Teresa’s lesser known story is the inspirational journey she has been on, from ‘Weight Loss to Weight Lifting’, and a diagnosis at the age of 11 of an extremely rare form of a degenerative spinal condition which left her facing certain paralysis within 4 years, unless surgery was attempted.

At the age of 11, Teresa was diagnosed with from a rare form of spinal disorder called Spondylolisthesis, one of only 2 people in Europe known to have the disorder at that time.  Rapidly, Teresa’s condition worsened, resulting in her vertebrae collapsing together and pelvis displacing.  Teresa’s mother was made aware that Teresa would face the certainty of full body paralysis by 15 years of age unless 2 corrective surgeries were attempted, otherwise the outlook was full paralysis within 4 years.  With such poor prognosis, her mother took the decision to consent to the operations.  Teresa required full body rehabilitation post-surgery, and subsequently she spent 4 months in hospital with her torso encased in a bodycast and her legs in traction.  As a result, Teresa was required to completely relearn to walk.  

Upon her return to school, Teresa suffered bullying given her new physical challenges which gave her lifelong confidence problems.  Describing herself as inward and shy, Teresa struggled to make new friends and left school at the age of 15, starting her family as a young parent at 16.  She went on to have 5 more children and during this time found herself  in a cycle of gaining and losing weight through slimming groups, ultimately wearing clothes size 24 at her largest.  She felt miserable and depressed with her body, and struggled to find clothes to fit -which added to her lack of self-confidence.   

Returning once again to a local weight loss group, she lost 3 stone and joined aerobics in the Shantallow Community Centre which she enjoyed but found tough initially.  After taking some time out to have her 5th child, on her return she found that Aerobics had changed to Zumba and she instantly fell in love with it as it combined her love of dancing and music. 

Through her love of exercise, Teresa continued to gain control of her weight problem, attending different classes throughout the city Monday-Friday and found her mental health improved to an extent which she could come off her medication for lifelong depression. Her weight loss story culminated when, with a 91lb weight loss she took part in a live Fitness Competition under the Transformation category. 

Theresa’s pivotal moment came, when eventually her desire to inspire and support other women gave her the determination to try and overcome her confidence issues and set up her own Zumba classes.   With the help of her friends who as a birthday present paid for her training, she became an qualified Zumba Instructor at the age of 40.   

Over time, she built up her own group in Shantallow Community Centre, and has now extended to Creggan, Skeoge the Waterside and she has increased her portfolio of services.   Teresa also achieved her first official qualification also at the age of 40 when she gained her Level 2 Fitness Diploma and is currently about to complete her Level 3 Personal Training, something she is incredibly proud of.  Teresa’s motto is ‘Never think there’s anything you can’t do, everything is achievable and you will get there’ and she is certainly a shining example of that. 



What is most the rewarding part of your job?

For me, it’s seeing people enjoy themselves at my classes and watching their health improve. Eventually I would like to support clients with GP referrals and help their mobility improve, which is close to my heart given my own challenges when I was younger.

You are a mother and a grandmother, how do you break it all down and handle everything?

I try to be there for everyone, and that might leave me with little ‘me’ time but I am lucky that my classes give me the break I need.  My daughter Danielle is my personal assistant, unpaid of course and she helps me organise everything. I have three young children still at home and my grandchildren are with me sometimes so It can be hectic but being self-employed helps me work around my family.

What’s the most challenging thing for you about being a working mother?

Without a doubt its finding time to study towards gaining my Level 3.  With the demands of children and work, anything not very urgent can get pushed to the back so I have to prioritise that when I can.  

What are your hobbies?

I love dancing and exercising.  I always felt like a bit of an outsider growing up and didn’t falll into any ‘in-crowd’ but fitness and exercise have been where I found where I belong, which has really helped my self-esteem.  My favourite thing to do when I’m not training or with family, is to get together with my friends Paula and Orla. 

What’s been the most embarrassing thing to happen to you?

I’d like to say it was that one time I had a blank moment in class, but they still happen! My groups are well used to it.

Name one thing people don’t know about you? 

I am incredibly shy, sometimes so much I would get shy in a shop I’ve never been in before but when I am in front of my class and the music is on, something happens and I can be a confident, outgoing woman for an hour.  I love watching my class members come out of their shells too, week after week.

What is the best compliment you have ever received?

The best thing I can hear is that I am good at what I do.  I love my job so much that to hear I am doing it well makes me so happy and proud.

Who is your role-model or person you aspired to be?

I didn’t feel inspired by anyone when I was younger, but when I met Daniel O’Doherty and he introduced me to fitness I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do and he showed me a way to deal with clients that was professional and how he motivates people is so special .  Also Therese Lynch, who always went further and above and beyond when you were at her classes, if you missed a few she was always checking in with you to make sure you were ok, and genuinely cared.

Do you have any advice for someone who is aspiring to be as successful as you?

Take the first step, and don’t be afraid to fail.  Eventually you will get there if you are determined, you just have to dust off the knocks and try again.