International Women’s Day holds a special place in my heart. On this day we recognize and celebrate the achievements women have made across many fields. We listen to the stories and struggles of those who have come before us and use them as lessons to grow from. I was a little anxious, but excited when Gymshark reached out to me about telling my story, as not many people knew what I was going through. Everyone has a story to tell, and this is mine.
My name is Alana Jones. I'm 22 and from the United States in Orange County, California. Science, the arts, and athletics have always been passions of mine. In May of 2017, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in genetics and biotechnology along with a certificate in creative writing. I was a Division I track and cross-country athlete at my university, but still found time to work on a genetics research project elucidating novel genes responsible for cleft lip and palate. Currently, I am a high school track coach, and plan to attend graduate school to receive my Master’s in Fine Arts for poetry. After, I plan to apply to medical school to ultimately become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Although I competed in both cross-country and track, track was my favourite sport. Track work was beautiful. The rhythmic cadence of my metal spikes on the rubber surface was my meditation. I planned my races and I raced my plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan for my collegiate career to be plagued by injury. I spent more hours rehabilitating my hip in the pool than I did running. In October 2016 of my senior year, the familiar searing electric pain had returned. It radiated from my back all the way to my ankle. I soon learned a previous hip injury of mine had not healed, and I would be unable to compete my last year of track. I was completely heartbroken. I felt like I had lost my purpose.
For nearly ten years, competitive running was large part of my identity. In high school, I was one of the top 30 female distance runners in the United States and aspired to become an All-American athlete in college. Graduating from college in May was bittersweet because it meant abandoning my dream of becoming an All-American. It was hard to leave friends and a city I had grown to love over the past four years and return to California feeling unaccomplished. Upon returning to California, I spiraled into a deep depression and started to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. I couldn’t get myself to eat, would rarely leave my bed, and there were often days I wouldn’t even set foot outside. In June, at my worst, I weighed 103 pounds. Part of me knew I had to change and escape this vicious cycle, but I was too embarrassed to leave my house for very long, let alone go to the gym. My hair was falling out and you could count my ribs. It was the lowest point in my journey and I was so ashamed of how thin I let myself become.
In September, I decided to start taking care of myself and purchase a gym membership. The first three days were rough. I wore my old, now baggy workout clothes. It hurt to see my reflection in the many mirrors of the gym and after those first three days, I didn’t return for a month. Part of what inspired me to come back was finding the Gymshark Instagram. I was happy to discover such a wonderful community of strong women. I felt like part of the Gymshark family when I was able to share my progress and encourage others with their journeys.
I also loved watching Karina Elle’s videos. She brings so much joy and positivity to the gym and it was nice to learn she was also a former runner. I wanted to try her workouts and I thought the form fitting Gymshark apparel looked great. My first Gymshark purchase was the seamless black crop top, and my favorite moment was trying on it on for the first time. I held back happy tears when I saw my reflection. When I put that top on, I felt like an athlete again. It not only covered my biggest insecurities, but I felt like my old self. I was no longer shy in the gym as my new outfit made me feel confident.
I slowly started to make new friends and build a wonderful support group. Instead of hiding in the corners of the gym, I would spend hours talking and laughing with others as I worked out. After a few months of consistent training, and more importantly eating, I was able to gain 10 pounds. I had joy in my life again. Another piece of what helped me get back to my old self was starting my first coaching job. It made me happy to help others and serve as a role model for young women interested in the sport.
I had found a new bit of happiness in my life, but something felt like it was missing. I was training again but had no definite goal. I reached out to my former high school coach for advice. We talked, and I decided that if my health permits, I want to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials. The 2020 USA trials are special to me as they will be held at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
I have many fond memories of racing there in high school and hope to make more. I know I will never have the chance to compete again collegiately and have come to terms with it. Now I look forward to further improving my strength in the gym and my speed on the track. I cherish my opportunity to coach the girls’ distance team. I hope to help them overcome the obstacles they face as athletes and to treat one another with kindness and respect. It has been humbling for me to watch my athletes reach their goals and grow into the future women of the world.
Through coaching others and myself, I have learned that we are all candles. In life we can either put out each other’s flames or spread the light. I was close to burning out, but the love and support of my friends and family rekindled me.
Follow Alana on Instagram, right here!
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