Ruth Burke @ The Engine Room Portumna

A year ago this week, I attended my first class at The Engine Room Fitness and Wellbeing Centre in Portumna. I’d led a sedentary life for pretty much 20 years, often joining gyms and leisure centres but losing interest fairly quickly (despite the standing orders leaving my bank account for a 12 month period!).

In the previous 3 years I’d managed to finally shift a considerable amount of weight, 35kgs (or over 5 stone in old money) but I’d come to a standstill and wanted to work on losing some more and also work on improving my fitness. When I enquired about attending classes, I was adamant that I didn’t want to join a gym, possibly doubting my own commitment. So I initially opted to pay as I go and my first class was a Spin and Tone class; it didn’t come with a health warning that you wouldn’t sit comfortably for a week afterwards. 

I got over that (it took a week!) and my next venture was Start Up circuits. Not too challenging and I got through it without too much sweat. I had to take the next day off work. I couldn’t walk. I’ve since read about “leg day” but was totally unprepared for what squats and lunges could do to leg muscles that had only been used to walk before that. I managed to make it downstairs on my butt but anything that involved lifting either foot more than an inch off the ground just wasn’t happening that day.

I thought about quitting; I didn’t. Slow progress is still progress, I kept telling myself. Then it was onto Morning Blast and Female Circuits with a couple of Kickfit classes thrown in for variety and some personal training sessions. I’ve been to classes instructed by Steve, Sarah, Kim, Alex, Maeve, Rachel, Elinor, Maggie, Lisa and one morning blast with Andy (I truly thought I would die that morning!!), all fantastic instructors and a credit to the gym. I think I’ve tried most classes except bootcamp (sound far too much like hard work) and kettlebells (might be my next venture).

I agonised several times about how unfit I was and felt very self conscious that everyone in the classes was lighter/fitter/ thinner/ stronger/ younger than me but, possibly with the benefit of years of life experience, I started to care less about what I imagined others were thinking and to focus on ME and trying to improve how I was doing, without constant comparison to others. I have occasional thoughts of being too old for “this crack” but that passes too. During the past year there have been large amounts of apprehension, self consciousness, nerves, excitement, pain, sense of achievement, pulled muscles, a torn ligament, tears, encouragement, friendship, support, trust, frustration, determination, camaraderie, laughter, patience, perseverance.

I no longer want to quit after 5 minutes on a spinning bike or 3 minutes on the rowing machine or feel like I’m going to collapse just warming up at the start of a class. I’ve graduated from not being able to walk the day after my first squats to squatting with 50kg and deadlifting 85kg and won a medal last week for my efforts (OK, it was a bronze medal at a fun-day competition but a medal is a medal in my world )

I have to give a specific mention to Steve. I never imagined a year ago that I’d be where I am today in terms of fitness and strength (acknowledging there’s still a long way to go). Steve has encouraged me constantly during that time. He pushes me out of my comfort zone; he sets me challenges that seem impossible (and occasionally are on a particular day); he makes me use my own slight streak of stubbornness to my own advantage. At times he seems to be more in tune with my body’s ability than I am. At times, I’ve felt like crying or screaming when he’s insisted that I try harder or do more reps but then an unexpected but very well timed “great work” or “good technique” makes it seem a little easier and worth the extra effort. Don’t ever underestimate how important those words of praise and support are, Steve!

And of course behind that good man there is a great woman, Sarah. Always on the ball keeping us updated about classes, always welcoming with a friendly smile and offering loads of encouragement too. The Engine Room is different in that I feel I’m treated as an individual as opposed to just a “member” as was the case in other gyms or leisure centres I’d joined over the years. A life-long couch potato has become a regular, enthusiastic gym goer. I’m happier and feel more confident in my own skin and love the post workout high feeling. Can’t beat those endorphins! I no longer (well, only occasionally!) feel like quitting when it gets tough. I’ve gone from saying I don’t HAVE time to ensuring I MAKE time to go to the gym, no matter what life is throwing at me. My desire to be fitter has become stronger and louder than any excuse my body or brain can dream up. I haven’t managed to shift many of those extra pounds, which was the original goal so I’m still a work in progress but a healthier and fitter one, so I still have goals for year 2. 

So you guys are doing something VERY right as far as I’m concerned. Sarah and Steve, I can’t thank you enough for the encouragement that has led to a complete change in my lifestyle. I sincerely hope that this is the first anniversary of many and I wish you continued success with The Engine Room. Thanks x