Growing up on a stable yard near the Wicklow/Carlow border, Nathalie Lennon was a very active child. Given the area she’s from there were loads of lovely hikes in the hills around her. Also, she was into stage school and dancing.
Without ever explicitly “playing sport”, Nathalie was always moving and getting exercise.
“I was always into movement, you could say. Sport is one thing that I’m not talented at. I tried, I made a holy show of myself in school, every single day we had PE. I’ve always really been into movement. I guess I never saw it as exercise or fitness when I was younger,” Nathalie reflects.
“During my final year of college I really turned to movement, fitness, exercise a lot more for my mental headspace, as well as my physical health and helping my concentration.
“I think why I love it so much is because it was a huge part of my life without me realising how important exercise is for our health. It was just something I did and I enjoyed. I’ve said it a few times, it was never ‘I have to do it’ it was ‘I get to do it’. That made it much more enjoyable.
Having a passion for the outdoors, after secondary school Nathalie studied earth science in Trinity College Dublin (TCD). But there was actually another passion Nathalie actually wanted to pursue, fitness and nutrition. However, she changed courses related to fitness and nutrition out of her CAO selection at the last minute, listening to people who told her she wouldn’t get a job in this industry.
By the time she had finished college, Nathalie was even more certain she wanted a career in fitness. And so straight out of her degree she undertook a personal trainer (PT) course, after some time then she went on to study health and nutrition coaching.
Nathalie worked in a gym for three years, leaving because her own PT business was gaining a lot of traction.
The girl who once thought she wouldn’t make it in the industry, now has a bustling fitness and nutrition coaching business, as well as a large following online.
“If there’s anything to take from that, reading between the lines, it’s believe in yourself. Believe in what your gut is telling you to do, because it will probably pop its head back up down the line,” Nathalie says pragmatically of her career choices.
Feel good, look good
We all remember the messages put out there over the years with regard to body image and weight loss; the magazines that bashed celebrities for their bodies or the “lose X amount of weight by Christmas” courses.
Nathalie, however, is part of the new age fitness craze; what could be described as the antidote to diet-culture. She’s a coach that supports long-term, sustainable changes and never quick fixes.
“At the beginning, like anyone who qualifies as a PT, you think your main goal is to help people to lose weight or get “toned”. But it’s not. Yes, the physical aspect of exercise is so important. We do need to be conscious of our weight at times, but it’s more so about how you feel,” Nathalie explains.
“Are you enjoying it? Are you confident because you can hike the mountain or confident because you can fit into the dress? OK, it may be both, but what’s more important is that you maybe detach your worth from exactly what you look like and put your worth in what you can do and where your body can take you. Have confidence in how you treat your body and not just how you look.
“Over the years I have gone through my own struggles with it. Now bringing that message to the forefront is so important. To get people to realise, you are making this choice to exercise so that you feel good. It’s feel good, look good. Not the other way around. People often confuse that.”
What you experience yourself, Nathalie feels, very much influences your message as a PT. Nathalie is very big on training for the correct reasons and treating your body with respect, because that wasn’t always the case for her.
Nathalie previously suffered hypothalamic amenorrhea (the loss of your menstrual cycle) due to a combination of undereating and overtraining. Now fully recovered, she is very passionate about getting the message out there about women minding their bodies while training.
This year she has teamed up with Active Ireland as the female ambassador for National Fitness Day, taking place 23 September. As well as promoting the benefits of physical activity she also wants to encourage women to be mindful of their bodies and hormones while training.
“I’m finally back at a place where everything is regular and normal. I’m so happy to have it that way, but I think there needs to be more support and information out there in Ireland about women and training; training around your menstrual cycle, understanding your hormones and the importance of the menstrual cycle.
“It’s something I hope to do a lot more of over the next few months, because there is no one in Ireland really speaking about it at the moment. There is in other countries, but not here, maybe because it’s a bit taboo. But it shouldn’t be, because it’s a really important aspect of our health and movement as well.”
Although movement was always part of her life, for someone who once didn’t believe she could succeed in the fitness industry, Nathalie is certainly making waves and breaking ground.
Nathalie Lennon has teamed up with Ireland Active as an ambassador for National Fitness Day 2021. It takes place on 23 September and is supported by Sport Ireland, Healthy Ireland and the European Commission, with the common goal of promoting the benefits of physical activity. For more information visit nationalfitnessday.ie