My Fitness Journey: Overcoming Adversity

My initial progress from birth into fitness was not auspicious..born with two club feet, I had surgery at an early age. There’s a picture of me somewhere with one of those huge knee to foot metal boots. Normal ambulatory progress was interrupted (not least because my mum could not bear to administer the painful physio prescribed).

The first training, as opposed to school pe or cricket with Dad, began at about 6. Teased as a result of my slightly wonky feet, I wanted to start boxing . My parents were too middle class to send me into the ring, so Judo was the chosen way. I vividly remember crying at the entrance to the dojo as I watched (and heard) kids slamming into the mats. My mum explained very clearly that as she’d paid for the term, I was going in! Of course I loved it, and would always recommend Judo as an initial martial art for kids.

So let’s skip forward a few years…. In 1980 at 13 I was sent to Repton School in Derbyshire. As Wellington (may have) said ‘the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton’. Sport, the civilised and sanitised version of war, was then the main thing at Repton. The culture of personal training in those days had not filtered down to Repton:going on a run would be the only extra training most people would do. However, I had become interested in joining the army. The Falklands War was a current event (I remember one of my best friends crying in his bed at night the day his cousin, and Victoria Cross winner, was killed). I guess I wanted to be a hero…I started running seriously (not the best idea with my feet as it turned out!) and in the summer holidays after ‘O Levels’ I puchased via mail order a set of ‘Ron Judge’dumbells. That long summer I transformed my body. I went back to school in September a physically different person.IMG_1366(1984, I’m in the middle wearing the cap and glasses and looking like an extra from a Village People video)

I won an army scholarship to Sandhurst after a pretty gruelling selection process only to be let down by my feet. A kindly doctor showed me the x-rays at the military hospital in Woolwich. My friends at school (and a half bottle of smuggled in Scotch) helped to console me. I have to say at the time I was pretty devastated. But, by then training was part of my life and I know it helped me cope with this knock. Repton had invested in some weights, and since I was the keenest, I was actually given a key to the gym and was basically in charge of it. I remember happily watching teachers fail to lift what I could by then.

School over, London had called, and I came:The London School of Economics. I joined the rugby club to make friends, but for training I reforged a link with martial arts made many years before. I joined the LSE Karate club in 1986. I was lucky to have two great senseis, Jonny Pitts and Alan Wallace-still fit handsome specimens now in their mid-late sixties. I trained hard-often 5 nights a week- and continued to lift weights. I was awarded my Shodan (black belt) in 1991 and Nidan (2nd degree) in 1994. I began instructing at the club in 1991.IMG_0036(Colin, Bill, Alan, Jonny and I)

As a Karate club, we were never closed minded. We strove to explore, question and if appropriate discard or ignore. And so I came into contact with Steve Morris…what to say about this man..a genius ahead of his time then and still well ahead of the pack now despite being in his seventies. Check him here  http://morrisnoholdsbarred.com/ or on Facebook should you happen to have a serious  interest in combat.

As my personal life (marriage and children!) became more important spending a day away each weekend became impossible. My training became more personal (ie just me!) but again the fitness I had and the mental release working out provided helped me cope with having 3 children under 3 in 2002.

On 22nd December 2002 I was admitted to the Whittington Hospital in North london with Guillan Barre syndrome. I was not discharged (from the National Hospital for Neurology) until July 4th 2003. Over three months of this period was spent in intensive care, and over half of that completely immobile and mute. To be conscious but unable to communicate, alive but unable to move…I hope you never go there. I know that if I hadn’t had a high level of fitness before I entered hospital, I would never have made it. The day after I left hospital I walked, refusing to use sticks, to the Virgin Gym in Angel. I began to slowly rebuild.

I decided to become a personal trainer for a number of reasons. But the foremost has to be that I believe via my experiences I have something fairly unique to offer. I also feel in a way I owe a debt of gratitude to the world of fitness and would like to put something back (and no that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay!)

If you managed to read all this (and aren’t a family member..) I hope you get in touch and explore with me possible areas in which I can help you realise your health and fitness goals. Thanks.

Eddie Barber