Former bodybuilder, Georgie McLean, opens up about having an unhealthy relationship with fitness and how running changed her approach to fitness after hitting rock-bottom.
In today's fitness world joining the gym often means setting yourself a goal, and more often than not that means weight loss or some kind of appearance-based dream. Despite recent efforts and more widely spread awareness of the destructive mental health consequences that this narrative perpetrates, the popular understanding of the word 'fitness' is still 'looking fit'.
Georgie McLean, 35, experienced this destructive narrative to its full. When she joined the gym for the first time her fitness goal was looking good, but it quickly turned into somewhat of an obsession.
"Soon after I joined the gym, I became friends with an amateur bodybuilder, and I sort of got inspired by her to start doing it as well," she says. "My goal was to get fitter and I was looking at this girl's body I thought, 'Wow, this girl looks amazing!'".
As Georgie dived into bodybuilding, she started to pay close attention to all the aspects of her life that could affect her training and fitness improvements. She put herself on a very strict diet, started using steroids and then finally began competing.
"I realise now what an awful relationship with food and with my body it gave me," Georgie explains. "It got to a point where I was in the most amazing-looking body shape, and yet in the unhealthiest state possible."
All of Georgie's free time was put into training, researching and learning new ways to improve herself and win competitions. "Taking part in competitions is definitely what made it all spiral out of control," she says. Georgie would train incredibly hard and follow very strict diets before a competition and if it didn't go well, she’d go back into another extreme regime of training and dieting.
Everything changed for Georgie in 2018, when she was meant to take part in a World Beauty, Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) competition in Los Angeles. "I had been training really hard for this event and it was my first time competing in America, but when I got there I had a full-on breakdown and realised I did not want to do this anymore."
It took Georgie quite some time to come back from this hit but her passion for fitness did not go away. "After quitting bodybuilding, I started doing crossfit and continue to challenge myself, but in a much healthier way."
When lockdown was called in the UK in March, Georgie decided to start running to keep training. Running was something she had never been into and, as she explains, something she had never completely understood. "I just thought I wasn't good at it because I wasn't going hard or fast enough, which wasn’t helping me improve," she says.
Soon after, Georgie found Onetrack and our coach Anthony Fletcher (Coach Fletch, as we know him), which gave her a new perspective and new motivations in running. "During lockdown, everyone was talking about the importance of keeping in touch with the community and I live on my own so I thought this could be something good for me."
Georgie has since grown to love running and appreciates the mental and physical benefits of having a healthy relationship with training and nutrition. She has now embarked on a new adventure: running from John O’Groats to Land’s End (JOGGLE) in June 2021.
She says: "My Mum has a form of Parkinson's called Orthostatic Tremor Disease which is very rare and eventually stops you walking. So, I have decided to raise money for the National Tremor Foundation, which does research into this rare disease."