Donegal Woman talks to Linda Gallagher, a Letterkenny woman determined to get fit and to inspire others to join her.
Linda Gallagher has just turned 40, she weighs 24 stone and she is taking on a huge personal challenge.
The Letterkenny woman is determined to walk 5K without having to stop to catch her breath – a mission which all started after a horrifying event last year.
Linda was babysitting her niece and nephew when her four year-old nephew ran away from her. In a life or death situation, Linda had to try and catch him.
“One day, he just made a run for it. I just panicked because he’s autistic and wouldn’t respond to me shouting stop. I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get to him before he got to the main road,” Linda said.
When she got to him, Linda was so out of breath that her niece thought she was dying and started to cry.
“I put that wain’s life in danger because I wasn’t fit enough to run after him. I could never let them see me like that again.”
Catch Your Breath
Just a few weeks after that incident, Linda decided to do something about her lack of fitness. Her sister Sinead put her in contact with trainer Adam Speer at Speer Performance. Adam put his faith in Linda and came up with the Catch Your Breath 5K plan to help her and other people.
A video was recorded to mark the beginning of Linda’s journey, which gained thousands of views on Facebook and affected many people. She has been getting huge amounts of support from people wishing her well.
“I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by all the comments and people coming up to me in the town saying I’m brave. I didn’t think I was being brave at all, but I though when the video was out there I would be expected to do it.”
Linda began the training programme last December, and is already noticing a difference in her breathing. She is already able to do 3K on the treadmill and has lost 10 pounds.
Linda has found a love of rowing, kayaking and boxing in the gym, thriving on the post-exercise buzz.
Adam Speer has taken her for one-on-one training sessions and pushed her to do a little more each day. “I would try to stop a lot longer before Adam would let me. I love it when I achieve a goal and I’m proud of myself for doing a bit more.”
Linda is taking a new approach to life to compliment her newfound energy. “I’m challenging myself all the time now, like parking at the other end of carparks when going to the shops, which is an achievement in itself.”
“When I took my niece and nephew to the local park we only went to the playground before. The last day I said – ‘Come on, we’ll go for a walk’.
“It’s the first time we walked around the park and we loved it. The view from the top was amazing. I couldn’t get over it and I had been going to that park for years. I wouldn’t have even attempted that a couple of months ago.”
Other occasions last year made Linda realise that she needed to do something for her own health, like when her brother in Australia had a baby and she booked a flight out to see him.
“The worry that I might not fit in the airplane seat was a big thing for me. Over in Australia I was aware of my limitations too, I had to get a car because I wouldn’t have been able to walk.
“Now I just want to get fit and enjoy life. I need to keep fit for the wains and my mammy who doesn’t keep well either.”
Linda was a carer but had to leave work because of rheumatoid arthritis. Exercise has since helped the aches and pains in her joints, she said.
“I always said to myself that the arthritis was a reason why I couldn’t exercise. I used to see other people who were overweight and wonder how they could let themselves get like that. Then I realised it was me.”
Linda knows she is not alone and there are many people who are nervous about joining a gym or going to an exercise class.
“Catch Your Breath is for people who could only maybe walk a bit or half a kilometre. Everyone will be at different level and Adam will take it from there. If we all just walk it it will be great.
“Even if you think you’re too unfit to walk into the class, no one will feel out of place. It will be a safe environment for people to feel comfortable. No one will be judging each other, and it will be a bit of craic too.”
Linda can’t wait to meet everyone who has signed up for the programme. With just a few days remaining before day one, she is ready to welcome everyone ready to take their first steps and join along with her journey.
Catch Your Breath 5K begins on Monday, January 9th at Speer Performance Gym, Letterkenny.