Name: Cathie Q
Profession: Fitness Instructor/ Sports Massage Therapist
Kids: 2 teenagers
Favourite Activity: Dancing/Weights
Motto: Don’t be a dick.
- How long have you been involved in fitness and how did your journey as an instructor begin?
I was not an active teen or indeed 20 something but in my 30s I began to sporadically attend group fitness classes and really enjoyed the atmosphere and the way they made me feel.
After my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I began to look at fitness differently, I enjoyed the hour or so I didn’t have to think about what I had been through and wanted to start taking better care of myself.
When it was time for my son to go to school I knew I would need to start looking for a job. I wondered how I would fit in family life, work and fitness so decided to re-train as a group fitness instructor. By then I was almost 40 and worried it might be too late but I decided to go for it. As it turned out it was the best decision I ever made.
After I gained my qualifications I started teaching classes. It was terrifying at first but the more experience I got the more confident I became. I found my ‘thing’ was dance classes. It was at the time of the Zumba boom which encouraged people who would not normally feel confident enough to attend a class to give fitness a go and classes were thriving and exciting.
As time passed I added more qualifications and started teaching a wider variety of classes and, even better, found that I was actually good at it.
I’m still learning, still studying, still loving my job.
- When did you find out you had cancer?
Whilst watching tv one evening, I felt a dull ache in my breast. I examined myself and found a small lump. I was 29 so not overly concerned at first. There was no history of cancer of any type in my family so I really didn’t think it would be anything to worry about. After a while I decided to get checked at the doctors and after a referral to the Breast Clinic it was confirmed that I had breast cancer of the most aggressive type. My world was turned upside down. I underwent a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I lost my hair, gained a lot of weight from the medication and felt life would never be the same again.
However, time passed, and life went on. I got married and had my children and life was good.
Then, one evening, I felt that same ache I had felt before and I knew instantly what it meant. The cancer had returned and this time I had to have a full mastectomy.
I was so devastated and frightened. Now I had children to consider and the thought of not being here for them was unbearable.
It’s been an incredibly difficult journey. After a cancer diagnosis the fear of it returning never really leaves you. However, here I am, 18 years on from my first diagnosis, hoping to have many years ahead of me.
- How importance is body confidence to you?
Body confidence is something I think about a lot. I recently joined Instagram and only today decided it’s not for me. Females are bombarded with images of perfection that are hard to attain. It is impossible for young girls to navigate that without being affected. Girls as young as 7 are concerned with their appearance because the messages they are seeing is that their whole worth is based on how they look. We need to teach our girls to be strong, clever, funny, brave, kind not pretty, skinny or shiny. To that end I make a point of not using those type of coaching techniques when I teach classes. I talk about getting fitter, stronger not burning calories or losing weight.
All that said, I am as susceptible to those ideals as anyone. I am a woman with no breasts, heading towards my 50s, seeing all those changes that aging brings. I have many days I don’t like what I see in the mirror and there are many things I would change if I could. However, if someone talks to me badly about themselves I am quick to tell them they are enough exactly as they are!
- What do you love about fitness the most? How would you suggest people kick start their fitness?
For me, its all about group activities. The atmosphere, camaraderie found in classes is what I love. I’m not disciplined enough to work out in the gym on my own. I find training with others drives and encourages you to push harder. I have made lifelong friends and my classes have got me through the darkest of times. I know others feel that too as I have received the most wonderful messages from people who have told me I have helped them overcome a major life event or changed their attitude to fitness. That is everything to me.
My advice to someone starting out would be first and foremost to find an activity that they love. If you aren’t enjoying the training, you won’t stick to it. Don’t make your goal aesthetic, make it health, strength or fitness related, the rest will follow. Don’t be afraid to try something outside the norm and never underestimate yourself.
- What would you advise anyone that may be going through treatment/ looking to get active now?
Small steps are the key. Make small daily goals and stick to them. For someone undergoing treatment, fatigue is a barrier so think about short walks or some yoga/ stretching (there’s lots of stuff online if you’re not ready to face a class)
Water based classes are a great starter for people with joint issues as are group cycling classes.
If in doubt, speak to the instructor, most of us are friendly and happy to advise ways to start your journey.
And ladies, don’t be afraid to lift weights. Research has shown the benefits are greater than pounding away at cardio and can help with depression, anxiety and bone density issues associated with aging.