Thursday 21 September 2017

Dublin model and trainer Laura Scanlon's 20 tips for summer fitness

Your body can perform as a powerful and price-effective gym, Dubliner Laura Scanlon tells us, and, from her sunny home in Cape Town, she's keen to coach us in how to use it

Laura Scanlon: Add in core toning exercises to your routine
Laura Scanlon: Add in core toning exercises to your routine
Laura Scanlon: Skipping is an incredibly effective, versatile workout tool
Laura Scanlon: The recommended daily intake of water is two litres per day

Sarah Caden

Laura Scanlon is home in Dublin on holiday. Which is not to say that she's resting. I suspect that Laura doesn't do resting, unless it's the conscious give-your-muscles-a-boost variety that she recommends in her fitness tips on the following pages.

Visits home from her base in South Africa are for seeing family and friends, Laura says, but she's a woman on a mission, all the same. Model and personal trainer Laura likes a plan, and her plan seems to be to get her father off the potatoes.

"My dad's in his early 60s," Laura says, "and he runs about three times a week, so he's fit, but he's a spud addict. When I'm home and we have, say, bolognese for dinner, I have quinoa with mine and my mum and dad have pasta, but he has to have a side of mash. So the running and the potatoes, they're balancing each other out. But I'd rather he didn't eat so many."

Telling of her fitness focus, is how Laura qualifies her father's fitness: "nothing too long; just five or 10k". That's not too long if you're Laura Scanlon, who regards our bodies as the ultimate mobile gym and has decided that, basically, she could invent an app for that.

Irish model Laura Scanlon
Irish model Laura Scanlon
Laura Scanlon: Add in core toning exercises to your routine

Tall and graceful, with striking, almond-shaped eyes, you'd easily identify Laura as a model, and that's what she has been for most of her young-adult life. There's something in the way she moves, though, panther-like, that speaks of an athlete. Then, after you've spoken to her about her life's passion - fitness - you understand that certain poise, and you imagine that Laura's the kind of girl who has her core engaged constantly.

South African sun

Eighteen months ago, Knocklyon-born Laura moved to South Africa, with her boyfriend Dave Murphy. They met in Dublin six years ago - he had already lived and worked in Cape Town, and, as a couple, they began going back and forth there on holidays before committing to a full relocation.

That is has been a very happy move is very clear, and it's about more than just good weather. There's something about this new country that has inspired Laura the model to focus on her career as a better-body guru.

Autumn Cape Town days that feel like summer 🙌🏻☀️ can never get enough of this view 🌍

A post shared by L a u r a S c a n l o n (@laura_bodyzone) on

The fact that the good weather means you're often in your swimwear and summer clothes played a part in the refocus, Laura admits. South Africa is very body-conscious, from a diet, beauty and fitness point of view. "It's a pressure, but it's a good pressure," she says.

"When I moved there, I was working as a model, but I also started getting into the gyms and doing personal training," Laura says. "I developed my own website living in Cape Town, where I offer programmes where you use your own body as a gym. Because you're using your body, and no other equipment, you can do it anywhere, any time.

Laura Scanlon: Skipping is an incredibly effective, versatile workout tool
Laura Scanlon: Skipping is an incredibly effective, versatile workout tool

"Your body is a very powerful tool, we just need to realise it and harness it. Like, we are all exercising all the time without knowing it. We squat, like, 30 times a day; getting up off a chair, using the bathroom. But even when you're using your body for your workout, you have to do it correctly, and you'd be floored after doing one of my routines. But it's just a case of push back the furniture or get out into your garden - the list of where you can do it is endless."

Laura reckons that something like her website, bodyzone.ie, is a timely fitness idea in a world where people are not only more interested in fitness, but they are also cost-conscious. "When the recession hit," she says, "and people couldn't afford gyms any more, they got more inventive. Running became this huge thing, because once you have your runners, it's pretty much free.

"I also have my Instagram, where I offer programmes and inspiration," Laura says, "and pretty much the only other Instagrams I follow are fitness ones, where there's not much negativity. You know stuff that focuses on Fitness Friday and 'never miss a Monday workout', stuff that just gives me a kick and makes me get up and do it."

Laura's keen to turn Bodyzone into a big brand, and feels that South Africa is the place to do it. She works in several gyms in Cape Town, while Dave works in technology and property, she says, and he swims daily in the "cold as Ireland" Atlantic Ocean opposite their apartment in chic Bantry Bay.

Laura skips the swims but she loves the walks, the wine country and the lifestyle in South Africa. "Everyone asks if it's safe, but it's like anywhere," she says, "you just have to avoid certain areas that you know are dangerous."

They won't be coming home to Dublin any time soon, so, though Laura comes back several times a year and enjoys the time at home with her family.

Laura Scanlon: The recommended daily intake of water is two litres per day
Laura Scanlon: The recommended daily intake of water is two litres per day

"When I first went to South Africa, I was just modelling," Laura says. "But I had all my personal training qualifications done, so when I decided to do that too, it was an easy transition. But modelling is good out there. From May to September there are all the big names there and then there's German catalogues, and I just got a huge sportswear job that I had really wanted.

So there's plenty of work there. You know, I'm not saying I'm anywhere near the end of my modelling career, but I just turned 29 and I'm being cast as, like, 33-plus because I'm sort of now a transitional age. And that's fine, that doesn't bother me, but it's important to have something else in your life."

Exercise has always been in Laura's life. Her father, obviously, was always a fit and active person and that was inspiring; but she was a naturally athletic child, too. "Irish dancing and athletics," Laura says. "I was non-stop on those growing up."

Running into the weekend like.. 😝have a happy & healthy weekend all 🙌🏻 #healthyliving #capetown

A post shared by L a u r a S c a n l o n (@laura_bodyzone) on

The biscuit tin

"And I wasn't bad," she adds with a laugh. "I was All-Ireland champion at 14; schools national relay champion; but it's all or nothing in athletics, and when you hit college and the fact that it's such an individual sport, it's just so easy to drift away from it. Still, it was an obvious move for me to study sports and fitness, and then, when I moved to Cape Town and I discovered the World Cup stadium, which has this amazing athletics track, I just got back into it. Now I have a coach and a team and I train there a few times a week."

She's a hard taskmaster, not just in her work, not just with her dad; but with herself, too.

"I believe that to get full results from your fitness; it has to be 100pc food and 100pc exercise. You have to give your all to both. You can't do a really intense workout and then go home and eat a pizza and think your hard work will pay off," Laura says.

"But when I'm home," she laughs. "It's hard not to have the biscuits with the tea. They're just there, in the press. That's why I don't have cakes and biscuits in the house in Cape Town."

"I've fallen off the bandwagon a bit back in Ireland," says Laura, looking forward to her return to Cape Town soon after we meet. "But that's OK. It's OK to fall off the wagon every now and then, but you need to know in your own mind that it's temporary. When I'm eating well and exercising, everything feels better. I sleep better, feel better, I'm in a better mood. It's a lifestyle choice worth making."

20 tips for summer fitness

Join a club

What's better motivation than working out with friends while potentially making new ones? Join a tag rugby group or a running club this summer.

Breakfast

Prepare your breakfast and lunch the night before to avoid grabbing something quick and unhealthy on the run.

Snacks

Keep nuts, seeds and fruit on you throughout the day to avoid snacking on chocolate and sweets.

Coffee

Change your cappuccino/flat white to an Americano.

Frozen grapes

A delicious low-calorie alternative to sweets, without the extra sugar.

Water

People who consume sugary drinks regularly (One to two cans a day or more) have a 26pc greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks, according to a recent study at Harvard School of Public Health. The recommended daily intake of water is two litres per day. Cut all sugary drinks from your diet and sip on water throughout the day.

Alcohol

Although the bright evenings are screaming at you to go to the beer garden for a few drinks, this can play havoc on your midline. Avoid cocktails and beer, which are full of empty calories. If you are going to drink, keep it clear with a vodka soda with lots of fresh lime. Be warned: tonic water does not mean less sugar; one can of tonic has nine grams of it. That's two teaspoons of sugar.

Implement fitness Friday

The end of the week can sometimes mean meeting a friend for a sneaky lunch-time burger, which can often be the start of a downward spiral for the weekend ahead. Instead, why don't you and your friend meet and try out a new fitness class close by, such as yoga, spinning or Pilates. Your body will thank you.

Fitness tracking watches

I find mine very motivating and they help keep track of your sleep pattern, calories, steps, heart rate and mileage. Pretty cool.

Juice

Adding a green juice to your diet daily has many health benefits such as healthier skin, improved digestion, not to mention nutrients. There are many health shops and cafes now stocking fresh juices. I like to combine a handful of spinach/kale, one green apple, ginger, celery, lemon, chia seeds and flax seeds.

Body

Focus on athletic changes in your body rather than aesthetic changes. Focus on building strength and stamina rather than what the scales says.

Recovery

Rest and recovery is essential in order for your body to adapt and muscles to grow. Self-myofascial release is a term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. This can be performed with a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. By foam-rolling specific muscles on your body, you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment's notice. This is also known as active recovery, so on your 'day off' don't sit around feeling stiff and sore, get up, move and get foam-rolling.

Bodyweight training

Bodyweight training (using your own bodyweight for resistance) helps increase lean muscle mass in individuals, especially when combined with aerobic activity. Its doesn't cost you anything. You literally need your body and some space.

Get planking

Give yourself a new daily challenge by planking. Hold a low plank for 30 seconds, then go straight into high plank for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat four times. Always ensure you're using the correct technique for the plank and don't forget to breathe.

How to do the basic plank

• Get in the push-up position, put your forearms on the ground with your hands straight in front of you.

• Squeeze your glutes, thighs and your abdominals.

• Keep a neutral neck and spine.

• Create a straight, strong line from your head to your toes.

• Hold that position.

Burpees

Love them or hate them, the benefits are real. This full-body functional exercise acts as a fat-burning machine. Burpees are a great exercise to do in a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training). You can also do them as a warm-up exercise. The basic burpee is performed without the press-up, as, for beginners, it is best to modify the exercise and leave the press-up out. For the more advanced among you, the press-up is an extra benefit. Try three sets of 10 burpees with 20 seconds rest between each set and feel your chest burn.

How to do a burpee

• The classic burpee is a four-point move.

• From a standing position, drop into a squat with your hands on the ground just in front of your feet.

• Then kick your feet back behind you, keeping your arms extended so you are in a raised plank position.

• At this stage, the more advanced can throw a press-up into the mix, which really ramps up the difficulty.

Change

The body responds really well to change, so if you have been doing the same form of exercise for the past few months and feel like you are stuck in a bit of a rut, then try something new. Ramp up the intensity like HIIT, fast interval running like hill sprints, or higher repetition resistance training at a lower weight.

Skipping

It's an incredibly effective, versatile workout tool. You can pack a rope and bring it away on your holidays to keep up your cardio fitness. Bring it to the gym or just use it in your own back garden.

Major muscles

Target your major muscles with compound exercises like back squats, deadlifts and lunges. Moves like these burn more calories during and after exercise. You can make these exercises more of a full body workout by adding in planks (see point 14, below left) and sit-ups between your sets. For example, after completing your amount of back squat repetitions, hold the plank for 30 seconds low, then 30 seconds high.

Core

Although the core is engaged while doing compound exercises like squatting and deadlifts, it is always good to add in core toning exercises to your routine.

Positivity

Being positive about your workout will help get the results you are looking for. Use exercise as a form of therapy. During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger a positive feeling in your body and help reduce stress levels.

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