This week, we are delighted to introduce the fourth feature in our ‘Inspirational Women’ series.
Our interview this Thursday was with Zoe Macaulay, a.k.a Macfit. Zoe became a personal trainer after struggling for years with poor mental health and unhealthy lifestyle habits. The inspiration for change initially came from running a half marathon – which she never believed possible. Zoe was able to turn her life around, and she has only gone from strength to strength.
Zoe in Elena in Petrol Blue Silk
She has many titles to her name, and recently qualified as a globally accredited ‘Life Coach.’ Her goal is to motivate and inspire individuals to reach their full potential through fitness, meditation and breathing exercises. She works so hard every day, trying to grow her brand, whilst being a mother to two girls. She has also recently established the ‘Macfit Method.’ (Curious? Read below). This whirlwind never stops.
In the interview, we wanted to find out how Zoe stays motivated and how she celebrates her wins. She has been through the toughest of times, yet she is still fighting. She is a true inspiration and it was a pleasure to take the time to speak to her.
Q - You are just incredible. We would love to know a bit about your story...
A - 7 years ago, I changed my life completely. I was in a very dark place – I’d smoked for years, I drank (a lot), I was struggling as a solo parent and I was trying to manage the acrimonious break-down of my marriage 3 years previously. I had little self-worth, I feared rejection, I didn’t believe in myself, I put other people’s opinions over my own, I didn’t speak up, I had no idea what being true to myself even meant. I didn’t believe I deserved happiness and I certainly didn’t love myself, BUT I knew deep down that life could be better. So without thinking about it, or what it would entail, I signed up to run a half marathon for a local Edinburgh mental health charity the @joshuanolanfoundation, never having ran in my life. I had no idea of the ripple effect that this one positive decision would have and how it would change life as I knew it.
I had committed. I took the steps I needed in order to achieve my goal and in just 12 short weeks, I stopped smoking, started training, raised over £1k for charity and ran my first ever half marathon in May 2014… and I have never looked back.
For the first time in my life I believed in myself and knew that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to. However after running the half marathon, I hit a brick wall where my fitness was concerned. The initial high and endorphins of the achievement eased, and at that point things took a turn for the worst with my ex-husband. I was at a real low point with my mental health but it was also a real turning point and I decided to sign up with a PT. I suppose because I already knew that I could challenge myself physically and I knew how good I had felt, I think I was chasing that feeling. Signing up with the PT was one of the best decisions that I’ve made. I initially signed up for a 6 week block but continued with that PT for almost 2 years, whilst I got my first qualification and even right up until I started Macfit. I stuck with it because I was becoming aware of the positive impact that fitness was having on all aspects of my life and for the first time, I felt like I was being a good and positive role model for my two girls. I was getting stronger, fitter, faster and I knew that before this I had only just been surviving. I wasn’t quite thriving yet but I was definitely heading in the right direction. Baby steps and stepping stones…
It wasn’t straight away, I think it was just over a year from the beginning of my fitness journey when I knew that I wanted to support and empower others to feel the same as I did, to get that buzz and natural high from fitness but also the sense of achievement that comes with it. From doing something you once thought impossible like exercising outdoors, to being part of a community and ultimately feeling fitter and stronger, both physically and emotionally.
I went on to qualify as a fitness instructor and then later as Personal Trainer. In September 2016 I set up Macfit Edinburgh which runs outdoor, all year, all weather fitness classes. When I started Macfit, I was hugely naive, I just went for it with no business knowledge or plan, just a burning desire to make it work. This was a bit like when I signed up for the half marathon, I didn’t really know what I was doing but I just knew that it felt right and I had faith that it would all fall into place. In all honesty, I’ve been winging it ever since and I am constantly adapting to the worlds ever-changing environment, but I am able to be authentically ME and be true to my core values.
In the last 3 years I have also qualified as a globally accredited ‘Life Coach’ and have trained as a teacher in meditation and transformational breath work. I am currently building and growing the Macfit brand. During lockdown I created the Macfit Method - A 6 week transformational coaching journey. It is a holistic approach to health and fitness and I am so excited to be launching the programme in late spring.
My vision is to inspire, support, encourage, motivate and empower as many as I can to love, honour, respect and accept themselves for their wonderful selves.
Q - Can you tell us about your life achievements to date?
A - I have to say that I am pretty good at recognising my achievements, but not so good at celebrating them or really feeling them – I am working on it though. I know that I definitely suffer from imposter syndrome at times. I have however, really loved answering these questions as it’s made me reflect on what I am up to right now, where it all started and my vision going forward.
Right now, I’d say a big achievement is solo parenting my 2 teenage girls through a global pandemic, whilst adapting and growing my business. I am also keeping focused on creating my vision for the future.
Creating Macfit and the Macfit Community is a HUGE achievement and blows my mind on a daily basis. I have to pinch myself at times when I think of what I have created, but obviously every member plays their part in making the community what it is. I feel so proud and very grateful to be part of a such an inclusive, supportive, encouraging, safe and non-judgemental community. Team Macfit really does rock in my opinion.
I have now run numerous half marathons and a couple of full marathons – all in aid of the charity I chose when I started my journey, The Joshua Nolan Foundation. In 2017, after my own cousin lost his life to suicide, I set myself a bigger goal and set about raising £10k for the JNF in my cousins name. In 2018 I ran The Edinburgh Marathon, The Stirling, Mhor 84 and Glasgow half marathons and with the help of the Macfit Community, I reached the £10k goal.
My girls Ayla aged 13 and Orla 17 are my biggest achievement and whilst they drive me crazy at times, I am so proud of them. Even though they are mortified by all my crazy adventures, I am very proud to know that I am a positive role model to them.
Q - How do you celebrate your wins?
A - I am working on this because I don’t actually take the time to celebrate but I do recognise how far I’ve come and I might treat myself to little things - like an Elena jacket! I've also got my eye on a paddle board which will enable me to go on more adventures.
Q - How do you deal with the losses?
A - I see losses as learning. I believe that you have to try something to see if it works, if it doesn’t, try something else and learn from it.
Q - Did you always know that you wanted to be a fitness ‘queen'?
A - The answer would be NO. I played ice hockey as a teenager and did sports at school but that was my lot. I feel very honoured to be called a ‘queen’ but I actually don’t see myself as that, I am just doing what I love and am passionate about.
Q - What do you love most about your job?
A - The community and who I get to work with on a daily basis with the energy and support that comes from that. I am living my passion and get to do what I love. I love that I get to go on a journey with people and I LOVE seeing people achieve things that they never thought possible, that feeling is amazing. I know it’s a cliche but I never feel like I am working.
Q - What is your personal story? How have you gotten to where you are today?
A - I may have written too much for question 1 oops… I have elaborated and answered this question there.
Q - How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
A - Balance - What’s that? Ha! I have to say that at times I find this pretty tricky but through creating time for me and having a morning routine it helps to create an inner calm on a day-to-day basis. I start every day with mediation and gratitude practice. This is non-negotiable!
Q - How are you coping with lockdown?
A - I’ve had ups and downs like most people but on the whole it’s been ok. I have completely lost it at times and despaired at the situation. I have felt helpless sometimes where my girls are concerned, not being able to make it better for them. Back at the beginning, I wrote in my journal what I thought would get me through the difficult times (remember back when we thought lockdown was a 3 week measure!!). These things were… love, acceptance, gratitude, hope, meditation, fitness, community and getting outdoors. And on reflection, one year later that is exactly what did get me through.
Q - How do you motivate yourself? Whether that is during a really tough run, juggling work or having to cook a meal for the family at the end of a long lockdown day?
A - I do not feel motivated all of the time but it comes back to self-care and acceptance of what you can achieve by not putting pressure on yourself. I’ve got better at that this in the last year and find I am much kinder to myself and the expectations that I put on myself.
Sometimes I go all out and plan the weekly shopping and meals, sometimes we have take-aways because that makes life easier and sometimes this is where I find balance.
I try and enlist others to join me on long runs/challenges, as it’s definitely easier with company, especially now and especially as I am on my own. I’m pretty proactive at making sure I walk, run or meet up with friends as often as possible.
Q - What are your coping strategies?
A - Meditation, exercise, running, walking, wine, audible, catching up with friends or with my mum on FaceTime (she lives on Skye so I’ve only seen her once in a full year)
Q - Who has inspired you and why?
A - I am inspired by so many people but especially by those who are passionate about what they do, who take risks and leaps of faith. I am inspired by people who are working through their own problems and continue showing up, empowering and supporting others. I am inspired by people who take on physical and endurance challenges. I am inspired by my good friend Lynette Gray who has played a huge part in my self-development journey. I am inspired by you Antoinette, I love the vision, ethics and values behind Beira. I am inspired by my friend Laura Nolan who started the Joshua Nolan Foundation after her son took his own life. I am inspired by my grandmothers, one who is almost 98 years young and has lived a full and colourful life and the other who died when I was 23 but was a rebel of her time, she certainly did it her way!