After connecting on social media, I met up with Kirsten at the Women In Sport – Empower 18 conference in London in October. Chatting away to her over lunch (whilst standing and balancing plates and drinks!) we shared so many views about making exercise fun, inclusive and part of everyday life, particularly in terms of healthy ageing. We’re both on a mission to help people live long, healthy and active lives. I was really interested to hear about the great courses she leads which include nutrition as well as fitness and I was delighted she agreed to take part in this active women interview series.
Tell us a bit about yourself Kirsten …
Hello, my name is Kirsten Huesch, I’m 47 years old and originally from Germany. I live with my husband and our Cocker Spaniel Keith in Swansea, Wales. Years in the corporate sector in London with long commutes and being desk-based meant that I went from marathon runner to overweight and unfit. Moving to Wales gave me the incentive to change that and with the help of my trainer Craig I lost the weight and found my dream job. I became a fitness instructor and run health and wellbeing courses at Core Ability. I also love cooking and nutrition and now part of my job is to help people prepare easy healthy meals. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram.
When did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
Originally, it was in London in 2002 when I joined a running club to make some new friends. I loved the club atmosphere and joint experience of going to races and events. When my job got more hectic, my club runs got less and I got out of the habit of exercising regularly. I still tried to do the odd workout in the gym but this also faded away. Fast forward to our move to Swansea when I decided to get back to fitness for good. I wanted to feel better, healthier and more confident in my body in my forties and I haven’t looked back.
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
I’ve tried long distance running, boxing, indoor rowing, weight training, obstacle races, bootcamp, TRX – a real mixed bag of activities. I love gym work because lifting weights makes me feel really strong but running outdoors is another favourite. Just being able to stick on a pair of trainers and go outdoors feels amazing and I love the freedom of it.
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome in your fitness journey?
I think the biggest barrier has been self-doubt or lack of confidence when I was overweight. I felt I had let myself go and didn’t know how to pull myself out of it. There I was, a former runner (not a fast one, but a marathon runner nonetheless) and I couldn’t run for a couple of minutes without huffing and puffing. I was really self-conscious about my size and was torn between wanting to hide away and yet wanting to change how I was feeling (and looking). In the end the desire for better health won.
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
I’ve had the odd “you can’t lift that” or “you won’t be able to do that” comment – luckily, I’ve learnt to use that as motivation as I am rather stubborn when I’m told I can’t. Being short (I’m 5ft) means that people often underestimate me – I love proving them wrong.
But most of the negative comments in the past came from myself – the sort of negative self-talk and comparison with others that really isn’t helpful but with more training and activity came more confidence and that now helps keep those thoughts in check.
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
I’ve achieved my goal of running a marathon but want to run another one in 2019 which will be 15 years since my last one. Beating my previous time would be amazing but we’ll see…That’s a massive goal for me but I also love setting tiny daily goals because achieving them feels so satisfying. It could just be doing 10 minutes stretching before bed or an extra half a mile on a run – anything that helps me better myself and work towards staying healthy as I get older.
What benefits has being active brought you?
Apart from getting so much stronger physically, I think the main benefits have been mentally. I feel much more able to achieve in all areas of my life and am calmer and more confident as well. I always describe running as my meditation and my thinking space; it may be hard doing it at the time but I always feel fantastic afterwards. The same goes for any other physical activity I do, whether it’s walking the dog, hitting the punch bag or dancing in the kitchen…moving just makes me feel alive and happy. And last but definitely not least I have made some brilliant friends along the way and gained a new career.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
Try not to look at exercise as punishment but as a life affirming and fun activity. Just set a small goal doing an activity you enjoy and maybe even enlist the help of some friends, so you can keep each other motivated. Little goals will inevitably lead to bigger ones and before you know it you have formed a new habit or even better, a new hobby.