It's January and thoughts turn to New Year Resolutions of being a fitter, healthier and all-round better person.
Yes, exercise can support weight loss. And yes, exercise ticks the box of making us fitter.
But it can be so much more than that besides. 
To try and turn the new year fitness narrative on its head, The Herald is speaking to people who are using exercise to make their dreams come true and to support active living into old age.

The normal order of things is that I'm making the interviewee sweat with some carefully chosen questions.

Not so Stacey Somerville. Ahead of our sit down at her gym in Glasgow's west end I've taken part in a session of F45 - a high intensity interval training class run over 45 minutes.

There is sweat running down my back and it's a good thing Stacey is a gab because I don't have the breath left in me to speak.

It's clearly Stacey's high energy and determination that have led her to where she is now, having left a six figure salary to take up minimum wage work while grafting to open her studio.

F45 changed her life, she says, and now she wants to use the Australian fitness method to change the lives of others.

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Having grown up in Glasgow's east end, Stacey moved to Australia, where she lived for five years, and was invited along to a class in Melbourne by a friend.

"After one day I was addicted to it," Stacey said. "My friend lasted a week and I got addicted to it to the point where I ended up moving house to be closer to my gym because I just loved it.

"The next day I thought I'd had a stroke because I couldn't move. I thought, 'I can't go back to this, this is agony,' but the trainer persuaded me to go back and that was it.

"It gave me so much confidence.

"When I would go into a property meeting and I was sitting with a bunch of guys, I wouldn't feel undermined cos I would feel strong in my own self because I was building my own strength."

Stacey would get up at 4.30am every morning, five days a week, to go to class and keep up the regime at the weekends too. 

It was the sense of community at the F45 sessions - class members are paired up and work closely with personal trainers - and the quick fitness progress she saw that kept her going. 

On return to Scotland in 2018, Stacey missed F45 desperately until a friend made a comment on her Facebook page.

READ MORE: The Glasgow personal trainers working with clients aged up to 100

She said: "She said to me, 'When am I coming to your F45 when I come to Scotland?'

"I've got a copy of the comment. I thought, 'I have got property experience, I've got so much passion for the brand.'

"That comment changed my life."

Stacey's background in accountancy and property management were vital in helping her set up her own business but she had no clue about the fitness industry. 

By her own telling, she was never "the smartest girl in the class" but at school she had drive and was determined to meet her goal of becoming a chartered accountant.  

Despite thinking the job would be her passion, she said: "I thought, 'I can't look at this spreadsheet for the next 40 years of my life.'

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"I'm too much of a people person and for me there was too much routine around that in terms of same tasks each week, each month, each year.

"So I then fell into property and did that for 14 years, which I loved, but opening my own studio became my dream." 

Stacey had to find financing, sweet talk banks into believing her plans were viable and, crucially, find the right location.

One space she had her heart set on, in Glasgow city centre was taken by another F45 franchisee, who opened Scotland first F45 gym a year before Stacey.

She said: "It was gutting but Michael just had more money than me - and everything happens for a reason. I couldn't imagine not being in the west end now." 

Stacey was about to sign a lease on a second property when covid lockdown hit and she lost both time and money on that building.

The lockdown also caused delays to opening the business but, undeterred, she started her group fitness classes first in Kelvingrove Park and then in Partick Bowling Club.

Stacey said: "I think if we didn't go through that journey, we might not have had the strong community we have right now.

"That's why I can help members push outside their comfort zone because they have seen me push myself outside the comfort zone.

"They have very much seen me push through barrier after barrier after barrier and not walk away.

READ MORE: Scottish Ballet's adult classes are helping adults find their inner child

"And multiple times I could have walked away."

Two days before the first scheduled class in the new studio and the council had still not approved the building.

It was a high stress moment for Stacey who felt she couldn't pull the plug on the launch event and take her members back to the bowling club.

"I was here in tears," Stacey said. "I kept saying to the council, this has been going on for months and months - we need this approved."

The Spirit of Christmas must have moved the powers that be because the building was duly approved for opening the day before Christmas Eve ... at 5pm.

At 6pm that same night the approval came in from F45 and the studio was able to open for its first class on December 24. 

Stacey added: "It was amazing cos our OGs [original members] all turned up.

"We had a full class with Christmas decorations on, with Christmas songs on, and it was the best feeling in the world.

"From there, this past year has been the best year of my life. 

"We have got the best community and I have seem some people in the past 12 months get some phenomenal results, not just in terms of weight loss or building lean muscle mass but in terms of hitting their own personal goals."

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In February the studio will launch a mother and babies group, an important focus for the studio where the membership is around 70% female.

Stacey and her staff have supported several women through pregnancy and post-birth and it inspired her to set up a dedicated class. 

She said: "One of our members trained right through her pregnancy and seeing her in here with a sports bra her bump doing a burpee and lifting weights just blew my mind and she inspired us to do our mum and baby classes."

Stacey also plans to become a specialist in how the menopause affects women's fitness training and wants her studio to become a "safe space" for discussion on the issue.

After stepping back from her corporate job, Stacey worked in children's units - and continues to do so as she has developed strong relationships with some of the young people and wants to continue to support them.

As well as running her business she also works shifts in the home and one of her other plans is to specialise in fitness training for children and young people. 

She said: "Unfortunately, we are an obese country and part of the solution to that is working with kids in a safe environment and empowering them to take control of their health and fitness. 

"There is so much pressure on social media for young people to look a certain way, or dress a certain way or be a certain way - so this is not about that, it's about health."

In Australia Stacey volunteered on a mentoring programme for young people and sees this as a continuation of that work too.  

She has given talks in schools about resilience and what it takes to achieve success, whatever that means to the individual young person. 

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The 39-year-old added: "Sometimes you go into schools and do these things and it puts a light bulb in them, helps them broaden their horizons." 

There are plans too to work with homelessness charities in 2024 with a view to having free weekly sessions and donated fitness clothing for people experiencing homelessness. 

Stacey also mentions a plan to walk from Glasgow to London, completing F45 sessions at studios along the way.

It's exactly the sort of thing you can imagine her doing too - overly generous, a bit bonkers, but completed with huge enthusiasm. 

Stacey said: "If you're not happy, well, you've got a bloody long life to live and retirement age is going to be so much further away for our generation.

"I had to make a lot of sacrifices.

"I went from a six figure salary to minimum wage, but it's a sacrifice that I was willing to make to be in a job that I loved.

"Generally I couldn't give two monkeys about money - I'd do this job for nothing because I love it - and everyone should be doing what they love."