For our team, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching our students develop into inspirational fitness leaders. So we always love to catch up with past students to find out where their fitness careers have taken them.
Debbie Richards’ story is quite remarkable. After a ten-minute conversation with her, you’ll be inspired to put on your gym gear and sign up for the London Marathon!
Today, she says that she doesn’t recognise the person she was just five years ago. Her list of achievements, both sporting and academic, is astonishing. Most recently she has become one of the first people to be awarded a London Classics medal, completing the first ever Swim Serpentine 2 mile open water challenge, to add to her London Marathon and Ride London 100 events. Debbie very kindly took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to tell us her story.
Have you always been interested in sport?
No, not at all. I was always the last one to be picked for the netball team at school. I wasn’t interested in fitness and I was channelled down the academic route. I’m a solicitor so I’m either driving or sitting behind a desk most of the time. I have to make a conscious effort during the day to get up and move. I used to come home, eat dinner and veg in front of the TV all evening.
So what changed?
My light bulb moment was in 2012. I was watching the London marathon on TV and it came to the bit where they try and encourage viewers to have a go themselves. I thought, why not? I was due to celebrate my 50th birthday the following year and I was inspired to sign up for a charity place for the 2013 marathon. Somehow I got myself through it. I had no proper training, no understanding of what I was doing to my body or how I should fuel it with proper nutrition. Hence, the moment I achieved my goal I just stopped.
Why did you come back to fitness again?
Tragically a good friend of mine died in March 2013. It was a big shock for everyone and I could see parallels between the stress he was under and how I was too. I had piled on 3 1/2 stone in weight and knew that I had to do something about it. I was so lucky to be one of 20 women chosen to participate in a 20 week programme called ‘Merthyr Tydfil Girls Can’, an off shoot from the Nike campaign. I set myself a goal to do the Supersprint Triathlon, quite funny really because although I knew I could run, I hadn’t swam since I was a child and I possessed only a folding bicycle! I had to go out and buy a road bike, which I couldn’t ride at all at first. I reached my goal and went on to do the Saundersfoot Open Water Triathlon. This time, largely thanks to the Girls Can programme, I did it properly and alongside my training I began my learning journey too.
In the last eighteen months I have gained qualifications in Personal Training, Sports Massage, Yoga and Pilates, Exercise Referral, Outdoor Exercise, Sports Conditioning, Lower Back Pain and Childrens’ fitness.
Most recently I have completed my Level 4 Obesity and Diabetes qualification with Focus Training and I have to say they are outstanding. Very professional from start to finish, I can highly recommend them. It came as a real shock to me when I put on the weighted suits during the course. I really don’t remember the person I was before but that made me realise just how hard it was to be carrying all that extra weight.
How have you found time to achieve all of this?
I no longer waste a second. I don’t watch TV and I find that I have so much more energy now so I achieve a great deal more in a shorter space of time. It’s about balance and discipline. I make myself stop work to make time for my family and studying.
In what way are you using your qualifications?
I regularly teach Yoga and Pilates and because I have such a wide range of qualifications I can cover most classes that I am asked to do. I have my sights set on doing the Tutor and Assessor courses and I want to complete a Masters in Education. I strongly believe that we need teachers in schools to be educating our children to be fit and healthy, it’s just not happening at the moment. I’m also interested in organising retreats to teach people a holistic approach to health and fitness through nutrition and a better understanding of rest, agility, recovery, as well as safe and effective exercise regimes.
Coming up in the immediate future I’m off to the Sahara desert in November where I will be running two marathons in 2 days. After that, well I’m sure I’ll be back in touch with Focus Training.
If you would like more information on how we can support you to build your career in fitness, just call our team on 0800 999 6664.