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Steve's Story

Steve, Swindon Link Centre

Hi Steve, tell us about your fitness journey...

Hi, my name is Steve Carr, I’m 45 years old and I've been a member for about five years now.

Fitness is something that I use every single day as part of my wellness and recovery plan. Sadly, six years ago, I experienced a mental health breakdown in the workplace which left me unable to work for a long time. I used the gym as my solace; my gym was a place to go, every single day that I could connect with other people.

I knew that my fitness was intrinsically linked to my mental health, so where I was in such a bad place, I couldn't go back out to work but I could go to the gym, and it just made me feel a little bit better about myself, knowing that I could speak to people and I was keeping physically fit with it as well.

How does exercise make you feel?

Exercise makes me feel good because it releases those feel-good endorphins, and that's what I quite like about it. Every time I go into the gym I'll have a goal I'm going to achieve X amount or do X amount of lifting or weights or cardiovascular whatever it makes me feel like I've accomplished something.

If I don't exercise first thing in the morning, I just feel tired, I feel lethargic; I don't feel as if I've properly woken up. Exercise is a big part of my life now so I'm really trying to get into the gym at least once a day for a minimum of half an hour.

How does coming to the gym impact your health?

I use the gym daily as part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I created a recovery plan, which is needed to look at all the different dimensions of my well-being - spiritual, financial, and physical health and I made those a priority.

Our physical health and mental health are interlinked. For me, it's multi-dimensional, well-being and health are part of that. If we neglect one of those areas, we're going to fall back and it's going to impact us negatively. So every single one of those areas kind of needs to balance.

For me, being physically fit means I can run for a bus if I miss it, it means I can do things, I can play football, go out on walks, go out for a run, and not worry about lifting heavy objects. It impacts every area of my life, from how I am posture-wise, to how I am every single day. 

 

Do you set goals?

Yes, I do because that gives me a reason to come into the gym, then, if I've got goals, this is something I do not just physically, but mentally all aspects of life, again, go back to that wheel of life, is there any area that I need to look at or improve, and I write down what I need to improve.

For me, it's more about feeling good because it's more realistic. We could potentially never be happy about how we look but if we're feeling good, that's more important than looking good.

What advice would you give other people who may find it difficult to build physical activity into their day, or potentially lack the confidence to participate?

It doesn't matter, what you look like doesn't matter about weight, ethnicity, sexuality, it's completely diverse within the gym. 

The hardest bit is getting to the gym, it's taking that very first step. People can be body-conscious and so they think I can't go to the gym because that person looks amazing, they look great. But it's not the case.

If you feel self-conscious and feel people might look at you – they’re not here to look at you, they’re not - more often than not they’re here to look at themselves!

Once you've got through that hurdle of the first step, it does get easier, because then you start to feel good. And you can see start to see results as well. The staff here are wonderful, they're so friendly.

What do you think has changed in society that allows someone to actually search themselves mentally? 

For me, I'm seeing a really big shift now, in people talking about their mental health, specifically men my age because they actually know it's okay to reach out for help is not weak to speak, as I say. So, yeah, more men are speaking about their mental health as it's now being accepted more.

A lot of people are doing their own research now and becoming more self-aware, when there are issues and how to address those issues. Most importantly, when they do ask for help, they know that there'll be listened to and not dismissed by being told things like "man up" or "big boys don't cry" that is such an archaic attitude to have had.

I'm so grateful for the line of work that I do to be able to help deliver that education to others to actually say, it's not weak to speak, it's okay to ask for help asking for help isn't about giving up. It's about not giving up.

Click here for more information on Steve's story and his work as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

Or, take a look at his Twitter or Instagram.