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Laura Smith: Driven by her desire to help others

Laura has the quintessential rags-to-riches fitness story. She went from being overweight to unhealthily skinny to winning a 12-week body transformation challenge that set a new future into motion. She now lives out her dream of helping others achieve their transformation goals as a fitness professional.

How she trains

What do you do on the tough days, when motivation levels are low? I find group training workouts are the best way to get me out of a negative space. I love being around people and in a group training environment, because you’re surrounded by individuals who are motivated. Positivity and energy spread like wild fire, so I try to surround myself with people who have that quality. Plus, a tough workout always helps me clear my mind and, in that moment, forget about the things that may be weighing me down.

Do you change your approach to training from time to time? Yes. I’m not a professional athlete so I don’t need to train toward a specific result. I exercise to stay fit and happy. Changing my training approach keeps things exciting and helps me to learn more as a fitness professional.

What workout or types of training are you loving right now? I’m absolutely loving isolation training. Although I won’t use this for every workout, taking just one session a week to focus on only one muscle and absolutely annihilating it has worked very well to break through plateaus. I also love the opposite, which is compound exercise circuits, which is ideal for those days where I want to work multiple muscles in less time. HIIT workouts will always have a place in my heart, specifically Tabatas. Although it’s most commonly used for cardio, I’ve found this little devil is very useful for strength training, too. If you’ve never tried, it you should – 10 seconds rest is no joke! Lastly, I love steady-state-cardio. Yes, I said it. This poor guy has gotten a bad rap over the past few years, but it’s only because so many women ONLY did steady state cardio. I find that incorporating it on a regular basis has improved my overall fitness tremendously and while it’s not my only form of cardio, it’s one that I like to incorporate on a regular basis.

How Laura eats

Do you get help from a nutrition coach? No. I follow a balanced diet that focuses on healthy food choices. I count calories from time to time to keep myself in check and ensure I get the right quantities of each macronutrient to meet my training needs and body goals.

When you don’t train, do you eat the same way you would on the day days you do exercise? Generally, yes. On days when I do an intense or long workout my appetite sometimes increases, in which case I will have an extra snack.

What have you found has been the easiest way to stick to a diet, other than sheer will power? Food prep. Having food already made keeps me on track because I can’t let it go to waste. I don’t necessarily prep every meal, rather just some bulk food items to mix and match, like grilled chicken breast and roast veg. Busy days are when I’m most likely to fall off the wagon. If I don’t have the time to put a meal together I need something that is quick and easy to heat and eat, or throw into a salad. Having pre-packed healthy snacks like Date Balls or Protein Brownie Balls also helps. I’ll keep My Protein Pantry snacks in my car, bag, pantry and at work. That way, when I get hangry I have something healthy to eat.

Yay or nay? Here’s what she had to say…

Long steady rate cardio? Yay. Not every day or even every week, though, but at least bi-monthly. This form of cardio improves overall fitness. I can feel how much better my heart manages strength training or HIIT workouts from the effects of this type of exercise.

Oats in the morning? Yay. Oats are good friends of mine. They keeps me full and well fed until my next meal and they go very well when mixed with whey protein. Gluten-free grain for the win!

Training in a crop top? Yay. I love seeing women embrace their bodies and rock workouts with confidence. Crop tops can become a whole debate on their own, especially because wearing one might make other women feel more self-conscious. Looking at the younger generation who now wear crop tops and shorts and embrace their bodies in every shape and size has made me want to join the train. Body confidence should be a trend that never dies, and it starts with simple things like crop tops.

Burpees? Yay. A burpee is a beautiful exercise that has so many variations. It requires and improves strength, agility and fitness. My favourite is the 120-Burpee Challenge – 10 variations, 12 burpees per minute, with a 10 minute gap. I do this workout once every six or so months and I get better every time. Gotta love progress!

Gym selfies? Yay. Seeing other girls’ gym selfies motivates me to get off my butt and work out. I hope my gym selfies do the same for someone else.

Pre-workout nutrition? Yay. Black coffee is my favourite pre-workout. A simple energy booster to get me going. Sometimes I switch my coffee for the Espresso Beans from My Protein Pantry.

Intra-workout nutrition? Yay. BCAAs all the way! This has everything I need to get through my workout and start the recovery process nice and early.

Post-workout nutrition? Yay. Whey protein is my go-to immediately after a workout. It’s a quick source of protein that isn’t overly filling. I’m never hungry after a workout, but I do get to binge point about an hour later. That’s when I’ll have some roasted veg or a salad with my whey after a very tough workout to prevent a hangry binge later.

Grilled hake? Yay. Hake is a light protein with a clean taste. Give me hake, lemon and herb spice with a rocket, beetroot and feta salad any day!

Fat burners? Yay, when needed. I don’t use fat burners often or consistently, and I don’t recommend it to my clients unless absolutely necessary. Fat burners are a great tool for breaking through fat loss plateaus or for a lean individual struggling to drop that last percent or two body fat. I believe that fat burners should only be used by individuals who are consistent with their training and healthy eating efforts, but have hit a wall and require a “booster”.

Deadlifts? Yay, but only Romanian deadlifts for me. My quads are very dominant, so I use Romanian deadlifts to improve my hamstring and glute strength. I also love how this exercise develops stability and lower back strength.

CrossFit? Nay. Not really my thing.

Sports massage? Nay. I’d love a sports massage every week, but I find it’s more of a luxury for someone like me who isn’t a professional athlete or competing in races on a regular basis.

Cheat meals? Is that even a question? I love food and that means all food – good and bad. I prefer to think of it as indulging rather than cheating. I don’t like restriction and find that if I don’t occasionally indulge in the things I enjoy, like pizza, sushi and wine, it leads to binging. I’d rather indulge once a week than end up on an uncontrollable binge.

Early morning training time? Yay. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a morning person. I’m a 6:30am kinda gal and love this time for training – at least until I have kids.

Training partner? Sometimes. I generally train on my own, but if I found a training buddy at my gym whose goals and times aligned with mine I’d go for it.

Running? Yay. I’m not a fan, but I try. I’ve done a couple of casual 5km and an 8km or two. I’m starting to get more into it now and have set new goals which I hope to achieve soon. I’d also like to enter races in 2019 to be able to track my progress and create more of a challenge for myself.

Social media? Yay. It’s a great tool for interacting with like-minded people to find your tribe. What I love most is when someone tells me how a specific post motivated them or encouraged them to act on something.

Active rest? Yay. I love hiking and swimming.

EMS, tried it? Nay, I haven’t tried it.

Final thoughts?

How perfect would a world be where we all loved our own bodies as much as we do someone else’s? I’ve worked with close to 200 women (in person) and they’ve told me about their insecurities; they’ve shared with me their fears and the things they don’t like about their bodies, and I am just as guilty. Setting goals and working for the body you want is an amazing journey, but I’d like to encourage women to also embrace, love and admire the body they have. We all come in different shapes and sizes. So rather than try to change your body, focus on improving it. And as you go on your journey, share it with the world. I promise you there are many women going through the same struggle as you, which means you have the power to inspire change. Let’s create a world where women share, inspire and support one another. Even if you think that a lot of muscle doesn’t look nice on a woman, you can still support those who are working hard to get that muscle. Maybe you don’t think a woman looks nice if she’s skinny… well, she’s also working hard to stay lean. Let’s become each other’s cheerleaders, no matter what team we’re on.

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.

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