About Time You Met: Esmée GummerBy Georgia Devon-Spick
In the lead up to summer, most trainers drill the doctrine à la Special-K and assume we’re all just motivated by our grand beach bikini debut, which tarnishes exercise as one big vanity project. Certainly a body that moves more can make you feel more confident, happy and comfortable but it shouldn’t be the the only reason to set that Ouch-O’clock alarm. Exercise and health go hand-in-hand, not only does it reduce the risk of many major illnesses but is an important tool for the mind, and the obsession with the aesthetics of exercise is reductive.
I tried one of Esmée’s Reshape classes at 1Rebel and her encouragement immediately affirmed all the things I’d truly believed: how if you learn to push yourself a little harder in class, you can find the resilience to push and succeed in other aspects of your life. Exercise is mostly dependant on mind set and Esmée’s class inspires you to work the hardest both inside and outside the studio; she pushes you to improve both your physical and mental strength and to be a better person, not just have a better body. It wasn’t until I learnt more about her I discovered why she was such an inspirational trainer. Just before she was set to start dance school, she was left paralysed from the waist down and was told she would never walk again. Today, (in addition to being one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet) she’s defied the odds and is also a personal trainer having just released a ‘Train Like a Cheerleader’ Fitness DVD.
An operation went badly before you went to dance college, what happened?
When I was 18, six weeks before I was to start college, I went to have a hernia repair. I had a reaction to the drugs which caused me to have a seizure for eight hours. As a consequence, I was left with no short term memory, a speech impediment, lack of motor skills and paralysis from waist down. After three days I started to recover, but I remained paralysed from waist down. The doctor told me I wasn’t going to walk again. I couldn’t accept this. I demanded physio but they wouldn’t move me. I eventually convinced them and started physio without being able to feel or move my legs. It was a long journey and took three weeks of intense physio, walking with the aid of parallel bars. I was eventually allowed to leave the hospital once I could stand and take a few steps. I was in a wheelchair and continued therapy for six months.
How were you able to cope with the negative feelings resulting from the operation?
One of the most common questions I get asked is how did you lay in a bed paralysed and not freak out? Don’t get me wrong it was petrifying – I felt tortured and trapped. I would lay alone with my thoughts and privately panic to myself at the harsh realisation that I could be like this forever. But that is exactly what made cope. It made me stronger, wiser and completely in touch with myself. This is the time in my life that I became friends with myself. I had to learn very quickly that people may be around, come visit, help you out and keep you company, but the minute they are gone it’s just you. You have to got accept it. This helped me deal with negative feelings because whenever I felt angry or depressed about what had happened to me, I said to myself, “Esmée, you’ve got me, we’re going to be alright!”.
How will your experiences help you train other people?
I want to motivate people in every way I can, and at any stage of their journey. I believe that no one should enter fitness solely to lose weight or change their body. People ask me “how did you get your body like that?” or “what training do you do?” or “what can I do to have a body like yours?”. I didn’t get my body like this because I chose to make that my ultimate goal. My goal was to walk again, then it was to run again, then it was to jump, run for longer, do an extra rep this week… Don’t go to the gym or into a class with your only goal being to lose weight or change the way your body looks. You will come out and look in the mirror and just be disappointed that nothing has changed in the space of an hour. Instead make your goal mental and achievable: 10 press ups instead of 8, an 11 minute run instead of 10 – and so on. When you hit the goal, keep moving on to the next one, and the next one. Then one day you will look in the mirror and say “damn when did that happen?!”
I cannot recommend Esmeé’s classes enough, you can book ‘Reshape’ and ‘Ride’ classes at 1Rebel here.