In February 2019, Kirstie received the news that she had cancer. But being a highly motivated and determined sort, she told herself that she wasn’t going to let her diagnosis change or lose the person she is. Taking better care of her physical and mental health has been a huge help in giving her the power to “stay me” – and since becoming Gymbox’s biggest fangirl, she’s definitely not planning on letting her mind or body give up any time soon.
What was your relationship with fitness like before you were diagnosed?
I didn’t have one! I only joined Gymbox in October 2018, and I didn’t have a relationship with fitness. I do carnival every year, so dancing maybe, but I’m not a professional dancer, I’ve never claimed to be a dancer. I just like to move.
So what happened? What made you decide to get more into fitness?
With my treatment, they’ve advised me to do yoga and holistic stuff. But when I first got into the gym in October, there was just a want for something, and then it became an obsession. Most people here know me because I’m always here.
Do you feel like you’re part of a community here?
Yes! I’m really good friends with two particular instructors. We have a group of us that go out for food and they’re all aware [of my illness] and they look after me, take me out, bring me stuff, bring me food...my diet is terrible. I don’t eat very well, but they just bring me food.
How much do you train?
I do 14 - 16 classes a week. Mainly functional classes. I don’t do many of the Ripped & Stripped classes, holistic classes, it’s mainly functional. Lots of Frame [Fitness] - I do 7 classes a week! It’s my favourite class, I love it.
Do you feel that becoming obsessed with the gym has not only benefited your physical health but your mental health too?
It’s definitely benefited my mental health. As I said, our mind is really strong, so before [getting into the gym] I used to get exhausted, I couldn’t get up in the morning. And now I have something to go for, a goal or outcome in my head that I want to achieve, I’m just a happier, more awake person.
I come to the gym, I see Gareth and all the people that I train with, and it’s like an on switch. It’s like “these people are here, these people are my friends,” and I just have a good time.
If you’ve seen me train, I’m normally dancing around like a lunatic in between my reps. I think some people are probably thinking “she needs to take it more seriously,” but I think life’s too short!
Has your treatment affected the way that you train?
Definitely. Some instructors are aware and if they see me struggling they change the movement for me. I had a problem where my tummy was filling up with fluid, so there were times when I couldn’t hinge and stuff, so they changed some movements for me.
It has affected me a little bit. Being tired is the main thing. I come to class sometimes and I know that I’m not performing to my best, which is frustrating to me, but I need to remember. I have to remind myself [what I’m going through], tell myself to calm down!
Is it easy for you to know where your limit is and stop?
No. That’s where the instructors come in really well... some of them know when I’m having chemo, and when I’m having chemo they’re like “put it down!” They’re really supportive.
I’m so good at pushing myself, but sometimes I can push myself too far.
Do you know anybody else who’s had a similar experience to you, being diagnosed with cancer and then falling in love with fitness?
No, I don’t! I have a few girls from groups I’m in, but I’m in a different mindset. Here, my friends push me, while other people have sympathy for me. I don’t want that. I want them to be like “she can do it, she’s fine!” I want to be able to say not only that I beat cancer, but that I did it with a smile on my face and continued to train.
I think I would find it frustrating if I was in your position and people started treating me differently.
I get really annoyed because people will say to me “are you OK?” I’m like “I’m fine, I’m absolutely fine!” Then people start to get to know me, and I’m very happy-go-lucky, so if there’s really something wrong, I’ll say.
Have you found that people have been treating you very differently?
No, most people don’t know! I don’t tell most people, the people that do know...I have a very good friend here, Gareth, he pushes me really hard. He’s like “get over it” [laughs], which is great, because that’s what I want! Sometimes I’m playing the card, like “oh no, I feel sick, it’s so early,” and he’s like “shut up, get on with it!”
The instructors are great, they push me well. If they know I’m in remission they’re like “we know you’re fine!”
Have you been to any other gyms in the past?
Not really, no! I think I’ve joined the best one straight away. They’ve got great classes and it’s like a family here. I could go downstairs and say hello to ten people, instructors and other members who I know. It’s really nice.
When I first started, it was a little intimidating as there’s some extremely fit people here. But I had the attitude that I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t work hard. When people ask me how I’m so fit and what my diet is, I just come to the gym, train and do my best! There’s no secret method. The classes here are designed to get you fit, they’re not designed for anything else. Even the creative classes are there to benefit you.
What has been something you’ve been really proud of since you joined?
Turf Games! I was on the elite Gymbox women’s team. We came seventh. We were doing really well, coming third the whole way through, but the last round had the worm...we were not ready!
So we came seventh out of about 30 teams, we were really happy. And none of us worked in the gym. We had a nurse, an accountant, a physio...a lot of the other teams had PTs or instructors!
What was your favourite part of the games?
Being in the team! It’s such a successful feeling, completing something like that, and you’re exhausted after. But there’s a sense of being proud and being able to say I represented Gymbox in a big CrossFit games. I’m pretty proud. I didn’t think I’d come to the gym and then be on a team so soon after!
Finally, what’s your favourite thing about Gymbox?
The classes. I sometimes do 5 classes a day! I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t enjoy it. The people too, everyone’s willing to help you. If I’m doing something wrong, someone will come up and be like “this will help you.” It’s so nice.
I don’t know if it’s a sad thing to say, but I genuinely just enjoy being here. I love it.
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