5 inspirational women reveal how they finally found the workout that works
Sticking to a fitness plan can be incredibly difficult. A couple of weeks in and motivation levels often wane, with work, stress or the weather putting a dampener on previously good intentions. It’s a journey, but hopefully one that leads to a point where we find our exercise fit - a workout that meets our needs both physically and mentally and one which we can’t wait to get out of bed for. It’s the dream and after reading Lorraine Pascale’s powerful blog post about body acceptance and the sense of empowerment she gained from lifting weights, we thought it could be incredibly inspiring to find out how other successful figures in beauty, wellness and business found their exercises of choice too.
From yoga to boxing to swimming, journalism to PR to financial services, let these stories help fuel your fitness ambitions as much as they've helped fuel ours.
Ruby Warrington aka The Numinous, journalist, author and entrepreneur
“Having had an eating disorder in my teens, now decades healed, exercise had remained a double-edged sword for me - something healthy, that also fed into my distorted thinking about how my body should look. And I can credit yoga with finally laying my body image demons to rest. It’s a little over 15 years since I attended my first Hatha yoga class in a neon-lit rec room in Brixton, London. Then I joined a fancy gym and there was a strenuous Ashtanga phase (if it worked for Madonna …), followed by a pretty serious commitment to the sweat-fest known as Bikram. But I couldn’t find a practice that stuck.
“Back then, I was in it for the same reasons I assumed everybody else was - for the lean, toned limbs, and a few moments of ‘inner peace’ (whatever that meant) on the side. And the fact I wasn’t any good at it (read: couldn’t twist myself into the pretzel shapes you see all over Instagram) made it hard for me to stay motivated. Not to mention the fact it doesn’t exactly torch calories. But my yogic epiphany came when I began to practise at home, where, crucially, there are no mirrors. Where the practice has nothing to do with how my body looks, and is all about how my body feels. As cheesy as it sounds, this simple shift in focus has given me a whole new appreciation for the ‘temple of my soul.’ I could not be more thankful.”
Material Girl, Mystical World by Ruby Warrington (HarperCollins), £12.99, is out now.
Susannah Taylor, Editor-at-Large at Get The Gloss
“When I first got into exercise properly a few years back, I learned about body weight exercise. Body weight exercise is about using your body (and nothing else) to grow in strength and fitness. It’s nothing new – if you think about it, people have been doing press-ups, squats, lunges, planks and burpees forever, but it taught me that you don’t necessarily need a fancy gym or fancy schmanzy equipment to get fit. You just need a mat and your gym kit.
“Most of the exercise I do now involves just body weight. I do a circuit in the gym where I warm up, do push-ups, squats, sprints, lunges, hanging leg raises (although you need a bar for this), high planks, side planks, low planks and core exercises. Sometimes I'll do an EMOM circuit (which stands for Every Minute On the Minute - a form of HIIT) where I do bodyweight exercises for half a minute and recover for the other half for twenty minutes. As for running – I feel a real liberation in this too, and what you never think about is that you are carrying your own body weight when you run too. There is no greater feeling for me than setting off over the fields in Oxfordshire, just me and my trusty Nikes.
“Recently however, nothing has brought home the brilliance of using my own body weight than doing power yoga. Last year I went on a yoga retreat having not done yoga since I was pregnant (9 years). It was a pretty tough time for me and I found yoga calmed my mind and made me mindful about every tiny movement. My favourite thing now is Power Yoga with an amazing teacher I have discovered called Tass Cambitzi who teaches locally to me in Oxfordshire (as well as in London at www.triyoga.co.uk ). Her yoga is Vinyasa so there's a real flow to it but it’s not the type of yoga where you do a few sun salutations, a bit of deep breathing and an Om at the end. No, this is seriously hardcore – many high planks, low planks, one armed planks, headstands, backbends, attempts at handstands – I can be pouring with sweat throughout. As a result, I feel stronger than I have ever felt in my life and way more flexible even though I've always thought of myself as very flexible anyway. Why do I feel it's making me so much stronger? I am often holding my own body weight on just my fingertips or balancing on one foot and there is a huge amount of core involved which as we all know is where strength radiates from. Plus, it works all the little stabiliser muscles constantly (the ones around the big muscles) that I never ever would do if I was just lifting a barbell. I also love the inclusive and non-competitive element of yoga. I still run, go to HIIT classes, box and swim but yoga has become an important part of my week and what’s exciting is that I feel I’m only just beginning. I will master those headstands…”
Alex Heminsley, journalist, author and broadcaster
“My ‘aha!’ moment was my father’s answer to me casually saying I ‘couldn’t run’. He wasn’t even looking at me - he was getting a cup from a cupboard! - when he simply replied ‘It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you don’t’. Within the week I’d committed to running the 2008 London Marathon. The six month training plan slowly saw me get fitter and more confident, and running opened sport up to me more generally…until I ended up taking on five marathons and eventually becoming an open water swimmer too. Being proud of my body for what it can do, not merely what it looks like for others, has been exercise’s greatest gift to me, and the emotional solace that swimming in particular provided me during a difficult couple of years of IVF treatment and then a tricksy pregnancy have been invaluable. Running was a solo project, but swimming has been all about the camaraderie. I needed to find a swimming teacher I clicked with (which I did, at Brighton’s Pool to Pier course) and now I swim with a group off the beach in Hove or at the Pells lido. Some days it’s sets of lengths, hard training for a distance event, and some days it’s taking it slow in the sea to admire the view. I used to be envious of people who seemed ‘effortlessly sporty’ but now I realise that the only difference between them and me was that they were doing it while I wasn’t. These days, I do it.”
Heather Geluk, consultant, PwC; Ambassador, Sherpa Adventure Gear
“I discovered boxing while I was on an expedition climbing the Eiger, a notoriously dangerous 4,000 metre mountain in Switzerland. I was with a friend who was climbing as part of his training in preparation for a white-collar boxing match. He was ridiculously fit and ‘ran’ up the mountain while I huffed-and-puffed behind. When I questioned what he did to maintain such a high level of fitness, he answered ‘boxing.’
“One of my passions is mountain climbing in the Himalayas and I need to be fit - both mentally and physically - to travel to and survive in these far-flung and remote environments. On my friend’s recommendation, I joined a boxing session at the Fitzroy Lodge in London. I was nervous and daunted by the prospect of super-fit superstars throwing punches at me in a ring but it wasn’t long before I realised that I’d found one of the most rewarding, all-round workouts that I’d ever experienced. From a physical perspective, it’s tough and challenging. From a mental perspective, I’m given positive encouragement by other boxers and by the trainers themselves. I push myself through the rotations - learning how to spar, pushing my limits on cardio, rounds of skipping and push-ups and finishing with three rounds on the bags. By the end of the hour, I’m sweaty, exhausted but immensely exhilarated. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back - only onward and upward..!”
Lauren Stevenson, co-founder and director of Aisle 8
“I was introduced to Barry's Bootcamp by a few friends that had done it before and as I'd started the Body Coach programme shortly beforehand, I was looking to focus on HIIT training with weights and cardio as part of it.
“I signed up to Barry's East in Old Street and soon became quite addicted to the 8.20am class with Sonja Moses. Her 'badass' yet encouraging training style, paired with her awesome dance music playlists made me not want to miss a session, despite how hard it was to get up. Don't get me wrong, it’s really tough and I still look in disbelief as people around me who run at 10, 11, 12 speeds while I'm still at 8 or 9 looking like a scared hamster on a wheel! But, there's also the protein shakes...the thought of a Plain Jane shake on the way to work afterwards almost spurs me on!
“The transformation on my body has been incredible - a rapid loss in body fat and clear definition in my stomach and legs that I haven’t seen before. The switch between running and weights makes the classes fly by and there's a real sense of community among the Barry's regulars who all know each other. Plus, it’s a load of fun first thing in the morning.”