Fiona Falkiner says it has taken her years to feel comfortable at the gym.
Fiona Falkiner says it has taken her years to feel comfortable at the gym.

Fiona Falkiner’s confession: ‘Unfit and terrified’

Fiona Falkiner is no stranger to the concept of transformation. In 2006, Falkiner was a contestant on The Biggest Loser, and she was hoping losing weight would make her happy. But following major success on the show, she found herself spiralling into a deep depression. Here, in a column for news.com.au, she talks about life before, during and after the reality TV juggernaut.

*****

I remember the first time I walked into a gym.

I was in my early 20s, I was unfit, overweight and terrified. Walking in I looked around and saw all the machines and the people and honestly the people looked like they had stepped out of a fitness mag it was so intimidating.

I walked in and headed to the one machine I knew, the treadmill. I put it on a bit of an incline which in minutes had me gasping for air while the woman on the treadmill next to me sprinted away like a graceful gazelle not even breaking a sweat.

After about 10 minutes the embarrassment and shame took hold of me and I was out of there, this was not the place for me, I did not fit in there.

Fast forward a few years and I had come off a weight loss show where thanks to my trainers Bob and Jillian I knew my way around a few pieces of equipment and could lift a weight or two.

But that said, I still found it intimidating walking in to a gym. Especially for the first time.

I would get anxiety just thinking about walking in so I would put it off and quickly it became an excuse not to go. Eventually I did overcome the anxiety but it would still take me a week or two to actually feel comfortable getting my sweat on in front of all the people.

I was having dinner with a friend the other night and he was telling me he had joined a new gym recently, and how it had taken him a lot of courage to go there as there were a lot of the body beautiful on display.

He even kept his membership to his older, run down gym around the corner because he felt he needed to ease himself into his new gym in stages.

Interestingly though, he has the opposite reasons to me behind his insecurities. He actually struggles to keep weight on, he is naturally a very thin person so he goes to the gym to try to get bigger. I laugh at what seems like the dream to me (imagine a life of every day trying to put ON weight???). If I breathe too hard my body seems to think I'm eating and I gain a few kgs! But I can appreciate his insecurity with not wanting to step in to this new, seemingly hostile environment, where if you don't have rippling abs or a bum peachy enough to bounce a coin off, you feel terribly out of place.

I feel there are people in this world who live and breathe training. I'd love to be one of those people, but I'd be kidding myself if I said I was. When my alarm goes off to make it to training I don't jump out of bed and happily done my runners.

It's usually done grumbling in the dark and sometimes I have been known to just press the snooze button until it's too late to go. When I am in the zone though it is great I feel so good and it really helps to keep my anxiety at bay.

There are some things out of our control when it comes to training like illness and injury. I had bunion surgery on both my feet and corrective surgery on four of my toes which has left me with feet full of pins, I guess you could call me the bionic woman.

I was terrified when I had the surgery, not because of the actual operation or the physical recovery but because of the internal battle I had ahead of me to get myself back into the swing of training and the terrifying reality that I most likely would gain weight.

I was told I could not train for months, I was rolling myself around in a wheelchair and scooting around on my bum so this is no exaggeration. My fear of gaining weight got to me so much that I ended up forcing myself to go back to training too soon and I'm now paying for it with ongoing problems in my toes and joints. Ugh.

Training now is terribly painful, it hurts to walk/run/put any kind of pressure on my feet (don't get me started on trying to wear heels).

The old me would have just said, 'well that hurts, I'm going to stop', but I have managed to find a way to work around the issues and keep going because I know if I stop, that battle of going back is bloody hard.

I have really shifted my focus on how good I feel mentally after a session. Post my surgery, I have been going to Orange Theory Fitness. I find these days that group training is something I really enjoy once I get over the initial fear of it being a new space. I love just going in and being told what to do and getting it done.

At 36, I really struggle to push myself on my own in the gym, but I've found in group training if there is someone encouraging me and pushing me I will give 100 per cent effort.

I really wish there was a place where everyone felt comfortable to train and be the best they can be.

Fiona Falkiner is a model, presenter and former Biggest Loser contestant. Follow her journey on Instagram @fionafalkiner. You can read last week's column here.


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