I’m Celia Learmonth, I’m 21 (22 on the 29th November!! Woo Bring me cake!!) born and raised in West London, a Londoner to the core, which seemed only too fitting that I created “The London Fitness Guide”.

I trained for 2 years in Musical Theatre after high school, before realising that I was not the “Razzle Dazzle”, “Tits and teeth”, “jazz hands” type of performer, and also a significant family disruption put a spanner in the works of my training. A combination of these two factors gave me the opportunity to leave that career behind in November 2014, so that I could pursue my true passion- Film & TV acting. However, I knew that it was a naïve thing to think that I would go sauntering out of training and into a theatre or onto a film set, so I got my level 2 fitness instructor certificate last year, and then my level 3 PT earlier in 2015.

I started my fitness career at Lomax, spinning my legs off, before I then went to do an 8 week Shakespeare intensive at RADA to feed my acting ambition again, then when I returned to the fitness industry, I began working at Paola’s Body Barre and Core Collective, where I have been loving my life training and teaching for the past few months. Coming up towards the end of this year, I am going to be teaching regularly for PBB at SKC and Grace Belgravia in addition to Paola’s Fulham Studio, and I have also begun to teach more at Core in High St Ken, teaching the triple threat of classes – The Accelerate, Velocity and Resistance.

I am also a newbie fitness model, signed to W Athletic (well, when they realise, they may change their minds as I am NOT a model!!!) I have recently begun to develop a new training movement, shifting the focus on training for aesthetic, and instead, replacing it with the pursuit of being athletic, from which I hope to create my own community, called “Operation Peak Physique” and encourage people to train for functionality and purpose. I am hungry for knowledge and a total “chaser”, always looking for the next project or challenge to develop or sink my teeth into, and I have just started my yoga teacher training with Fitness Industry Education! Watch out yogis, Celia is coming your way and she’s bringing a big dose of Namas-CRAY!!!

What’s your personal fitness story

I got my first gym membership when I was 17, in the run up to my AS Levels. It sounds a bit daft, but I actually signed up for said membership because a boy I was seeing at the time was a lifeguard at this rather swanky gym and said he could hook me up with mate’s rates, so I thought why not?! Especially seeing as at my school, once you got to sixth form, physical education was OPTIONAL and not timetabled, so one had to rely on the extra-curricular activities, which for me, just wasn’t enough! Needless to say, the gym membership and my commitment to the exercise lasted longer than this High School romance!!

So, I was like a standard newbie to the gym, slogging away on the cross trainer, the treadmill or the bike for hours, until one of the PTs there asked me if I’d consider trying out their classes. I fell in love with the Les Mills classes like BodyPump and RPM, so stuck with cycling those for my time at that gym. When I then went onto Higher Education, studying Dance & Musical Theatre, I was rather depressed due to my lack of self-esteem with particular regard to my poor body image, always feeling “Bigger” than other girls. In the dance and performing environment, I’m sure you can imagine how uncomfortable it is to be forced to look at yourself in a leotard and tights 8 hours a day, and when you don’t like what you see, those days can feel rather long and overwhelming indeed, and your constant self-flagellation can send you into quite a sad and lonely place. This was when for my birthday of my first year, I got a membership at Fitness First, so I could jump in on those classes like I had done at high school, as they made me feel productive, fit and of course I lost some of the weight I felt I needed to.

Unfortunately, I then fell into an old habit which had started early on in my teens, where, fuelled by endorphins, encouraged by my “success”, I dipped too far down the scales and plummeted into the “Underweight” category. I was living off bursts and binges of refined sugar, followed by punishing myself with cardio to try and undo the damage. I was what has become the term, “Skinny Fat”.

This lifestyle induced intense anxiety which grew rapidly, and crossed over into other aspects of my life. I suffered from panic attacks, experienced periods of I suppose you’d call it ‘agoraphobia’, where I wouldn’t leave the house as I felt inferior to everyone around me, and didn’t have the right to go out, and was fearful of what I would do if I went out, whether it was a fear of having a panic attack, or a fear of bingeing, or a fear of just being around people- all of these factors meant that I seldom socialised outside of college hours.

This was until New Year’s Eve 2013, where my best friend for the past 4 years now, who you all know and love, @healthychefsteph (Oh yes, I knew her and took advantage of her cooking skills well before she gained her cheffy title!) managed to persuade me to go out to a “dancers’” party – My second social appearance of the annum. Being in a room of these svelte and perfectly poised dancers, undereating in the lead up to this party, and the addition of alcohol stimulated my anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, and resulted in a rather dramatic panic attack which meant my parents had to drive across London on NYE to come and collect me.

On the 1st January, ashamed, embarrassed and looking in the mirror, seeing 7 stone 10lbs on the scales at age 20, but looking in the mirror and hearing my brain still telling me I was fat and needed to be skinnier, I wanted to sort myself out and learn about training and nutrition. I felt I had to. For Christmas, my brother had kindly bought me a block of personal training sessions, which I was at first reluctant to use, as I felt he was interfering with me and wanted to ‘sabotage’ my progress, but now I saw it as an opportunity to begin to let go of my ideas, trust someone with experience and of professional status, use the energy of the new year, and try and get myself on track and get healthy, not skinny.

What is the one tip you would give to anyone looking into starting a career as a personal trainer?

Start up a PT Instagram or Twitter account. The word and concept of it still cringes me out, but at the end of the day, you are your BRAND. Social Media is free advertising!! Why shell out on leaflets, photography and printing, unnecessary time and effort explaining what you want to a series of middle men, and then having to correct details when your idea hasn’t been quite translated in the way you wanted, when you can create the brand image YOU want, the brand that represents YOU, and be able to control, maintain and mould it for FREE, and IMMEDIATELY right from your mobile phone?! If there’s one thing I’ve felt when researching and scouring the internet about fitness trends, brands, personalities, it’s that, for me, I’m more inclined to purchase a product or go to someone’s class when I get a flavour of who they are, where they have come from, and what they get up to day to day.

I love characters, and I think as human beings, we like the idea of real people behind their brand names. We want see what makes them tick, we want to see their personality, we want to see what they’re eating, what they’re drinking, what they’re wearing, we want to meet them in the flesh and feel like we know everything about them already. It’s a strange idea, I know, but I love it, and I think we all love it. My advice to you is to market yourself first and foremost as a PT and fitness professional of course, but also, make yourself human! We want to make ourselves relatable, so that potential clients feel they can approach us. Because you’re a “personal trainer”, “fit” and “healthy”, posting photos of meal prep and workout videos on point and everything executed with impeccable technique and abs chiselled by angels (if you are so fortunate) and a smiley emoji face, it can come across as so easy and sorted for you, and also out of reach to others, and therefore come across as intimidating. We want to appeal to real people, and make them feel that they will be safe and understood if they want to work with us; that we will understand their struggles, because we are human too, and have experienced similar things.

It is not the certificate that makes you a unique personal trainer, it is your wealth of experience that helps you to connect and invest in those that come to you. When everything’s too perfectly mapped out and “sorted”, of course you look professional and that you really are the part, but there will always seem to be a bubbling resentment under the surface, as the person looking at you thinks, “Why can’t I be as figured out as that?” “What’s wrong with me?” and then manages to turn that inwardly and berate themselves for not being “as good”, and subsequently, unfortunately, results in an increased demotivation instead of the inspiration and determination we want to promote. Be real, be authentic, be you and be human with your marketing. Open up to those who may potentially open up to you one day.

How do you manage to be on top of everything with such a busy schedule and so many projects?

Who ever said I was on top of things?! I am terrible at planning my life. Well, I’ve gotten better, but I’m still pretty gosh darn useless at it. I’m the type of person who sees a gap in my timetable and insists on filling it. I also can’t say no. I am forever making the same errors of doing too much, then burning out. I feel I’m riding high one minute, balancing many plates on sticks and feeling rather chuffed that I am managing to maintain so many things on the go, and be able to commit to them all with equal energy, resource and effort, and then very rapidly, it all seems to spiral out of control and the plates come crashing down along with the harsh reality that I’m not yet superwoman… too many clients or classes, yet no time to schedule them, deadlines for blogs left, right and centre and no time or brain capacity to write them properly, events, meetings and workouts to attend, meal prep to cook and pack, but again very little time to make, the vague semblance of a social life is threadbare in tatters, then a text from my mum coming through with block capitals and exclamation points about the fact I left a protein shaker in a bag and now the house smells like a rotten egg that’s been fired out of a cat’s anus – All these things at once seem to go wrong, and it’s because I haven’t paced myself and distributed my energy consistently or sustainably. I’m a total “All of Nothing” type person – in the process of trying to achieve more balance with regards to this aspect of my life as well. But, I guess the times that I do keep on top of my projects and such is that, I have probably a shelf full of notebooks and diaries. I write and plan EVERYTHING out to a T so I know where I’m going to be, what I’m doing, what I need to prepare, so that I’m never on the back foot and caught unawares.

At school you have your homework diary and your timetable, so I thought, just because you’re not at school, why does this organisational principle have to go out the window too? Make your own timetable, write your own homework, be constantly learning and growing to equip yourself with more skills to draw upon, to fuel future ambition. Each week, I use one day or one/two afternoons (Well, I try to and upon writing this, I’m most certainly sticking to it because when I do this, it works!) where I do all my admin and set myself up for the week. I’m a planner, a plotter and a schemer.

I have notebooks of all my ideas and plans and tick off achievements, or once I have put plans in motion. Kind of a ‘businessy bucket list’ I suppose? So, to keep on top of everything, for me, it’s planning and preparation, followed by meditation!! Mindfulness, although again, something I’ve only just started to dabble in thanks to Natasha Richardson and Poppy Cross introducing me to Headspace, is important, and very grounding – yet ironically one of the first things to fly out the window when everything feels as though it’s starting to get out of control, so it’s probably the one thing I truly need to get my feet back on the ground!

Which opportunities did your blog open for you over the past year or so?

It’s got to be the incredible opportunity I had to go out with Nike to Stockholm to participate in the 10K and the NTC Tour over a weekend in June. It was one of the craziest experiences, and I couldn’t believe that I, with my best friends, was chilling around being a part of team Nike, on holiday, working out and loving life, representing the brand and representing London. Like that, is just an overwhelming idea, and I can’t believe it came about because of social media.

What are your thoughts on body image and the impact of social media?

I believe that it’s a common misconception that the media, the film/ TV & fashion industry and social media are the root cause of our body image issues. For me, my problems began with me, and only me, and my feelings of inadequacy, which didn’t just mean my body image, but my performance in academia and other aspects of my life too.

Being overweight, you don’t need to see photos in magazines or on the internet that make you feel bad, or need anyone to say that you look different, because you feel it in your body and see your perception of who you feel you are in the mirror, you see how you look in comparison to others around you, and you feel the seams of your jeans puckering down the sides at age 7, when trying to zip up the flies of your size age16+ trousers. We become frustrated and can’t accept that these psychological issues are created by us, fabricated by our thought processes, then born, raised, nurtured and encouraged in our own minds, and we can’t seem to process that, really, without the negative connotations of the phrase, but it’s our own ‘fault’.

We create our body image issues, and because we are saddened at subconsciously knowing that we have created this source of upset, unable to own the responsibility, we feel the need to project it onto something or someone else to justify why we feel this way. I used to say that my body image perception and distortion was caused by kids bullying me at school, and because of the performing industry I wanted to go into, but the reality is, when I have really thought about it, of course these factors made it worse and made it harder to deal with, but I started berating and hating myself and what I was doing to myself long before anyone uttered a word about it, or before I looked at a magazine or an actress in a Hollywood movie.

We create the issue in the privacy and the incubator of our minds, but unfortunately the external factors like social media do exacerbate the problem, and sometimes confirm or enhance our worst thoughts and feelings, validate our feelings of unworthiness, but again, this depends on the type of person you are when receiving this sort of information. One person with a body image issue may look at a photo and think “Oh wow, that is incredible, I want to achieve that, I’m going to put my trainers on and hit up a solid session at the gym, thanks Instagram!”.. Another person may see this same photo and react in the following way, “Wow that is incredible. Why can’t I be like that? Why am I so useless and not making that kind of progress? I’m worthless and never going to be able to get to that level and I don’t deserve it, so what’s the point? I’m gonna go eat my feelings because let’s face it I wasn’t getting anywhere anyway.”

Social Media is a powerful tool, and as “Influencers” or whatever we are called, we post what we feel and what we can, but unfortunately, you cannot control how it is perceived by the recipient. It’s not social media that is the cause or the catalyst to accelerate the problem of body image, it’s us. It’s human nature, it’s desire, it’s passion, it’s focus, it’s determination, it’s just the desire to be the best we can possibly be. But hopefully, by learning about our psyche and the way we process thought, we can head our brain off at the pass, know what it’s going to try and think when taking in this information, and make conscious effort to change our thought patterns and create new neural pathways so that we can build our self esteem and use social media to boost our confidence, increase our motivation, determination and solidify our feelings of worth and self-esteem from the inside out.

How did your instagram help you connect with your audience?

Well, I don’t really like to keep bringing it up, as I find the attention uncomfortable and know there are people that think I did it for attention or as a ‘publicity stunt’, but that Daily Mail article allowed me to be the blogger and the human being I wanted to be and actually begin to properly connect with my followers.

Throughout the life of my instagram account, well, more since last November, when my life went a bit tits up and I fell out of education and everything kind of just felt like the rug pulled out from underneath me, I started to talk more about my feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, being a bit more introspective in my posts and starting to open up to show the not so glamorous side of my life. However, due to shame and feelings that people wouldn’t understand me or value me because of a dirty secret, I did end up skirting around an issue that was very raw and personal, which was my vicious cycle of Binge eating and over exercising.

Instagram helped me break this cycle when I first started my account, so I thought it would be the thing to help it stop. However, I felt I had created a part that I had to play, and people would reject me if I showed anything that wasn’t the highlight glossy reel of my life that people followed to see. The article didn’t actually mention my particular issue, and they made it sound to be like I was “orthorexic” or something if you want to use their terms, but regardless of what the article did or didn’t say, it gave me the actual opportunity to come clean and actually admit to my struggles, instead of feeling like I was hiding something and being what I felt like was being a “fitness fraud”.

Following this article, I feel free and free to express what I want to express. I feel that I have shown that I am a real fallible human being, and I actually have been able to reach out to more people, because of this. As mentioned in a question above, when everything is so sorted and clued up, it’s out of reach and people unintentionally resent it, and by admitting my struggles, I am now approachable to those with similar experiences, and we have a community to help and support one another.