So full of laughter and fun, meet Tess – a much loved client at All Change. Every single session she comes along and gives 100% effort, checking in regularly during the week to update on how she is getting on with weekly targets its brilliant to watch her go from strength to strength. Here’s a little bit of her journey so far!

1) Tell us a little about you…

My name is Tess and I’ve worked at the University of Leeds for just over 20 years (I KNOW! – surely I must have started when I was a mere child!). I love my work, and I do lots of fun projects with and for students.

2) Why did you start having sessions with All Change?

Simply put, I felt the time was right. I have always struggled with my weight and fitness, continuously going on health kicks and insane diets, but for the last few years I had lost my mojo. I was actually quite at peace with my size, having met up with some amazing fat girls, who made me feel not quite so freaklike. But for me, this journey (sorry for sounding like a rubbish X Factor contestant) isn’t about weight, it is all about my fitness. My lack of fitness was getting in the way of doing everyday things; I struggled to walk, panicked when I had a meeting across campus or in town – and would plan meticulously my bus route so to avoid walking as much as possible.

I had heard that TeeJay had set up All Change Personal Training and it was just meant to be. Years ago I had done some informal sessions with her, as well as running and playing squash, and it was really great fun. I knew she’d understand me, as Teejay has also been a big girl and I knew she’d know when to push me, and when to back off and most importantly, she would not shame me or expect me to do 50 burpees at our first session!

 3) What are you getting out of working with All Change?

I’m shocked how much I’ve fallen in love with exercise again. The reason Teejay works is that she really takes the time to listen and then, letting her creative (occasionally evil?) mind work, she creates a bespoke programme around my needs. Pretty early on in our sessions we tried boxing (I had mentioned that I used to love kickboxing) and it turns out that I’ve still got a pretty mean right hook, so each session we incorporate some boxing in. This doesn’t mean the sessions are boring, far from it, Teejay clearly loves making up new ways in which to challenge me. She quickly learnt that I hate running, I mean REALLY hate it, so she sets lots of exercises which distract me from the actual hell of running – so only halfway through, say dribbling a basketball around a series of cones, I realise that I’ve been jogging!

 What also has worked for me is that Teejay and I together set short-term weekly, and longer-term goals, by breaking them down they become manageable, and not scary. It’s the contact through the week that keeps me motivated. We agree early in the week on a step target and what sessions I’m going to do outside of the PT session I do with her. The choices are 99% mine so I am in control of it all and its being led by me. I am choosing and setting my own goals and TeeJay jumps in and offers guidance and support and it’s really helping me to be more consistent with exercise. We are a team – there has even been the suggestion a #teamtess tattoo!!!

 4) How have things changed? What does the future hold?

The changes have been incremental, so I’ve barely noticed. By increasing slowly a weekly step goal I’ve gone from struggling to hit about 3000 steps a day to now averaging over 7300! I walk to the furthest bus stop on the way home, and I walk to my boyfriend’s house rather than jumping on a bus for the 5-minute journey.

In about 8 months I’ve gone from barely doing a class to doing three to four classes a week. I’ve been zumba-ing, spinning, and body combat-ing, and I got on a bike for the first time in over 20 years, and despite the old addage you can in fact forget how to ride a bike. TeeJay slowly gave me my confidence back, and I’ve even signed up to a 30-mile sportive in August!

There’s one other exercise which really stands out (apart from training with Teej, obvs!) and that’s the RCJ Adult Community Dance Class (Thursdays 7-8pm, Mandela Centre, Chapeltown). This class is just so wonderful, it’s an hour of soca, Caribbean carnival joy. I desperately try to keep up, but it’s fast and furious, and my hips just don’t do *that*, but I keep on trying. If you had told me last year that I would be dancing on stage in a show, I’d have laughed in your face, but that’s what I did last Christmas – twice!

5) What would you say to someone who was nervous about trying to get healthier and fitter and didn’t know where to start?

Find what gives you joy. If you hate running, don’t run! OK run a little bit, but as long as you are dribbling a basketball, or running to catch a baseball.

Exercise isn’t scary, it really isn’t! Having someone to help you along the way; to be your cheerleader, but also to push you when you don’t want to do that third set of lunges is what’s kept me on track. Having someone to report in to, to share my successes with, and to give me moral support when I can’t make a target has made the difference. TeeJay is quite sneaky, she gradually works exercise into your life over a long period of time, and before you know it, you are even looking forward to doing lunges in the park (ok that might be a bit of a lie)!

Tess is an absolute joy to work and goodness me, she really does have a mean right hook, and left cross and left uppercut! She’s found real focus in building up her health and fitness slowly but surely. One of the most important things she’s learned in the last 8 months is that sometime life gets in the way of a best laid plan and you have to be able to adapt. If you have workout classes planned for Monday and Wednesday during the week, but have to stay late at work on Monday so you miss your class, don’t just write off the whole week, find an alternative to do later on Monday or on Tuesday and get yourself back on track.

So proud of you Tess…shall we get that tattoo now?


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