How taking up CrossFit helped me build up mental and physical strength - YEP Editor Laura Collins

The importance of mental and physical health has never been so prevalent and a recent report suggests people should see 2021 as the year to prioritise their health and wellbeing, Yorkshire Evening Post Editor Laura Collins writes.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 4:45 am
Laura Collins, YEP Editor, pictured with Dan Jeffrey, owner at Crossfit CrossHills, and coach Chris Hull. Pic: James Hardisty

Stepping foot inside a testosterone-fuelled gym to start with was the most daunting experience.

The first time I ever took out a gym membership many years ago resulted in me paying for it for at least a year-and-a-half and barely going, simply because I lacked the confidence.

It wasn’t working out for me and it was only after my other half spotted it in my direct debits that I cancelled it.

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Laura Collins, YEP Editor, being put through her paces by Dan Jeffrey. Pic: James Hardisty

So in the summer of 2019, my husband and I decided to take up CrossFit together – the plan was we were both there to spur each other on and keep ourselves motivated.

And before long we soon caught the bug – we loved it.

But then in the blink of an eye the world changed. The Box was closed. Covid struck.

There was a strange irony as we were forced to endure lockdown after lockdown last year.

Dan Jeffrey, owner at CrossFit CrossHills. Pic: James Hardisty

While it was a time that so many of us felt so connected with the world around us - as we took to Zoom calls and video chats to stay in touch with family and friends - it was also one of the loneliest times I’ve experienced as well.

The usual regimented daily routine of trekking in to the office – clocking up those ever-important steps - was ditched overnight for the monotony of just a three second trot to the spare bedroom as it became a make-shift office.

No more going to the gym; instead we moved on to Zoom classes in the back garden and the fragility of life was bought to the fore as Covid swept across the globe.

Being an editor at a daily newspaper meant I couldn’t switch off from the grind of the news agenda. While others chose to ditch social media I couldn’t do that - it’s my job to help other people understand what is happening on their doorsteps.

Chris Hull, coach from CrossFit CrossHills. Pic: James Hardisty

In my personal life away from the desk I was going through my own private struggle, one that I opened up about for the first time just a few weeks ago as my husband and I tried to come to terms with our second miscarriage during the height of lockdown.

The last year left me feeling broken - mentally and physically. In my mind my body was broken and I was desperately craving something to provide a release and escape.

The Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index reveals a quarter of over 55s have done no exercise at all since the start of the first lockdown, while 41 per cent of Britons surveyed say their mental health has worsened.

The stark report offers one of the most detailed looks at the nation’s health since the start of the pandemic.

YEP Editor Laura Collins. Pic: James Hardisty

It warns of a growing mental health crisis, with women feeling the impact of home schooling, professional pressure and caring responsibilities.

And I can relate to it – I was counting down the days until the Box was finally open once again so I could start rebuilding not only my mental and physical health but my confidence as well.

Chris Hull, coach at CrossFit CrossHills and personal trainer, said: “Lockdown made people realise how important mental health is.

“It tends to be something you take for granted until you are put in a position of strain. People lost that sense of community as well when they were forced to isolate.

“There is a real value in that sense of community and that was lost overnight.”

And now the team are working on how to rebuild that confidence that has been lost.

Laura Collins, YEP Editor, with CrossFit CrossHills owner Dan Jeffrey and coach Chris Hull. Pic: James Hardisty

“It was a breath of fresh air to be able to come back,” he added.

“Some members were quite nervous to come back. Covid has definitely knocked people’s confidence and has had a massive impact on people’s lives be that directly or indirectly.

"Health and wellness now more than ever is absolutely paramount.”

His sentiments were echoed by Dan Jeffrey, owner of CrossFit CrossHills.

“Lockdown was hard but we tried to spin it into a positive as it really helped to strengthen the community aspect of the gym,” he said.

“There has been a huge focus in the headlines around mental health.

"It has shown us that these things can build up and we should all be more aware of other people’s thoughts and feelings.

"Since we reopened there has been a real buzz.

"It has been the forbidden fruit as it was the thing everyone wanted to do but we just couldn’t do.

"It’s been great to have people back - as a coach it’s what you live for.”

And it’s a good job my coaches have the patience of saints as I stumbled my way through the basics to try and start to repair my broken body and mind.

It’s only been a few months but I honestly never thought that I would find myself celebrating hitting an 85kg deadlift, climbing to the top of the rope on my own or being able to back squat 60kg.

Piece by piece I’m now starting to get my mojo and my confidence back thanks to their champion cheerleading and persistence.

Above all, it has given me the lift I needed – mentally and physically - to help take what sometimes feels like the weight of the world off my shoulders.

Even if it is just one back squat at a time.

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CrossFit CrossHills coach Chris Hull, YEP Editor Laura Collins and CrossFit CrossHills owner Dan Jeffrey. Pic: James Hardisty