Aug 20, 2019 By: Kirsty Petrides
If you’re into health and wellbeing, chances are you’ve heard of Amanda Bisk. But what you may not know is that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for this Western Australian fitness icon.
t a time when most toddlers are still developing basic coordination, Amanda Bisk was already developing into a gymnastics whizz, a sport she threw herself into at the tender age of three.
By primary school, although she had become too tall for gymnastics (a sport that typically favours more petite body types) her sport teachers were noticing she had become quite the powerhouse at explosive sports. When it came to sprinting, hurdling and high jumping, this youngster from Spearwood was unstoppable.
As she got older, she fell even more in love with competition and training hard, and eagerly sat in front of her family TV watching the Olympics knowing that was it, that was her dream – to one day represent Australia at an Olympic Games.
In her final year of high school, she caught the attention of the WA Institute of Sport who put her into the state’s high jump team. However, while training at WAIS, she caught a glimpse of the pole vaulters and knew that’s where she wanted to be. Although at 18 she was traditionally too old to start pole vaulting (12 is the ideal age) she convinced the coach to give her a go.
And after six years of training as a WAIS pole vaulter, she was off to the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
“After the Delhi Commonwealth Games, my next step was to make the London Olympic team,” Bisk says.
“But when I returned from Delhi, for some reason I just couldn’t get back into training. I was constantly exhausted, unwell and unable to tolerate any physical activity.
“I halved my training load and slept for about 10 hours a night, yet I was still feeling exhausted and would wake up even more tired than I was when I had gone to bed. When I did push myself to train, I couldn’t recover from sessions. I was continuously sick and had no mental focus or stamina.
“I had always been the athlete. I had always been so excited and driven for every training session, so to then be dreading even the thought of training meant I knew something was wrong.”
In 2011 Bisk was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a condition that affects approximately one per cent of the Australian population. The condition is much more prevalent in women than men, with 70 per cent of sufferers unable to work and 25 per cent being completely house or bed-bound.
The symptoms for Chronic Fatigue can vary, but in Bisk’s case they were fairly typical.
“As much as I didn’t want to, I had to stop training. At the time, I thought it would just be temporary, but it wasn’t – that was officially my retirement from sport. I just couldn’t ever fight my way back.”
Giving up on a dream is something many people can relate to. But giving up on a dream that is so close you can almost touch it, and one that you’ve battled against the odds for – too tall for gymnastics, too old to start pole vaulting – is a particularly tough pill to swallow.
“I felt like my identity and my purpose was suddenly taken away,” Bisk explains.
“For months I couldn’t even visit the track. I couldn’t see my coach or have anything to do with sport. I think that was my way of coping. I took all my focus and put it towards getting healthy again. I saw naturopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors and psychologists. That’s where I really started to learn about nutrition, recovery and mental health.
“But it ended up taking me about three years to start feeling somewhat normal again.”
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Despite this life-changing and career-ending diagnosis, Bisk didn’t let it get the better of her. Once recovered, she threw herself into better understanding health, and has come out the other side with a new career and a new perspective.
“If I’d had a smooth road to the Olympics and my athletic career went as planned, it would have been amazing but I wouldn’t have the same appreciation of wellbeing as I do now."
"Although it was a really difficult time, I don’t regret what happened," Bisk admits.
Once recovered from Chronic Fatigue, Bisk set about becoming a qualified exercise physiologist, sport scientist, personal trainer, elite athletics coach, gymnastics coach, cross-fit coach and yoga instructor.That’s quite a mouthful, so what exactly does she say she does for a living?
“I usually say is I run a fitness and health company which provides yoga and workout classes, primarily through an app called Fresh Body Fit Mind,” Bisk says.
Fresh Body Fit Mind is Bisk’s online business which she runs with her partner Adam and currently has more 100,000 app downloads. Bisk promotes the service through her Instagram platform which has garnered roughly 730,000 followers since launching, and has seen her flown all over the world to destinations like Greece, Indonesia and the Maldives to run Active Escapes, her own fitness events.
“My favourite part of my job is seeing people achieve. Whether it be a specific exercise, a new yoga pose or a healthy habit, seeing people develop a passion and commit to a goal is so inspiring.”
Against all the odds, Bisk now has a fulfilling career doing what she loves. And while there is no cure for Chronic Fatigue, Bisk maintains it is possible to develop techniques that can help manage symptoms and live a life that is rich and rewarding.
“Chronic Fatigue will always be something I deal with. For me, I know that good nutrition, balanced exercise and training, enough physical rest and mental health is key.
“My advice for dealing with a hardship or a curveball is just knowing that things will get better. It’s in our hardest times that we find direction to live with purpose. Ride the wave and know that a positive mind will attract positive outcomes.
“Find one positive thing that you can do for yourself, it doesn’t matter how small it may be, and do it. It’s about small wins, every day.”
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