Reclaiming Strength and Confidence: A Journey of Resilience with 23W's Spring Into Action Challenge Winner, Denise H

By Ange Drake

Meet Denise H, a dedicated member of our 23W community who triumphed in our Spring Into Action Challenge. In this inspiring interview, she shares her 15-month journey with us, recounting the challenges she faced, the goals she set, and the remarkable results she achieved. From finding herself, learning to fuel her body properly to conquering fitness milestones, Denise exemplifies the power of perseverance and the importance of self-care, offering valuable insights for all parents looking to prioritise their well-being.

Discover how she not only found herself again but also found a supportive community at 23W that uplifts and empowers one another on their fitness journeys. Plus, get a sneak peek into her future goals and aspirations.

Way to go Denise!

How long have you been working with 23W?

15 months.

What got you started on this journey?

Fitness has always been a very important part of my life but after having a baby it felt really hard to get back into it as I had no time and was constantly exhausted. 23W offering a childminder made getting back into training possible.

What was your biggest challenge at the start?

I was absolutely getting in my own way. I was comparing myself to the old me and struggling to come to terms with the new me that had less time to train, and was functioning on less than optimal sleep. Trying to balance solo parenting with full time work and also getting fit felt incredibly challenging.

What was your initial goal?

My goal was to feel comfortable in my skin again and to feel like myself again and be more than just ‘mum’. If I could fit into some of my old clothes again that would be a bonus and to even be half as fit as I used to be.

What result did you achieve?

I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life, at the lifting party I benched 60kg which blew me away. I’m finally making progress on deadlifts and squats, which I’ve always felt were just something my body couldn’t do. My old clothes are back on me and I think they fit me even better now, and maybe just maybe there’s even a very small booty growing, which is my next goal!

How have you changed?

I eat more! Yep, I eat more food. Instead of finding ways to make meals smaller I find ways to make them bigger, I add in extra egg whites to my scrambled eggs, add yogurt to my fruit salad and don’t let myself get hungry. In the past I would try so hard to eat only 1500 calories that I would cave at the end of the day and snack uncontrollably. By adding way more calories at the start of the day and aiming for 1800 – 1900 calories, by the time night times comes along I’m full and not needing any extra snacks than the ones I’d already planned for.

What was your biggest challenge going through the process?

Not getting disheartened and giving up when things didn’t go to plan. Well, I sort of did do that and took some time away, but then came back with a completely different mindset, so perhaps that time away was what I needed.

What were your biggest learnings?

Don’t be afraid of food, it’s there to fuel you and you cannot grow muscles without it.

How would you describe your journey?

In short, like i’ve found myself again

What was it like working with the 23W and the other girls in the community?

I’m very lucky that my sister is also at 23W who has been my training partner forever and it’s so fun having that constant healthy competition with her. I love how strong everyone is at 23W and how encouraging. We all cheer just as loud for someone squatting a PB of 20kg or 100kg. The coaches are so knowledgeable and each one brings something new to the table.

What’s next for you?

My friends have convinced me to take part in a team swim from Safety Beach to Sorrento which will be a 6km swim without stopping, so that’s my big goal. Strength wise I’m really excited to build up my legs and get my lower body to catch up with my upper body.

Anything else?

It’s so important as a mum to find time for yourself, and 23W is what keeps my mental health on track. Every time I get stronger or fitter it gives me a confidence boost that then goes on to help me in every area of my life.


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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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