Interview: Q&A With Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor LJ of Wildcat Fitness
I caught up with West-London based female PT and Fitness Instructor LJ, to find out more about how to she achieves the purr-fect lean, strong, toned body and how she stays full of energy, the Wildcat way!
1. Why and how did you become a personal trainer? Why is a healthy lifestyle so important to you?
I previously worked in media and although I loved fitness I couldn’t seem to make time for the gym - my diet consisted of rich client dinners and unhealthy ‘on the run’ snacks. I was relying on caffeine and sugar to keep me going through my long days. I was permanently tired, lacking energy and I couldn’t lose weight. I decided to hire a Personal Trainer and within 6 months had lost a a stone and a half, dropped two dress sizes and was bouncing out of bed in the mornings. My PT turned my life around! I knew then I wanted to help other people in the same way.
I started out as a fitness instructor - teaching Body Pump and Body Attack in gyms across London part-time around my day job.
However, working with people to help them reach their goals was so satisfying that I decided to leave my office job to devote myself full-time to health and fitness. Feeling as I do now - healthy and energised and at the size I want to be - I just can’t imagine feeling any other way and so therefore a healthy lifestyle is always my top priority. I have never looked back!
2. How important is diet when training? Are abs really made in the kitchen?
That is a phrase you hear all the time in the media - but with good reason - Yes, it is true. You really can’t out-exercise a bad diet, and no matter how hard you train. But I feel the word “diet” is a negative one as people often associate it with starving themselves, which is also a bad thing when living an active lifestyle. You need to fuel your body both with energy for your workouts and your recovery period afterwards. It sometimes shocks my clients when I tell them they need to eat more! But as long as you are eating the right foods for your activity levels you really don’t have to starve yourself. It’s all about moderation.
3. What is your philosophy on food and cooking?
Generally I follow the 80/20 rule - eating as healthily as possible 80% of the time, but allowing for “real life” too - you can’t escape birthday parties, holidays or other social occasions where there is likely to be foods and drinks you wouldn’t ordinarily have. But, in moderation these really aren’t going to do you much harm - I just spend a little longer in the gym the next day! It’s only when these things become the norm that we start to have a problem. I try to be realistic in my approach - if you control every mouthful, every calorie and feel hungry and miserable most of the time then the minute temptation is in front of you bad things will happen - believe me, I have been there! Strict starvation-led diets are not a long term solution and often those who crash diet end up putting the weight they have lost back on, and often even more. Lack of fuel sends the body into starvation mode to protect itself and ultimately does not lead to weight loss, nor does it help with training as your body literally doesn’t have the energy to make it through the workout.
I try to eat as “clean” as possible - eating as much fresh, natural food as I can. Plenty of fish, vegetables, fruit and natural grains.
I make sure I eat plenty of good fats - avocados, nuts, coconut oil, fish etc - as our bodies need fat to digest fat.
I choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons but don’t judge those that do.
4. Do you have any particular diet restrictions?
I try to eat gluten-free as I suffer from IBS which seems to be aggravated by excessive gluten consumption. My digestion functions much better without it and the choice of gluten-free food available is fantastic and not at all restrictive. I choose not to eat meat - but as I said before - that’s an emotional rather than a dietary decision!
5. How would you describe the current clean and healthy living movement? Why do you think is it becoming more and more popular?
I think people are starting to realise how precious their health is - In reality none of us have time to be sick, or functioning at less than full capacity. I do think people are starting to appreciate that what they put in their mouths on a day to day basis has a direct relationship with how they feel. Of course the media has it’s part to play and celebrity culture too - who hasn’t seen snaps of every Hollywood starlet leaving a yoga class in their shades clutching a green juice over the past few months?! This of course has an effect and an influence - but in this case I believe a positive one. Healthier food is more readily available now - before things like gluten or dairy free produce or items like quinoa or coconut oil or flaxseeds were the preserve of dusty health food shops that weren’t “cool” or accessible - now you can find these items in your local supermarket. I do believe social media has helped also - people joke about the inordinate amount of food photos on Instagram, but when you’re sharing your dinner for the world to see, wouldn’t you feel better if it was steamed white fish and asparagus rather than a Dominoes and a milkshake?
6. What are your top pre-exercise snacks to fuel a workout?
I usually have something with a little protein and a little complex carbs to burn to fuel performance - If I’m in a rush that could be a piece of fruit and handful of nuts or some greek yogurt and berries or gluten free rice cakes and sugar-free peanut butter or a home made granola bar with oats, seeds and coconut oil.
7. What are your top post-workout snacks/ meals?
I try to consume some form or protein within 20 minutes of my workout - usually this is in the form of a shake which I make with either coconut or almond milk, or a protein bar (I swear by Quest bars which taste amazing but are gluten free with no refined sugar). If available, then prawns are a great pure protein hit, as is a handful of almonds and brazil nuts.
8. Any nutritional secret weapons?
Stay hydrated! So many people mistake thirst for hunger - If you feel hungry, drink a glass of water. Chances are that will kill the craving. If you don’t like plain water add some citrus slices (lemon or lime are great), or mint leaves, chopped ginger, strawberry and cucumber slices…. whatever takes your fancy. So refreshing!
(See Post: Fruit Infused Water)
I love quinoa too - it’s as versatile as rice but with so much more protein, and chia seeds - especially soaked in coconut milk with some cinnamon and vanilla. The seeds soak up the liquid and create a gorgeous pudding like texture. Guilt-free dessert!
9. What are the most common mistakes that can easily be avoided when trying to keep fit?
Poor technique can be a big barrier to success - lifting weights and lifting weights correctly are two very different things. If you’re not sure if you’re doing something right then ask someone on your gym floor, or book a one off PT session and ask to learn basic exercise techniques.
Repetitive training is also damaging - your body will adapt quickly and your results will plateau. Mix it up - shock your body - it will have to constantly adapt and this will result in increased fitness and stamina in a much shorter time.
Recovery - if you are training hard enough, your body will need a complete break sometimes. I recommend two clear rest days a week. Your body needs time to repair and recover, so that you can come back to your next workout strong and fully fit - this will prevent injuries and allow you to keep pushing your boundaries.
10. What are your three top tips for maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle?
Consistency - don’t start like a bull in a china shop - 6 workouts a week and a 1000 calorie a day diet - you will crash and burn after a couple of weeks. Commit to something you can be consistent with - if that’s only two workouts a week to start with that is still much better than nothing.
Small steps - it might begin with taking the lift instead of the stairs, or walking the last few stops instead of getting the bus all the way home, that might become a 20 minute jog once a week, which might become two circuit classes a week, which might lead to hitting the gym floor to starting weight training, which could become your first marathon. Who knows? The point is, if you start small and make continuous changes that YOU can keep up, then fitness will soon become a part of your lifestyle without you having to “make time” for it. The more you stay active the more energy you have - it’s a positive snowball effect!
Keep it clean in the kitchen - as I said at the start, you can’t out exercise a bad diet - so don’t undo your hard work with “treats” for working out - eat clean as much as you can and you will feel nourished, energised, look leaner and feel much more confident to make healthy choices.
And lastly - I know you only asked for three - but Don’t Give Up! A healthy life is sometimes not the easiest one, but remember, looking great feels great! So don’t be too hard on yourself, forgive the occasional slip up and keep active! You can do it!
Find out more about LJ and Wildcat Fitness at www.wildcatfitness.co.uk