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Trisha Lewis’ journey and belief of ‘Training like an Athlete’

Looking back over the past seven weeks we have spoken to a number of professionals in the health and fitness industry. At the beginning of the lockdown at lunchtime on April 3rd we spoke to Trisha Lewis. Trisha helped to lift our spirits during a very uncertain week with her positivity, relatability and honesty.

Recently Trisha spoke on social media about how she referred to herself as an athlete. Similar to the ABC Gym’s ethos – ‘bringing athletic training to the everyday person. Trisha explained how this simple shift in mindset has helped her to up her training commitment and intensity.

‘’About six months into my journey I began to refer to myself as an athlete. Initially, I was using the gym as a weight-loss tool. I needed to get rid of the pounds – I was about 26 stone. When I got to 23stone I changed my mindset. Instead of thinking of the gym to lose weight, I was concentrating more on the exercises. Learning which ones I could feel DOM’s on and knowing the names of the muscles I was working. I didn’t want to look at the gym as negative the whole time – as something I had to do. Instead, I started treating it as fun and that changed it for me completely. I have had a few curve balls hit me – my gym shut down, my trainer left, so many things and now coronavirus – I found through all of those having that attitude being positive rather than negative helped as I thought of myself as an athlete rather than an overweight person.’’

Of course, there are times when we feel we don’t want to work out or we feel disillusioned and our commitment to our goals can waver. For Trisha, her method for dealing with these times is to ‘Reset’. ‘’Generally, I will let myself be miserable for a day. Then I ask myself, do I want to be fat or fit, happy or sad, healthy or dying, and I know it sounds dramatic, but I just remind myself how I feel once I have a work outdone. I feel invincible. I think sometimes you must let yourself feel miserable and skip that workout. I know that is not what a gym wants to hear but I think by doing that you remind yourself how it feels to not do the workout or eat healthily and it reminds you how you don’t enjoy that way of living anymore. I often say, pick my battles, choose my suffering. Sometimes I do let myself throw in the towel and get a takeaway and just let me feel how I feel afterwards if I feel good then grand but I know I’m not going to.

Previously if I was going to Dublin on Friday, I might say to myself on Wednesday – I might as well take a break from today and get back on it on Monday. I act the maggot that way, but I know that I am doing it. Do I fear not getting back on track? Probably most days but that fear keeps me on track and stops me from getting too complacent. That fear of stopping, that’s my biggest fear of leaving it all go, I’ve had it since day one and I think it’s not even a fear anymore. It is nearly like a mantra – you must always get back on the wagon. That is where the reset comes in for me.  If I was walking down the street and fell upside down, I wouldn’t lie there – I would get right back up and continue walking – I always use that thought in my head.

Previously I would have gone on a night out and then you might not see me in the gym for another five years – it was easier than going back and admitting to my trainer that I did something when in fact my trainer doesn’t really care. They don’t mind if it’s motivated Trish or unmotivated Trish that comes in to train. I realise now that the job of the trainer never changed. I force myself to go, the hardest part of a workout is getting into the car and going and then the first five minutes. The rest of it is great craic. That’s how I look at it. Most of the time I reframe my way of thinking’’

It wasn’t as easy as turning on a switch and suddenly being motivated and driven on an hourly basis. There were struggles to overcome to get to where Trisha is today. ‘’For a long time, it was a struggle. I couldn’t get out of my own head. I was terrified of becoming a meme. I made a deal I would never not turn up. For the first three months, I trained in a tiny room that was so claustrophobic my back was turned to the mirror. It took about three months for me to face the mirror and go to the main floor of the gym so yes for me it did take a little bit of time. That wasn’t through the gyms fault. It was through how I was thinking. I was thinking everyone is going to tell me to get out of here you’re too big. But we all know ourselves that that doesn’t happen in gyms. It took 3 months to finally realise I deserved to be there as much as everyone else. Now when I go to the gym, I don’t care. If I’m doing clean and press and my stomach is hanging out, I don’t care. Sometimes I’m like will someone please look at me – I just squatted 58kg. No one cares or is looking at you and that’s a lovely thing’’

‘’I panic when I see gym deals for ‘4-week transformations’, it takes longer than 4-week lads, set it for at least 24 weeks. I spent thousands of euros on such promises. I did anything you can think of – I did it. Every diet works but they are not all sustainable. I found it messed up my confidence. So many times, I failed but often at times, I feel like the system failed me in that these promises were never realistic. I should have gone in and talked to a personal trainer at the very beginning. Then I found at one stage I had a personal trainer called Shona, she was incredible, and I had lost 5 stone. Then her husband had to go work in Italy and she moved too and that was it, I threw the towel in. That is the difference now – I am not relying on others. It’s up to me now if I’m going to do it. Other people will help me get to the end, but I am the only one driving on forward’’

Trisha then spoke to us about a time when she seriously considered going for gastric band surgery.  ‘’I remember a local lady at home, I hadn’t seen her in some months. She would have been very overweight, and I saw her, and she was down 7 stone. When you are overweight you are drawn to people who are like you. She had gotten a gastric bypass in Belgium. It is €28,000 to get the surgery here but only €8,000 over there. Immediately I decided, that’s what I’m going to do – none of my family were happy about it. I went to get the gastric bypass consultation with the doctor’s secretary, and it was all of 5 minutes. At that point, I was 27st, which was the maximum weight for the surgery. She told me I needed to lose 10lbs by March and I would then qualify. I had asked a lot of questions about recovery and sent an email with follow up questions. One of them was that I heard the gastric bypass can aid other addictions – which would make sense as it would be transferring one addiction to another. The reply was, ‘that would be your decision. If you get addicted to alcohol this would not be our problem’.                                                                                                

That day on the way up to the consultation we stopped at Kildare village. I wanted to buy something – even a pair of uggs (ironically, they didn’t have my size), I just wanted to buy something to mark the day I got my gastric bypass sorted because I felt this was the new chapter. I remember thinking someday I will be able to come back here and buy all the clothes and I won’t have to sit outside while my friends’ shop. I just remember that thought so well.                                                                                                          

The following day I met with one of my sisters. She got into my car and just started crying and told me they (my family) didn’t want me to get the gastric bypass. They thought I was taking the easy way out. I think anyone who gets it, the easy way out is the wrong terminology. It is the hardest decision to make, that you are going to let someone cut your stomach up because you are 27 and you can’t move. I couldn’t even tie my own shoelaces, I relied on sketchers. I remember she said if you can walk onto that plane, you can walk into a gym and you can try it once more. So, I cancelled – I was terrified. It took until about a year later for me to start my journey.’’                                                                                                   

Seven months ago, I was back in Kildare Village, the sun was shining, and, on that day, I met with Gill Publishing and I signed my book. It just shows that it all comes around. My wish had come true, but I had taken a different route’’

One of the most impactful transformations for Trisha has been that of her mental health. ‘’I’ve changed from being negative to positive. I’m more optimistic about the future. I know that whatever I want to do I’ll get it. As opposed to before I would be very upset and very sad, I assumed I’d never meet someone, I’d never have kids all those dreams are back for me, I’m positive and I’m excited. I suppose even the way I am around people I’m nearly annoyingly positive. If I want to go to Dungarvan for no random reason at the weekend I am going to go. I am not limiting myself anymore, so I suppose that’s because of what I’ve dealt with. My mental health has become a lot stronger, I know what I’m worth and what I can do if I want to do it. I think life is so short, I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do anymore. I’m not playing the fiddle for somebody else, I’m singing from my own hymn sheet.’’

We asked Trisha for advice on how to support someone who is where she was when she started her journey?  ‘’I think that is the question that comes into me the most and I find it the most difficult to answer. The first thing I say to people is, is it your place, are you sticking your nose in when you shouldn’t be? When it is your sister you can.

For my book, I asked my sisters to write down what it was like to have a sister that was 26 stone. It broke my heart. To the person who wrote that question, I hope you are okay because they are victims as well to obesity. What I don’t think is ever spoken about is, people around you are suffering just as much. My advice is never ever say it to someone when they are eating, never say it to someone when they are down – approach it gently. You have two options and only you will know your sister and which they will take best – either go full hog and say look I’m worried can we just fix it now or second you could wait and let them come to you. No matter how much someone knows how overweight you are, no one knows as much as the person themselves. I would instead of condescending her, give her the knowledge. If you do this, this and this we are here to support you.                                                              

My sister wrote a line; jump on every single bandwagon because someday it will be the Rolls Royce, she will do it. She just needs to figure her way. Maybe have a look at her circumstances. Are there friends in her life who are toxic (‘’your vibe attracts your tribe, the more positive I am there is generally more positive people around me’’), are there other avenues you could go to that would eventually make her realise she is more valuable than she thinks now? I would have had toxic friends, late nights and would never have looked after myself. So, my sisters went that way about it. The worst thing is you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink if it doesn’t want to do it. Not much you can do but just be there, let her get upset, lash out, let her get whatever demons out that are her obesity – eventually it will click.’’

Trisha then answered some questions from our members:

Q. How have you found changing gyms, is it hard?

“Yes, I have accepted the fact that for any gym I join for the first two weeks I am going to hate it. The first change was horrendous, the third change I know I can handle it. I have accepted for the first two weeks I am not going to understand what the trainer is telling me. You want to know your trainer and have banter. Changes are awful but often necessary. It must suit you and you have to enjoy it.’’

Q. What is your favourite go-to exercise?

“I love ball slams, clean and press. I love squats. I hate exercises like striders or lunges. Anything that requires a rhythm, I can’t do it! I weirdly like the assault bike but that is because I feel gross after it. Anything that is high impact I love. And all strength. I hate being trained like an old lady to lose weight – if it is monotonous, I hate it. I love impact sport’’