Let’s face it, fitness is far, far, from just the ‘after’ picture.

It’s sweat, tears, injury, glory, success, passion, failure, self-doubt, graft, grit and determination. It’s getting knocked down and picking yourself back up again, knowing that the wins are coming. It’s humbling, it’s rewarding it’s frustrating, it’s challenging, but most importantly, it’s transformational.

Forget the before and after, while the aesthetics that come with consistent exercise are of course a benefit, the true reward that lies in regular exercise and the commitment to it run far deeper. A sentiment Limi Jones, local wonderwoman, can absolutely testify to.

Every Journey Starts With One Step

Referred by her GP to Better Gym in Sleaford – a venue that provides the Healthwise programme a 12 week referral scheme for people with Long Term Health Conditions – Limi had reached out post-Covid, knowing deep down she had to do something to help herself.

“I have always struggled with exercising. The thought process in my head had always been ‘I am disabled; my body doesn’t work like everybody else’s; I’m not going to get better; I will only get worse with age; what’s the point?’

“The relationship between physical activity and my body had been negative. Already disabled, in 2018 I stumbled, fell and broke my weaker leg. The physical and mental effects were devastating. I had to wear a leg brace and walk with crutches.

“Then the pandemic happened and like many other disabled people, I was cut off and with increased inactivity, I gained weight, my mental health declined and my self-worth diminished.”

This was the moment when Limi’s fitness journey with Better Gym began in earnest.  

“I was given access to a PT, Donna. The encounter was a psychological turning point for me. The gym changed my life entirely. Donna was the first healthcare professional who listened to me. Really listened to me. She let me be the expert and asked what I needed from our sessions, then showed me exercises using the gym equipment to help me reach those goals.”

“Being disabled and from a Bengali background, I was nervous, anxious, scared of being in that kind of social, open, environment. Even for an able-bodied person, walking into a gym for the first time, where you think you’ll be surrounded by perfect bodies let alone disabled bodies, is a daunting thought.

Shattering Preconceptions, Starting Afresh

“When I got there, I immediately realised it was a space for everyone. Not only that, it was one of the most inclusive places I’ve experienced, there were people of all ages shapes and sizes, and the atmosphere was infectious.    

“Donna has been the most influential person to walk into my life. She totally transformed how I viewed my body. Ever since I was a child my body was medically handled by health professionals. It was always something I saw as not working properly.

“Donna said, ‘Well, let’s work on the muscles that are working well rather than the ones that aren’t, they are the ones supporting you and the weaker muscles’.”

Moving from the medical world that focused only on the problem areas they saw as being related to Limi’s disability, to the world of Donna and exercise, Limi focused on the areas that could grow her strength, physically and mentally.

“I’ve spent my whole life thinking I can’t, and it doesn’t work. It sounds simple but reframing those thoughts was the first step in my journey. I’d never connected my brain to the good parts of my body.

Reframing Thoughts and Taking Positive Steps

“Donna created safe routines and was more mindful of the muscles that I needed to be developing over and above the weaker ones. The entire process has made me so much more self-aware; I could feel myself getting stronger as my mind-to-body connection grew. I’d never had that before.

“The positive feedback, both in my own body and from my PT, boosted my mental health. I began to see exercise as self-care. I used to think it was all or nothing, but I’ve learnt it’s about taking your time, it’s a journey. A little is better than none. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re too tired. Consistency is king.

“It takes years of bad habits to get into bad shape, so why on earth do we believe that to get in shape takes no time at all? Manage your expectations, get comfortable that change will take time, and enjoy the process. For me, exercise was just a part of the puzzle.”

Nutrition, meditation and mindfulness soon followed, driving Limi onto the next phase of her journey. From that first step into the world of physical activity, Limi opened the door to positive mental health, increased self-worth and self-respect, and a determination to continue to grow and develop, way beyond any limits she or the medical profession had projected.

Opening the Door to Opportunity

“It’s been quite a revelation,” revealed Limi. “Just being able to protect myself from falling, for example, has given my confidence another boost, and has led me to explore nature. I’d always been quite resentful following Covid of how able-bodied people were able to get out and explore when I couldn’t. But this new confidence in body and mind took me outside.”

This summer, surpassing all of her own expectations, Limi visited the Lake District. She saw the natural world, she climbed mountains, she watched the glittering water, and had something of an epiphany.

“There was one moment. I’d reached a viewing point, I looked out across the Lake and there was this awesome landscape, the sun was coming out from behind the clouds shining on the mountains and a town sat at the bottom of the valley. It felt like the most incredible metaphor. I’d always been down in the valley, and now the sun was coming out from behind the clouds shining its light on this new life full of opportunities. It was an incredible moment. The best part? I wasn’t daunted, I was excited, exhilarated, and not scared. I’ll remember that forever.

“No matter who you are I would encourage everyone, able-bodied or not, to go and find something physical, anything. There is so much out there, especially in Lincolnshire. There will be something for everyone, no matter their pace, just do your research and go and get active. There is so much proof of the good it does, not just to our physical health, but our brain health, bone and muscle health, and heart health, it makes us sleep better – it just improves your life. In every way.

“Taking those first steps, believe me, can be incredibly hard, but they will lead you down a road you didn’t expect. For me, I am at last in control of my body and my journey. It’s been such a life-changing thing, an empowering step.”

Limi was recognised for the dedication she has shown to positively transforming her life through physical activity, by being awarded the Active Change Awards at the Lincolnshire Sport & Physical Activity Awards.

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