If you haven’t already rallied around the US-based trainer on Insta, assume the scrolling position stat. The 32-year-old is THE go-to girl for building physical and mental endurance – and we were lucky enough to sit down with her in Byron Bay ahead of the new gig. Here, we pick her brains about her healthy habits, love of HIIT and how to reach your fitness goals, once and for all.
Do you have a food philosophy?
My food philosophy is 100 per cent having a healthy relationship with food. I am not really too hung up on diets and fats and restrictions. I believe that people should learn what works for their body because we're not all made one way.
How do you fuel yourself before and after a workout?
It depends on my goals. I do fasted cardio at times, especially when I'm marathon training. I have to prepare my body to be able to run with as little kind of fuel as possible. If your goal is to tone, fasted cardio is really effective. I would never weight train with no food in my stomach though. So at different points in the year I eat completely differently. Post-workout fueling is absolutely a must. No matter what it is that you're doing, you need to refuel your body to replenish it and give it enough energy to go on throughout the day.
Talk us through your approach to fitness…
The first half of the year I'm lifting heavy weights. I'm doing all types of classes like spin, yoga and I'll do, unfortunately, a boxing class with a friend. I don't really like boxing. The rhythm is different from running: it's too much to think about.
You have a background in psychology, how does this influence your training style?
My approach to fitness is very much an athletic background. Being a former division one track and field athlete I was blessed with, I would say, comforting coaches and I give that same approach to my clients. Sports allowed me to find who I am so I like to make the workouts fun, and I really encourage my clients to tap back into what brought them joy. Whether it was like, did you use to dance as a little girl or did you use to play basketball? Let's do those things.
I also double majored in psychology and communication studies, so like the study of how people communicate. I believe it worked very well together because psychology is just the study of the individual mind as opposed to the group. And so I learned the individual and then I also learned how, as a whole, we communicate. And it plays a huge role in understanding my clients and understanding myself because a big part of being a trainer is self-reflection in what you bring to the table.
Your favourite way to workout is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). How often do we need to be doing HIIT to see benefits?
HIIT training can be the same as like weightlifting. You can do it three to four times a week. And HIIT training is amazing because it also allows you strength and endurance at the same time. It's extremely beneficial for women in terms of how our body are naturally made. It's really good to incorporate strength training because it allows women to develop more of a bone density, which we suffer a loss as we get older. And HIIT is amazing in terms of strengthening our lungs, the capacity of taking in oxygen and also it's a lot of fun. It's fun and it's challenging. I personally think challenges are fun and I like to introduce that concept to my clients and not to look at it as a challenge as a negative.
There's like a breath test. Like if you can still talk then you are working but not to the point where you are to your full capacity. So, every once in a while you want to get to that point if someone asked you a question, you have to look at them like give me a minute and then I can say something. So if you can get to that point, at least like one to two times in you work out, you know that you're at that point. If you can like literally talk the entire time. I tell my clients like, you're not working hard enough, you need to be quiet. We need to go harder because there's nothing wrong with being at a point where you can talk, but when work is really happening, everything should be shut down and all your focus should go towards what you're doing, and that's the difference.
Many people avoid lifting weights for fear of ‘bulking up,’ why do you think it’s important for women to incorporate strength training into their workout routine?
Well, I'm naturally a very petite person. For the record, I would just say I'm 5'3. My hair makes me like 5'7, 5'8 and my personality makes me 6'4 so I'm naturally a very petite person. And weight lifting has allowed me to find my strength as a petite woman. So most of the time, people look at strong women as maybe you are like 5'8 and taller, but I can push the same weight as a woman who's 5'8 and sometimes I like to push the same way as guys. And so it is something that our bodies are built to be strong.
Now, your capacity of your strength, definitely is your genetics and who you are. But I even pushed even some of my friends, and even my assistant, to push weight. She'll grab twelves I'm like, "You can shoulder press 20." And she's like, "No." And then she does it and I'm like, "See, you could do it."
And it's not going to make you automatically become Popeye just because you shoulder pressed 20. We don't even realise how much weight we push altogether throughout the day. Our backpacks, our bags, when you push boxes, groceries, luggage. How much does your luggage weigh? 50 pounds. And you can throw it on the belt, then you can elbow swing 50 pounds. So sometimes people don't really understand that. And I like to break down things that are like every day to my clients when they say they can't do that. And I'm like, "No, you do this. You just don't realise you push this weight."
What are the three most underrated exercises we should be doing more of?
I would say for women, pushups. I would also say just absolutely plank, like not just crunches and sit ups because a lot of times you use different muscles to actually get up, not just your core, you use your hamstrings and you you hip flex ... Not hamstrings, claws and hip flexors. I would say planks, pushups and also plyometrics. So any jumping aspects. So jump squats, even a burpee, but plyometrics.
As a trainer, you’re passionate about motivating people to reach their fitness goals. Is there a secret to staying on the wagon?
It's having goals. If you don't really have a why and a reason of why you started, you have every reason to finish. And to have your goal be something that is dear to you, not manipulated by anyone else. Not because this is what my mom said or my ex boyfriend used to do this. Even if that is a little bit of a motivation for it to be your goal, it ultimately needs to be your own reason and your own goal.
Being based in the US, you’re travelling all the time. How do you sustain your healthy habits on the go?
I maintain my healthy habits by listening to my body and what it needs. I also believe that people lack hydration when they travel and that is really important. So having a water ball bottle with you, like traveling with one, also it's really important too, to kind of, when you're in another location, explore the food that's there and not be so restricted to this is what I eat when I'm at home because you may not be able to find it. And so understanding like I am coming from fall in L.A. and it's spring here. And so, the fruit and the food is very ... Like what's in season is a little bit different.
What’s the best health and fitness tip you’ve ever received?
I would say it was not to be so harsh on yourself and to understand that it takes time to develop a skill or to achieve a goal. So, the first time you do a pushup or a box jump or a dead lift and it's not right, you don't get discouraged because it takes time.
What band/song never fails to fire you up?
Oh, it's like endless. Anything that makes me dance. It could be a rock song, it can be a hip hop, it could be a pop song. I was a huge Spice Girls fan growing up so I can still put one of those songs on and I'll just be like singing. And I felt like I'm like eight years old all over again. My playlist goes from gospel to Red Hot Chilli Peppers to a Spice Girls song, to like Dr. Dre. The power of music is that it makes you move. And so any song that makes me move is my happy place.