I start my superhero training tomorrow, and I’m absolutely bricking it

Kerry-Anne Mendoza (L) and Ceri Lowe (R) in Nevada, US (2008)
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My name is Kerry-Anne. I am 37 years old. I’m the one on the left. And on Monday September 3, I start my superhero training. I’m absolutely bricking it.

I’m telling you, because you might want to be a superhero too. And if you do, then you could train along with me.

This is not a sales pitch 

I normally write about social and economic issues, or else I’m in a conflict zone somewhere reporting amid rubble, and war soundscapes. So how come I’m here writing about…health? When we set up The Canary three years ago, we wanted to tackle health. It’s a topic precious few independent outlets cover, and it’s become a repository for self-hate and egotism. Seriously, there is no such thing as a f*cking detox! Your liver already has that shit handled. Just reduce your drinking/drug-taking if it’s getting out of hand.

I digress.

Point is, our mental and physical wellbeing is not a side issue or a footnote. It’s central to everything else we do, including changing the world. So here’s the game I’m playing. Starting Monday, I am entering boot camp…for a year. Apex Fitness Systems owns my soul for the next 365 days. And in that time, they’re going to train me to be a superhero. Once the year is up, I will be a different person than I am today. Not just outside, but inside.

I’m sharing this personal journey because if it helps just one other person become who they want to be, it will have been worth it. It makes me a little sweaty-palmed to be this vulnerable, about something as personal as my weight and fitness. My self-conscious internal monologue is yelling “NO!”

But, sod it. The whole point of this exercise is to transform long-standing habits. And being defensive is a habit I’m happy to trade for being open.

Read on...

The game

Somewhere along the line, I decided that being fit and healthy was less important to me than having what I want, all the time. Food, drink, cigarettes, whatever. For the last 15 years, I have lost and regained the same 5st in weight several times over. At my lightest, 10st and strong, or like now, over 15st 7lb and feeling burdened.

Images of Kerry-Anne Mendoza at different weights
Images via Kerry-Anne Mendoza

So it’s time to bring in the experts. I want to break up with this relationship to my health, and start a fresh one.

That is happening. Now.

This time next year, I will be 10st 7. I will be fit, strong and fast. Then, I’m going to use that body to go on currently unimaginable adventures. I will climb mountains, ford rivers, and fight…I’ve always wanted to be a fighter. And it starts on Monday.

I’m choosing to do this thing with Apex Fitness Systems. The people I know who are fittest and strongest, and the most chilled out about both, got that way with Apex. The team there are experts in what they do, and not at all significant or superior about it either. They’re a bunch of lovely Bristolian guys and girls who want to change the world, just like me. Except their focus is creating superheroes. Literally.

The obligatory ‘sign’

When I first looked at their website, I saw this woman called Emma. She’s already completed what I’m about to start. I kept reading and re-reading her story, teaching my brain that this is entirely possible for me too.

Rather than the usual before and after pictures, she told a full story about what it took to move from one to the other. The point isn’t ‘Look how disgustingly fat I used to be!’ but ‘This is a measure of the journey I’ve been on.’

Emma's journey

And when I showed up for my first consultation with Tom O’Hagan, there was Emma, sitting in the reception area, waiting for her trainer. She was real, and going about the business of becoming an MMA fighter with her new, strong body. If I did ‘signs’, I’d have to consider that a pretty solid one.

The gym is on the upper floor of a former warehouse in Staple Hill, Bristol. I grew up half a mile down the road. It’s not a shiny, on-trend commuter gym. It feels old, used, a little dirty. I like it. There is so much space. Crash mats, kettlebells, TRX scaffolding, monkey rings, punch-bags, tyres to toss, ropes to fling, a boxing ring and an MMA cage. And my favourite thing: women and children, in abundance.

My first time entering, it made me think of a fun house for adults. This is somewhere I can rediscover play.

The year ahead

For the next year, I will be doing several personal training sessions a week. The nutritionist on the team, Matt, just put together my nutrition plan for the first fortnight. I’ll post pictures and video of the sort of stuff I’m eating. He gave me a bunch of questionnaires to complete so he could create this unique plan, just for me. It’s based on the foods I love, the foods I don’t want to live without, the foods that will always be in my diet. He’s built a food programme on love, not abstinence and self-denial. When he showed it to me for the first time this week, I couldn’t stop smiling.

“I can do this.” I thought. “I think I could do this forever.”

During the year, we will ‘unlock’ special activities and adventures. This is the kind of thing that motivates me over treats. My coaches Mitch and Leigh will say I’ve attained a level of fitness, strength and movement to start taking on missions. I will do my first chin up as an adult, I will learn my first MMA moves, I will climb my first mountain. Firsts.

Join me

Not everyone can afford to enlist this kind of support in their game. Privilege checked. Other people are living with illness, or disabilities and conditions which makes finding systems that work a little more involved. But that doesn’t stop us from sharing our learning, our dreams and our experiences together.

I’ll post an update on my experience and progress every fortnight. I will share honestly and openly about my wins, my losses, my highs and lows. And my coaches will have something to say too.

I encourage anyone who is reading this and wishing it for themselves, to join me. Create your own dream, set your own goals, and work at it diligently with me for the next year. If you share your images, and stories, I will include them in The Canary. People will take inspiration from you, and you will have teammates on your mission. Let’s be superheroes together.

Get Involved!

– Send me your stories at [email protected]

– Use the comment section on Facebook to share your experiences and your goals for the next year

Featured image via Ceri Lowe

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