we're fitter

Your willpower may be faltering in that new year's pledge to get back into shape, but don't despair. fiona byrne and sinead fagan took the herald challenge to get fit and, despite their doubts, surprised themselves with the results

Fiona Byrne, Sinead Fagan

Recently, I was introduced to a man that I would grow to love and despise in equal measure. He would order me to get on my knees, lie down, jump up, push harder, but he would also give me the body I wanted. He is my personal trainer. In January 2012 I went back to the gym after a typical fat Christmas and a lengthy stretch of general gym avoidance.

I was feeling disappointed with myself for allowing my previous levels of fitness to dissipate and was eager to rediscover my 2011 summer body.

This time last year I was knee-deep in ribbon, table plans and RSVPs. It was the build-up to my wedding and the best gift I could possibly receive (apart from my husband's hand, natch!) was from the personal trainers at The Edge, Clontarf, who beat me into submission and presented me with a full body upgrade.

I quite literally worked my ass off, weight training for an intense 12 weeks with a personal trainer, and with a healthy and very balanced eating plan, the weight fell off and the muscle built up. I was a lean, mean bridal machine!

Alas, pizza, pasta, wine and general lolling about fuelled my honeymoon in Sicily, and the following months passed with a guilty conscience and an expanding waistline.

Finally I had enough. I became bored with my internal monologue of self-loathing and decided to return to my former glory and to prove that visible results can be achieved in only six weeks.

The personal trainer

what is it?

Nobody will ever work as hard in the gym as they will with a personal trainer. They understand your body, your capabilities and your limits and will push you to the brink, working you harder than you ever thought possible.

I went to The Edge in Clontarf set up in 2009 by David Mulqueen and James Swan -- it's a purpose-built personal-training facility that individually caters for people of all levels of fitness.

The initial consultation is free and the trainers look at your body fat, weight, diet, fitness, lifestyle and build a personalised plan.

Check out www.theedgeclontarf.com or call 01 853 4091.

the programme

For the six weeks I exercised three days a week with a trainer and also did boxing one day over the weekend.

The boxing sessions were tough and punching the pads, while bouncing around the gym trying to hit hard and focus on the combinations, is a great method of keeping your mind off the jelly forming in your legs, the vacuum being created within your lungs and the sudden inability to move your arms faster than the speed of your granny.

We used the bag, we squatted, lunged, crunched and rowed -- all agonising, but the time flies by and, after one hour, it's done.

The mid-week training evolves as you strengthen and more weights are added, as are more lunges, squats, burpees, presses, chin-ups and push-ups.

Each day I felt a little fitter but every time I even considered a splinter of complacency, a new form of torture would be thrown at me.

Each week my trainer weighed me and, using a special caliper, he measured my body-fat levels, hormones, water retention and lean muscle, and advised me on my sugars, carbs, greens, proteins, wine, pizzas and curry.

my experience

In the six weeks of training I avoided alcohol, ate clean, went to bed early and worked hard in The Edge. I lost 10 pounds, 6pc body fat and gained a flat stomach and toned ass, legs and arms.

The basic philosophy at The Edge centres around an all-over lifestyle choice. There is no point in eating junk food and training like a maniac. There is also no point in starving yourself and getting no exercise. It's a balance that is actually quite easily achieved and once you've committed to the change, it feels brilliant.


It feels great to get into my skinny jeans and have a firmer stomach and bum, but there's also an enormous mental benefit that I did not expect to experience.

Each session released endorphins (the happy chemical) and reduced cortisol (the stress hormone) so, naturally, I felt better but really, what worked for me was the accidental meditation.

The mind is completely focused on the task at hand. The only thoughts during that hour are the counting of reps or the muscle that is aching. There is no room for any other thoughts. When the session is over my mind felt alert, sharp and fresh. >FB

When I was in my 20s, I combined training for a black belt in kickboxing with playing division one basketball; my muscles were constantly screaming at me but I had a six-pack you could lose your change in.

Fast forward 10 years and I have a two-year-old daughter, a son approaching his fifth birthday and life is a lot different. Despite being a working mammy, I still keep fit and I'm diligent about maintaining my weight, however my opportunities for exercising are considerably less.

I'm getting married this June so I really want to up the ante and given that I spend my life clock-watching, I can't abide exercises classes where the last 15 minutes are spent breathing deeply and listening to Sade. I need every workout to be twice as effective in half the time, so I chose Pilates.


what is it?

Developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, it's a system designed to increase core strength, while improving flexibility, balance and muscle tone.

A lot of the exercises are based around mat work, often incorporating equipment such as gym balls, foam rollers and resistance bands.

the class

I went to popular instructor Audrey Byrne of Studio 12 Pilates, in MU Gym, Malahide. I had been to Audrey's classes before after the birth of my daughter, so I knew she had the right blend of fun and sadism to make my experience both enjoyable and productive. Check out www.studio12 pilates.com or call 086 848 3438. Also, www.mi gym.ie or call 01 845 6434.

my experience

Despite being used by world-class boxers and athletes as well as being responsible for giving us the dreaded 'plank', the general view of Pilates seems to be that it's mostly for women and I can't understand why.

I am fit and used to training hard, yet some of the exercises we did really made me grit my teeth. I saw middle-aged mammies doing things with their bodies that the grunting beefcakes out in the gym would be hard pushed to match.

Pilates is not really a calorie burner, however it is excellent for toning and building strength, and having combined it with more cardio-based activities such as kettle bells and basketball, I can now see my old six-pack beginning to re-emerge.

kettle bells

what are they?

A kettle bell is a cast-iron weight, that looks like a bowling ball with a handle attached. Although they have been used for years, primarily in Eastern Europe, this training method is now really starting to take off all over the world. The basic movements involve using different muscle groups at once, so it's a good way to get an overall body workout in a short time period.

the class

I went to certified instructor and accomplished triathlete Dinny Collins, who runs kettle-bell classes all over north Co Dublin as well as personal training sessions and boot camps. After sustaining a serious back injury while living in Australia, Dinny was told he'd be lucky to do any kind of hard physical activity again -- kettle bells were part of his rehab programme. Check out his website, www.fingalkettlebells.ie or call 087 905 2155.

my experience

At the first class, I was warned to take it easy. My natural instinct is to go hell for leather, but I held back a bit and though I didn't feel like I had worked out too hard at the time, I knew about it the next day.

After three classes I felt ready to increase the weight and when I managed to fit in a random gym session I found myself lifting heavier weights than I had before.

The good thing about these classes is that you can pick a weight to suit you and take the exercises at your own pace, so it's something anybody can try. And there was a good mix of men and women of all ages in the classes.

I like the quick results that I saw doing kettle bells; I have done weights most of my adult life, but after six weeks in Dinny's class I have noticed a definite improvement in tone in my arms and shoulders. Take note, training gloves are essential! >SF