfortable about whether I was able to help them meet their weight lose goal when I could really only influence their activity of a few hours in a week, giving some general advice around ‘healthy eating’.

Suddenly, in a quieter time, over the last few months I have had time to reflect on this and tap into conversations being had by other trainers and instructors. Through this learning and self-reflection, I have started on a journey of understanding. I have had a few light bulb moments over recent weeks, I have realised I am not alone and I wanted to share some of that with you.

While I am fortunate that I have never had an eating disorder I now recognise that I have certainly been disordered around diet and exercise. What do I mean by that? On and off over the past 20 years I have been preoccupied with my weight and how I look. The hours I have wasted worrying whether my legs look fat or wishing if only my stomach was a bit flatter. I have had many conversations with myself around – if only that bit looked a bit better or if only I had her legs… then I’ll be happy with my body. I have used exercise as a punishment for eating that bar of chocolate or trying to out exercise what I’ve eaten that I think I shouldn’t. The stress I have put myself on, in the lead up to a holiday and the number of different diets I have done in the past are countless.

I’m sure that many of you reading this will identify with some or most of these statements.

But so what?

In one of my moments of realisation, I understood that it doesn’t have to be this way. As I approach a big (ish) birthday next year, I realised that I could work on eliminating the negative self-talk and I can fit into the fitness industry without being a size 8 with a six pack.

I have given myself permission to set fitness goals that are not about weight loss. I have a new ‘why’. I have been seeing and feeling it on behalf of my clients for years – so why not for me too.

The mental health benefits have been hugely magnified during the pandemic, the ways that I have coped with the fear and stresses in the last few months have mostly been by moving my body. That’s my new why. It’s not just a positive side effect of exercising – it’s my why. Staying sane and being able to keep working is my why.

I am only just scratching the surface of the topic of body neutrality (some call it body positivity) but it’s about the acceptance that ‘our bodies are an instrument and not an object’. An instrument to be used functionally and not something just to be looked at. It’s very much in line with fitness for anybody and any BODY.

I have made a few baby steps in the right direction and changed who I follow and what I consume on social media as a start.

I have diversified the accounts I follow and rather than look to influencers (fitness or other) I am being inspired by those that are sharing their journey through this topic.

I am recognising the comments I am making to myself – being careful not to use the words should or ought, closing down negative chatter, seeing more than just an object when I look at myself.

I am reprogramming what fitness can be about if we can deprioritise or forget weight loss and see it for everything it can be.

Now I feel like I’m closer to knowing where I fit in to the fitness industry – I’m about making your why work for you.

If any or all of this resonates with you and you want help rethinking and setting your fitness goals, please reach out and together we can make a plan.

Sara McDonnell

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