There’s no question that mental illness is a very real thing. It’s irresponsible to say depression, anxiety and stress don’t exist or that they aren’t really illnesses just because they don’t leave a visible scar or wound or because the person suffering doesn’t have an obvious outward ailment. Mental illness affects around one in four people every year and considering there’s almost 65 million people in the UK, that’s a lot of people suffering with some form of mental illness. Figures from 2009 show that three out of every ten people in the UK were suffering from depression, five out of ten people were struggling with anxiety issues and nine out of ten people said they were affected by a mixture of both depression and anxiety. Again, this is a lot of people who are affected by mental illness and we haven’t even touched on obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attacks or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

There are many ways in which people with mental health issues will handle their illness and of course counselling and medication are commonly used forms of treatment however lots of people find that alternative forms of therapy such as art or sports are effective, either alongside the orthodox treatments or on their own. Sport is a very effective way to combat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress and of course overall health and fitness is improved along the way. Here at Fitness Training Solutions we are obviously very big on health and fitness, and will always advocate for exercise and physical fitness. It might sound radical, but our personal training courses are a perfect way to really beat mental illness and overcome boundaries within our own minds and hearts. Let’s start at the beginning…

We’re not saying that if you’re depressed or stressed you should quit your job and complete a personal training course with us and all your problems will be solved. Many people can live a regular life and continue with their jobs and home lives alongside their battle with depression or other mental illness however for some people it’s totally debilitating and can cause them to lose their jobs. It can seem as though there isn’t a way forward for them, and it’s these kinds of people who may very well find that sports or fitness is an amazing and very effective way to overcome their illnesses. Personal training courses are beneficial in many ways; not only do they give you a recognised and fully accredited award upon completion of your course, our personal trainer courses give you the power to set and achieve goals, the ability to meet and talk to new people, the knowledge that you can get up out of bed and make something of yourself and of course, the belief that you are good enough, you are worthy and you are important. You and your health; mental, emotional, physical.

You may have even been into fitness before you became ill but because you had a job already or you had children to take care of you may not have even thought about doing a personal training course. The thing is, anyone can get into fitness and start a new career with one of our personal trainer courses because we teach you not just how to become a personal trainer but how to become a better person and how to have a cleaner more focused mind-set allowing you to go even further than you thought you ever could. If you’re in a battle with your mind you might not think this conceivable but believe us, it’s a very real possibility. Our personal training courses are delivered by the elite and we know it’s an uphill struggle but we believe in all of our students and we do what we can to help them succeed.

Sometimes with mental illness, a person can be broken down to their bare bones. It takes something new and unexpected to build them up again and a personal training course could be that open door to recovery. Regular fitness sessions and exercise improves sleep patterns which play a huge part in mental illness. Sleep problems make depression, stress and anxiety worse and the cycle seems unbreakable but with regular solid sleep problems can feel alleviated somewhat or not as intense. Exercise releases endorphins which we all know is the ‘feel good’ chemical, promoting feelings of positivity and happiness. With our personal training courses all of this comes as standard as exercise will be a part of your daily life. It serves as a distraction so you’re not drowning in negative thoughts and becoming overwhelmed, can be an outlet for any tension or aggression you may be feeling, and keeps you grounded so you’re not in any danger of zoning out. Personal training courses really can shape you into a better and healthier you.

Gaynor Seymour , mum to six week old Harmony discovered running as a way to battle her anxiety problems.

“I had dabbled with running off and on for a couple of years before I became a seriously dedicated runner. In September 2014 I was suffering from anxiety due to work stresses and this was manifesting in chest palpitations and hyper ventilating (basically adrenaline rushing through me). I decided to combat this with running (as the adrenaline is there to either “fight” or “flight”) and the running utilizes the adrenaline and the symptoms then disappear whilst running. I chose running because firstly I wanted to be outside and wanted to get away from the problems that were bothering me and I really didn’t want to go back on any drugs. I wanted to defeat this problem naturally.

I have suffered from various forms of anxiety, depression and stress over the past ten years (all work related) and used a variety of prescribed drugs and therapies to combat the problem. I didn’t want to go down that path as in the end the drugs stop and the therapy ends and ultimately I end up back where I was in this vicious cycle. With running I could simply keep going with the added healthy benefits.

When I started running I simply put on a pair of trainers and ran. I wasn’t bothered about what anyone would think of me, as I’m not that kind of person, and then worked things up from there. I had already run a 10k in the March so this return to running meant that I didn’t have to build up from nothing using the couch to 5km approach. I discovered parkrun in Warrington and this really got me into an amazing positive frame of mind. The people I met and became friends with through this weekly event (Every Saturday morning at 9am – a 5km run event that is free and run by volunteers). Parkrun are all over the UK and the atmosphere and friendliness of runners kept me going back for more. Once I got started on this I then became determined to reach my goal of running a 5km distance in under 25 minutes over the next five years. Little did I know that within six months I would already have achieved this goal and within the first year of running I had run my first half marathon in just over two hours whilst I was 12 weeks pregnant.

It never occurred to me that I should stop running and in fact after the birth of my daughter it was the one thing that I was desperate to get started at again. Before I began running post-partum I was certainly feeling the baby blues, but now that I am five weeks into my training for the first race of the year, all those feelings have gone.

Running makes me feel positive about myself and who I am. I feel that running defines who I am and without discovering running I don’t think I would be in a good place. Running helps focus on breathing when going through stressful situations, so even when not on pounding the pavement it has its benefits.

Before running I was already an active person who enjoyed horse riding and cycling and these activities now compliment my running training.

I would certainly recommend running to anyone who was suffering from mental illness. I find that being outside gives me a sense of freedom that I don’t get anywhere else. The running naturally battles the adrenaline brought on by anxiety and stress. Whilst running I find I can go through all the things that are bothering me, cross them off the list and then they don’t seem as bad whilst I’m out.

I certainly would recommend fitness as a means to overcoming mental illness. But you have to find the “shoe that fits”. Running works for me; but for someone else it could be something different. Running is great as it is very personal. I can set my own personal goals. It is also very social; I have made a great number of friends. It can also be competitive. I have enjoyed all of the aspects and wouldn’t change the last eighteen months of my life since running became a very big and integral part of it.”

Someone like Gaynor could potentially find a personal training course incredibly rewarding; giving others the freedom and belief that they too can achieve restful mental health using fitness is a wonderful thing. Especially since Gaynor is a new mum, she may find her old way of life isn’t right for her and may want to have a change of career and it’s these kinds of people who often make fantastic personal trainers after completing a personal training course with Fitness Training Solutions.