Dear Cavemantraining subscribers, please allow me to introduce to you Gail Owens who is the first person to feature in our new category for Obesity and Older And Stronger. Without further ado.
Hi there, my name is Gail Owens. I am 44 years old, born in Scotland, grew up in London and am now living in Northern Ireland with my husband, Nigel, and 13 year old son, Justyn.
This is my story, how I kicked obesity in the behind!
I spent my childhood in a dysfunctional home. My father had several children from other relationships. My mother had been married before and had two sons from her first marriage, both of whom were over 20 years older than me.
My home life was chaotic. My parents loved nothing more than getting drunk. My mother was often very violent towards my father and myself. My father would periodically take off and set up home with other women. My mother would then have bouts of depression and I would end up in local authority care.
Up until the age of 12 or so, I was fairly slim. Sadly however, I wasn’t very good at school sports and would struggle very badly with team games. I found out later that I had dyspraxia and severe dyslexia.
At the age of 12 or so, I went into a foster home where the husband, wife, three sons and two other girls that they fostered were either obese or overweight.
A Physical Education Teacher at my secondary school took an interest in us kids who were bad at sport. I started going to his judo club, his tennis club and started running with the athletics club. Sadly however, my foster parents discouraged me from taking part in these activities and encouraged me to eat lots of junk food. By the age of 13, my love affair with chocolate and fizzy drinks began.
My P.E. Teacher tried to help me, but I found chocolate far more inviting. For years, I would constantly eat chocolate – as much as 20 to 30 bars a day. I never did any exercise and the weight pilled on.
Whilst I did lose a little bit of weight every now and again, I would soon put it all back on again (along with some extra pounds).
A number of bad events rocked my life in quick succession, the most important of which was the death of my father. He was killed in a road traffic accident. As a result of this, I became an alcoholic. At one point, I was drinking tons of cough mixture and one bottle of vodka a day in order to make it through.
The story of how I came off the drink is a long one, which I will save for another time. (leave a comment at the bottom if you’re interested in reading Gails story on how she got off the booze)
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I met my husband Nigel in 2000 and then lost weight in order to marry him in 2001.
We had our little son, Justyn, in 2003. I found being a parent very overwhelming indeed. My beautiful child, whom I loved with all of my heart, didn’t eat or sleep. He wanted to be held 24 hours a day. I even had to hold him when I was on the toilet. As a result of this, I had very little sleep and the constant pressure led to my overeating becoming worse than ever before.
At this point in my life, I had a job as a Childminder. I would often take several trips to the local petrol station where I would fill up on sweets (all in secret).
I had several miscarriages and struggled badly with depression. My son did not get on well at school and had dyspraxia, therefore we decided to home educate him – which, for him, was the best move that we could have made.
Five years ago, I lost twin girls at a late stage in pregnancy. I could not have been at a lower point. By this point, I was morbidly obese – weighing 20 stone (127kg / 180lb).
Not long after this, I developed appendicitis and had to have my appendix removed. The anaesthetist basically told me that I was going to die. She told me that I would end up incontinent, wheelchair-bound, diabetic and probably have strokes or heart attacks before dying a painful, miserable death. She challenged me, saying: “Can’t you do it for your kid? Do you want him to have to push you around in a wheelchair? Do you want him to have to wash and dress you?”
I decided there and then that my little boy was worth it. There was no way that I was going to put my son in a position where he would have to ruin his life by spending it looking after me. I didn’t want him to have to go through what I did because, when I was young, I had to nurse my mother for 10 years. She smoked heavily and had a disease called COPD. Due to her poor lifestyle choices, I had to give up the teen years of my life in order to care for her. My little boy wasn’t going to have to do the same for me.
I went home and, within hours, found an old pair of trainers (running type shoes). I walked a few yards a day for the first few days and increased my distance gradually.
I then went to a local charity shop and got my hands on a couple of old aerobics and workout videos – I started to do them at home as well.
Due to the fact that I had no help with childcare and my husband worked long hours – I used to get up at 5am in order to walk. At the beginning, my legs were so fat that I used to have to bandage them at the top in order to stop them from bleeding. It was sheer hell.
I changed my diet to Weight Watchers – thanks to an old diet book that I found in a charity shop. In addition, I started to attend Spin Classes whenever I could.
Eventually however, I had gone as far as I could on my own. I didn’t know how to take things to the next level. Then one day, when I was in the post office, I got chatting to a woman who worked there. She very kindly gave me a leaflet for a local Personal Trainer.
I approached this trainer and he agreed to take me on. In the nicest possible way, it was a complete nightmare. I was all over the place. I had never been to a gym in my life. For the first 10 sessions, I went home crying. However, I kept on going and didn’t give up.
Then – one day – my trainer put a barbell on my back and made me squat. My love affair with strength training began the moment he did this. As a result, I started going to the gym five days a week.
After so many years of being addicted to alcohol, and then being addicted to food – I had transferred my addiction on to exercise.
My Personal Trainer tried to talk some sense into me. Unfortunately however, I was a person who wouldn’t be told anything and didn’t listen. I started to run excessively (at one point, I ran 17 miles). I was exercising 4 hours a day, seven days a week. On top of this, I was now starving myself.
Eventually, my weight dropped down to 8 stone 4lb. I became a Size 6 in clothes and was petrified at the thought of gaining weight. By this stage, I was living off a banana and an apple a day.
Refusing to listen to advice, I trained through knee injuries, plantar fasciitis, then – one day – I deadlifted 85kg off the floor with bad form and felt something snap. My thoracic (upper back) was really tight and I got a severe injury in my spine.
I went to the Doctor. He took one look at me and said, “get on the scales”. I refused. He went out and got the practice nurse. He then questioned me extensively about my eating habits and told me that I was in the early stages of an eating disorder. He got me an appointment to see a psychiatric nurse for counselling. The Doctor also put me on medication.
My back took a whole year to heal. I struggled badly with depression from not being able to train – the reason for this being that I had used my exercise-addiction in order to mask the pain of losing my twins. It was a long hard struggle to learn ‘balance’, how to eat properly and how to train sensibly.
Shortly after this, I met another Personal Trainer. He introduced me to ‘hard style’ kettlebell training. I read one of Pavel’s books and did online research into RKC and SFG. I started to train with kettlebells regularly and followed all of the great RKC/SFG giants.
Last year, I did a number of courses and became a Personal Trainer. I now try to help others who have been through similar experiences.
I run Small Group Personal Training Sessions that use kettlebells, core bag and TRX. I also teach circuits classes and offer 1 to 1 Personal Training Sessions.
I have obtained several other certifications. Last year, I spent three months training with two SFG Instructors. I am now in training for the Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification under the tutelage of a top class Strength & Conditioning Coach.
My approach is minimalist. I have been inspired by Pat Flynn, Chris Lopez, Geoff Neupert, Forest Vance, etc.
I like to operate outside of a commercial gym environment because I believe that it is best to train my body as a whole unit. I do not like spending hours at the gym, training individual parts. I like to be outside of the gym in my back garden – with my kettlebells, medicine ball, a mat, jump rope and (sometimes) my TRX.
I am not stuck on just ‘hard style’ kettlebells. I am eager to learn other systems and methodologies.
My approach favours short (maximum effort) workouts. I do not believe that one size fits all – what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for others. This applies to nutrition as well as training.
Each person is an individual. However, I do feel that all people – young and old, men and women – will benefit and improve their quality of life through strength training and eating good quality food.
Most women of my age lack confidence. This should not be the case. We should have a passion for excellence. My dream is to help everyone find confidence, enjoy life and awaken a passion for health.
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Huge respect for Gail on how she turned her life around and is now helping others achieve the same. Do you know someone who could use a little motivation, someone who needs to know that it is possible to change? Help them, share this story with them. Spread the word by liking this page, it only takes you a second clicking the buttons below.
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