August 1, 2016, by Kate Rothery

So it all started here

By Claire Henson, People and Culture Events Coordinator

As a child, I was not at all sporty. As I grew older, I became more aware of my body and my shape, but still didn’t use my body in any kind of exercise or sporty activity.

From about the age of fifteen, I developed crippling anxiety. In attempt to hide away, food became my solace. I was still very chatty and friendly on the outside, but inside I wanted to be anyone but me.

Fast forward to age thirty two and in 2015, after a year of emotional trauma, a relationship break up and a car accident, I became very ill. I couldn’t get out of bed, I was constantly in pain, I had no energy and found no pleasure in the things I had once loved. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This was incredibly difficult for me to take on board. My injuries from the car accident were not going away, the right side of my body was weak and the left hand side was struggling to compensate. Once my brain had had time to adjust and to begin to understand what was happening to me, I began to read up on the condition. The reoccurring statement was to look at exercise, to use the body as much as possible, working with your symptoms through movement and building strength.

I began by going out in the evenings just walking. With anxiety, walking around out in the open can be quite difficult, but I began to find a small circuit that I felt comfortable with. The second step was joining a fitness centre. I’m extremely lucky because where I work (The University of Nottingham) has an amazing sports centre with brilliant instructors. I spoke with their team about my history with anxiety and my recent diagnosis and we worked out a plan to get me moving.

What had started out as a half-hearted attempt to lose some weight started to change the way I viewed myself. My body has started to change in ways I never knew it could. I have muscles, I am able to cycle six miles without even breaking a sweat and weirdly, I love being active.

Huge thanks has to go to the amazing University of Nottingham Sports Centre. All the staff, especially Hannah, Krista, Chloe, Sue and of course my brilliant instructor Darren, have been so supportive in my quest to get healthy and I can’t thank them enough.

For more information on sport at the University of Nottingham visit

You can read more from Claire Henson about her journey through sport at

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