It’s fight week! That means competitor and True Muay Thai trainer Kristen Barrett is hard at work sharpening up both herself and her clients for the Ultimate Warrior Fighting Championship, which takes place this weekend in Cape Town on 27 April.
We caught up with Kristen – who forms part of the fighting fit Barrett family – as she prepared to enter the hexagon for the first time and emulate husband Gary’s fighting prowess.
Kristen’s Muay Thai love affair
What led you to your health and fitness-focused lifestyle? I always struggled as a teenager to find my place. I was a dancer at first and the expectations were too high. I left dancing and began martial arts in 2010 and I’ve never looked back.
MMA has encouraged me to grow to new heights both physically and spiritually.
What has been the best investment you’ve made into improving your health or physique? I committed to fighting my first Muay Thai fight in Cape Town, against a girl 10kg lighter than me. That meant I had to drop 10kg to respect and honour my agreement.
How Kristen trains
What’s your weekly training split? A midday weight training session on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I do cardio sessions in between, and have a 90-minute Muay Thai session every evening.
What other training do you do and why? At this point, low weights with more reps, cardio and high impact training – did I mention Muay Thai? I’m prepping for a fight, you know!
What do you do on the tough days, when motivation levels are low? I listen to motivational talks on YouTube or Spotify and listen to audible and my hypnosis tapes on training, positivity and discipline.
I love hearing how the greats got great.
Do you change your approach to training from time to time? Yes, of course. At this point I’m training for a fight so it is very specific and focused, but my approach depends on the goal!
Kristen’s fighter’s diet
What does your average diet consist of? Eggs, I love eggs! Lean meat, vegetables and salad.
How do you prefer to cook when preparing healthy meals? Steaming and grilling is best.
How would you define a healthful diet? Less frequent eating and more wholesome home-cooked lean meals. No sugar and if I use fat, it’s fat not low fat! I try to keep it as close to the true source of where it came from… nothing processed!
Do you get help from a nutrition coach? I have done a course in Sports Nutrition, so I tend to feed off the knowledge I have and constantly research. I tap into friends who are in the industry to inspire and guide.
What have you found has been the easiest way to stick to a diet, other than sheer will power? You have to have a big ‘why’! Once you have that and you are invested, tap into the available resources and keep pushing forward till you get it. It has taken me a while to get into the right headspace, but now that I am, I feel unstoppable.
What does your daily supplement plan include?
- Vitamin C
- Omega oils
- Liver support.
What is the best piece of diet advice anyone has ever given you? Fat is good, sugar is bad!
What approach to eating did you follow at first that didn’t work? A low-fat diet, and grain and wheat are not agreeable for me.
What was it that finally made you decide to make a change? I reached a weight that made me slower, lazier and made me lose my ‘gees’! That’s not how we’re supposed to live! I decided to fight again because I know it makes me sharper, stronger, both emotionally and physically. It makes me attack life whole-heartedly!
What did you learn from the experience? I’ve learnt that there are so many different approaches to find your happy place. Listen to your body and always respect it. In terms of training, it is the only way to be at your best in life. Do it for yourself because we deserve the best!
Life outside of the gym
When you’re not training, what do you spend the most of your time and your money on? I love chilling with my family, so that’s where you’ll find me. I spend my money on food and going out to restaurants.
What does ‘balance’ mean to you in the context of your lifestyle? Work hard, relax hard. Eat mindfully and train with all your heart.
When you hear the word “successful”, who comes to mind and why do you say so? I would have to say my husband. He is a true go-getter and always pushes the limits and gets results! Then he finds ways to help others achieve their results. He takes his knowledge and he shares it to help people be their best selves! That to me is success!
What are a few conventional wisdoms that pervade the broader fitness industry that you feel need to change? Forget the fads, and don’t over complicate things. Find what works for you and do that every day. And don’t give up. Find your ‘why’ and then acquire the discipline necessary to achieve your goals.
What’s your greatest ambition in life? To take my knowledge and help others be their greatest selves, through my own learning, discipline and passion.
What or who inspires you? My husband and my mother.
Yay or nay and why
Long steady rate cardio? Not really – my discipline calls for hard and fast!
Oats in the morning? Not for me, although I love it. It’s not the best for me for weight loss, but when I am in maintenance, it’s great!
Training in a crop top? No thanks, not yet.
Burpees? Yes, but I love and hate them!
Gym selfies? Only to show my husband (aka my coach) that I did train at lunch time.
Pre-workout nutrition? Something quick and easy like an apple is enough for some. Right now I eat my 3 clean meals.
Intra-workout nutrition? That depends on your goals. For me, it’s not necessary/
Post-workout nutrition? Protein
Grilled hake? Yes, love!!!
Fat burners? Used to love them, but I don’t want to be dependant on anything.
Deadlifts? Love them!
CrossFit? Very cool.
Sports massage? Absolutely! Love my Thai massages.
Cheat meals? Sure, but that depends on your goals.
Early morning training time? I love an early morning session! It’s my best!
Training partner? Sometimes! If they hold you accountable and are on the same level of focus as you are.
Running? Great for me now to cut weight and improve fitness!
Social media? Always good to keep your peeps updated! It also helps to motivate and show others they can also do it. It also keeps me accountable!
Active rest? Yeah, sure.
EMS, tried it? No, but I would.
Final thoughts? Have fun and train Muay Thai!
Favourite music to train to? The latest tracks with uplifting lyrics, and psy-trance!
Favourite exercise? Muay Thai and deadlifts
Favourite cheat meal? Pizza
What do you do to relax? I read, watch movies and listen to inspirational people!
What’s in your gym bag? My headphones from Thailand (I never train without them!), Kheper tights, Saucony running shoes from Run in Bree, gloves, wraps, shin pads and my Muay Thai shorts, and my Thai oil.
All about Kristen
- Born: 21 May 1980
- Lives: Camps Bay, Cape Town
- Qualifications: Diploma in Sports Nutrition
- Occupation: Senior Graphic Designer at Marriott International hotel group
- Age: 38
- Height: 1.62m
- Weight: 68kg
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.