My Fitness Journey: We Chat Nutrition & Training With Personal Trainer Siobhan O’Hagan
Siobhan tells us about her road to becoming a personal trainer and how our weekend habits could be derailing our diets.
When did you decide to take up a fitness regime and why?
I’ve always been active. I played gaelic and always went to the gym in college but I just stuck to the cardio machines. I learnt a little bit about weight lifting about three years ago. My most recent transformation started in November 2014. I had muscle built up but also a lot of fat because of a lack of guidance. The reason I finally saw results is because I wanted to quit my desk job and become a personal trainer. I needed to be my own advertisement.
What did you take up?
I paid a personal trainer to train me three times a week. It was probably the best investment I’ve ever made. He showed me how to program properly, what to eat and most importantly that it is possible to quit your job and become a personal trainer.
How big of a role did your diet play? Did you have to change a lot of what you were eating?
Diet is key. I have so many people that say to me ‘I’m good 90% of the time – it’s just the weekends.’ Friday, Saturday and Sunday are 40% of the week. I thought I was eating well Monday to Friday but then I was going out eating and drinking all weekend and it also turned out I was completely under eating Monday to Friday. I started eating a lot more during the week. The biggest change was that I was consistent with my weekends and stuck to one cheat meal.
How long has it taken you to get into the shape you’re in now?
The difference between November and April is huge. I dropped body fat fast because I had so much muscle built up already. But I feel like I have only maintained over the summer due to holidays, weddings and just generally not being as disciplined. I want to be a lot leaner by Christmas.
Has everyone been supportive of your fitness transformation?
Yes! My family and friends have been great and supportive of the big risk I took because I wasn’t happy. I know fitness isn’t everybody’s interest, which is why I set up a separate instagram account so that I wouldn’t be annoying my friends with fitness posts. This account then blew up and somehow gathered almost 23,000 followers.
What exercises have you found the most beneficial?
I think too many people put too much emphasis on light weights for lots of reps. I think squatting, deadlifting and bench/overhead pressing with heavy weights are way more beneficial.
How often do you train?
I like to train every day but I take a rest day if I feel I need it. Rest is important but I love being in the gym! If I have time to train twice a day I might do some cardio.
What has been the most difficult part of your fitness transformation?
I feel like I’m at the most difficult part now. My initial motivation was to be my own advertisement and I feel like I’ve done that more than I ever expected, so now I need to reevaluate my goals to help me get the discipline back. Food is definitely the hard part!
What makes it all worthwhile?
Feeling like you are the best version of yourself. Also seeing abs is a nice bonus! I had an amazing summer, I never thought at 27 I would be dying to get into a bikini!
What would a typical daily diet be like for yourself?
I eat whatever I want as long as I get enough protein, fat and carbs. It’s often referred to as ‘IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros’ but I don’t even see it as a diet. I like to keep 90% of what I eat clean whole foods and then 10% for treats.
Have you ever fallen off the wagon?
All the time! Getting back on is the important part. You don’t have to be perfect but you have to be consistent.
What should we do if we fall off the wagon?
Go train or do a healthy food shop. Don’t let it spiral. Don’t wait until Monday. Remember why you started. Have clear goals, not just “I want to lose weight.”
What should we make sure to include in our diets?
Lots of protein, lots of water. Don’t cut carbs, you need them for energy. Stick to good carbs like oats or sweet potato. Stay away from processed food as much as possible. Make sure you know what’s going into your body.
What should we give up straight away?
I’m not a fan of restricting anything. I believe you can have anything you crave, but in moderation.
We have a sweet tooth, what can we eat?
I have a sweet tooth too, so I use protein bars as a treat. I go to Bodyfirst in Malahide and get a box of different types so that would be my treats. Some of them even taste like Snickers. Again, everything in moderation.
How bad is alcohol in terms of getting ourselves into shape?
I did Sober November last year and the results I got in one month were amazing. I went out drinking once a week in December and I feel like the results stalled, I then went off the drink from January until March and the results were unbelievable. At the moment I drink for special occasions but I do think it just throws everything off track; the food late at night, the food the next day. Sundays should be spent planning the week ahead, not in bed.
What do you do in the gym?
I lift a lot of heavy weights and very little cardio. You’ll very rarely find my running!
Do you use machines?
Mostly free weights. I don’t like cardio. There are two ways to get your body fat down, through a calorie deficit in your diet or through cardio. I’d rather nail the food than do cardio because I find it so boring. It’s important for cardiovascular fitness but I don’t think it’s necessary if you just want to look good.
How do you get those abs?
Not any type of crunches anyway! If anyone says to me ‘What’s the best core workout?’ I always tell them deadlifts. Way too many people are spending time doing sit ups when they could be using that time more wisely and doing large movements that use every muscle in your body, especially the core. Then it’s about getting the body fat down to see the abs you’ve built.
What advice do you give to people you coach?
To look at the long game. It’s very easy to get somebody to drop body fat fast in a four, six or eight week transformation – you just have them doing a lot of high intensity (and rather unenjoyable) training and eating chicken and broccoli, but I want to teach lifestyle changes. I want my clients to lift heavy weights with correct form to build muscle. I want them to enjoy it and I don’t want their diets to feel restrictive.
We want to follow in your footsteps! Give us some motivational tips
It’s entirely possible to achieve the body you want. You need to be patient. Ignore the scales. Focus on building your body up and feeding it well rather than trying to break it down through cardio and restrictive diets. Enjoy your training – you have to do something you like. The best advice I give anyone is to hire a personal trainer. It was the first step to the best I’ve ever felt!
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