How I Came to Be Here Today
I am Hanni. As I write this I am 33 years old and I live in Plymouth, England, with my Husband, Leon (former Royal Marine and fitness expert), my 14 year old Son, Jack, and our 2 pugs, Chester & Cleo.
Although my life hasn’t been totally plain sailing, I had a relatively ‘normal’ upbringing. I lived between my divorced parents – with Mum in Dorset, and Dad in Devon.
I went to a good school and was blessed with a natural intellect which allowed me to breeze through GCSEs and A Levels, obtaining excellent results with little effort. (Much to the annoyance of my friends and younger sisters!)….
In September 1998, at age 18 I started Uni and moved in to a flat with my then boyfriend. In December 1998, aged 18, I discovered I was pregnant with Jack.
So life took an unexpected twist and although Jack’s Dad & I separated when Jack was young, we have remained friends and life has worked itself out.
I never returned to Uni, opting instead to throw myself in to a job which paid the bills, determined that I wouldn’t be a single mum on benefits. I wanted to do the best for my Son so I worked hard.
I worked my way through a number of positions and progressed up my chosen career ladder (leadership, operations and eventually HR), until 3 years ago I was promoted to HR Director for a large training and consultancy firm. I had ‘made it’.
During this time, in 2006, I met Leon, my now husband. At the time he was a Royal Marine and we met just 6 weeks before he was due to be deployed to Afghanistan to fight on the front line. We kept in touch throughout his tour of duty and I would write to him every day.
6 months after his safe return, we were engaged and in April 2008 we were married.
Sadly, Leon suffered badly with post traumatic stress disorder and was very unhappy in the Royal Marines. It was causing depression and made family life tough.
It became a priority to think of an exit strategy.
I will take you back to a day when it became so glaringly obvious what this strategy should be:
I have always loved food and drink. (I am incredibly sociable and so this is a big part of my life.) I haven’t ‘struggled’ with my weight as such, but I have never been skinny.
The older I have got, the easier I have found it to gain a few pounds, and the tougher it is to lose them. (Back in my 20s I just ate nothing but apples for 2 days and dropped half a stone!)
However, I have never been in to exercise. I hated PE at school, and this carried through in to adult life.
I hate running, and even more than that I hate gyms!
BUT, keen to impress my man, who was himself a ‘fitness freak’, I thought I would show willing and told him I wanted to get fit. (What was I thinking?!)
Well he really took me at my word and the next day (after I had been out and bought all the gear!!), he took me out into the field opposite our house and gave me a bloody good workout!
(And yes, I actually mean exercise, not the ‘other’ type of workout – which would have been much more fun!)
Although it nearly made me sick, instantly I knew that this was what he was born to do. Help slightly overweight and unenthusiastic women like me to enjoy exercise.
Yes you read that right. I actually enjoyed it. His enthusiasm, encouragement and motivation made me want to do it. And not just because I was, at that stage in our relationship, still trying to impress him!!!
And so, the entrepreneur and business woman in me got to work. Between us, we came up with a cool, new business model & Sound Fitness Team Training was born.
Team Training started in January 2010 & took off quickly and in a big way. It was innovative as it was outdoors and it followed a craze of outdoor fitness programs sweeping the USA and Australia.
Leon’s infectious enthusiasm and unique way of delivering training and keeping fitness fun, kept people coming back session after session.
Leon handed in his 12 month’s notice to the Royal Marines and all was good in the world.
We continued to operate Sound Fitness Team Training on a part time basis after Leon left the Royal Marines. On the whole, he ran the sessions, took care of the instructors and the direct client care and I did everything else! (Marketing, database management, bookkeeping etc), working it around my full time job.
However, it wasn’t long before we had competition. As with any successful business, other fitness instructors saw our model was working and wanted in on the action. Who can blame them?!
And this is when everything hit at once.
The business started to struggle, and with it, so did our marriage. We were blaming each other, neither of us being able to take a step back and critically evaluate the business because we were both so involved IN it, and with each other.
Then my mum got sick. Really sick. I had a call from my sister in New Zealand (where Mum also lived) on August bank holiday 2011.
Mum, aged 57, had cancer. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. All cancer is bad, but as far as prognosis goes, this is possibly one of the worst. Apparently they rarely find it before it gets to stage four as there are few symptoms. So the prognosis was that it was terminal and at best mum had 6 months.
Our world as we knew it fell apart. I left Leon & Jack at home and went to NZ for a month to help her get to medical appointments etc, and to support my sister out there. It was a tough time.
Shortly after my return mum was cleared to fly back to the UK. She got here in November 2011 where she lived with Leon, Jack & me at home until she died in May 2012.
Throughout her illness in those last few months I was her primary carer. I was also working in my role as HR Director and helping Leon to manage Sound Fitness Team Training.
It’s fair to say we took our eye off the ball where Team Training was concerned. Well something had to give, and it was more important for me to continue working as it was bringing home considerably more bacon at the time!
Whilst caring for Mum, however, I learnt a lot about health. In particular, about women’s health, nutrition and diet. Mum had previously travelled the world as a chef and so had a great interest in food.
Her cancer was not treatable with traditional medicine, such as chemotheraphy or radiation. Even if it had medically been an option, she would have opted not to have that kind of treatment.
So we spent a lot of time researching alternative medicines and therapies. Supplements, homeopathy, vitamin C to name a few.
But overwhelmingly everything we were reading came back to being supported by a clean diet. I became genuinely interested in the whole subject.
Mum’s death clearly had a profound effect on me. It’s expected I guess but here are the things that suddenly hit me, hard:
- I was not invincible, No one was. I realised my own mortality and I didn’t much like thinking about it.
- I finally understood how much what we eat and our activity levels can either massively increase, or massively reduce not only our life expectancy, but the quality of life we can expect to have whilst we are here.
- That said, life really is short. We must follow our hearts, ENJOY and make the most of every day.
- The ‘success’ that I had found in my career was just an illusion. I enjoyed my job but I wasn’t excited by it. I enjoyed the salary but that was no longer enough.
So 6 months later I handed in my notice in favour of trying to make a go of our own business. It was a huge risk as the business had hit an all-time low in terms of income.
However, we both realised that without the pressure of no salary coming in, there was little chance we were going to make it work.
I had a renewed interest in the health and fitness industry and whilst I knew that what we were doing wasn’t working, I also knew with our combined interests and experience, we had something that could really spark something in others.
All we needed to do was follow our interests and our hearts….
And that’s where my inspiration for Superwoman Fitness came from. I wanted to create a wellbeing service just for women, just like me!
(And as for the name… how many times have you uttered to your boss, husband, kids the words “Who do you think I am – Superwoman?!”) But you are!
Superwoman is for ‘normal’ women, aged 35 – 55, who are probably a bit overweight. Women who are juggling work, kids, and social life. Women who love their food and wine!
It’s for women who need something real, manageable and achievable and who need someone to deliver it who UNDERSTANDS them. I understand you because I am you! Leon understands you too, because he understands me (ish – he’s still a man at the end of the day!).
We aren’t going to ‘motivate’ you with pictures of a 22 year old girl doing a one handed handstand (seriously??!). I couldn’t care less about having massive guns a 6 pack, I just want to keep the bingo wings and the muffin top at bay!
We help you get in to a good state of physical and mental health through positive encouragement, support, accountability and education.
So if you can relate to any piece of this story, you know what you need to do. Forget about those lycra-clad lettuce-eating personal trainers. How is a lad in his 20s going to be able to relate to your needs?
Call me, and I will listen to your story and tell you how I can help you really get results………