Woman told she may not live to 40 to take on Letchworth fitness challenge to celebrate milestone

Julie Morris Smith (R) is aiming to complete 25 fitness classes in seven days with the help of instr

Julie Morris Smith (R) is aiming to complete 25 fitness classes in seven days with the help of instructor Ben Harvey (L) - Credit: Archant

A woman who was told she may not live to see her 40th birthday is celebrating reaching the milestone with a charity fitness challenge.

Julie Morris Smith, of Baldock Lane in Willian, will be taking part in 25 fitness classes at Nuffield Health, Letchworth GC, in the seven days leading up to her 40th birthday on Tuesday, February 18.

Julie said: “I am celebrating my birthday in this way because since the age of 15 I have suffered with an eating disorder. I was anorexic for about eight years and self-harmed from the age of 25 until 34. I developed a dependence to drugs in an attempt to lose more weight and to try to function properly while not eating. I went into an acute psychiatric clinic to detox in 2009 and it was then that I was told if I didn’t change my lifestyle I wouldn’t live to see my 40th birthday.

“I then went to the same clinic to detox from alcohol 18 months later and in September 2010 I felt my life completely turned around. My husband, Jonathan, was my rock through my darkest times and I wouldn’t be here if I’d not had the unconditional support he gave me.”

Ben Harvey of New Leaf Personal Training will be taking all of the classes at Nuffield Health, where Julie has been a member for eight years.

The 25 classes consist of body pump (five), body combat (five), spin (four), high intensity interval training (three), legs, bums and tums aerobics (three), aqua aerobics, dance aerobics, bootcamp, express abs and purestretch.

She will be taking on the challenge to raise money for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), a charity she has supported for 15 years.

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Julie added: “Given I wouldn’t celebrate my big day by going to the pub, eating loads of birthday cake or having a big party like most people would, my preference is to try to help animals, which are my passion.

“I will be pushed outside my comfort zone in a positive way for once, and in doing so will raise money for a very deserving cause. Ben and the staff at Nuffield have been an enormous help both in my recovery – physically and mentally – and also in my five week training period for the challenge, I’m extremely grateful to them all.

“I support many animal welfare campaign groups and it is horrifying images from footage published by these groups which motivates me to get through this challenge. I have a choice to stop if I want to, the animals don’t. And no matter how hard I push myself, my pain will never be as bad as theirs.”

To sponsor Julie visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/juliemorrissmith

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