Cover Athlete: Mel Hagn

After spiraling down with postpartum and vertigo, built herself back up,
with patience

Written by Stephanie Kewin
Photography by Paul Buceta

Makeup by Monica Kalra

Hair by Laura Christine Clark

As a newcomer to Canada, trainer and nutrition coach Mel Hagn underestimated the harsh reality that is winter in Quebec, and didn’t quite anticipate the toll having her first child during gloomy, grey January days in Montreal would take on her. As she says, “It was dark. Inside my mind and out.” So, this momma who found fitness later in life (according to Mel, she was never much for fitness or sports growing up) joined a mommy fitness group to elevate her spirits, and her fitness. And it did. Except, she had to learn how to manage a different kind of lingering gloom. Mel says, “I got hit by vertigo attacks, part of a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease I had gotten years earlier. It started slowly, with unannounced episodes of dizziness, hours of vomiting, and needing a day to recover. I did manage to ignore it for a while and keep things at bay with medications and some physio treatments and plowed on with my training.

“Fitness and the support of other like-minded women I met online 

or at the gym helped me become my own person."

At some point during one of the lockdowns, though, it became unbearable—two attacks per week…” So, Mel found a chiro specializing in the upper cervical spine and discovered that the vertigo was related to tension through her shoulder and jaw. Mel says, “As a trainer, I knew this meant I had to step back and start from scratch. I went from snatching a 44-pound kettlebell to bodyweight, elastics, and three-pound weights. I felt so weak and sad. But I knew this had to be done. I worked on the basics—stability, form, and posture—and slowly built my way back up to being stronger, until I was ready to lift heavier again, which I decided not to do by myself but under the supervision of [another] trainer.” Enter Team STRONG Girls Head Coach Jaclyn Phillips. 

Mel’s new approach to fitness? She makes it work for her, not the other way around. “Fitness now fits into my life. I am not trying to cram my life into fitness. I usually have four weekly workouts; I train at home before the kids go to school or swing by the gym after school drop-off. I move my workouts around when things come up—which they always do. Meal prep is vital to my family’s survival, and I prepare as much as possible.” On gradually reinventing herself and her transformational journey through fitness, Mel says, “I don’t even think I am the same person. I was a total pushover and insecure, worrying too much about what others thought about me. I was scared to speak up. I was afraid to be the center of attention. I was even hiding a little. I was trying so hard to be skinny. Now, I realize I was trying to take less space with my body in the world. I was making myself weak.” But not anymore. Now, Mel knows her worth. And it’s crystal clear. “Fitness and the support of other like-minded women I met online or at the gym helped me become my own person. [Now], I realize my potential and what I have to offer to the world.” The message she’d give to her younger self? (Hint: It’s awesome.) “Believe in yourself—and please eat carbs.” 

Get STRONG(er) with Mel Hagn