Sydona Birmingham steps into fitness after a battle with illness
Sydona Birmingham thrived on authenticity growing up, enjoying the sound of dirt under her shoes and the feeling of wind caressing her face. But as she got older, life happened and fitness took a back burner. That was until she grew ill in 2015, gaining weight in the process. A gym membership and personal trainer later, Birmingham got into the best shape of her adult life and stepped into her calling as a fitness coach.
“I fell in love with fitness again. I felt better both mentally and physically and lost 20 pounds in the process. I not only regained my health, but I also acquired fitness as a lifestyle by facing that challenge,” she told The Gleaner.
The journey was by no means easy. Once a gym lover, she had to quit after being diagnosed with fibroids and an ovarian cyst and stopped going. But the process and progress of pushing beyond physical and mental limits were certainly worth it, “I was 200 pounds and now, I am 180. I don’t weigh myself any more. I don’t let the scale determine my health. If I feel great, and I’m doing the best I can to stay healthy, no scale can change that.”
A firm believer that health is wealth, she believes that to truly be healthy, the mind, body, and spirit must all be in alignment. “My mental health was my biggest motivation, so I turned to the gym to do the work. I struggled with self-esteem, but fitness changed that for me. I showed up every day, even when it was hard. I pushed past my own insecurities and the detrimental negative self-talk, those lies you tell yourself to talk yourself out of having to show up for yourself that day. In other words, the fear of succeeding,” she revealed.
Birmingham admitted that before her mission, she found herself comparing her body to those of other women. “My fitness trek has taught me how to not only love myself but to appreciate my body for what it does, not how it looks,” she said adding. “There is no perfect body. We are all unique and beautiful in our way, and so is our fitness journey.”
Not only was she able to transform her own life, but she took those triumphs and lessons learned to help others to optimum wellness as well. Her mother is the real inspiration behind this positive push.
After witnessing her daughter’s transformation, her mother also changed her diet, incorporating exercise into her routine. This greatly assisted in stabilising her mother’s blood pressure and making her less dependent on medications. Birmingham was happy to witness that in her own family, and it now became her new-found desire to provide these results as a fitness coach.
With an interest in training and nutrition, she realised that 2019 was a good year to pursue her dream. So she signed up for the National Academy of Sports Medicine Elite training programme and hasn’t looked back since.
“Becoming a fitness coach is by far the best part of my journey. The joy I feel is immeasurable, when my client successfully heals themselves from chronic illnesses, all by making healthier lifestyle choices,” she shared.
She started Botanic Fitness, where she provides nutritional tools and tips on how to incorporate exercise routines in a fun, easy, and effective way. “It has been a beautiful journey and one that I take great pride in being a part of. I share as much information and content as I can on my platform to encourage people to prioritise their health by making it a lifestyle, not a chore. It is a blessing when someone reaches out to me to let me know that I motivated them to stay on their journey, that’s the only motivation I need to continue.”
Bringing the party to the workout, she understands that not everyone has the time, based on their busy schedule, to fit in an hour-long session, so there are 30-minute and 45-minute slots available. During COVID-19, when depression was at an all-time high, she began incorporating step aerobics into the mix.
“I always found step aerobics interesting and was inspired by an aerobics trainer on Instagram, so I decided to get a stepper and learn the basics. I couldn’t stop! I was stepping back into fitness! I decided to share it with others who needed that extra push like I so desperately needed,” she enthused.
Although fun is a key factor, safety is just as important “Many of my clients have muscle compensations, therefore, I can’t incorporate exercises that add too much stress that will cause injuries. A lot of my clients have past knee and ankle injuries as well. So, I have to be mindful of how their body works to design a programme that is effective for their needs.”
Noting that fitness is a marathon and not a sprint, Birmingham provides a few health and fitness tips for persons struggling to lose weight.
1. Do what you love to stay active. If you like dancing, dance away for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week if you’re just starting.
2. Don’t go to the gym if you don’t like it. You don’t need a gym to work out. You don’t need weights either. Just your body weight is enough. Get creative and take it one step at a time.
3. Don’t starve yourself to lose weight. That’s the worst thing you can do to your body. Your body needs nutrients to function. Ultimately, you will give into hunger and binge eat because you’ve been starving yourself for so long! Instead, cut back on portions, and eat smaller meals throughout the day that include protein and lots of veggies.
4. If you don’t like veggies, make a smoothie instead. Vegetables help you lose weight, so find ways to incorporate them into your diet. Try pairing them with foods you enjoy eating. For example, if you like chicken, make a yummy chicken salad! Jazz it up a bit!
5. Cook more. Meal prepping helps you stay on track, so pick a day or two to cook in bulk, pop it in the freezer, and grab it and go. Eating out less helps you monitor what you consume.