Celebrating Preston's strong women including a young woman who became paralysed age 16 but has rebuilt herself

This International Women's Day, we’re celebrating some of Preston’s strongest women, including a young woman who became paralysed at just 16 years old but has rebuilt herself up again.
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Preston personal training gym, Pro-Fit is shining a light on some of its most inspirational female members this International Women’s Day who have transformed their physical and mental health thanks to their commitment and passion for fitness.

Matt Dewhurst, Pro-Fit co-founder, said: “When we talk about strong women at Pro-Fit we’re not talking about people who can lift the heaviest weights. Our membership is diverse – from people who have overcome illness, injury and mental health battles, to those training to get into shape for a key life milestone, sporting event or to stay active as long as possible.

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“This International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate some of our remarkable female members by telling their stories in a bid to inspire others.

“First up we have Rebecca Pearson (20). A keen netballer with an active lifestyle Becca became paralysed from the waist down after developing septicaemia at aged 16. She came to us at a low point in her life and thanks to her hard work and dedication has rebuilt herself both physically and mentally. She now plays wheelchair basketball for Lancaster Bulldogs and last summer completed a 5K, smashing her personal best.”

Rebecca Pearson from Buckshaw, 20 became paralysed aged 16 but has rebuilt herself both physically and mentally.Rebecca Pearson from Buckshaw, 20 became paralysed aged 16 but has rebuilt herself both physically and mentally.
Rebecca Pearson from Buckshaw, 20 became paralysed aged 16 but has rebuilt herself both physically and mentally.

Building herself up again

Becca, an apprentice who lives in Buckshaw Village said: “I was a really sporty teenager – I played netball three times a week and took part in every school sport that I could, it was a big part of my life. But on 31st August 2020, when I was 16 years old, my life changed forever.

“I developed an infection which lead to septicaemia (sepsis) which caused me to become paralysed from the waist down. I really struggled not taking part in sport or not being able to be as active as I was before as this had been such a big part of my life. Eventually I started to play wheelchair basketball and found my passion for sports and being active again. But after developing sepsis again in November 2022, I really struggled mentally and physically and I knew that I needed to do something about it.

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“I decided to give Pro-Fit a try. I was in a low point mentally in my life and knew I needed to do something about it. I wasn’t very confident in myself and my mental health was at an all-time low.  Sport had always helped my mental health pre-injury so I hoped it would pick me up again now. I had tried multiple other gyms but I always felt unwelcome and out of place. I didn’t know what to do when I got there and felt so anxious and lost. I ended up feeling worse than when I had arrived.

“All of the PT’s are so supportive – they have never been afraid to work with me, which sadly I have experienced with other PTs in the past. My fitness has improved greatly. I can now push myself so much further and without tiring as easily. I play wheelchair basketball for Lancaster Bulldogs and training has helped to improve my strength and stamina significantly. But it is my confidence and mental health that has seen the most positive effect, which has been noticed by family and friends too.”

Becca has completed 5ks and plays wheelchair basketball for Lancaster BulldogsBecca has completed 5ks and plays wheelchair basketball for Lancaster Bulldogs
Becca has completed 5ks and plays wheelchair basketball for Lancaster Bulldogs

Age is no barrier

Matt continued, “Then we have Pat. Our oldest member at 81 years old who is a shining example that age shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to maintaining an active lifestyle.

Pat, a retired account manager from Leyland said: “I want to show people that there’s no age to not exercise!

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“I knew I needed to keep active, since my aim is to live to be 100 and still be healthy and mobile!

“I’ve also been diagnosed with a heart condition, permanent atrial fibrillation, and heart conditions have run in my family. I’m the eldest of five siblings but, sadly, the only one still around today which is even more reason that I sought help in the first place.

“When I was younger (early 30’s) I used to play squash in the Summer Leagues and attend regular Yoga sessions but that fizzled out. I’ve tried a lot of bootcamps and gyms in the past but never particularly found anything I enjoy until the last few years."

81-year-old Pat now trains five times a week!81-year-old Pat now trains five times a week!
81-year-old Pat now trains five times a week!

Praising her gym, Pat added: “Without Dean and Pro-Fit, I wouldn’t be motivated to exercise, I’m held accountable and my aches and pains in my shoulders, hips and knees have all significantly reduced thanks to the expert guidance I’ve been given over the years. It’s the best decision I ever made.

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“Any physical concerns you might bring will all be worked on and managed whilst you’re at Pro-Fit and nothing, age, joints, fitness or otherwise, will ever get in the way.

“It’s no effort for me and it’s now a way of life!”

Finding self confidence

Matt continued, “Finally we have Kate (age 50), who went from an anxious beginner who was struggling mentally, to a woman in her prime loving fitness and losing an impressive three dress sizes. A striking thing about Kate’s story is that she chose to explore how fitness could improve her mental health before going to the doctors for medication (despite her concerns about how unfit she was). It is this mindset that has propelled Kate forward to transform herself – not only physically but mentally."

50-year-old Kate has lost three and a half stone since finding a love for fitness50-year-old Kate has lost three and a half stone since finding a love for fitness
50-year-old Kate has lost three and a half stone since finding a love for fitness

Blackburn based Audiologist Kate said: “Before joining Pro-Fit, I'd had a few months where mentally I was quite down. I was eating pretty much junk food, frozen food, pizzas here and there, and just piling the pounds on. I was not happy with me.

“I was very down. A friend of mine was going through something similar at the same time and has gone down the doctor's route for medication, and I thought I'll try and do the fitness route to feel better.

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“I was concerned about my fitness levels at the time – that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. But the great thing about Pro-Fit is that people are here for all sorts of reasons and everyone is there to support each other.

“Fast forward seven months and I have lost three and a half stone, my biological age is down five years and I’ve lost eight inches off my waist. In fact some of the people I have known for years don’t even recognise me now! Most importantly I am fitter and happier than I have been in a long time. My mental health has improved dramatically and I’m full of enthusiasm and zest for life.”

Get involved yourself 

Pro-Fit is hosting its first dedicated female wellbeing event - with expert speakers, group workouts, yoga and stalls from local sellers - on Saturday 23rd March from 11am to 2pm. Taking place at Pro-Fit’s Preston studio (Unit 1, Capital Trade Park, behind the Capitol Centre), the event is aimed at supporting women in the local area with tailored advice to promote their physical and mental wellbeing.

A female health seminar will help attendees gain a better understanding of their hormones; a discussion will focus on female nutrition for weight loss; a group workout for all levels will get the endorphins flowing and a yoga session will help female attendees to find some inner zen. 

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Anyone is welcome to attend – just email [email protected] to secure you spot.

Inside Pro-Fit Personal Training GymInside Pro-Fit Personal Training Gym
Inside Pro-Fit Personal Training Gym

Join our new WhatsApp Community to get the latest news and top stories from across Lancashire directly to your phone. Alanis Akin, a personal trainer at Pro-Fit, said: “Women's bodies are complex but WONDERFUL things, but also require a bit of understanding.

“Getting to grips with your hormones, whether you’re struggling with PMS, menopausal symptoms or pre/post-natal issues, can be like a secret weapon. It can help you understand why you feel certain ways at different times of your cycle or help elevate uncomfortable symptoms. Rather than beating yourself up and being hard on yourself as to why your body isn’t working like it did a few weeks/months ago!

“You can feel so alone in what you feel or experience, but when surrounded by others who are either going through the same, or know about these experiences, you feel heard!

“That is why we are hosting this event – to get people to have more understanding on how their hormones will impact their training and to help develop tactics to work around them.”

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