Sport changed my life for the better
Personal Trainer and ex-professional boxer Cathy Brown is the spokesperson for Mental Health Awareness Week and talks about how exercise and boxing are essential in managing her mental health.
I am currently teaching at The Third Space Gym in London as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Professional Boxing Coach, I recently qualified as a Sports Psychologist and I have nearly finished my studies as a Cognitive Behavior Therapist, I have always been a great believer that mind strength and sport go hand in hand and my nick name in the industry is “The Soul Trainer”. Let me tell you a little bit about my history…..
I was very angry as a child, I never understood why, but I would throw things regularly at the wall or smash things in a rage, I don’t know whether it was because I was adopted and was too young to understand any emotional aspects and effects it may have had on me, but as I have grown older, wiser and more knowledgeable about life, I now acknowledge, accept and understand my anger. As I grew up my temper never eased and I didn’t know how to deal with it, and neither did my parents, it was just accepted that I just lost it now and again, and people either just ignored it or were too fearful to talk to me about it. It didn’t help that I had eczema as a teenager and no boys would date me so I felt ugly and had no confidence and my self esteem was at rock bottom, I was lucky I was well known for my temper and I never got bullied, thank god! I had a lot of friends, was happy most of the time and had great social skills, so I was never sent to ‘see anyone’. Then I met a man seven years older than me who made me feel that I was at last wanted by someone, so we dated, but after a while he became controlling and violent but had played on my lack of confidence and convinced me that I wouldn’t find anyone else and that is all I deserved, so I stayed with him and was abused regularly. I eventually ended the relationship, and I knew deep down I had done the right thing after he raped me. So, I left home to finish my studies as a photographer and I started kick boxing at university, as I was determined that this wasn’t going to happen again, I was instantly hooked on it as it started to give me empowerment and was building my self confidence and self esteem, the gym had become my sanctuary and I loved training not only kick boxing but weights, running, the social aspect and all aspects of the sport as the effect it had on not just my body but my mental strength was tremendous, I felt I was starting a new “Cathy Brown”.
I started competing in kick boxing and did brilliantly, I felt strong, healthy and powerful and then after 6 years I received my Professional Boxing Licence and started boxing Professionally, I even had the confidence and strength to give up my full time job as a Forensic Photographer. My parents were devastated as I had an amazing job but I was determined as I could see the great effects it was having on me, so I gave it all up to focus on being the best boxer that I could, I qualified as a personal trainer, and started working in a gym so I could train twice a day. I competed on a high level and became ranked number three in the World, winning the English and European Title along the way, it had become my World, I became stronger and stronger mentally, and I even fought through a broken hand, broken nose and fracture in my pelvis. It wasn’t easy in the sport as I had a lot of sexism to contend with as no one wanted a women a box in this country, but that only made me more determined, and boxing had made me confident not only physically but mentally.
Then I was told I couldn’t box anymore due to neural damage in my neck and I had to retire, but I wasn’t ready! I still had more to do, what was I going to do?! My World came crashing down and I hit a massive low and started to get really depressed; I had lost my main love. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it and stopped going boxing shows and turned down opportunities to train other women as I was just jealous and couldn’t handle the fact that it wasn’t me and I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore, so I decided to use what I had learned over my fighting career and get my self mentally strong again using sport, so I educated myself further in Strength and Conditioning and Psychology, took part in a variety of other physical activities and kept training hard, I got myself out of the black hole, which nobody else could understand. I am now a top personal trainer and boxing coach and write for many magazines, I have even managed to watch all my old fights and edit them and put them onto a website (www.cathybrown.co.uk), and train a few fighters which I love. I try to help as many people as possible see the power of what sport and activities can do for the strength of mind.
I put my mental strength all down to my church: “The Gym” and my religion: “training and activity”. I cannot tell you how much sport changed my life for the good, my temper calmed, I had learned how to control my outbursts (although they still go through my head but I don’t react like I used to, and I still have my moments, but that’s because I am human and don’t expect to be perfect), I had found a way to release my stress not just by the physical elements but the release of ‘feel good’ hormones from taking part in sport and activities, and I know how I can pull myself out of the black hole if it happens again, and that is all down to sport and training. I understand the importance of having sport, training and activities in my life for great mental health and well being and I am an ambassador for encouraging people into some sort of activity that suits them as an individual. I have first hand experience of the positive effect that it has on your confidence, self esteem, anger and the improvements it has on your body, skin and many other health benefits.