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'Gym made me like myself again'


Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

It is quite easy for a coach who moonlights as a writer to sit behind a laptop and wax lyrical about what it takes to transform your body. My knowledge and experience might inspire people to take action, but nothing is as powerful as reading someone else's journey from frumpy to fabulous.

It takes courage for someone to share their journey, and so I am delighted that Be Fit For Life client Orla Maginn (46) has agreed to do so, so that it might inspire you to get started on your own road to fitness.

Orla came into our gym for her first assessment last September. She was nervous, and wondered what she had let herself in for. It can be intimidating to enter an atmosphere where at times you don't know anyone and you feel vulnerable, and where everyone is fit and healthy.

Yet many people partaking in any fitness programmes are on a journey. Many are travelling different paths using different methods but the goal is the same -- to look and feel better.

Orla initially weighed in at 78.7kg and was 28pc body fat, which amounted to 48lb of fat.

She couldn't understand how she was this size, as she was already training four times a week. "Even though I thought I had a healthy diet, I found myself overweight, lethargic and somewhat depressed."

Orla set a goal to be 66kg by Christmas and to reduce her body fat to 18pc. We gave her a plan -- we set her a goal and equipped her with a shopping list of foods to choose from and a sample food diary.


A food diary is an excellent tool, as it increases your accountability and helps you regain control of your health. Orla gradually found her whole outlook on food had changed.

Key to the whole thing was to eat a protein breakfast. Examples include an omelette or salmon with some avocado, or a protein and vegetable stir-fry. A protein breakfast helps balance your sugar, increasing dopamine, which increases neural drive.

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Healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil and Omega 3 fish oil are essential for fat loss. More fats like raw nuts balance your blood sugar, preventing sweet cravings, and also raise acetylcholine, which improves decision-making.

Lunch was to consist of a fish salad and dinner was lean protein and vegetables. Nothing revolutionary.

Orla invested in personal training three times a week. "I owed it to myself to give it my best shot," she says. She also agreed to do two days of interval training by herself.

Some people will read this and think that personal training is a cost, but I consider it an investment. A cost, unlike an investment, is something that yields no return.

When you consider your health as a cost, you might stop for a minute and consider what price are you paying not to have the health, confidence, self-esteem and body that you want? How does this affect what is important to you?

It is my experience that it costs many people happiness in their relationships, confidence in presenting to new customers in their career.

It affects your choice of clothes and where you shop. It affects how you hold yourself in social outings -- the cardigan to cover your arms, the coat to hide your legs and the jumper you wear around your waist so that your bum is always covered. These are all words of females who have shared their reasons for wanting to start training.

When you read your food diary, look at where you are spending your income. It's common to see €100 spent on a night out, but what value do you place on your health?

Orla demonstrated great determination in accomplishing her goal. She didn't miss one day of training, not even in December when she drove from Wicklow during the snow and blizzard conditions.

Research published in the 'Journal of Strength and Conditioning' on the influence of a personal trainer showed that women self-select weights 51pc less than what they are capable of lifting. This means many females don't lift weights heavy enough to change their body shape because they lack the self-belief.

"I began to feel fitter, healthier and leaner than I had in years," says Orla. "But most importantly, I began to like myself again."

On Christmas Eve we took Orla's body fat -- it was down to 16pc. As fat stores toxins, a lower, body fat is preferential for optimal health. Body fat is a better predictor of health as opposed to just weight. Orla's bust was now 34" from the original 39"; waist 31" from 36"; and her hips are now 35" from the original 42".

In January, at her daughter Ciara's 18th birthday, Orla accomplished her goal of reaching 66kg and had reduced her dress size from a 16 to a size 10.

"I remember thinking back in September -- have I the ability to achieve this?

"I constantly surprised myself, and now feel there is nothing I can't achieve if I put my mind to it."


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