In celebration of Never Give Up Day 2022, we will be sharing the inspirational fitness journey and transformation of our Mid-Powys General Manager, Denise Hazelwood. As an ex-army physical trainer and working in the leisure industry, health and fitness is a big part of Denise’s life. However, feeling that life had caught her up, she embarked on an insane fitness journey to feel better about herself inside and out. Read Denise’s story here…

Denise’s journey began after a bike ride with some friends and the end of a long-term relationship left her feeling down and wanting a change.

“I was coming up to a significant birthday and my long-term partner had just dumped me. I went cycling with some friends and I could hardly cycle. I did about 5 miles and I was out of breath and it really upset me. I looked in the mirror and I had a dawning that life was just passing me by and I thought, ‘Right, I’ve got to do something about it’.”

Despite Denise’s history of working in the health and fitness industry, she still found the idea of going to the gym daunting as she felt embarrassed and disappointed in herself.

“I used to go to the gym really late at night, like 9.00 or 10.00 at night, so that people wouldn’t see me.”

“I felt like I had let myself, my knowledge, and my industry down.”

Denise started off following a basic exercise and nutrition plan based on her health and fitness knowledge. Although, she suggests that people who don’t have a background in health and fitness and want to start their fitness journey seek out a professional that they trust, can relate to, and that understands where they are in life.

“Whether you do or don’t have health and fitness knowledge, you can only take yourself so far so it is important to have advice from someone who has that knowledge. Visiting your local gym, leisure centre, or finding a personal trainer is the best way forward so that you don’t become stagnant in your journey. All coaches need coaches.”

“They give you motivation and encouragement. I was made accountable which made me consistent and able to motivate myself.”

In 18 months, Denise had lost 6 stone and decreased her body fat to 22% from 50%.

“I said to myself, ‘Whatever happens, don’t give up’.”

Not that her journey hasn’t come with challenges and moments of discouragement.

“You get to learn who your real friends are during your fitness journey. My lifestyle changed considerably. All of a sudden, I wasn’t this person that was going out eating and drinking. I would still go out but I didn’t want to drink and my diet was quite restrictive at the time. Some friends and family were supportive and some weren’t. Some got frustrated and my new relationship broke down due to the regime I was doing. I wanted to go to the gym before anything else.”

However, Denise stresses that “it is important to keep going and get through those challenges to see the differences and to truly achieve your goals.”

Denise is a firm believer in always having a goal to remain consistent and to stay motivated – even though she may have taken this to the extreme by challenging herself to compete in a novice bodybuilding competition! In fact, she was crowned novice figure and physique champion for over 35s at the UFE European Bodybuilding Championship in London after her 18-month transformation.

“Which is just mental because, you know, you don’t have to do that! It may be that you want to go to a wedding or family event. But to have that goal kept me going.”

“When I would reach a certain [short-term] goal, I would treat myself. If I hit a certain weight then I would get a jacket that I had wanted for a long time, and that also kept me going.”

So, what are Denise’s next steps as she continues her fitness journey?

“Mine is to pass on my knowledge to friends, family, and clients. I have updated my qualifications and become a personal trainer myself.”

“I have learnt that you have to be practical and that you have a life! It is really important to keep that healthy balance between time for yourself, time for friends and family, and work but enjoy yourself! Eat the cake, eat the chocolate, have a drink, in moderation. Just remember to bring it back.”

“I wouldn’t change it for the world.”