This week's #WCW is an inspiring young lady who, if Facebook and Instagram are anything to go by, spends 90% of her time upside down. As a yogi, pole dancer, aerial artist and figure competitor, having an athletic body is incredibly important to her and she has worked so hard to get to where she is today, not only on her physique but on her psychological state too, battling demons and self doubt which plagued her childhood and which threaten to rear their ugly heads occasionally, even now.
Meet my mate Cheryl....
So Cheryl, I know you as a fellow Gymbox instructor where you teach Yoga, Aerial classes, Pole and Barre style classes. Tell us about your background.
I was a gymnast from the age of 2. I used to train 5 days a week and got to compete at a national level, but it all stopped at 13yrs old when I switched to athletics where I competed in hurdles and long jump. But it all came to an end due to becoming unwell.
After being ill for a long period of my 'growing up years' I missed out on the main learning stages of life from exams, school life, nights out etc so I ended up volunteerin for 2 years at a yoga studio in Covent Garden which there I can say yoga saved my life. Following the footsteps of Stewart Gilchrist, my teacher, I decided to do my training.
When you say ‘unwell’, was this body image related?
Yes body image related and more mental health issues. I still find it hard to tell people my story and one day I will and hopefully people will be proud of where I have come from.
When I think of you, I think of you upside down, either on a pole, dangling from a hoop/silks/bars or in a handstand. What is the fascination with being upside down and what got you into it in the first place?
Being upside down for me is my happy zone. I relax and feel confident. I have to accept I'm not circus trained so they're on a different level. I had to rebuild my strength 3 yrs ago and that's when my journey for life started. I always worry what others think of me and being upside down I can't see anyone so I don't have to panic :)
Your flexibility is ridiculous.
Ha ha TBH my flexibility is better now than it was when I was younger as I refer to being unwell and losing strength, muscle and body awareness: everything stopped! I make sure now I dedicate 1-2 hrs everyday to stretch even if I do not feel like it.
You co-created a concept called Contortion for Gymbox. That sounds pretty scary. Who is it for? Can complete stiffies take part and how would you encourage them to stick it out and keep coming back?
Contortion is is super cool open to everyone!
It's such a chilled class and working with each other and me coming around the room to push them a little further out of their comfort zone.
Your upper body strength too is incredible. Has that come from your yogo/pole training and handstands alone or do you “lift”?
I think a mixture TBH, since I started pole my upper body has got super duper strong but I think a lot of it is learning to engage and use the right muscles.
And your core stability is off the scale! I saw you balancing on some guy’s head recently!! What was that for? A show, training purposes or just for fun?
Ha ha yeh I started "hand 2 hand" circus training just for fun, so much fun, loved it and it was a new challenge for me. It seems that I live for challenges and goals. I dip in and out of new crazy goals.
Any romance there??
Oh no no lol he fell in love with his now girlfriend and I fell in love with weights ha ha!
No, I'm free and single. I get a bit embarrassed tbh that I'm not in a relationship but whatever, I'm not one to look for it. I haven't been ready nor interested as I have too many goals to achieve myself and also would be too.overwhelmed dealing with a guy ha ha!
You use your skills to perform and not just earn money from teaching classes. Where do you perform and what is that you do?
This is a work in progress it's my goal to perform but London is very hard and full of talented people that have been about a long time. I would love to perform at events, parties, clubs you name it!
You recently took part in your first pole dance competition. How did that go?
Yep sure did I was so shocked! I took 1st place at Miss Pole Dance UK semi pro student and also runner up at Heir to the Chrome. It was an amazing experience!
As mentioned earlier, you also took part in figure competitions, including WBFF. Did you place?
Yep I did last Nov and came 5th! Best experience! I competed in bikini fitness all last year, WBFF being the BIG one! Doing the shows helped me build a better body and understand a lot about nutrition and weight trainin that I can still apply to day to day living and training!
How was that day? Describe your emotions.
I was nervous as hell! All I thought about was food!! I could not wait to eat my body weight in sugar!!
I'm like that most days! I know that now you’re all about health, some of your FB photo comments state that you’re enjoying being ‘fuller and fitter’…. in the run up to your competitions did you lose sight of what was healthy in terms of your training and your food intake?
Yep, in the run up to WBFF all you had in mind was looking the best on stage, breakdowns pretty much everyday. I didn't care about my health but from my background it partly helped me understand about myths about food people hear and read about. So on one hand it was helpful too.
Every athlete has a different prep routine so I can't really say any of it is normal :)
Were the breakdowns caused by lack of carbs?
I think it's mentally and physically draining due to the training and such a restriction in diet. Like I said my prep was tricky because of my relationship with food but if I were to do it again it would be different :)
What food myths were busted for you?
Myths about carbs helping to burn fat, macro intake, eating late at night not making you weight gain, what to eat around training and all about being stage ready :)
Well that is good to know about eating late at night! What made you decide to enter?
I wanted a goal, I wanted to learn about fitness and hoped it would help people look up to me in a positive way:)
Do you think you succeeded in these?
Yes I guess I did in some respect but I will always want to better myself and would love to help and train others one day:)
Would you consider doing another show knowing what you know now what kind of pressure there is?
Hell yeh but my first priority is building a relationship with food! But being on stage and strutting my new booty will be so much food. (Was this a typo? Freudian slip?!)
Lol yes I meant fun ha ha (Food on the brain)
I wouldn't put so much pressure on myself and would ignore my competition.
Ignoring competition is great advice in general, "just do you”. What advice would you have for women who decide to take part in a show? What would be a good reason to do it and what would be a bad reason, to be discouraged from?
Too many girls are jumping on stage unprepared and my advice would be to make sure you're mentally ready and enjoy the process. Find a coach to work with and listen to them! And be around positive people
What advice would you give women in general?
Do what makes you happy. Life is too short, try everything in life!!
And finally, how can people get in touch with you for advice about training, yoga, pole, food etc?
They can email me. I'd be happy to help!
Thanks Cheryl! If you any readers have related to anything Cheryl has said, if you've been through similar situations, leave a comment, share and like.