#MyFitnessJourney: Annie Kirwan Chats To Us About Why We Need To Start Pilates Now!

She has an Instagram to swoon over and an amazing personality to boot, we chat to Annie about how Pilates changed her life.

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Name: Annie Kirwan

Age: 27

Occupation: Pilates Instructor at Platnium Pilates

Instagram: @anniekpilates

When did you take up pilates?

It’s over 10 years since I first started Pilates. In the beginning, I did mainly mat Pilates but my world changed when I discovered Reformer. Reformer Pilates has an extra edge, it uses the resistance of springs on the reformer machine to increase the challenge of the workout. It means you get a full body workout, greatly improving your strength and tone while simultaneously increasing your flexibility.

Was there a particular reason you took it up?

I think my main motivation at the time was to get abs! But I soon found the benefits went so much deeper. My legs were particularly tight from playing  sport and I was getting flare ups in my low back. Pilates was unbelievable to my recovery. I went from not being able to touch my toes to doing full splits! I noticed such a difference in my strength and speed too.

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What did your training entail?

My training kind of started before I had even considered a career in Pilates and in reality, the training never really ends.

I have a degree in Biology and a masters in Molecular Immunology so I’d studied anatomy and physiology in depth. I’d specialised in muscle biology which was the best foundation to build upon.

I’ve trained with Balanced Body and Polestar, two of the leading Pilates training schools and I’m constantly up-skilling with workshops. I try to get at least one new qualification every year so who knows what 2016 will bring! At the moment I’m studying Biomechanics for long-term health, it’s pretty fascinating.

How often do you practise?

I try for everyday. I don’t always make that but I never leave it more than two days. I mix it up between my own sessions at home and different levels of classes at Platinum Pilates. Sometimes I like to chill out in a beginners class while other days I like to kick it up to the advanced levels. It never feels like an effort to go to classes as I love it so much and I always feel so refreshed after.

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What’s the difference between Pilates and yoga?

This is a difficult one as they’re quite similar yet so different. They both move the body through very natural movements with a focus on breathing, alignment, balance and flexibilty. I love yoga almost as a form of meditation. It’s where I calm my mind. Pilates is more focused towards the strength end of things. You get a full body workout while still getting some headspace.

Would you recommend Pilates as a form of weight loss?

Most definitely. An hour on the reformer a few times a week will transform your body. You will feel leaner, stronger, toned and absolutely amazing. At Platinum Pilates we teach a wide range of classes and have those tailored for big results such as Total Body Blitz, Legs, Bums & Tums and Cardio Barre. These classes are extremely high intensity and will have you sweating buckets!

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Judging by your social media accounts, you seem to ooze positivity. How do you stay so positive?

It probably helps that I love my job, it makes getting up on a Monday morning very easy. I’m  extremely grateful.

I really believe that positivity breeds happiness and try to keep a positive mindset as much as can. I’m a big believer in taking time to look after your mental health. It’s just as important to look after your mind as much as we look after our physical bodies.

For me I keep my mind clear with a mix of mindful meditation and exercise. Exercise is my ultimate therapy, any anxiety or frustrations disappear as soon as I start moving and afterwards I always feel so much better.

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Talk to us about your very colourful diet. It looks very appetising!

I love a colourful dish, it definitely makes it taste better. I love food so much and could spend all day cooking up a storm. I try to eat no processed food and to cook everything from scratch. It seems like a lot of work but with a bit of planning and routine it becomes quite easy.

I’m vegetarian and I would say 90% vegan! I leave the leeway so it doesn’t become restrictive to eat when I’m out and about. My food mantra comes from The Happy Pear brothers who say to simply eat more veg. It’s good simple advice that really works. My diet stables are all vegetables, especially sweet potato and cauliflower, lots of fruit, lentils, oats, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.

What does a day on your plate look like?

If you follow my Instagram page you’ll quickly learn that I love porridge, almost to the point of obsession. I have it most mornings for breakfast made with almond milk and topped usually with berries.

When I’m teaching I bring a NutriBullet smoothie with me to keep me going. My favourite at the moment is beetroot, ginger, carrot and apple. Or else, I’ll snack on nuts or some fruit.

For lunch it might be homemade soup, usually butternut squash and star anise. I’m a creature of habit and could eat that everyday. Otherwise I’ll have a salad with lots of spinach, avocado, roasted veg, nuts and berries.

Dinner is where I probably experiment a bit more. I makes lots of curries, stir fries, veggie burgers, falafels and casseroles. I’m taking a vegan cooking course in the new year so I’m looking forward to learning a load of new recipes.

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Is it expensive to lead such a healthy lifestyle?

It can be expensive but if you’re savvy you can keep the cost down. Initially, when you’re first stocking up your pantry it can seem like a lot of money, but I look at anything I spend as an investment in long-term health. You can save money by buying foods that are in season and planning meals ahead so that no food goes to waste.

What will you be eating on Christmas day?

I’m going for a vegan Christmas this year. I think I’m slowly converting my whole family. Last year my vegetarian dishes went down a treat so expectations are high. I haven’t finalised the menu but think I’ll make sweet potato soup to start, nut loaf and roasted vegetables for mains and then my famous apples and pear crumble with homemade ice cream to finish.

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How did your 21 days of no sugar go?

The 21-Day No Sugar Challenge was amazing. Myself and Milena, the owner of Platinum Pilates, initially cut sugar out of our diets as a challenge to ourselves. We were feeling so fantastic that I decided to bring the challenge to everyone at Platinum Pilates and beyond. The response we got was beyond our wildest expectations. We’ll definitely have to start it again post-Christmas.

Did many people do it with you?

We have no official numbers but we had thousands of hits on the blog! We still have people taking it up now. That’s the great thing, anyone can join in whenever they want.

What were the results?

It can be a tough process to cut sugar out especially if you’re a major addict, but the results are so worth it. When you’re no longer relying on sugar to keep you going throughout the day, your energy levels and mood stabilise. You no longer get the sugar high and resulting crash which leaves you worse off.There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from breaking the sugar cycle.

The added bonus from the challenge is weight loss. We had so many followers dropping serious numbers. So people were left not just feeling but looking fantastic too. The wonderful thing is these are just the immediate results, cutting sugar from your diet is even more beneficial in the long-term, protecting you from obesity, heart disease and diabetes. A win-win all round!

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Do you eat sugar again now?

No, I’ve kept my sugar levels low since. I haven’t eaten processed food for years so I didn’t have to cut sweets or chocolate. However, I was over relying on sugary fruits when I was on the go and my sugar levels were surprisingly high.

When you cut sugar for the challenge it doesn’t mean you have to cut sugar forever but it resets your tolerance. It makes you realise how sweet the foods you’re eating are, and from there you can reassess. I replaced some of my fruit snacks with snacks like hummus and vegetables, a handful of nuts or a vegetable smoothie.

If I crave something sweet I make healthier treats sweetened with dates or maple syrup. Life is all about balance, so a sweet treat every now and then is perfectly fine.

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Give us three reasons why we should take up Pilates in the New Year?

1. To look after your body. Pilates works to get your body in great alignment to reduce the wear and tear of our bodies. Especially our knees, hips and spines.

2. There is a quote from Joseph Pilates that ‘In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.’ We see people who change their bodies within a couple of weeks, building flexibility, tone and strength that they never imagined.

3. It’s so much fun. The classes are so dynamic that the time flies by. There is a never ending repertoire of sequences so no two classes are the same and you will always pick up something new.

Any New Year’s resolutions for yourself?

So many, as always. I will have to try to narrow them down. I have been threatening for years to do a marathon so maybe 2016 will be the year to do it. I had a really unbelievable year in 2015, my resolution was to stay positive, to look after my body and mind and be as healthy as I could be. I will be aiming for more of the same in 2016.

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