Breast cancer survivor Maria has rebuilt her health and fitness at Ultimate Performance and now she’s stronger and fitter than ever.
Maria has battled cancer three times since 2005 as well as going through a mastectomy operation and having part of her kidney removed.
After undergoing debilitating chemotherapy and radiography to beat the cancer, Maria was put on new medication which then triggered the menopause and caused her to gain weight.
After 12 years of fighting cancer, and with her weight creeping up, Maria said she felt her fitness was at its lowest ebb – and she came to UP to make a big change and salvage her health.
“I was probably at my lowest point in terms of my health and my fitness,” she says.
“I was at a stage in my life where I had quite a few health issues. Since it was my third occurrence of breast cancer, I had chemotherapy and then a couple of other reoccurrences where I had radiotherapy.
“With the last diagnosis they changed my medication and that took me into the menopause.
“I could see that I was putting on weight, and all of a sudden it felt like it was almost immediate, I got this middle spare tyre, which I now understand to be the menopausal weight gain.”
She could acutely feel the effects of this on a daily basis – getting out of breath doing short walks, unable to climb stairs and living with constant back pain from curvature of the spine.
The menopause and weight gain…
Menopausal weight gain is something that affects millions of women – but understanding hormonal balance and how resistance training can help is vital for optimizing health, fitness and body composition.
It was an article on UP’s Twitter about this that convinced Maria this was what she needed to change her health and get her body back.
“I just happened to see a Twitter feed where UP were talking about women’s weight gain and the hormone imbalances. It resonated and I thought I’ve got to call them, find out what they do.”
“I came in and spoke to Tom and signed up there and then. That was May last year and I must say I haven’t looked back since.”
When you have no experience of weight training, gyms can seem a daunting place – that’s where the expert guidance of a PT can help build confidence.
After her first cancer diagnosis in 2005, Maria had given up her previous gym membership and never returned.
“I gave up my gym membership that I had at the time and didn’t go back really.
“Then it was compounded because of all my scarring that I felt quite self-conscious about going into a gym and the changing rooms and everything. In addition in terms of operations, I had a nephrectomy when I was a baby, so they took out my left kidney, and then as a result of the treatment for that, I had a tumour in my right kidney.
“So I now have only one half of a kidney and I have a massive scar. So I’m very self-conscious about how I looked and so I was very nervous about the gym environment.”
A weight training epiphany…
Taking that first step coming to train at UP was a big one for Maria – but it has changed her perception on weightlifting-focussed gyms.
“I felt slightly intimidated as everybody seemed to know what they were doing with all the weights and it felt it wasn’t for me. I’d do yoga.
“But coming into this environment where you get somebody who is dedicated to you and doesn’t judge you when you come in, it gives you more confidence to do things.”
But actually, Maria says the impact on her life and her health of training three times a week with UP has been remarkable.
Lifting weights under the guidance of an expert PT has made a massive difference to her bodyweight.
“I started out at about 68kg when I started training with Chris and I am now at this moment 56kg. So that’s quite a significant drop.
“I see the shape changes, it makes me feel great and it makes me feel like myself again. I recognise the ‘old me’, so it’s an amazing feeling.”
She has dropped two dress sizes down from a size 12 and even her size 8 trousers are now loose.
“I didn’t think UP would make it possible. I’d tried the diets in the past where I’d successfully lose some weight but I’d just put it back on again.”
The benefits of weight training for shaping her body and improving her health around the menopause has taken her by surprise.
“I never really thought of myself as a strong person or somebody who would do weights. I suppose as a woman you would think ‘oh I don’t want to bulk up’. But you see that you don’t actually.
“You do weights in different ways and to achieve different results so yes it really is a positive thing and to get the compliments from everybody, it just boosts you and makes you feel ‘I can do more! I can do anything because I’ve achieved this!’
She adds: “Anybody can do weight training. I encourage people to do that at first, rather than just doing cardio, for instance, because I’ve seen such a dramatic difference in doing weight training.”
Feeling fitter than ever…
Maria says it has had a huge impact on her daily fitness levels.
Where before she would get out of breath walking, she can now sprint for the bus or climb to the top of her team’s stadium stairs – something that she said was beyond her before.
“I feel so much fitter. The things like getting out of breath walking down the road, never happens.
“The other day I shocked myself sprinting for a bus with my heavy rucksack and recovered within about 10 seconds from doing that sprint! So I can see the difference.”
She adds: “The nutrition and training has certainly helped my general stamina, the fact that I’m carrying less weight, I’m moving a lot better.”
This newfound fitness has helped improve every aspect of her life outside of the gym.
“Being fitter makes me feel that I am coping with things much better than I did.
“I feel sort of generally energised and so positive because I think if I can get from where I was then to now, then I should be able to achieve what I want to achieve.”
Feeling stronger mentally…
As well as physical strength and well-being, Maria has had a huge shift in her mindset.
Before, Maria says she felt quite depressed about her health and often avoided seeing friends or doing activities.
“I avoided seeing friends. I would have an excuse or if I arranged to do something on one day of the weekend I’d be so exhausted, I couldn’t do whatever I’d arranged. I’d be cancelling things.
“So I was at quite a low place. I think the main support I got was from my husband which has really got me through it all.”
But together, Maria and her husband have supported each other to keep up an active lifestyle and her body transformation journey has inspired him to improve his fitness.
“With the training that I’m doing now his encouragement and the fact that he sees all the changes in me has just been so positive.
“It has meant that he has also gone on the fitness craze where he does running when I have an appointment on the Saturday morning so he will drive me here (to the gym) and he’ll run around Hyde Park and now he’s done his first official 10k run which he did in just over 40 minutes and he’s 53!
“So it’s encouraged both of us to get our health on track really.”
Weight training and her new active lifestyle is here to stay and Maria says she relishes training and being able to get stronger all the time.
She knows what it takes to train to get results for losing weight and building strength.
“It’s pushing yourself so much harder, as opposed to where I did go to a gym myself, I’d just do as much as I could and that was it. I’d just do the same thing.
“But learning that you had to break that barrier in order to get the results or get the change in your body is a key thing that I’ve learnt.
“So I’ll always learn to push myself even more, if I want more changes in my body.
“Plus, it’s something I enjoy doing. I feel confident. In my spare time when I go to my local gym I will confidently go up and pick up a free weight and then I’ll do cardio as well. But I don’t feel intimidated by it now.”
A life-changing education...
Maria says her time with UP has been a life-changing education about nutrition, training and fitness. Diet is something many people struggle with, and Maria was the same.
But now she is in control of her diet and understands how nutrition can optimize her health and her body.
“I thought ‘yes, I would lose some weight’ but the mindset has changed, the positivity.
“The fact that I have my diet and know what’s good for me and not have to think about the choices I make in terms of my nutrition. Just my general wellbeing that I know that I can carry through for the rest of my life.”
However, the most profound thing she has taken from the experience is what she is capable or, how far she can push herself and ultimately that her future health and fitness is firmly under her control.
“The most powerful lesson I’ve learnt I think is that you can achieve anything, if you set your mind to it.
“It’s wonderful also to have such encouragement from people who believe that you can do it as well and won’t let you give up. So it has been life-changing.
“If you’ve got the right encouragement which I have I think this sky’s the limit really.”
Maintaining her health is now a big priority for Maria – but it’s one she’s well equipped to manage after working with her UP trainer.
“I’ve had so many issues with my health that it’s important to get healthy and preserve it,” she adds.
“I’m going to sign up again and have more training sessions because I’m sure I can do more and I’m sure I can get stronger. It just helps for the future, basically.”
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