My Fitness Journey: Gym Bunny Orla McDonagh Talks To Us About The Exercises That Sculpted Her Killer Bod
You don't need a gym membership to lean up says Gym Bunny blogger Orla McDonagh. Here she shares the exercises and eats that have given her the best results.
When did you start working out properly?
I started training properly when I lived in Barcelona in 2008. When I moved back to Dublin, I had already been bitten by the fitness bug so got into Bikram yoga and running and HIIT at home and then started training at The Edge, Clontarf, where I buddy train with a personal trainer and one other girl too. It’s an amazing gym with a really good supportive and fun vibe.
How long did it take to get into the shape you’re in now?
I really noticed a change in my overall shape when I started lifting heavier weights. Your body changes so quickly when you move from body weight exercises to heavy squats, lunges and deadlifts and I absolutely adore my weight sessions now. I’m leaner, stronger and healthier and I eat probably twice as much.
What do you do in the gym?
Twice a week I lift quite heavy weights. Other days I’ll do deadlifts and some more circuits for cardio. The other days would be more cardio-based or if I’m at home it will be gentle yoga, stretching, and foam rolling.
How often do you go to the gym?
I train in the gym with Chris three times a week, some evenings I try and pull myself together for a run at home. I find HIIT at home is more my thing though. I’m not a big party girl and training is an investment for me. I’d prefer gym gear to an expensive handbag any day.
Do we need a gym membership?
No, there’s loads you can do at home. You can see really huge changes in your body by simply adding in sprint intervals, doing mountain climbers, burpees and jump squats for time, such as 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off and repeat by 10. It kills your legs, you will be covered in sweat but it’s all over so quickly so ideal for anyone who finds cardio a bit boring!
Best classes we can do?
Resistance classes are a really great way to start off a new fitness regime as you can join a class pretty much at any level and adapt the exercise to your needs and ability quite easily, with very little mentoring.
Best home exercises?
The easiest exercises you can do anywhere are body weight exercises. Think planks, squats, lunges, walking lunges, jump squats, mountain climbers, sprinting on the spot and the dreaded burpees. Choose four of these and repeat each for 30 seconds and then rest for 10-20 seconds and repeat until failure. Even that little burst of activity will make a huge difference if you put the effort in a few times a week. Tricep dips and crunches are also great ways to trim and tone in the comfort of your own home.
Morning or evening workouts?
Everyone is different. Personally I find cardio easier in the mornings and lifting weights easier in the evenings.
What should we eat?
Think fish, chicken, beef, turkey and eggs and good fats such as nuts, avocado, butter and olive oil. I usually opt for green veggies and fresh salads with each meal and try to only have rice or sweet potato on days I’m training in the middle of the day.
Try swapping your milky coffee or tea with green tea every day and keep a bottle of water in your bag or on your desk at work or at home. I’d also recommend preparing meals in advance and bringing healthy snacks with you at all times. I always have a low sugar protein bar, some nuts, a bottle of water and a protein shake in my bag.
What should we cut out?
Sugar really is the demon here. We all crave it and it is truly addictive. It’s a pity there isn’t more education around this in schools actually as everything from bread, biscuits and crackers to orange juice, cereal, alcohol and ready made sauces are laden with sugar. Try making your own sauces and meals and freezing them; it’s cheaper, they freeze well and they taste so much better. Cut out biscuits, crisps, juices and white bread.
What’s your daily diet like?
Breakfast: Two poached eggs and some salad and a green tea or a bulletproof coffee or some days I have protein oats with chocolate protein, coconut and almond milk. Yum.
Snack: A handful of mixed nuts and an apple or pear and a green tea. Sometimes a coffee is also needed!
Lunch: Chicken or beef with quinoa and lots of mixed salad and sometimes a green juice or a green tea.
Snack: If I’m training I might have a coconut water and a half a protein bar or perhaps some greek yoghurt and a few seeds on top or some ricecakes with almond butter.
Dinner: Typically lean beef burgers or salmon or chicken with veggies
We have a serious sweet tooth. What can we eat that isn’t so bad?
Dark chocolate is okay when compared with chocolate with a lower cocoa content. Try 85%+ for a nice little anti-oxidant boost. You’ll find yourself craving less too as it’s quite bitter. I make quite a lot of my own treats from my Clean Eating Ebooks such as homemade macaroons, protein balls and clean avocado chocolate mousse. You actually can’t tell the difference.
How do we get back on track after over indulging?
Make a plan of when you will train and when you will do all the other stuff and just stick with it. Start off your day with some water with lemon and have a good protein-rich breakfast. After breakfast, get up get out and go for a walk in the fresh air. Gentle exercise can really cure a rough head and remember to drink lots of water too; coconut water is a good idea too as its full of electrolytes. You’ll be back into the swing of things in no time. Don’t beat yourself up about it okay?
What if we hate exercising?
There is no such thing as ‘I don’t like to exercise’; you just haven’t found something you love. Life is too short to sweat it out in a class you hate. Try everything once and see what’s for you.
We really want to get in shape. Where do start?
If your overall goal is build a leaner healthier body, you need to cut out processed foods right away. Your body is worth more than that. Start drinking about two and a half litres of water a day and replace your coffee with green tea and fill your diet with lean protein, eggs, veggies, salad, nuts, seeds, oils, butter, coconut oil, avocado, fruit and the odd bowl of oats or wholegrain rice.
Now add in weight training two to three times per week with circuits at the end of each session and start to adopt simple healthy habits. Take up a new fitness class with a friend. And above all, throw away the scales. I weigh more now than I did when I first started weight training but I’m probably half a size smaller and much leaner.