City Woman: A real gym for real womenBy Leigh Mencarini
February 22, 2010
How Erica found her real solution
After years of fad diets, Erica Clark finally discovered a way to lose weight and improve her health that worked. She tells LEIGH MENCARINI about when she found a “real gym for real women”
Ever had that conversation with yourself about joining a gym? The one where you find reasons not to?
“I don’t have time to go… I can’t justify the cost… I won’t know anyone there... it’ll be full of fitness fanatics…”
Well there’s a gym in Reading where all those arguments fall quite short.
And Erica Clark, from Tilehurst, is one member who has many more reasons to be delighted she signed up.
Erica, 53, struggled with her weight for more than 20 years. She’d been on numerous diets, from the hard-boiled egg diet to the cabbage soup diet – “you name it and I’ve probably tried it” – as well as various fitness drives, with some success.
But last February she joined Curves at Reading West – “a real gym, for real women” next to the Tesco Extra off Portman Road – and lost 4st.
“A friend of mine had been going to the Curves in Aldershot but at the time there wasn’t one close enough for me,” explains the mum-of-two, a ward clerk at Royal Berkshire Hospital who has lived in Reading all her life.
“I wanted a new start, I was starting a new job, and the Reading West branch opened on January 5. I joined in the February.
“I’d visited other gyms but this was different. Because it’s all female you haven’t got all the posers! If you are larger size, you tend to feel quite
self-conscious, but here it doesn’t matter.”
Combined with a healthy eating plan, Erica soon saw the weight drop off, noticing a difference within a month.
And she soon found her gym workout – based on circuit training, which takes just 30 minutes a day – slotted into her life with no trouble at all.
“I’d come after work,” she explains. “You don’t have to come at certain times so it’s quite flexible.
“I planned to come three times a week but I ended up coming five times because I would get withdrawal symptoms!
“Sometimes you finish work and you feel like you haven’t got the energy, but once I’ve done a workout it actually livens me up. I feel energised.”
It was a pivotal point for Erica, a former Alfred Sutton Girls pupil who says she had always been on the larger size, even as a child. At her biggest, she was 17st and a size 24.
By August of last year, she was down to 9st 7lb, and everyone noticed her hard work had paid off – including Terry, her husband of 32 years, and sons Andrew, 21, and Adam 17, who supported her all the way, as did the gym’s staff.
“It’s like a little family here,” she says.
“I was amazed by how friendly everyone was. It doesn’t matter what age, size or colour you are, and everyone is welcome.
“The encouragement goes a long way. People are always asking how you get on and there’s no-one here trying to outdo the other.”
As well as eating and sleeping better, Erica managed to reduce her blood pressure. It had a knock-on effect in other areas of her life as well as her health.
“I’ve always been quite a friendly person but now I feel like I’ve really come out of my shell,” she says.
“Losing the weight gives you more confidence. I’ve got lots of clothes now and they’re all brighter colours – and I’ve got so many accessories!
“I haven’t lost any weight since August, but people still come up to me to say I’m looking well.
“I can’t imagine ever going back to how things were.”
Erica has found a real community at Curves. The gym holds social events to bring members together, such as ‘Fight Like A Girl’ self defence workshops and pamper evenings.
Last year, a number of the members posed for a charity calendar to raise cash for Sue Ryder Care. Local businesses helped with hairstyling, make-up and donated gorgeous ball gowns for the themed calendar, in which Erica poses as Miss May with a maypole.
Sandy Thompson, club owner of Curves Reading West, says stories like Erica’s are what make running the gym a pleasure.
“It makes our job so satisfying when our members reach their targets,” she says.
“We often say they duck out of the door when they leave because they’re on such a high!
“We have real women here. Mums of all ages, their daughters, we don’t have the ‘Lycra lilies’, it’s just real people.
“These women effectively come alive,” Sandy adds. “They get the confidence they’ve wanted for years.”