Ashleigh is a personal trainer who never knew her potential growing up. She talks to Sundried about her journey.
Please tell us about any sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.
I have taken part in the London Marathon twice (2014 and 2018), various 10ks, and the Oxford Half and Grand Union Half. I also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last October and am planning Machu Picchu for 2021. I took my Sundried thermal leggings with me to Africa.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
My senior school was extremely competitive when it came to athletics and sport in general. There were always the golden girls of PE and I believe focus was directed towards furthering their careers as athletes and away from anyone with average capabilities.
I assumed then (and for the 15 years thereafter) that perhaps I wasn't a 'sporty' person and resigned to the fact that I would always be unfit or not 'fit enough' and therefore why train if you can't compete?
I believe the importance of fitness in general was not communicated effectively and PE classes were merely a practice session for upcoming events and inter-county meets. I recall our entire year being kept back for detention as we had finished second (as opposed to our 15 year undefeated first place) and the thought of failure filled me absolute dread. I associated fitness with competition (winning or losing), not the ability to keep oneself healthy physically and mentally.
Then my uncle was diagnosed with Leukaemia, so I took part in a local Race For Life and to my surprise, discovered that I quite enjoyed running and could quite easily go for a jog without embarrassing myself in front of others.
After the Race For Life, I took part in various 5k and 10k races and eventually felt brave enough to sign up to the London marathon in memory of my uncle who had passed earlier that year. This is where I think my love affair with running and fitness started.
Two marathons and a number of races later, I needed to give my knees a break. I wanted to focus on changing my body shape and building muscle, so I enlisted the help of a personal trainer. This opened me up to a range of new goals I wanted to set myself and I became utterly addicted to the gym and that post-workout feeling.
My trainer started to train me at an elite level and mentioned how much of a shame it was that my capabilities weren't tapped into or recognised as a teenager. I was more upset that I had missed out on years of enjoyment and positive mental health due to my perception of sport and fitness. Working out became a release from the stresses of everyday life and pent up anxiety and I constantly wanted to learn more about this industry that I was suddenly in love with. During lockdown, I found myself suddenly alone after the breakdown of a 9-year relationship and so threw myself into exercising daily.
It was then I decided to take my PT qualifications with the view to change my future for the better. I wanted to do something I loved and the corporate wage packet very quickly came second to being happy and healthy and spending quality time with loved ones.
What are your training goals now?
My training goals change constantly. If I am planning a climb, strength and endurance are my top priorities. I also offer HIIT classes to my clients and so my cardiovascular fitness needs to constantly be in check. With time being so hard to come by when working 2 jobs, I upped my training with my own PT so as to set two hours a week aside dedicated to my own programme.
For the rest of the week, I fit workouts in where possible and build them into my busy lifestyle. For example, I always make time for a 1-hour dog walk every day. My 13 year old dog's fitness is just as important as mine.
What's an unusual fact we wouldn't know about you?
I have one green eye and one blue.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
I wish that during my earlier years, the benefits of a healthy diet and fitness had been explained to me. The knowledge of the positive effect that fitness (especially aerobic fitness) has on mental health would have also been highly beneficial to me as a teenager.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I do not follow a specific nutrition plan. I love cooking and baking and the only rule I live by is everything in moderation. I try to drink 2 litres of water a day and stick roughly to my macros percentages. I don't have 'cheat days', though if I want a slice of cake or a piece of chocolate, I will not restrict myself. I'll just simply count this in my fats/sugar etc allowance for my daily intake. I'm also Coeliac and so cake is a rare treat for me. If there is a gluten-free option available, I like to take advantage of the situation.
How do you keep your clients motivated?
I check in with my clients throughout the week. I'm aware that goals can change constantly and so during an existing programme, I monitor their engagement and always ask if there are any exercises they really enjoy and would like me to carry over to the next programme and equally, any that they really do not like at all. I change programmes for my clients every four weeks.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
I think social media is a great way to keep informed with changing trends and myth busters. Staying up-to-date also allows me to pass on useful content to my clients in order to help them with their training.
What are your top three trainer tips?
- Pictures and measurements are key! Don't pay too much attention to the scales.
- For weight loss programmes, slow and steady will always be more sustainable.
- Find ways to factor fitness into your everyday life if you are a busy person.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Why work with Sundried?
I love being a part of an organisation that cares as much about our planet as it does the needs of individuals. Just because recycled materials are used, there is no compromise on quality. The needs of the athlete/individual have been thoroughly thought out and every box ticked!
What's your favourite fitness quote?
"Compete with yourself, not with others!"