Sonya Lovell – Healing mind, body and spirit after cancer

Meet Sonya Lovell

Born in the South Island of NZ, I’ve lived in Australia for 30+ years. Happily married to Paul who I met when I was 20, wow that’s a long time! We have been blessed with two amazing children, or I should say young men, who are 20 and 18. Both still living at home with us as they start to carve out their own careers and lives.

What business are you currently running?

Personal Training + Female Health and Performance Coaching – programs delivered online and in person.

Assuming you are now in “Your Next Chapter”, what led you here? Was there an internal discontent or an external issue you felt strongly about that prompted a change in direction?

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in May 2017. From discovering a small lump in my breast during a regular self-check-in the shower to being wheeled into surgery, in 2 weeks. Followed by 7 months of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy. By the end of 2017 I was bald, in enforced menopause, and physically and emotionally exhausted. I was 47 and felt like I was 97.

What did you find most challenging about getting started/moving in a new direction?

No one prepared me for the fact that it would take another 3 years of healing my mind, body, and spirit to feel strong enough to even start thinking about what my next chapter would or could be. The idea to return to my previous career of Personal Training began as a little niggle in the back of my mind, like an itch that persisted and persisted until I paid it enough attention. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

My physical body had changed significantly as a result of the toll the previous 4 years had taken on me, I wasn’t lean. fit little energiser bunny I once was bouncing around in activewear all day without a care in the world. And this was really hard for me to reconcile and come to terms with. I questioned who would want to hire a PT or coach that, in my eyes, didn’t look like a PT. I never doubted that I had the skills, the knowledge, the experience, and the business smarts to relaunch my career but it took a number of months to build the confidence and get past the fact that my physical appearance didn’t match what I (wrongly) believed defined a successful PT.

What have you found most fulfilling?

The incredible response that I’ve had from every single woman I’ve worked with since relaunching.

I’ve formed beautiful friendships, watched women achieve outstanding results that aren’t always fitness-based. I have had the privilege to witness women in their mid-life become more comfortable with and in their bodies. To know I’ve provided a safe space where they are encouraged to talk openly about their own fears and doubts and to ask questions about why their body has changed, to talk about what they’ve experienced through perimenopause and menopause. There are important health topics that need to be talked about more openly with women in their mid-life, unfortunately, we’re not there yet as a society or even an industry, but I like to think that I’m a part of the growing wave of fitness and health professionals that are changing this.

Have you experienced self-doubt? What causes it to flare and how do you work through it when it hits?

I constantly experienced self-doubt as I made the decision to relaunch my career. The first FB post that I published announcing my business doors were open and pitching for clients I treated like a bit of a joke. Like – oh well, I might as well put it out there at least that way I can say I tried. And then when I got bombarded with inquiries and booked clients in for trial sessions etc, I honestly thought oh well, let’s see if they come back once they’ve actually met me. And in some ways, this flippant approach worked for me rather than against me. Every little step I took forward, that unexpectedly turned out to be successful, encouraged me to give it a go and take another one.

I’ve begun to lean back into a healthier mindset now, so when the doubts start to rise I get curious about why. Why is that doubt coming up for me now? What triggered it? What does it really mean? Is it just some fear-driven part of my sub-conscience trying to keep me safe or is it valid? And if this process of self-analysis doesn’t work, I have an incredible team of supporters, from my husband, friends, and coaches, that I can bounce things off and sanity check.

How do you feel you have grown since you started?

In so many ways. My confidence, as a woman in her mid-life with scars and experiences I never thought I would have, has grown tenfold. I’m incredibly happy, I know that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing and that is making a difference in the lives of other women. For the first time in a long time, I know that I am more than my cancer diagnosis, more than a survivor.

Have you developed any particular habits/strategies that facilitate getting things done in your business?

Just tenacity. I know what needs to be done, I make a list, I prioritise and I do. It’s that simple.

Why do you feel women in the 40’s and beyond make fabulous entrepreneurs?

Life experience!

Most women in their 40’s have been married or in long-term relationships, had children, left careers, changed careers, lost loved ones, supported friends and family through their own challenges. We give so much of ourselves in our 20’s and 30’s but we also gain so much without really realising it. Women in their 40’s and beyond are resilient, have zigged and zagged their whole lives, honed their ability to empathise, to juggle, to problem solve, and to achieve. The perfect skills to make a fabulous entrepreneur!

What would you say to other women who are standing on the edge of their own Next Chapter, not sure if they can take the leap?

If you don’t feel you can take a leap, then take a teeny tiny step forward. It can be as simple as dipping a toe in the water to test out the temperature, if that feels comfortable then taking another small step, before you know it you might just have travelled the same distance that previously felt so scary!

I also like to flip the question too…. what cost do you pay if you don’t take that small step or the leap? If it means you’re still standing on the edge in 5 years time, are you OK with that?

What’s next for you? Share your vision with us!

Right now I’m up-levelling my nutrition and women’s health certifications and updating my coaching skills. I’m also working on developing an individualised online nutrition and workout program specifically for women who want to feel healthy and strong.


When I’m facing something new and challenging I…
get excited to see what I can achieve and learn.
I know my greatest strengths are…
empathy, communication, positivity, and resilience
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…
When you’re continuing to tune into yourself, leading with compassion for yourself, staying curious about how things feel without judgement, you are going to nail it.
Some of my favourite books are…
there are too many!!!!!|
My favourite podcasts are…
Bang On, anything from Wondery, Alan Cumming’s Shelves
My favourite business tool or resource is…
My favourite quote is…
This too will pass.
Not many people know that I…
have 4 tattoos!


You can connect with Sonya here.

Therese Bince

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