Personal Trainer happy smiling

Nancy spent years studying wildlife conservation, but a personal weight loss journey inspired her to join the fitness industry. She talks to Sundried about life as a personal trainer. 

Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up. 

I’ve been putting in the miles on my bicycle raising money for good causes. I’ve completed the Ride 100 three times, the overnight London to Brighton cycle, and separately I cycled solo from London to Brighton dressed as a big furry monkey!. I’ve also taken part in a Tough Mudder race. In total I’ve raised almost £20,000 for both wildlife conservation and cancer charities. I’m currently looking for my next challenge!

Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

Growing up I loved playing sports and was always active and fit. I played team sports at school and represented my university in rugby and lacrosse. After graduating, I worked as an academic researcher, spending long periods abroad and when in the UK my job involved long car drives and very early mornings. I was eating a starchy carb diet of fried food and sugary snacks with few veggies and using caffeine and sugar to keep me going. The weight piled on and I was miserable, my body image was appalling and I felt ashamed of the way I looked. By 2010 I was nearly 11 stone and that put me in the heavily overweight, nearly obese, category for my height.

I was determined to get back into shape and, after a few false starts, I finally joined my local gym. I started by signing up for a basic aerobics class. I stood at the back, wearing my baggy shorts and big t-shirt, trying to hide as much as possible. But I started going regularly and felt brave enough to try a few others – and before long I was hooked!  The classes were fun and motivating, the instructors were fab, and I started to meet people and make new friends.

I also started to be more careful with my diet, watching my calorie intake and portion control. I improved my diet and reduced my reliance on chocolate and cake! As a passionate baker I started exploring “healthier” ways to make my favourite treats – I even started a blog: www.pureandsimplebakes.com.

By 2011, I was back down to 8 stone, with a healthy body fat percentage and I was feeling strong and confident. I enjoyed the classes so much that I decided to train to become a fitness instructor and personal trainer myself so that I could share my passion and apply the lessons I learnt to help others on their own journeys. I now teach 27 classes a week – everything from weights-based classes to high intensity cardio, spin and dance, and I’m also a personal trainer (offering both face to face and online PT). 

Of course, like anyone, my weight fluctuates but now it fluctuates around a healthy weight. I’m fit and strong; stronger than I’ve ever been. I love working with people to help them achieve their goals. If I can do it – anyone can!

What are your training goals now?

My livelihood depends on keeping myself physically fit, so my training goals are mainly to stay fit, strong, and healthy so I can be a good role model for clients and class participants.

Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

I have a PhD in monkeys! No really – I do! I spent 14 years studying wild monkeys on a remote island in Indonesia – focusing on their conservation and co-existence with local people.

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

Don’t focus on the scales – we’re all so focused on weight but there are so many better ways to measure your progress. 

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

I don’t follow a specific plan – I’m not a fan of fad diets, trendy superfoods, quick fix magic supplements etc. I eat to fuel my body and keep my energy up – with early starts and late classes in the evening this usually means 3 meals and snacks in between. I always start my day with my homemade protein smoothie – banana, spinach, protein powder, soy milk – which keeps me full and fuelled for the morning and is easy to make in advance and take with me on the go. I’m a firm believer in balance and moderation – if I want something, I’ll have it, but I’ll just be mindful of how much I have. For long-term success, your diet has to be sustainable, so depriving yourself will never work.

What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

Every person is unique, so listening to my clients carefully and getting to know them is vital to find out what makes them tick – then I can help to motivate them when things get tough. I use lots of different measures of progress and focusing on these helps to keep people motivated. Most importantly of all is making it fun and enjoyable so they look forward to training rather than dread it.

Talk us through your training regime.

I teach 27 classes a week – a mixture of weights-based classes, high intensity cardio classes, spin and dance so I don’t need additional training. I do however make sure I get a good walk in at the weekends whenever possible.

How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

With my background in academia I’m a natural geek with a thirst for knowledge. I am continually seeking new ways to do things better and for me it’s not enough to simply adopt new techniques or trendy new programs, I have to understand the science and benefits behind it before I pass that knowledge on. I’m an avid reader of science journals, industry magazines and I keep abreast of the latest developments in the field. I’m also passionate about passing on that knowledge and helping people see through all the pseudo-science out there. I do a regular “Tuesday tip” covering all sorts of topics and write blog articles for my website too.

What are your top 3 trainer tips?

  1. Make it fun- whatever you’re doing you have to enjoy it for it to last
  2. Consistency is key
  3. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It’s got to be chocolate!

Why work with Sundried?

Before I was a fitness professional I used to work in conservation so I’m passionate about using products which are ethically-sourced and environmentally friendly – and Sundried ticks both boxes. But it’s also really important that workout clothes are comfy, well made, durable and can deal with the rigours of a tough workout and all the sweat that goes with it – and Sundried does just that. Added to which it’s great to support a small UK business.

Favourite fitness quote:

“The difference between ‘try’ and ‘triumph’, is a little ‘umph’” 

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