A grandmother has shed three stone and cured herself of arthritis by doing Thai kickboxing four times a week.
Sharon Garner, 62, suffered with stiff joints, depression and weighed 11st 12 before she took up the martial art in October 2013.
Three years on, the 5ft2 pensioner and gran of eight trains an impressive four times a week for 90 minutes at a time – and is fitter than she’s ever been.
She’s lost 2st.12, taking her to 9st, dropped three dress sizes from a 16 to a 10, and says the sport has even helped manage her arthritis and beat depression, reports The Herald .
Sharon, who trains at Touchgloves Gym in Connor Downs, Cornwall and is the oldest there by “around 20 years”, said: “I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and feel amazing.
“My age doesn’t hold me back at all, I can hold my own in the ring.”
Sharon said that in August 2013, before taking up the sport, she was in a ‘bad place’ due to struggles with depression and painful arthritis.
She would spend ‘all day crying’ and believes her illnesses made her live an ‘unhealthy and sluggish lifestyle’.
She explained: “I felt so low and used food as a comfort.
“On a typical day I would eat three slices of toast for breakfast, egg, bacon and chips for lunch and a roast dinner followed by a pudding at night.”
The gran to Reece, 22, Alicia, 18, Anezka, 14, Jamie, 14, Ben, 12, and Armani, 6, Aishia, 3, and Nylah, who’s eight months old, hit 11st.12 and a size 16 by September 2013.
That month, Sharon’s son Carl, 43, who was a Thai kickboxing champion at 16, and daughter Naomi, 41, urged her to take up the sport at a club in Marmaris, Turkey, where she was spending the summer.
She said: “I was nervous that everyone would be really fit or that they’d laugh at me. I knew I’d be older and slower than everyone.
“But instantly I was welcomed into the gym, and took the punches and kicking at my own pace.
“Watching my strength and flexibility gradually improve was quite amazing and inspired me to keep going.”
Sharon worked out three times a week and dropped 10lb in three months.
In November 2013 she returned to the UK and joined Touchglove Gym under the instruction of former champ and trainer Nathan Kitchen.
She explained: “By then I knew the basics so I was confident coming into the club, even though I must have been about 20 years older than the next eldest member.
“When I pulled out my jabs and roundhouse kicks they were all shocked.
“But Nathan was so supportive, he saw how serious I was about training and took me under his wing.”
The gran upped her training to four times a week, varying between circuits, bag work, sit-ups and press-ups for up to 90 minutes a time.
Between sessions, she’d go on five-mile runs and even bought a mini-trampoline to do fitness sessions at home.
From time to time she also jumped into to the ring to spar with fellow younger gym-goers.
Sharon reveals her family ‘could not be more supportive’ of her new hobby.
She recalled: “My husband, children and grandkids were all for it, they had seen me when I was overweight and depressed and couldn’t believe the change kickboxing brought about in me.
“They know that when I put my mind to something I do it, and they are so proud and impressed.
“They joked that I was the fittest in the family, despite my age.”
As she became more serious about her training, Sharon overhauled her diet, ditching unhealthy food in favour of juices, porridge, salmon and fruit.
Encouraged by her progress, this year Sharon created a Facebook profile called ‘Thai Kickboxing Gran’ and started posting videos of her training sessions.
She explained: “I wanted to inspire people and show them you’re never too old to be held back.
“You can lose confidence in yourself as you get older and I wanted to show others my age that if I can do it, so can they.
“As I racked up followers lots of people messaged me to tell me I was inspiring.
“Other grandparents and pensioners said I’d inspired them to take up exercise or a new hobby too, which is amazing.”
So far she has not been graded in martial arts, but she hopes to compete in the ring next year.
What’s more, Sharon also says that doing high kicks, jogging and dodging has made her arthritis less painful.
“The benefits have been endless,” she said. “Sparring in the gym is also really good for endorphins and stress-relief which has helped me combat depression.”
This month she hit her current weight of 9st and a size 10 – and tells how, next year, she plans to become ‘even more toned’.
She added: “I’m proof that anyone at any age can turn their life around.”