Why I Workout

Why I workout is a question I pondered in my bullet journal a few weeks ago. I published the summary on Instagram:

Wrote myself a list about why I like to work out – and yes, the last one is directed at you, Mr Fertility Consultant šŸ˜”

A photo posted by Leigh – Headspace Perspective (@leighakendall) on

Browsing on Instagram yesterday I happened upon a post that made me gasp, and brought tears to my eyes.

I saw this quote the other night that one of my fit friends posted and it made me think back to when I physically couldn’t get out of bed both times I had HELLP Syndrome—and how grateful I was when I could finally get up and walk again. I promised myself that I would work so hard to not take all that my body CAN do for granted. Even if I feel frustrated with the aftermath of HELLP and Pre-Eclampsia or disappointed that pregnancy is not something my body does well—I allow myself to feel the hurt but remind myself what a blessing my imperfect body is! Redd was up a LOT last night and just out of sorts {more teeth?!šŸ™ˆšŸ˜šŸ˜šŸ˜©šŸ˜­šŸ˜³} and I really wanted to skip my workout this morning. I remembered this quote, got up, drank some pre workout, laced up my tennies and pushed play for the longest 22 minute workout of my life haha #throwbackThursday

A photo posted by alyssa corning||wellness coach (@wellnessformama) on

The past two years have been a bit of a mindf*ck for me. Before falling pregnant with Hugo, two years of trying followed by the cruel joke of getting the very rare life-threatening pregnancy complication, HELLP syndrome.

I call it a mindf*ck because while I have been full of sadness, sorrow, and self-loathing, I am also all-too aware that I am fortunate to still be here.

The photo below was taken the day after Hugo was born. I was in intensive care because I nearly died of multiple organ failure.

Me in intensive care after Hugo was born.

Me in intensive care after Hugo was born.

My blood pressure was so high I nearly had a stroke; my liver nearly failed, as did my kidneys; my blood platelets were so low I lost two pints of blood during the C-section (and had a transfusion a few days later). My haemoglobin (iron) levels were less than half of the lower end of the ‘healthy’ scale.

Amongst the wires you can see are a central line into my jugular to send various medicines in to my system; ECG monitors (standard after major surgery); and oxygen prongs up my nose.

The photo was taken on a Friday; I had been in hospital since the previous Monday evening. Between those days, my feet had barely touched the ground (literally!). I had stood for a brief shower on the Wednesday morning, and I had stood by my bed on the Thursday morning in agony with chest (actually liver) pain, shaking uncontrollably and not knowing what to do with myself. That meant, my muscles were starting to atrophy (waste away).

After Hugo was born, my body swelled like a balloon. My hands particularly suffered; the rapid swelling did something to the tendons and I was unable to hold anything, not even a spoon to feed myself.

Added to the massive wound in my stomach where my baby had been removed, I was in a bit of a mess.

Totally, utterly helpless and dependent on others.

The whole situation was pretty traumatic and generally crap, but being helpless and dependent on others is something I particularly resented.

It’s one of the reasons I now have an obsession with control – but back to the point.

I couldn’t wait to get up and moving again. Firstly so I was better able to visit Hugo and to get involved with his cares, but also so I could function independently.

Everything that happened with and to me, and to Hugo put so much in perspective.

I have lots of physical imperfections (who doesn’t?) and before Hugo I had lots of hangups that affected my body confidence and self-esteem.

Now, I realise my physical imperfections don’t matter.Ā  How can I hate a body that has been through so much, yet still thrives?

While I still at times struggle with the notion that my body failed although I know rationally HELLP syndrome was not my fault I know my body created a beautiful, perfect baby.

My body is strong, healthy, and resilient, enabling me to make a full physical recovery.

The midwife I saw postnatally warned me my tummy muscles may never settle back in to place because I refused to listen to advice about how to get out of bed (the ‘recommended’ way took ages – I had a sick baby to get to!). Washboard abs would be fab, but there is more to life than that.

Me before a recent workout.

Me before a recent workout.

So much of this journey has been about the emotional recovery as well as the physical. The emotional recovery is taking far, far longer. I may never be fully healed, but will be equipped with ways to cope.

I remain frustrated at the time it took to receive the psychological support I needed. With more timely support I probably wouldn’t have had the breakdown. I wouldn’t have turned to eating ALL the cake and chocolate and a reluctance to leave the house in order to cope.

But I am back on the right track now.

Physical activity is one of my key coping mechanisms; not just for the physical benefits, but for the emotional rewards, too.

Working out won’t banish all my problems and force me to be happy (I’d probably punch you if you suggested that; patronising and dismissive of the complexity of psychological disorders) but it does mean that resilience prevails and the sadness does not win.


As I wrote in Bollocks to BMI I will not let anyone erode my self-confidence and self-worth on the basis of an arbitrary scale.

After a workout those endorphins certainly come out to party! I feel awesome, strong, empowered. I am proud of my body for being able to cope with challenges I never thought I would be able to do, and achieve more than I ever anticipated.

I have come to realise that working out is a blessing, not a chore. I love my body, and everything that it can do.

And that, dear readers, is why I workout.


Why I Workoutpin

4 Comments on Why I Workout

  1. Juliet McGrattan
    April 27, 2016 at 8:40 pm (5 years ago)

    Absolutely yes to all of this Leigh. Working out is about so much more than the size of your waist. It’s empowering and it’s a coping mechanism I now wonder how I ever coped without! It’s not about sport, it’s about enjoying what your body can do and the way it makes you feel. Thank you so much for sharing this. Juliet x

    • Leigh
      May 8, 2016 at 9:00 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Juliet! I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your kind comment xx

  2. Jess Paterson
    April 26, 2016 at 10:15 am (5 years ago)

    Leigh, you look fab in your workout photo! Your body has recovered so much from the terrible trauma, it’s great that you are celebrating that. I love working out too and totally agree that it helps keep balance in your mind as well as your scales – but it cannot MAKE you happy, like you say. But I hope it contributes to you finding your happy. Love Jess xx

    • Leigh
      April 27, 2016 at 7:19 pm (5 years ago)

      That’s really kind, thanks so much Jess! It certainly is helping my find my happy, which is wonderful xxx


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