Why I Exercise: Bisi, The High-Flying Careerist

As those with busy jobs will know, finding time to exercise isn’t always the easiest.

Between early mornings, working lunches and late nights in the office, shaking a bunch of kettlebells in a basement gym is the last thing you're going to want to do in the spare few minutes that you do manage to squeeze for yourself.

This week, for our series on the awesome women from This Girl Can – an inspiring campaign helping to encourage women across the UK to get involved in exercise – we're with Bisi who, thanks to her high-powered job in the City, thought exercise was something that belonged in her past life.

It took a chance meeting with a persistent personal trainer and some getting used to (even) earlier mornings but now, two years down the line, weight training has helped her feel great about herself.

Here's how she does it.

“I started weights about two years ago. Prior to that I hadn’t done any training for about 20 years. I was actually really fit and really into sport when I was younger but then work took over my life and it fell by the wayside.

"About two years ago, this personal trainer was handing out leaflets outside my office and he offered me a trial. I said, 'No, I don’t have time, I’m not interested, it’s not my thing' but, long story short, he persuaded me.

"Before I went I was really petrified, even about just what to wear. When I got there I was so scared. I looked around and everyone looked great – they had the right outfits on and I felt out of place. I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I felt very uncomfortable and nervous.

"The personal trainer made me feel at ease, though. He said, 'Look, calm down, it’s not that bad.' I did half an hour with him, it was very intense, I couldn’t stop sweating, I was out of breath, I thought 'Oh god I don’t think I’ll be coming back, I don’t think this is for me.' I was aching, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t get out of bed the next day to go to work then when I got to work everyone just started to laugh like, 'What are you doing going to the gym?'
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Photo: Courtesy of This Girl Can
"But the personal trainer kept calling me. I didn’t go back immediately. I went back after a few days. I think he was quite shocked to see me back but I said, 'Look, I really enjoyed it' and the rest is history. I’ve been training ever since.

"What I focus on in the gym is usually weights. I do something called calisthenics training, so I do a lot of body-weight training and I use a lot of strength, power and energy to do stuff just using my body – like pull-ups. I’m really proud of myself, considering I hadn’t been to the gym for 20 years. I think it’s a real achievement.

"Having a stressful job and exercising can be tough. What I tend to do is do it early in the morning – we’re talking 6:30am. I train for 45 minutes before I start my day. I pack my bag and water the night before so everything’s ready by the door when I get up. I grab my kit and I go. Afterwards, I get this buzz. I feel great, I feel fabulous, I look good, ready to start my day, that’s how I feel after a good workout.

"I think there’s a number of obstacles that stand in the way of women working out. Like with some of my friends, some feel like they don’t earn enough money to go to the gym but you can achieve it in a lot of different ways. I do exercise in my kitchen, my living room, my friends think I’m crazy. I try to tell them you don’t need to go to the gym. If you have a spare 30 minutes at home, as long as you know what to do.

"To figure that out, if you can afford it, you can have a personal training session but you have access to social media, you have YouTube, which is a great tool. I stand in front of my laptop and I do what they do, it’s as simple as that. There’s so many videos out there that women can watch.

"I get that people can feel ashamed at the beginning, they feel embarrassed about their body, that they’re being judged, that they don’t look the part. They worry their tummy will be sticking out and they worry [what] people will do, so they would rather not train, rather not do fitness.

"I am not a bodybuilder, I’m not a weight trainer, I’m a normal woman who goes to work every morning. The difference is I want to keep fit, it makes me happy and it makes me feel good about myself.

"When you look at people on social media who post numerous pictures of them looking really ‘good’ – you don’t know what that person’s been through, you don’t know whether that person’s had surgery or whether they’ve done loads of hard work. All you’ve seen is a picture and I think a lot of those pictures are lies.

"It does affect people like myself but what I’ve learned to do is ignore it. Focus on me, focus on what I want to achieve, regardless of everybody else.

"Don't worry about anybody else, just think about yourself, think about your health and what difference it will make to you as a person.

"And just go for it."
For more about This Girl Can, go to thisgirlcan.co.uk where you can find out about the women in the campaign, get tips on how to get active and join the national debate using #ThisGirlCan. Follow us on @thisgirlcanuk.
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