Tell me a little about yourself and your background?
My name is Ashleigh D’Arcy and I am 21 years old, with an incredibly large passion for fitness. All my life I have grown up on farms and been brought up as a little country girl to have manners, work hard and not expect ridiculous expectations from people if I can’t achieve them myself. I have never grown up surrounded by large amounts of family, and generally only associate with Mum’s side. Until February last year (2018), I lived with my Mum, Step Dad and Brother, then moved from the Hunter Valley NSW to the Central Coast to start University. I now live in a share house with 7 other students and have made friendships that will last a lifetime. I am a very social person that is all about putting my friends first and being there for them as much as I possibly can. I crave to travel and want to explore the rest of Australia once I’m a bit older with more life experience. I want to try as much as possible at least once, and my only goal in life is to be happy with what I decided to do with myself and how I’ve treated others. I am a huge foodie, burgers being my favourite cheat meal, and I absolutely love to write. So, if you don’t find me in the gym, out to brunch, or socializing, you’ll most likely find me in my room, wrapped in a trance, writing either a poem, story or just feelings I have wanting to be let out.
What aspect of fitness do you enjoy the most?
I love fitness because there are so many possibilities. Not just for your body but the ways in which you can participate in it. I am a huge gym and weight lifting lover, but if I don’t feel like going, I am not restricted to what I can do. If I feel lazy I can easily do a home workout, I can go for a run if I have loads of energy or have the possibility of joining a sports team and participating in things like football or tennis. They all have different effects and I love that there is absolutely no way to get bored and that every time is never the same. I also love the feeling of knowing you’re trying to better yourself, even if you don’t think you need to. A lot of individuals think I go to the gym because I’m ‘insecure’ about my body or I’m ‘not happy’ with the way I look, and although some days I wake up and can see every flaw, other days I look in the mirror or at progress photos and am honestly amazed I was able to achieve all that on my own. I work for the feeling it gives me and the calming effect it has on my overall mood and body, not for other people to admire or point out what they think is good/bad about my figure. It’s more than the body when it comes to fitness, it also includes internal health, as well as mental well-being.
How long have you been into fitness?
In 2013 when I was turning 16, I slowly started to pick up fitness. My original exercise was simply running. Every afternoon I’d come home from school, have a snack, grabbed my headphones, put on my runners and was out the door. At that point my main goal was to be ‘fit’, which I now realize was more of an endurance and slim body with barely to no muscle, which was definitely not sustainable. After about a year and a half of running and just improving how long I could run for without stopping, I suddenly went to no exercise as senior year of school hit, so September 2015 is when I fully got back into my fitness and decided to find a way that was maintainable for me.
How did you get into fitness?
Every time I began exercise, I had the same goal. To be absolutely thin. I used to be a lot chubbier and in 2013 I lost 17.5kg, going from 74.5kg down to 57kg, and to me, that was perfect. I was petite, I had no flab or gross fat rolls and I thought I was super healthy. Wasn’t until I entered Year 12 at school that I slowly started to let my body deteriorate. I had so much stress juggling all my work load as well as two bodies of work for Art and Extension Two English. We had severe flooding in April 2015 and unfortunately, my bridge got washed out and myself and a few hundred people who live along our road were isolated from the rest of the world for one month. In this time, I was so stressed from not socializing and not getting sent my school work, I found comfort in eating, and of course, I knew the effects would be bad, but I came into such a bad state of depression, I still continued. I had went all the way back up to 74kg and I knew how much I hated myself, but I had to focus fully on school once I was back. Once I finally got through my senior year, between graduating and the HSC I decided to start using Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (BBG) which consists of a variety of home workouts for a 12-week period. I got amazing results and once I saw the change in my body I became addicted. From dropping back to 63kg in just a matter of weeks, I continued home workouts until December 2016 where I decided to finally join the gym and try different styles as thin was no longer my priority, it was to fix my metabolism, maintain my weight without putting on weight if I want to have a day or two out as well as growing stronger. I still love my circuits and stick to those at least 2-3/6 days at the gym, but I have become so in love with weights and lifting that I spend equal amounts of time with those.
What was a turning point for you to take it seriously?
Definitely was the weight gain. I knew I had to change my life in some aspect and since diet could only do so much and I’d get stuck at a certain weight and couldn’t possibly give up more food as it was minimal already, I used fitness as the next step to just get the body I want. Although the first time round it was more like a ‘chore’, now it’s not only a hobby, but a lifestyle, and now I don’t focus on weight. I now weigh 67kg but am fitting into clothes of when I was a size 8 and know that the weight is including the muscle. I also suffer from a back injury that occurred in 2012, popping the discs on either side of my lower back. I used to worry about hurting them so avoided things like weight lifting, thinking it would cause more harm than good, but I knew that I had to find a way around it and get into a fitness routine that wouldn’t harm me, but strength my back muscles, as I was told exercise was the best treatment. By slowly entering into weight lifting, my back has had no issues of yet.
How has fitness impacted your life?
It’s made me into a better person. I used to have so much anger from stress and the amount of pressure I was under that somehow, I used fitness as a way to calm down and it almost always works. It’s kind of like a headspace for me, and due to that and seeing how well I was progressing and how good I felt about the process as well, I am now studying my Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Newcastle. It changed my outlook and attitude so much I had no choice but to make a career out of it.
What words of advice or encouragement would you like to give to someone who is just starting out or would like to start but doesn’t know where to begin?
Honestly, don’t give up. There will be days where you’ll feel like you’re dragging yourself out of bed for the gym or your sporting team and you just don’t want to but remember why you began it in the first place and why you haven’t given up yet. If you had the motivation to begin, then every day after that is a tiny bit easier, until eventually there’s no effort needed, you kind of just gravitate towards it. Some days I drive and end up at the gym and don’t really realize or plan on it. The best advice I could probably give to anybody is 1- If you don’t feel like it, don’t push yourself. Obviously, you want to look back at fitness as a rewarding experience and make it a daily thing, but if you constantly do what you hate, you’ll resent it, so find your style, whether that’s early morning, late night, gym, swimming, sporting team, whatever you pick, make sure you love it, because I guarantee there’s one style of fitness that’ll suit to your lifestyle. 2- do something your younger self would look up to you for and your older self will thank you for. All my life I’ve looked up to my Grandad’s hard-working ethics and my Grandma’s never being kept down attitude, and today I look at myself and realize, I now do those things I admired and it’s honestly such an incredible feeling. And I know that now may just be the beginning, but in the future my body will be more resilient and work harder at keeping me in stable health, and that’s all I can ask for.