A healthy lifestyle choice – Mel’s story

Picture of Mel dressed upI’m a part-time legal librarian and part-time fitness instructor – for Crossfit and weight-lifting in particular. I’m 53, divorced and have two adult sons and that’s it at the moment. I am enjoying the challenge of being single and navigating the hurdles it brings.

My lifestyle is probably considered a healthy one by a lot of people. I try to eat pretty cleanly. I follow the paleo regime, which is basically really unprocessed. The thing that I really cut out is wheat, grains and cane sugar. Apart from that I have dairy, I don’t drink alcohol and I cut coffee out about ten years ago. I was a coffee addict and have not gone back to that.

Life-style change for fitness and stress relief
In changing my lifestyle, exercise was first and that was a stress relief and a fitness thing. I started when I was still married and the kids had just gone to school. I’ve always had kind of an interest in it [fitness], in that I would have fits and starts at gyms, and never committed. It wasn’t until I was 38 that I started with Euan (coach at Unreal PT) three times a week. After a few months I was training five days a week.

When my marriage broke down, the fitness became a stress release. It was something I could focus on when everything else was falling apart. And the diet really followed quite a few years after that, after a retreat at Camp Eden. What I noticed from that was my health was different – I felt better. Because I was drinking so much coffee I was having heart palpitations and had an upset stomach. So yeah – I feel better now. I used to drink alcohol socially but it was never a major part of my life. I didn’t ever get into wine a lot.

Change is easy when it’s a choice
It is easy to keep the lifestyle up now. It wasn’t whenMel hanging upside down
I started – it’s been a very gradual shift. Now it is a choice I make. I have a whole repertoire of things I can cook that are healthy, and I’m much more educated about it, so it’s easier. When I go out for dinner I try to stick to it but if I can’t I don’t say I’m not eating. I‘m not that strict with it – although people would say that I am.

The girls at work think I am crazy because they will have cake and I won’t … but they’re very respectful and don’t ridicule me like some do. Generally, it’s people I don’t know very well – a whole circle of friends I don’t see a lot any more. A lot of people just want you to indulge because they’re indulging and it makes them feel a little bit uncomfortable. It’s nice to have people that actually respect that that’s my choice, and just leave me alone to do it. Think I’m crazy if they want but just leave me to do it.

The ideal lifestyle?
Do I have the ideal lifestyle? I do inasmuch as my kids are off my hands. I have my independence back. I have just moved into a little flat that requires no maintenance and is quite comfortable. I’m working part-time in an office situation – and I am only doing that for the money. It is only three days a week which is a good compromise for me – to maintain the gym work and do some work there which is what I really enjoy.

Mel near hot pools IcelandI have recently acquired the taste for travel and would like to do more of that. I would like to go back to Europe – I particularly liked Italy, and would like to see more of France, then there’s Japan and South Africa … the list goes on.

My most recent fantasy is to live in Mornington. I like the bay. I have heard of people living somewhere and spending a couple of nights elsewhere – having a room in a house. So I reckon I could do that – live in Melbourne and find a room in someone’s house in Mornington, for a couple of nights a week. That’s my latest thing!

Work-wise – my ultimate dream, would be probably be running a similar program to the one at Unreal. To train clients and do my own training – managing it all, but not necessarily owning it. People have said I should just go out on my own. But … I am not really a business person in that sense. I see fitness as such an important thing for people that I want to discount the price – and perhaps undervalue my own service.

I like training people who like to train
I like training people – I see it as a positive thing and there’s a need for it.  I don’t really have a preference with who I train as long as they are interested. It is very difficult to train people who have been dragged through the door. If someone’s interested in being there, I am interested in training them.

I train for weight lifting. I don’t know why that happened. I was introduced to it through CrossFit. It captured my imagination – if you can image that!  I went to a national weight lifting competition at Geelong and saw a lady my age lift.  I was impressed. I thought if she can do it, she’s 50 – I can do it – having not realised she’d been doing it most of her life and was the world masters’ champion. It was a challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it.

Weightlifting – you should do it!
Euan was really good. I told him I’d love to do that – I’d love to compete. His response was you should do it, not “you’re 50 get over yourself”. He said if that’s what you want to do I’ll help you. I have gained a lot out of it, including travel – and injuries. I have done three national competitions and a lot of local ones. I didn’t expect the travel or my audacity to do it.

If you could see the way I lifted before Euan trained me, you’d be amazed. I had no idea. I am not built for it and I was older and inflexible. Everything was going against me. He just trained me and I put the work in. I put a lot of work in on my own too over those years.

Mel weight lifting -snatch

An inspiration to others?
I’m uncomfortable with that because I’m not. I think to be a good trainer you have to walk the talk. That’s what I have always maintained. If you want people to come in and train you have to show them that you’ve done it yourself. It’s the same with diet and everything. In that sense, I think people can look and say “she’s done it – so I can do it”. But that’s it. I made a decision to do it. A lot of people are struck by me being a librarian and a fitness instructor.

Three life(style) lessons

  1. If you apply yourself to something you actually can do it. Part of that is the importance of a mentor. It’s determination. If you put your mind to something and commit to it, you should be able to do it. That’s a big lesson for me – I have been hesitant to try new things. For me to put myself out on a weightlifting platform – if you had said that to me 12 years ago, I would have said I wouldn’t do it … but I did and … you can do it.
  2. You need to be able to rely on yourself and not on other people. You have to be careful about who you put your trust in. I have become very independent, which is not always a great thing. You need to be able to ask for help when you need it. Some life experiences have taught me self-reliance and that’s a good thing to learn, as long as it doesn’t go too far.
  3. The importance of not only using your brain but your body. The combination of mind and body is important – not just sitting in a room reading a book or doing a course, which is what I used to do. Moving your body and training your body is such an important part of your mental health! I think a lot of women my age – put that in the “too hard” basket. They may be overweight or not have done it before and it terrifies them – like going into a gym and training at the age of 50.

Read more about the trainers and the training available at Unreal PT here.

Read about the CrossFit programs here.

2 comments, add yours.

Ross McLeod

Very inspiring Mel and a good read Mary. Thanks Ross



    Glad you enjoyed it Ross.

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  1. By Ch-ch-ch- ch-changes | Word from a bird on June 3, 2016 at 6:12 am

    […] Read Mel’s story here. […]

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