Friday, 17 March 2017

From the Boardroom to bodybuilding. The battle of my passions.

Last week was another reminder of the contrast my life brings. I spent the day in London for a national NHS conference, listening to inspirational speakers, sharing best-practice with colleagues and showcasing some great work done by our organisation over the last 18 months. At lunchtime the hot buffet came out and as everyone chatted over sausage rolls and sandwiches, I snuck out onto the gardens and sat eating my cold turkey mince, pasta and broccoli. I left the room for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to watch everyone enjoying the delicious foods that I couldn’t have. And secondly because it avoids me having to explain why I’m not eating it and possibly enter into the uncomfortable discussions around my competitive bodybuilding lifestyle.
I say uncomfortable because that’s how I often feel discussing bodybuilding to people outside of my circle. Some of it may be in my head but I often feel that people maybe judge the sport in a negative way because if you don’t know much about it, then people’s stereotypes are often way off the mark. When I first mentioned bodybuilding to my mum, she asked ‘isn’t it seedy though?’ I guess people only see bodybuilders parading on stage wearing high heels and a bikini and so I can see why people might have those misconceptions. And it makes me wonder if other people will view it that way too and then I wonder how does that reflect on me trying to have a professional career?
It’s one thing I’ve struggled to balance in my head and I try as much as possible to keep the two very separate. I love my job working as Head of Investigations & Learning for Yorkshire Ambulance Service. I love the work I get involved with, I work with some great people and there’s always a new challenge for me to get my teeth into. Having a career has been important to me over the last 8 years since I joined the NHS and having climbed up the career ladder to a senior management position at a relatively young age, it’s one of my biggest achievements. I put my all into my job and spend countless hours perfecting pieces of work, doing things for my team and just trying to do the best job I can possibly do.
Last year: one week launching a new project, the next week up on stage.
Over the last 18 months bodybuilding has become something that I’m equally passionate about. Training and keeping fit is something that brings me so much enjoyment and pushing myself to be the best I can be through competitive bodybuilding has brought me so much satisfaction in a short period of time.
People at work know I compete and those that I’m close to at work know the ins and outs of it and also become a solid support network for me throughout competition prep. They know me well as a person though so I feel comfortable about sharing that aspect of my life as I know it’s absolutely not judged. I don’t feel so comfortable when it comes to people wider than that circle for the reasons I’ve stated earlier in my post and it has worried me before whether my professionalism or credibility as a manager will be questioned because of the sport I choose to partake in.
No one has ever said anything to suggest it has been questioned it’s just something I’m aware of and I guess I have always been aware of other factors during my career that people may judge me on. As I said, I have climbed the career ladder at a young age and over the years this has sometimes led to comments towards me (never actually said to me, surprisingly) regarding my ability as a senior manager in my twenties. I’ve never felt the need to answer or justify any of those critics as I let my work do the talking. That coupled with being female has also left me open to critics in what has been a predominantly male environment. I have to say I have been supported tremendously by the majority of people I work with and never have I had the battles that I read about some female managers in the workplace having. There have been two occasions that I can recall where I feel that being a young, female manager has left me answering questions that I shouldn’t have had to answer and that I perhaps wouldn’t have had to answer had I been older or male. However, the quality of my work has never been in dispute.
I don’t discuss my bodybuilding at work unless someone asks me about it as I don’t like to draw attention to it and for me it’s just a part of who I am and what my lifestyle is, it doesn’t affect my work. However, I very much believe everyone should be able to be exactly who they are and not be judged for it so I have had this battle in my head several times over the last 18 months with part of me thinking no don’t talk about it and then the other part of me thinking, actually hell no I shouldn’t have to hide it, it doesn’t affect my work one bit and I should be proud of having two big passions in my life. And I absolutely am proud of that.
I have seen many managers in the NHS over the years who perhaps will be your ‘stereotypical’ NHS manager if that even exists. But when I say that I mean well dressed, older, many years of NHS experience, very ‘corporate’, I’m sure you all can imagine what I mean and in actual fact they have been in my opinion poor managers and not the most capable. In contrast I have been lucky to work with less stereotypical managers too, perhaps younger managers, from different backgrounds with different experiences who don’t always ‘toe the corporate line’ and they’ve actually been great managers and awesome at their jobs.
So as I head into my second year of competitive bodybuilding I try and embrace both of my passions and celebrate the fact that I am able to do both and that perhaps both together aren’t the typical combination but if by the age of 30 I’ve worked my a**e off to get to a respected position within the NHS, an organisation which I am immensely proud of and if I have a couple of bodybuilding trophies to go alongside that, I’ll consider that not a bad effort.

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