Anjette Marrache Jones

I remember my first exercise video my parents bought for me being “Jane Fonda’s Workout”.  I would wear my long leggings, leg warmers and long sleeved leotard, just like those worn in the video, trying to imitate all of their moves.  I remember thinking “I can’t ever do this, I am so inflexible!” – Jane Fonda and her crew were extremely flexible; all the exercises done (without trainers) really showed off their flexibility.  I enjoyed the video so much, that I think I knew it off by heart. To this day, I still shout to the women who I train with “don’t forget to breathe!”, just as Jane Fonda did in that video.

I was thirteen at the time, and that was my introduction to the exercising world, where an instructor motivated others to join her and become fit and healthy. In 1982 the full benefits of exercising were not as well known, and fitness was not the profitable business it is today. I continued to purchase other videos which I followed at home, much to my parents dismay, considering we only had one TV and one video player in the house!

The first time I joined a gym was after my A Levels.  Whist studying for my exams, I would eat during my breaks instead of going for a walk or a run, and unfortunately I piled on the weight; when I finished my exams I was at least 8 kilos heavier than I had ever been.  My parents very generously paid for me to join ‘Bodyworks Gym’, and that was the beginning of my realisation that exercise had to be part of my life, in order for me to be healthy and happy.  I enjoyed all the classes they offered, and although I had always previously thought I could not dance (I had two left feet!), the classes showed me that I was able to follow the instructor, while remembering the aerobics choreography, all the while without feeling and looking ridiculous.  I feel that this was a turning point in my life – I felt more confident in myself, less shy and much more assertive.  This change caused such a large internal impact, that I joined the ‘Miss Gibraltar Pageant’, something which I previously would not have had the courage to do.  I also decided to study law instead of dentistry; I felt I wasn’t scared of public speaking any more!

In the UK I joined various gyms and their associated classes. Through these I understood what motivates the participants, what makes them want to return, and what is effective for weight loss and toning.  When I could not afford to join a gym class I continued with my jogging, no matter the weather, and I also cycled to and from University.  I tried to eat a healthy balanced diet during my student days, even though that was much harder than keeping fit!  When I returned to Gibraltar I joined Bodyworks again, and continued training every day.  When Bodyworks closed I joined classes given by individual instructors like Sylvana, until I got married and left to live in the UK.  During my six plus pregnancies I continued to exercise daily, to the extent that I was in the gym the morning before I gave birth to my second son!  I was always able to return to the gym the moment my doctor gave me the go ahead, and I have found that I was able to return to my pre baby weight as a result of my love for training.

My personal life changed completely when I was pregnant with my sixth child. After giving birth (through C-Section this time) I was concerned that I was not going to be able to get fit again. I started jogging, and found that it helped me sleep, as well as generally cope with the various stresses of that period in my life. My sister suggested I join a class, and even though I felt I was getting too old to do this, she insisted I join a step class with Helene. I just loved it. I would look forward to these classes; they were once a week, and became a bit of a social event.  The music, the instructor and the other women all made me feel more positive about myself, helping me cope with the craziness which was my life.  I had forgotten what exercise does to a person; how it motivates oneself, and helps one feel strong and ready to take on the world. I soon found myself joining in other classes, which helped me handle parenting six children on my own. Whenever I felt I could not grapple with my situation, I would either make time to go for a run or join a class if possible.

Over time, I felt I wanted to pass on my coping mechanism to others, leading me to start to teach a group of young girls. Not only did I tell them why I thought exercise is important in our lives, but I tried to infuse in them a love for exercising, not to just lose weight, but for its incredible benefits.  Exercising allows you to make new friends, to sweat out those toxins, and produce that ‘high’ created only by the endorphins released by exercise. I had to stop teaching my first group when I started a job, but that did not last very long, and I was soon back to my classes. This time I decided my life needed a change in direction, especially career-wise, so I began an online course to become a personal trainer.

That summer, when no classes were taking place, a few of my training buddies and I decided to continue training, as we felt it would be a pity to lose the level of fitness we had achieved.  We said we would take it in turns to prepare the class, but somehow after I led the first session, no-one else volunteered to organise any of the classes.  I loved the work involved in preparing the classes, and found my personal training course very helpful.

At the end of summer, despite everyone returning to their respective classes, I would still organise the odd session when no others were taking place. That December, I was given fitness equipment as a gift; my ticket to begin giving my own classes to my friends. I still have not finished my Personal Trainers course, and thus my classes are free and for my friends. My friends allow me to test routines which I learn from my course, and they give me feedback as to whether they enjoyed the class, and whether they felt it was effective or otherwise. I have also completed a Piloxing Instructors course with Janine Perera, and a Piloxing Knockout Instructors course. Janine occasionally lets me teach a few blocks during her classes, allowing me to gain the confidence to teach my own classes. I also have a faithful group of ladies who also let me use them to practice my Piloxing routines.

Exercise has not only kept me fit and healthy, but sane. I believe it has helped me be a better mother, and I am sure my kids can vouch for the fact that, although mum can lose it, when she is stressed she goes for a run and returns a much calmer person. I am lucky to love training, and although my weight does fluctuate at times, I know that without exercise in my life, I do not think I could have coped. My advice to everyone, no matter what, is to get out there and find a class, go for a run or join a team; make exercise part of your life!