In the crowded world of online media, fitness instructor Kelsey Wells has firmly established herself as a leading figure of a digital movement. With an audience of almost 3 million followers on social media, the trainer offers a simple fitness regime that combines challenging strength-training exercises with accessible technical tips. Speaking to the trainer on her blossoming popularity, she discusses the meandering path to progress, the virtues of self-compassion and the endless opportunities to rediscover your strength time and again.
I tried, quit and picked myself up enough times that it became a habit.Kelsey Wells
Q: How has your relationship with your body changed over the years?
Kelsey Wells: Exercise was not a part of my entire adult life until after the birth of my son Anderson. He just turned five, so it's been about five years. My journey all began because I was struggling with postnatal anxiety. You know, you hear so much about that time of life, and you're so excited to become a mum - it was beautiful and magical, but it was very hard and I wasn't prepared for that. I’ve struggled with having a negative self image my whole life. I found myself struggling with my body because I didn't know if what I was experiencing was normal. It's normal to have hormonal changes when you have a baby, and they normally start to even out about six weeks. But I was probably about two months postpartum, and I knew that I wasn't okay.
A health professional recommended exercising. I started with just walking. I would bundle up myself and my son, push him around in the stroller for 30 to 40 minutes, and I did that four times a week. It just blew my mind and cured my anxiety. Within weeks, I felt better than I had in months and this was way before my body started changing physically in the mirror. It enabled me to be a better mom to my son, and miraculously for the first time, I was looking at my body with gratitude. I looked at exercise as a positive. Prior to this, I had believed that it was a chore or it was something that you did if you needed to change the way you looked. it was always negative. But in this space, it was therapy for me, and I found so much healing there.
Q: These challenging emotions during pregnancy can be very difficult to deal with.
KW: Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy and delivery. Not really recognising yourself in the mirror is difficult. Especially for a young woman who has struggled with self-image anyway.
In the conversation of fitness, people downplay how your body can be a vehicle to explore your own relationship with yourself.Kelsey Wells
Q: Do you feel women in particular suffer under the pressures of an “ideal” body image?
KW: I think we are under a lot of pressure. I see that a lot in my clients and the women in our community. I don't even think we realise how much of that pressure is down to what we're putting on ourselves. I feel that for too long fitness has been packaged and sold in toxic ways. Like you have to have a “summer body”. It is just so negative and such a source of guilt or stress. I just want to help people understand that this is an incredible tool. It is something that you do to care for yourself and connect with yourself. It's so empowering. At the end of the day, we have to safeguard our own self love. I believe that exercise is the best, fastest, most organic way to do that.
Q: What was your journey towards building a lasting relationship with fitness like?
KW: It was definitely not an overnight thing. In my own journey, I stopped ,started and quit probably five or six times before I actually stuck with it. Yesterday someone came up to me and said that she loved my programmes, but she said, “I'm only on week two. But I've done week one and two, like six times, and I just can't.” I said, “ so you've done 12 weeks. 12 weeks of Power. That's incredible”. We don't realise it’s not about the stopping and starting it’s about continued effort. There's no such thing as failing. Everytime I quit, back in the beginning, I would pick myself up and try again a little bit sooner, and it was a little bit easier. Finally, I tried, quit and picked myself up enough times that it became a habit.
Q: Do you think there's room for joy in the process ?
KW: The greatest joys often come after the hardest fought battles. So I think there's so much joy in a fitness journey because you're earning a feeling for yourself. You're earning a sense of accomplishment. Nobody can do that for you. When you sit there, you're out of breath, and your heart is racing, you're sweating, you’re feeling those endorphins coming, all these physiological things are happening in your body, it's real. Nobody can give that to you. You earn that. In the conversation of fitness, people downplay how your body can be a vehicle to explore your own relationship with yourself.
Q: Do you believe in a more intuitive or regimented fitness program?
KW: I think it's down to the individual. My workout is quite structured. I think for most people, especially when you are beginning a fitness journey it’s very, very helpful to have a structure Firstly, from a practical standpoint, if you have a workout prepared, you're far more likely to be successful than if you just kind of move around and make stuff up. It's easier because everything's there for you. That said, I do wholeheartedly believe that the most important thing is that you're active. If you're the type of person who wants to do your own thing, or gets overwhelmed then great. But I think definitely programme is helpful.
Q: Is there a certain freedom that comes with moving your body?
KW: I truly believe that we all need to be connected to our bodies. No matter what it is that you're passionate about, like maybe you're an artist, a singer, or an investment banker, if you are exercising at least like three to five times a week, you will be better in whatever it is that you're passionate about. We're all human beings, we all have bodies, and we all have health. Our decisions and how we choose to live day to day life affects our health. So being connected to yourself physically, I think is imperative for everyone. It is the most basic form of self care.