About: Alison Benford
About Alison Benford
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. I would not describe myself as particularly 'sporty' as a child, but I did love swimming in school team. I also played hockey and tennis. As a young adult, I joined The Trails Club of South Africa with my husband to be. This was my first experience of really pushing myself to the limit! Hiking for 5 days through the remote Drakensburg Mountains, crossing flooded rivers in violent storms, walking on tough terrain for 12 hours a day, carrying everything on our backs was an incredible experience! It was one of the toughest things that I have ever done but also the most exhilarating! Looking back, this experience probably ignited my love of adventure.
I qualified as a primary school teacher and taught there for a couple of years before immigrating to the UK with my husband in 1999. We moved to Birmingham, as both of us have parents from Birmingham. I worked as a supply teacher and a nursery school teacher for a couple of years before having my three daughters. When the youngest child started school, I went back to work as a classroom assistant. During this period I began to put on weight and became quite unfit for the usual reasons .....exhausted mother trying to juggle too much at once, no time to exercise, no child care..... I did try to lose weight at various times between pregnancies by jogging but it was hard to stay motivated and I was never able to adhere for very long. I did join a gym as well but it was too hard to fit the gym in around family life and my job. My daughters started competitive figure skating, so I spent a number of years sitting at the ice rink for many hours every week, just drinking coffee and eating rubbish, in an effort to keep warm.
One day I was looking at some holiday photos of our annual camping trip and realised just how much weight I had out on! I was also aware that I had started to feel old! I was groaning when I had to get up off the floor! (I was about 37 years old at this point.) I decided that I had to do something immediately! I was not ready to get old. I had spent so many years focusing on my daughters and being a mum, that I could not even really remember what it was that I liked to do! I had lost all my self-confidence and I was generally feeling quite low and depressed. My eldest daughter was having off ice training sessions with a fantastic personal trainer at the time, so I decided to ask if I could join in. I loved it from the start! It was great having someone to guide me through a progressive programme. I could feel myself getting stronger each week and as I got physically stronger, my self-confidence got stronger too! It did not take too long before I felt confident enough to ask my daughter's skating coach if he would give me some skating lessons. I had always wanted to do skating as a child (and if I was going to spend so much time there, I might as well join in). I instantly fell in love with skating. I would not describe myself as naturally talented but I was willing to work hard and push my limits (skating is very scary when you are an adult!!) and with excellent instruction from our fabulous coach, a year later, I had lost 2 stone in weight and had competed in the British Adults Figure Skating Championships! Something that I would never have dreamed was possible 12 months earlier!
My personal trainer kept telling me to train as a Piloxing instructor (which she also taught), so I decided, with my new found confidence....why not?
I started instructing Piloxing classes in the evenings and loved it so much, that I decided to go on to train as a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, giving up my job at school. I am continuing with my studies and am currently doing Exercise Referral and Sports Specific Conditioning.
I have found a new passion in life! Getting fit and strong helped me to remember how much I love a challenge. It helped me to remember how much joy you can get from trying new things and pushing yourself to do things that you never knew were possible! I never thought that I would be capable of doing a toe loop or a Salchow jump in the ice, yet at the age of 42 years, I can do both and more?! It taught me to love life again. Not only has my general health improved (my immune system seems to fight off all those bugs that the kids bring home) but I now have more energy, more motivation and better relationships with my children. I am able to run around with them, skate with them , do cartwheels again and interact better on all levels because I feel strong and empowered. I have gone on to compete in 2 more British Adult Skating Championships and a number of club competitions, as well as some Mud Runs in freezing temperatures! I am fitter and stronger now than I have ever been! I am always on the look out for a new challenge!
Now, I want to help other people to find out what it is they love to do! I want to help people to be the best that they can be and find joy in life. It is never too late to make a change!