Meet ZOE! Zoe is an Incredible 24 Year old women smashing goals and creating her dream life. This interview takes you through the highs and lows of her inspiring story.
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Tell us your health and fitness story?
This is an inspiring story that starts with heartache and ends with a good heart rate!
Memory generally starts at four years old. For as long as I can remember I had been overweight. I don’t remember a time I wasn’t on a ‘diet’ or feeling physically or emotionally uncomfortable with myself. I grew up in an environment with people who used food, or drugs, as comfort in life. It was not the sole reason I turned to food but, subconsciously, I think it taught me unhealthy ways to cope with emotional issues. I now know that I suffered anxiety and depression from a young age. Three years ago, after a series of terrible panic attacks, I received a diagnosis. I used food for comfort, and to avoid a lot of my issues. I would sneak food, binge eat and feel terrible and ashamed afterwards and it just spiralled out of control as I grew older and more independent. I tried to compensate by trying every diet, exercise regimens well as prescription diet pills, fasts and detoxes. I lost weight on a few of them but always gained more back. I felt weak-willed and saw myself as a failure.
Just after my 23rd birthday, I weighed about 130 kilos. I was a size 24 and was severely depressed and unhealthy. I saw my GP for some routine blood tests, and he told me I was pre-diabetic. I remember feeling numb. I remember just getting to a point where I thought I was helpless. I felt my mental and physical health was beyond salvaging. I thought that I wasn’t worth saving. I had never felt so low. I looked in the mirror and felt like I was trapped inside someone else’s body. The body I saw was not who I was as a person, and it was extremely distressing.
One night, nothing in particular happened, but I had just had enough and tried to end my life. Thankfully, my partner at the time took me to hospital. I had to spend 24 hours in the Mater Hospital on a ‘psychiatric hold’, police and the whole lot. I vividly remember them taking my dressing gown and hair ties from me so I couldn’t hurt myself. I have never cried so hard in my life. The following months were a mix of all kinds of different medications which made me feel even worse. To add fuel to the fire, I was working in a high-pressure sales job which I hated.
One day I was lying in bed at night and I just thought, “This is it”. I have not been living my life; it has just been happening to me. I have been this unwilling spectator and, in my head, I only had two choices: I could end it all or change it all.
After hearing the heartbreak in my mother and brother’s voices when they heard about my attempt, I knew that ending it all was not an option. I couldn’t do that to the people who loved me.
I made the decision to have gastric sleeve surgery. I drew a line in the sand that said, ‘This is where I take control of my life and never ever go back’. It helped me shift the first 10-20 kilos and then I was so much freer to move and nourish my body. My boyfriend at the time was dead against me “changing’, and we broke up soon after as I was needing to make changes while he was happy staying still.
It was then when I was clawing my way out of this hole that I discovered running. I fell in love with it because I HATED it.
This sounds odd, I know, but a big part of recovery is embracing discomfort. I had to retrain my brain not to avoid awkward or painful things as this fuels your fears/panic. Previously, the more uncomfortable the situation, the more terrified I was. Now, because I embrace the challenge, once it’s done my mental health is miles better (literally).
I fell so in love with running that I just wanted to do it all the time. I joined a running club, signed up for races and went from never running to completing four half marathons in a year!
I have made so many friends feel happiness I could never have imagined and am about to complete my first Ultra-marathon!
I feel that part of my success was a shift in mindset. I deliberately stopped setting myself “weight loss” goals.. I set myself ‘fitness goals’ so I know I can do it. If I splurge and have an extra glass or two of red wine, it’s not going to affect my overall training, so I don’t dwell on it. I haven’t stepped on a set of scales in over a year. We are so much more than our bodies. So, so much more.
What are the most valuable things running has taught you?
1. That you are capable of infinitely more than you can ever believe.
2. To try and do something before you’re “ready” (the right time is NOW)
3. That success is the result of hard work and consistency
4. That the simple and primitive act of human movement is beautiful and transformative
5. Even a bad run is a good run
I run because I believe life is a series of arguments between the mind, the heart, and the body. Because I believe all those arguments can be settled when the three are forced to conquer some kilometres together. Because I want to cram as many steps, breaths, and heartbeats as I can into my little time on this planet. Because I KNOW how precious life is. I want to share my life with people and places I love! Because every run is a brain hard-reset and a baptism in sweat. Because running constantly challenges and humbles me. Because running ‘saved my life!’
Keeping it Great!
what does your training regime look like?
Currently, I am training for my ultramarathon, so I train about six days a week. I love to train in the morning because then it’s done for the day!
I am always tired and unmotivated after work!
My week usually consists of:
Monday – Weight training or gym class (or rest day if I need it)
Tuesday – Speed work (intervals or hill sprints)
Wednesday – An easy run (5km) or Body Pump
Thursday – A mid-week long run (8-12km) or a double day (2X 6-10km one morning, one night)
Friday – Weight training or gym class (or rest day if I need it)
Saturday – Park run and brunch!
Sunday - Long run (15-30km depending on what I’m training for)
When I am not training for a race (rarely), I run about 1 hour per day at an easy pace, chatting with friends.
5 best tips for getting motivation when you’re at rock bottom?
Oh man, I have tried and tested so many over the years so I will dot point my go-to’s:
1. You can. Simple as that. You CAN. (when the voice of other or self-doubt says otherwise overrule it. I have been known to yell “YOU CAN” to myself when struggling in a race or feeling low)
2. When I wake up and am deciding whether I want to work out, or at my lower points even get up and shower, (ask my friends) I ask; “will I regret doing XX?” and “Will I regret NOT doing XX?” … The answers are your motivation.
3. You never know who you are inspiring. You never know whose life was, is, or will be, infinitely better for having you in it. On days when you can’t be enough for yourself, remember this.
4. You don’t have to be alone. I have struck up conversations with strangers in races when I am struggling. I have called my psychologist at 2 am. I have asked a friend for a hug. It doesn’t matter what “it” is, find another human to share the load.
5. Do it anyway. If you can’t find motivation or you don’t want to, you have forgotten all your goals, and everything is just a mess, say to yourself “well … gonna do it anyway”. You can hate the whole task; you can cry, you can complain. Just try.
Favourite post running meals?
When I finish a run, water is my priority. I make sure I have a good litre before I start eating. Hydration is so important! Then I love carbs and salt. My go-to meal is porridge or granola with soy milk and nuts. It is filling and nourishing. Eat lots of carbs and protein (this means better recovery and happy muscles).
If I need a snack because a meal is further away, I like a banana and a big handful of mixed salted nuts. If I need a sugar pick-me-up natural jelly snakes or room temp dates
3 things a beginner needs to start running?
Firstly, I think the key is to find a hobby that you love that lets you move your body. For me, that’s running. Running is so beautiful in its accessibility. Of course, you can spend a tonne of cash on the perfect shoes, training and clothes. But you can also wear whatever, go barefoot and run around your yard. So I’ll provide 3 things I think will help to start and also three things I wish someone had told me.
Things you need:
1. A friend/community or soundtrack. - Join your local park run. That’s how I started. Just rock up! Everyone is so friendly (because of endorphins). Or set a goal to start running with a friend. Or make a dope playlist and get going!
2. A reason or goal- Set an intention for your run. Is it to just move today? Is it to go a bit faster? Finally, run that whole hill? Just to post a cute insta pic? Doesn’t matter. Focus on that reason when it gets tough. This can be long-term too, like wanting to be able to run 2km or even a marathon!
3. Good shoes - I am wary of accessibility, but buy the best running shoes YOU can afford. Go to your local sports store and get a free fitting. It will make running comfier, and you are less likely to hurt yourself.
Keeping it Real
Things to know:
1. YOU DON’T HAVE TO RUN THE WHOLE TIME - Struggling? Power walk break! In fact, the further I run the more I need it. You won’t find an ultra-marathon runner who doesn’t take a breather. Go at a pace that feels comfortable and watch yourself gradually improve.
2. Consistency > distance/difficulty - You are infinitely better to run easier/shorter MORE often than the other way around. Obviously, speed and distance have their place, but consistency is king.
3. You probably won’t like running right away. It takes a little bit of hating it for a while and (see above) consistency. But like anything, stick with it, do what you can … then check out what you can do!
You are the person you always wanted to be……