From that moment on, Caroline caught the exercise bug and didn’t really stop until she completed the Iron Man competition in Busselton, Western Australia, in December 2011.
“Unfortunately after I completed it,” Caroline told The Phuket News while sipping on a smoothie at the Sumalee Muay Thai gym canteen, “I kind of let myself go.”
The 51-year-old paediatric emergency nurse was speaking during a break between her morning session and private one-on-one session with Thai boxing superstar Deackkalon ‘Oron’ Sor Sumalee.
“There’s so many women who come to Phuket for boob jobs and things like that, but I think there is another way for women to feel good about themselves.”
Caroline’s rather unorthodox method of feeling good about herself often involves pushing her body to the limits, which regularly results in numerous bruises to her body and making herself physically sick.
“I feel absolutely pumped after I finish, and when I have bruises I show them to people like they are trophies. It shows that it’s been a good day,” she said.
She’s aware that some may not deem her choice of exercise as suitable or appropriate for a woman her age, and this was one of the reasons she decided to travel to Thailand to take part in a month-long intensive Muay Thai course.
“Where else can I go and get a one month course for so little money to work with such professionals? I have to pinch myself sometimes to know that I am training with these kind of guys.
“It’s great here; the trainers don’t care if I am a 51-year-old woman or not, they will treat me just the same. I can’t get that anywhere else, they just don’t take it seriously...” she added.
She admitted that even her work colleagues and family were initially hesitant about her decision to train, but were now fully supportive, “I have three sons, and they all think I’m absolutely crazy, but when I did Iron Man for example they were all so proud and had tears in their eyes.”
Although the main impetus for doing the course is what she refers to as a ‘full body make over’, Caroline is also doing it for its cathartic benefits.
“Back home I have pretty high stress levels, but of course because of that working environment and working with children, I cannot raise my voice or anything like that... It’s very relaxing being able to come here and completely let loose.”
Although Caroline has fully ingratiated herself into the team of fighters and now completes the daily exercise routines with ease, she still cannot stand to actually watch any fights.
“I don’t like watching it. Three of the fighters went to compete the other night at Bangla Boxing Stadium, and I just could not go. I didn’t want to see them get hurt, or see the disappointment on the faces of the losers... maybe I empathise too much.”
That is not necessarily a bad thing, and certainly understandable for a paediatric emergency nurse.
If it came to the crunch though, after watching Caroline wallop and whack the training pads, The Phuket News certainly thinks that she could hold her own in the ring.
“I think I would be more equipped to make the right decision to defend myself or perhaps run away... I suppose I wouldn’t be as afraid or nervous.”
Caroline finishes her training session on September 20, but she is already feeling the benefit physically and mentally, and advises all young women to at least consider doing something similar.
“I think it’s liberating and empowering... The emphasis on women being skinny and not having muscle is not healthy, especially when a woman gets older.”
“As a 51-year-old woman there are things that I am doing now that will stay with me forever, it’s going to have a more lasting and important effect than breasts that stand to attention.”