Everyday Athlete member Hilary Parks was one of the founding members of our Everyday Athlete Coaching Program. We were so inspired by her story that we had to share it with you. World, meet Hilary; Hilary, meet World.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 52 and live with my partner in the beautiful countryside of mid-Wales. I work as a data services manager for a small, online retailer. My day-to-day work life is sedentary, and because I regularly use a computer in my personal time, my evenings are mostly sedentary as well.
In my 20s, I became a vegetarian, although seven years later I started to eat fish as well. I’ve remained a pescatarian since, and have always tried to maintain sensible eating habits.
Having grown up on a small, rural farm, my childhood was active, and I’ve carried some of that need for activity into my adult life. It has been generally in the form of walking or gardening, but I’ve never done any sustained, regular exercise. And because I sunburn very easily, I tend to prefer indoor activities.
What was your fitness routine like before you joined the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
I’d never been one for organized fitness classes or going to the gym, so my activities in the past had never been physically strenuous. The turning point came a couple of years ago when I felt a renewed interest in juicing. I’ve always dabbled on and off but hadn’t done it for a while.
While following a five-day juicing program, it suggested doing 20-30 minutes physical exercise every day, so I had to find something to do. I’m not a great swimmer, but I started going swimming and continued to do so, three days a week—I even had my hair cut, because it was so much easier to manage. Unfortunately, I fell ill after one of my swimming sessions, which put me out of swimming action for a couple of weeks, so I had to find something else.
I started to look into what the best exercises would be, and after a few false starts—during which I discovered that pounding a treadmill really wasn’t for me—I came upon weight-lifting, and it was like a light bulb had suddenly lit up in my life.'Age and health problems creep up on us bit by bit, and before you know it, things that were once easy become a struggle. The EA program is a very personal program that addresses your particular needs and can easily fit into your daily routine with the equipment and facilities you have to hand'.Click To Tweet
After a bit of research, and a few timid visits to the gym, I started a weight-lifting routine and found that I actually really enjoyed it. It seemed like no effort to get up early for the gym every morning, before work. After four months, I was really beginning to see and feel the benefits. I’d never felt so good! It was then that disaster struck.
I’d been on a five-day meditation course where we sat cross-legged for a lot of the time. It wasn’t until I got back home that I realized that my hips were very stiff and I could barely walk. My trips to the gym became very difficult, so I took a break. My confidence plummeted, and then it was winter with all the dreary, cold, dark mornings, so my enthusiasm deserted me, too. That was the end of my gym visits and my short-lived exercise routine.
What was your need for joining the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
Three months ago, with the arrival of spring and my hips feeling restored, I knew I had to get back to weight-lifting again. It was the only thing I’d done that had made me feel good and I’d actually enjoyed. As a 52-year-old female who had been through menopause the previous year, I was very aware that I needed to do something to help prevent bone loss and muscle weakening. I knew that I didn’t want to end up frail and helpless in older age, so I tentatively started to go back to the gym, which ended up being a precursor to me joining the EA program.
How did you discover the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
It took me a while to get back into the swing of things at the gym, and I’d only been back properly for three weeks, when one day, in between all my deadlifts and squats, I noticed a guy doing an interesting strength routine with a kettlebell and some bizarre-looking mobility stretches. It was like nothing I’d seen before, and I was really impressed!
We got talking about my weight-lifting and my reasons for doing it, and it turned out that this guy was none other than James Breese! He mentioned a 21-day challenge was about to start, which Strength Matters was running and required nothing more than a skipping rope.
What made the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program so attractive to you?
There were only a few days until the whole thing kicked off, but with what James had told me, and quickly reading about what was on offer, it all just made so much sense. I signed up then and there! Finally, after years of wondering how I could possibly fit in all the exercises that were recommended to live a healthy life—yoga, resistance training, cardio etc.—here was something that actually offered all those things together.
What stood out the most to you about the program?
Variety and completeness. Even though I enjoyed the weightlifting, it felt too narrow a form of exercise. I might be building my physical strength, but that wouldn’t be any good if I didn’t have the flexibility or couldn’t run without getting out of breath. With the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program, the importance is on overall fitness, all in one complete, holistic package.
What made you feel at ease about choosing to work with us here at Strength Matters?
Despite having only briefly met James, I immediately knew what he was talking about made a lot of sense, and I trusted his opinion. This gave me the confidence to feel that the Strength Matters team knew their stuff and could really help me achieve what I wanted to achieve, which was a better level of overall strength and fitness.
What was the one feature that sold you on joining the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
After submitting posture photos of myself, I bumped into James again. While talking to him, it became obvious that my posture had actually been studied, because James commented upon a possible problem that both he and Phil had noted, and which I’d never been aware of. It was then that I knew that the program would be tailored to my individual needs and wouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all program. I couldn’t wait to get started!I don’t necessarily want to live to 100, but for the years I’m here I want to be as self-reliant and mobile as I can be.Click To Tweet
What would you tell someone who is thinking about joining the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
Age and health problems creep up on us bit by bit, and before you know it, things that were once easy become a struggle. The EA program is a very personal program that addresses your particular needs and can easily fit into your daily routine with the equipment and facilities you have to hand. It doesn’t offer an overnight fix, and rightly so, but small improvements are certainly noticeable very quickly. No matter what you are currently, if you’re interested in improving your level of fitness level, and the way you move in general, then I’d definitely recommend signing up to the EA program.
Who have you worked with on our team and what has that been like?
I’ve worked with James, mostly, for the admin and technical issues, but Phil has done all the videos, which are short and clear, and have a dose of good humor thrown in. The team has always been accessible, approachable and knowledgeable. And if I need to contact them, about anything, then a response is never more than a few hours away.
Since completing my second round of assessments, Phil has been in touch to ask for further details when he needs them and to provide support. It’s such a relief to know that somebody is really interested in helping me to improve.
In your own words, describe what it’s like to be on the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
Being on the program has necessitated improvements to my daily routine, and although it’s been a challenge to do some of the workouts and assessments (I can’t even do one proper push-up or pull-up…yet), I know that it’s all for my benefit. I also know that the SM team is there to guide, support and encourage me. It’s like having Big Brother keep an eye on you but in a good, friendly way. Knowing that they are keeping tabs on me, via the various apps, is great motivation for keeping me on track and making sure I do my workouts.
What has surprised you the most about the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
I’ve been really surprised by the small improvements in my fitness, which were noticeable almost from day one. One particular thing I remember was that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to look over my left shoulder when driving, but after just three days on the EA program, I looked over my left shoulder to reverse and realized I’d done it without thinking and without difficulty. I was very happy about that.
What exceeded your expectations about the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
The individual attention and quality of the demonstration videos.
Although I haven’t started my individual program yet, I know that it will be tailored to my needs, and will encourage me to work on what I need to work on, and not what I think I might need to work on. It’s taken so much stress out of my training to know that somebody—who actually knows what they’re talking about—will be devising a plan for me. If I had to create a plan for myself, I wouldn’t really know where to start and might end up doing things that could cause more harm than good.I’ve only just completed week five, but already I’ve seen improvements in my flexibility, stamina, and coordination.Click To Tweet
What have you learned about your own fitness since joining the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
Even though I’ve always looked fairly slim and energetic, I’m really not very athletic. And my fitness level is far from ideal, especially if I want to be healthy into old age. There’s so much more I could, and should, be doing. I don’t necessarily want to live to 100, but for the years I’m here I want to be as self-reliant and mobile as I can be. And I have every confidence that the EA program will help me to achieve that.
What results have you seen from the program so far?
I’ve only just completed week five, but already I’ve seen improvements in my flexibility, stamina, and coordination.
What would you recommend about the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program?
The EA program really is for everyone, no matter what their age or current level of fitness. We’re not all superstar athletes, and may never be, but we can all be a better version of ourselves, and the EA program can help us achieve that.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The EA program has helped me to incorporate consistent, healthier habits into my daily life such as doing more steps, drinking more water and getting more sleep. I know there’ll be times when I’ll struggle with my commitment and enthusiasm, but I also know that the SM team will be with me every step of the way.
Inspired By Hilary’s Story?
If you would like to learn even more about the Everyday Athlete Coaching Program, great!