Active NAtion

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Local Hero: Romana

We think you’ll agree that Ramona Mulligan, from Chorley, is a true inspiration and a fantastic ambassador for the Active Nation charity. Ramona shares her story below to inspire others to lead more active lifestyles. Keep up the great work Ramona!

In 2009 I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes after becoming very ill over Christmas. I had been working around the clock as a successful Recruitment Consultant, not realising that I had put my own health and well being on the back burner. I weighed 17.5 stone/111.2 kilos/245 pounds, and my BMI was 41. I was size 20-22, which was classed as obese. The results of a blood glucose test I had taken at Chorley Hospital confirmed I was Insulin Resistant and Pre-Diabetic – I was devastated!

Here I am before I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

I immediately changed my eating habits by cutting down my portion sizes, 1/2 the plate was vegetables (salad or steamed veg) 1/4 was protein (lean meat) and 1/4 was carbohydrates (potato, rice etc). I cut out sweets and alcohol, and I walked the dog every day with my husband, Kirk, but I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I lost a stone after changing my eating habits, and was feeling hopeful that I could beat the risk of Diabetes.

But then I received my shock diagnosis after getting my most recent lab results from my Nurse. I told her, I didn’t want to die this way. I had moved to England from California for a 2nd chance at happiness. I was devastated as I had lost a close friend to diabetes and heart disease, and that I had nearly lost my mother to a diabetic coma several months earlier. I didn’t even know she had diabetes or that I was at risk. My wonderful Nurse grabbed hold of me and said, “You don’t have to die this way, Ramona. All you have to do is change your eating habits and become more active, and you can still live a long, healthy and happy life”.

This was a pivotal moment for me. I immediately took ownership of my health. There was a notice “Are you overweight or obese? Do you have Diabetes? Then why not join “Activity for Life?”. This grabbed my attention, and I spoke to my Nurse about it. She arranged for me to meet with an NHS Nurse at Active Nation Chorley. There she gave me a consultation, weighed and measured me and then put me on a 12 week exercise programme. If I decided to continue my membership, I would benefit from reduced membership fees. I completed my 12 week programme, and the weight kept falling off. I joined the gym, and went every weekend without fail. I didn’t want to over commit and go during the week as I knew that my job would consume my time. So I kept taking daily walks, eating nutritiously and working out every weekend. I also took a Diabetes education course called DESMOND, which was a full day course on the importance of eating the right foods and staying active.

It was also in June 2009 that I met Sebastian Coe at a networking event in Bolton. I asked him during a Q&A session what we could do as individuals to make London 2012 a success He said “Volunteer, volunteer for your local community, help the youth, promote sport, and if you ever get the chance, become a Gamesmaker. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’ll never forget it!! I was so inspired by his advice, that I immediately joined Bolton Lads & Girls Club, the UK’s largest youth organisation, and held a series of workshops to help the youth get into work. I also started fundraising for them which helped me get more active. I participated in the Three Towers Walk, which was a 23 mile trek starting at Peel Tower in Ramsbottom, walking to Darwen Tower, and finishing at Houghton Tower. My second challenge was The Great Manchester Run in 2012 just before I became a Gamesmaker for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. . I said I couldn’t run, but that I would walk the event for them. When I got to the 9th kilometre I asked myself, “I wonder what it feels like to run?” So I ran the last kilometre and came in with a giant teddy bear! I decided I would run it the following year from start to finish.

I was so inspired by London 2012 that I decided to start running, and found out about Parkrun.

In August 2013, they opened a local Parkrun at my home park, Cuerden Valley. I live 1.5 miles from the start! I had run and power walked Great Manchester Run in May 2013, so was keen to do a 5K run every week. By this time, I had lost 7.5 stone (49 kilos) over 100 pounds.

When I first joined Active Nation, and was setting up my profile on the treadmill, it automatically defaulted to 70 kg, I was over 100 kg at that time. So, I set 70 kg as my goal! I decided that in order for me to stay committed I would use Clayton Green Sports Centre, as it was just around the corner from my house and I could stick to my routine far more easily. Every week, I was so determined to achieve my goal. I did lots of cardio on the treadmill, rowing machine and elliptical machines, and also did circuit weights. I didn’t ask for a personal trainer because I wanted to do this on my own, but the staff were so friendly, so if I ever needed advice I knew they were there for me. I always received a warm welcome from Tracey Ireland at the front desk, and this inspired me to keep coming back.

In 2014 I applied for a Charity place at Great Manchester Run, because I wanted to give something back. I raised money for them in 2013 after paying for my own place, but I wanted to do it properly this time. When I applied, they asked for my story and why I wanted to be a DUK runner., so I shared my story. The media team at Diabetes UK contacted me and asked if I was willing to share my story to help inspire others to change there eating habits and become more active. I said I would be honoured!

Running the Great Manchester Run felt fantastic.

Since then my story has been shared in local and national newspapers and magazines, and I have made appearances on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio London, and BBC 5 LIVE. I am now a Diabetes Voice and Service Champion, and have made appearances at the Houses of Parliament for the launch of the Richmond Report in 2014 where we asked for the NHS and Government for more support in preventing people from dying young. They shared my story in the report and used my quote “My aim is to inspire others to change their eating habits and become more active, so that we (as a country) can tackle obesity and diabetes.”

In 2016 I appeared in Parliament for the launch of the ‘State of the Nation Report’, where I was asked to share my story and ask MPs and the Government to take ownership, so that programmes like “Activity for Life” and diabetes education, can be made available to everyone in the UK. I received a standing ovation, and a special letter from the CEO of Diabetes UK. I also received the “Inspire Award” from Diabetes UK for Campaigning and Raising Awareness” which was a huge honour.

My work continues as an Ambassador for Diabetes UK, and I am now a Parkrun UK Champion for Diabetes, where I work within a special team to make Parkrun more accessible to people living with Diabetes.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Active Nation Chorley for working in partnership with the NHS and making “Activity for Life” available to me. It completely transformed my life and taught me the importance of staying active for the rest of my life. I have maintained my weight loss for almost 4 years now by regularly attending the gym, running 112 Parkruns, 10 half marathons, hundreds of 5K,/10K/lakeland trail races with my running club, and my first full marathon. I have such a wonderful sense of achievement, and it continually inspires me to give something back through volunteering.

I hope anyone out there who may be struggling with their weight, or health condition, can find hope and inspiration in my story. Never give up. Always BELIEVE that if you set your mind to something, you CAN and WILL achieve it!!

Please join me by committing to “Activity for Life” through Active Nation, parkrun, cycling, anything that you can do for 30-60 minutes a day will improve your health.

I would like to be a “Champion for Active Nation” and support everyone out there to be more active.

If Ramona’s story has inspired you to be more active, start by downloading a FREE 7 day sport and exercise pass and enjoy unlimited Gym, Swimming and Exercise Classes.

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