Community Spotlight – Clara Davies

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Clara Davies, who has been a part of the See Change community practically since day one (that’s 6 years!).

I remember when I started working as a trainer at See Change I felt a little intimidated by her. She took on every challenge thrown at her, and always with a smile.
She made being fit and healthy look look very easy.
The thing is though, in the last four years of getting to know Clara I have learnt that just like you and me, she has dealt with her fair share of struggles.
It’s been amazing getting to know her as the welcoming, generous and positive person that she is.
In this interview Clara talks about why fitness is so important to her, finding motivation to exercise with a high stress job and dealing with injuries.
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What prompted you to start your fitness journey, and why is fitness so important to you now?

I have always struggled with my weight.  I was an overweight child and teen.  Even so, I loved sports and I remained very active.  I participated in a range of team sports throughout my younger years – AFL, football/soccer, basketball, baseball and volleyball.  I played squash, badminton, tennis, anything really.

My siblings and I were very involved in Little Athletics.  The events that I excelled at were shot put and discus throwing.  I always remained active, even despite having childhood asthma and being overweight, but I never really considered myself to be “fit” – I didn’t have the mindset that sport was exercise even though it actually was.

When I started tertiary studies and then full-time work I didn’t seem to have time to play sports anymore and “exercise” as I knew it was lost to me for some time.

My fitness journey properly commenced approximately 10 years ago.  It was at a time when circumstances in my life, more particularly an emotional upheaval, led me to drop several kilograms without any effort.  At this time I realised that I was lacking balance in my life.  I was working very hard and doing little else.  I felt good about losing the few kilos and this led to me developing a determination to “make a real effort” to reintroduce some activity in my life – I had been missing exercise for too long.

I started by walking everyday.  A 20 minute daily walk progressed to an hour a day which then progressed to running and before I knew it I was running 12 kilometres a day and swimming several kilometres on weekends.  Over a period of time I dropped a total of 25 kilograms.

In time, I became bored with the solo exercise and I sought a change to keep me interested and motivated.  Six years ago I came to See Change and I found an environment that was stimulating, motivating, friendly and fun.  I have loved the variety offered – cardio, circuit, strength, boxing, bootcamp and the list goes on.

Now exercise, and more importantly fitness, has become a key priority for me.  It adds balance to my life.  Without that, I would not function as effectively and efficiently in other areas of my life such a my career, relationships, friendships and other recreational and leisure pursuits.

What is something that not many people know about you?

I suspect several of the things that I mentioned above – that I have always struggled with my weight, that fitness was not always a big part of my life, etc.  However, the one thing I don’t think most people would know is that I had to choose between a professional sporting career and a career in the law when I was 17.

Up to that stage I had experienced quite a lot of success with my athletics.  I was Victorian Champion in shot put and discus throwing, held no less than six Victorian records (a couple of which I believe still remain to the present time), I had represented Victoria at National Championships and was ranked third in Australia. I was on track to represent Australia at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

However, at age 17 I had to make a decision between training full-time or commencing tertiary studies.  I chose tertiary studies because I knew a sporting career would be short lived.  I also knew that field events were not high profile and without sponsorship deals or media engagements having a successful long-term career in my sport was highly unlikely.  Therefore, I chose to pursue tertiary studies.  I made a practical decision.  I love being a lawyer and I don’t for a moment regret my decision although human nature is to wonder what might have been.

Of your achievements in fitness and/or life, what are you most proud of?

The thing I am most proud of is my career.  I have worked hard but I have also been very fortunate.  Everyday, I am entrusted with the most intimate personal details of my client’s lives at often their lowest point.  My clients do this in the hope that I might be able to restore some order to their lives and the lives of their families – to return them to normality.  And in light of being shown this trust, I have been able to ease the burden for many and to assist many who have been very seriously injured to move forward beyond injury to a different but nonetheless highly fulfilling life.

My work has also made me realise that life is fragile and it is so much more about the giving than anything else.  Over the past five years in particular, I have been involved in many exciting projects assisting, supporting and providing opportunities for those with spinal cord injuries and other debilitating conditions.

One such project was an Australian first – the development of a first of type Easy Access Basket (EAB) for a hot air balloon.  The EAB provides less able-bodied individuals the opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon.  Being an actual aircraft the EAB required approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).  This was obtained and it has been flying for a couple of years now.  In 2014 my partner and I received the Victorian Disability Services Sector Award in the category of Business Giving to Community for this initiative.  That was very special but even more special are the smiles on the faces of those passengers who are able to use the basket and take to the air for the very first time.

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Focus on ‘your journey’!  When you work out where you want your journey to take you and what is most important to you, you will embrace it fully. 

What motivates you when you are not in the mood for exercise?

When I am not in the mood for exercise my greatest motivation is to know that by engaging in exercise my mood will be improved and I will feel better about a whole range of other things.

When I have had a long day at work and I am feeling tired I know that that feeling won’t disappear by going home and sitting on the couch, but it will disappear within 10 minutes of being in the gym. And I will go home afterwards with more energy.  On the weekend, I instinctively know that getting out and doing some form of exercise will make me feel that I have been productive; it will make me feel better about myself.  This drives to do things when I might not otherwise feel like it.  I don’t want to feel that I have been idle and wasteful.

What do you love about training at See Change?

Everything!

I love the fact that See Change is not a gym.  The environment is in no way “gymlike”.  There are no show ponies, no pretentious snobs, no muscle bound meatheads – just real people.  Just amazing, down to earth trainers and training buddies who are as much about having fun (and sometimes moreso) as they are about exercising.  See Change attracts good people!

There is also so much variety in terms of what is offered.  This has kept me motivated and stimulated for more than six years now.

I think of See Change like Cheers – instead of the bar where everyone knows your name, it is the training studio where everyone knows your name.

How did you find motivation to continue training after your shoulder surgery?

When I suffered my shoulder injury it was one of the most frustrating times of my life.  I had had niggling injuries previously but I always trained through – despite advice to the contrary.  Without question, my shoulder injury was the most acute injury I had ever suffered.  It did stop me from doing many of the things I wanted to do.  As such, I immediately had it investigated and explored treatment options.  I was told I needed surgery (an AC joint reconstruction) but it was just about timing.  I could limit what I did and hold off on surgery or I could bite the bullet. I bit the bullet.  I wanted it fixed so I could resume my normal training as quickly as possible.

I had the surgery.  I was told what I couldn’t do during the recovery phases.  For the first time in my life I actually listened and behaved myself in terms of not doing certain things.  However, I wasn’t going to stop altogether because I didn’t want to lose all condition post-operatively.

My motivation was to maintain my fitness as much as possible so that once I could start using my shoulder again I would just be rebuilding that and not everything else at the same time.  Within a week of surgery I was back to the studio with my arm in a sling and doing what I could minus the use of my left wing.

I did ditch the sling three weeks earlier than recommended but I still didn’t use my arm.  Once the appropriate time passed I started to reuse my arm but did so with a real consciousness of what my body was telling me.  The slightest twinge with any particular activity meant that I immediately ceased that activity and waited a week or so before retrying.  I was using two and three kilogram weights to begin with instead of the eight and ten kilograms I was accustomed to.  Slowly but surely, I got back to normal activities and six months on I am back to doing everything without any restriction or limitation.

Many fellow see changers are inspired by your dedication, the incredible hard work you put into every session and your awesome positive vibe. Do you have any words of wisdom for them?

Focus on ‘your journey’!  When you work out where you want your journey to take you and what is most important to you, you will embrace it fully.  Once you do that you will do it well and that will motivate others to also strive to achieve their goals.

Thanks to Clara for being so candid in sharing her story!
If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment below. We would love to hear your stories! 

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One Response to Community Spotlight – Clara Davies

  1. Shelley Milligan March 16, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Very impressed Zoe and Clara. Clara you are very impressive and inspirational.

    I haven’t been back to see change in a long time but miss it. It was a great fun to work out there.

    Take Care

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