From Exercise-Phobe to Exercise Freak

Hey everyone. Something slightly different for Office Worker Health this week, it's my first ever guest post woohoo! My friend Cliona has shared her story on how she has gone from zero exercise to being an absolute fitness fanatic all in the space of a year. Cliona is a busy office worker so I know many of you will really identify with her exercise journey. Enjoy the story and let us know what you think in the comments section!

Musings From an Exercise Novice

Sitting in work the other day, someone turned to me and said, “Would it be your worst nightmare to not go to the gym anymore?” I laughed heavily - not only because me going to the gym seems to invoke such strong reactions in other people (anyone else find this?) but because for pretty much 35 years, I’d never been to a gym before until this year. I was until recently, a fully-fledged exercise-phobe.

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The Catalyst

Two major things happened which changed things for me. The first one was studying ‘Positive Psychology’, alternatively known as the scientific study of happiness. In study after study, exercise was promoted as one of the best things we can do for our happiness. It’s not only for the endorphins but it’s also really important for improving our brains, being more creative and in staving off depression. This link with depression is well-established in the news these days but what’s perhaps less known is that exercise was shown in studies as being more effective than taking anti-depressants over the long-term (it was hypothesized this was because people feel more in control of their own depression when they exercise vs. giving their control away by taking anti-depressants).

The second thing was due to a pretty stress-fully led life during one particular year, I developed insomnia. As anyone who’s ever suffered this will know, it’s a downhill spiral which is difficult to break free from. The less you sleep, the more you want to sleep and then the less you sleep because of this. And so the spiral continues...

What Happened Next?

I joined CrossFit! I’d like to tell you that I joined, I eagerly participated and learned quickly and I am now super fit! Unfortunately life doesn’t quite work that way, well mine doesn’t anyway. I joined and quickly learned that I was unbelievablyyyyy bad at CrossFit. Basically, I murdered CrossFit.  There’s a lot of movements, coming from gymnastics and weight-lifting and they are definitely do-able. For someone who struggled to find their calf muscles when they first joined, infinitely less-doable.

Having Squatlexia

My main issue was and still is squatting. I don’t remember that far back but looking at me now, I’d pretty much bet I couldn’t even squat as a kid. I’m not entirely sure where my issues lie with squatting but there is a lot of problems going on - tight glutes, hip flexors, knees and ankles have all been highlighted to me frequently (It’s a wonder I can walk really). Anyway, as a result of having this disease, I wasn’t allowed to partake in most of the squat exercises. This normally resulted in me squatting onto all sorts of boxes with and without instruments on my own in a corner. It was character building really! After 6 months of this, I wasn’t getting much better so I decided to take whatever dignity I had left and leave.

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Just to say though that CrossFit is great and the training is brilliant but for anyone who can’t squat, come speak to me first. In fact, let’s be friends. Great friends.

What Did Work?

What did work was getting personal training where I could freely ask all the questions I had. I also joined a small intimate training group where I can get a lot more attention. There’s usually only a small number of us in the class and I can get the help I badly need and I can really see my progressions week by week. I’ve even made some friends through it (although sadly they can squat!).

There’s really no stopping me now. After 35 years of doing nothing, I can’t imagine even going a week without some sort of exercise. My life has completely turned around. It’s not only feeling better and sleeping better but it’s about all the other differences that exercise has had in my life. I’m now really aware of what I eat, something I wasn’t at all before and from this week on, I’m even attempting to give up sugar which is going to be pretty difficult as there has been a lot of chocolate in my life.

Exercise is something I feel I now need and rely on.

My name is Cliona Mannion and I’m an exercise freak!

Yours in health,


P.S I love talking about health and wellbeing so drop me a line to discuss any of the above. I'd be happy to support your business with their wellness objectives.

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The Low Down

Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant and speaker empowering employers and employees to make their workplaces healthier places to be. He is the founder of Office Worker Health.

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