Category Archives: Health and Nutrition

Inspirational fit moms: tips from women who manage it all !

Moms into fitness, those able to balance being a busy mom with their workout schedule, are real role models to me. Although I live on my own, I still find it difficult at times to organise meal preps, complete my training, carry a full time job and factor in other activities. These fitness moms lead a healthy lifestyle while looking after their families and their careers.
Gillian Leetch-Armstrong is a 49-year-old bikini competitor from Belfast and mother of three boys aged 16, 13 and 8. She works part-time as a social worker and combines this with running her own business as a private counselor.

Jennifer Mackenzie from Rush, 36, Office Manager and Executive Assistant to the leadership team in Accenture. Jennifer is a mother of two and a part-time Personal Trainer.

I am always so impressed when I see fit moms like these ladies in the gym. Whenever I get the chance to chat to them, my first question is to find out how they manage to coordinate everything. More importantly, I ask them to provide fitness tips and advice for other working, busy moms out there who struggle to find the time to look after their health and fitness. I have put together a digest of some of their advice for you.

1 – Find another fitness mom

Gillian with running friends

Jennifer’s story is a great example of how training with a friend can really help you achieve results. Jennifer had her first baby in 2009 and didn’t put much weight. She found it easy to lose weight after pregnancy by doing lots of walking. However, in 2013 she had her second baby and had gained around three stone. Her body weight had reached 11 stone (69.8 kg) and she found it harder to shed the extra baby weight this time around. She attributes this difficulty to life just being busier at home and at work.

Jennifer was not really into fitness but decided the time was right to do something to help her post pregnancy weight loss and get fitter. She tried a boot camp class while she was still breastfeeding, but it didn’t allow enough time for her body to recover. As a result, the experience of boot camp classes was not pleasant. Trying out other well-known weight loss programmes such as Slimming World and Weight Watchers didn’t help either. She didn’t get the long-term results she was expecting: 

“I learned from this experience that I needed a different approach and it took me a year to come to terms with it. Slimming World worked short-term, but the weight was always put back on. There are no quick fixes and it takes time to get results.”


Jennifer finally discovered her passion when she decided to take a four-week TRX challenge. This program consisted of a TRX workout schedule along with a nutrition plan. Her daily calorie intake was restricted to 1,200. The hard work really paid off, as Jennifer says:

“I lost a stone and inches! It was the first time that I was doing different types of fitness exercises which allowed me to lose both weight and inches. Although the first week was dreadful, I was sore from training, I kept at it. The great thing is that I also had to reprogram myself around nutrition. I honestly love cooking and thought I knew a lot about cooking. This program was my kick start into my new health and fitness journey.”

She realized how much she loved TRX exercises and kept on doing the classes two to three times a week with a fellow busy mom during the summer. Having a friend coming along made a big difference, as they could encourage each other and push one another.

“My friend also has kids and we became gym buddies. When I wouldn’t be motivated and wanted to cancel the class, she would push me to attend it. Likewise, when she would be too tired and not motivated to work out one day, I would encourage her to go to the class. After the summer, we kept on doing the classes the rest of the year. “
Recruiting a gym buddy is a fantastic way to stay on track with your fitness goals. Here is a great article on the top 10 health benefits of working out with a friend that I recommend reading. As Jennifer highlighted, having a training partner is a great fitness tip that has allowed her to push herself and be more consistent with her workouts. Having someone else with you makes you more accountable and motivated to even just attend the training sessions.


2 – Go from busy mom to organised mom

Getting organised is another great fitness tip from Jennifer to keep you on track.


“Your health should be a priority and you should look after yourself. You will be better to your family when you lead a healthy lifestyle. For example, if work is a priority for a short period of time and as a result you can’t do any sport, then make sure to go for healthy food options.

I know in advance what meals we will be eating each day the coming week. I usually cook the day before for the all family for the following day”

In terms of nutrition, Jennifer has a very good system and has found a balance that works for her and her family. Her healthy eating plan has her staying with clean and healthy choices Monday to Friday, but she then allows herself treats at the weekend.  I was then wondering if her kids and husband eat the same healthy food, which would make Jennifer’s life easier in the kitchen. She has found a system which allows her to remain healthy while making sure her family enjoy nutritious food too:

“Since I am in charge of the cooking, I tailor each meal to fit my needs and keep the rest of the family happy. For example, if I cook spaghetti Bolognese, I keep the meat and will have it with salad instead of pasta. Same with burgers, I will have it with salad instead of fries and will not eat the bun either. I just make sure to keep the source of protein and combine it with vegetables or salad.”

Just to clarify, she quotes: I do swap out carbs for salad and veg but not completely out of my diet. If I have trained hard then I eat carbs, choosing mainly wholegrain pastas and brown rice when I can. I do not believe in cutting any food out completely, in my experience this just leads to yo-yo dieting.

I totally agree with this approach, and it definitely works long-term.

Although Gillian has a different background to Jennifer since she competes in a very demanding sport, she also believes that organisation is key to her success:

“My key is to plan. I usually prep a few meals at the weekend. For example, I would make stews, soups, curry, chilli. When I get back from work it’s just warm them up with white rice or couscous or quinoa. For breakfast, I make overnight oats so the kids grab a tub from the fridge whatever time they get up and I can have mine either at home or after my gym workout. Lunches – again, it is all about prep. I will wash lots of salad veg and chop peppers etc. then it is just a matter of throwing a handful in a plastic container and popping a cooked chicken breast or some prawns or a tin of tuna or salmon fillet on top. I often roast a chicken or cook some chicken breast. I can use the roast chicken in my salads and throw some in a sandwich or tortilla wrap for the kids.”

24826109_733070420229735_1219101876_oGillian- healthy family meal

“What I usually want is that whatever I have made suits my diet and the kids, by either taking one thing away or adding one thing in. So, for example, if I have already consumed my carbs portion for the day, I would eat chilli without the rice. Also, I double up on dinner quantity when cooking so I have leftovers for lunch.”

Gillian on stage-2


3- Get up early!


Jennifer’s kids wake up around 7.30am but she is up earlier. By doing so, she can be in the gym around 6.30am three times a week to do her own exercise.

“I am lucky that the gym is down the road from where I live. Once I finish in the gym, I go back home and prepare breakfast for my kids and husband so that the kids are ready to leave for school. Then my husband takes them to school”

Jennifer makes it look easy, but I was interested to find out what issues she has to deal with that occasionally get in the way of her workout schedule. She said when one of her kids is sick or she is held at work, she has to cancel her gym session but just changes her plans and postpones the workout for another day. To quote her on this, “Life happens outside the gym and we can only solve one problem at a time.

4- Be gentle to yourself

Among the chaos of raising children, holding down a job (or two) and managing a work out schedule, it can be easy to forget to take it easy on yourself if things don’t go to plan or you are just too tired.

Gillian at the beach

Jennifer “We tend to be too hard on ourselves, sometimes work or life gets in the way, if you miss a session in the gym it’s OK. You can do it the day after. Avoid beating yourself up otherwise you carry this guilt over a day, then before you know it will be the entire week. It’s better to let it go that day and make peace with it and do it the next day or another day.”

5- Stop making excuses

Gillian’s kids are into exercise too. Her boys practice kickboxing and follow a programme run for kids in her local gym. This is handy, because it means she can do her workout while her children do their own! Sometimes she still has to haul herself to the gym at an un-Godly hour for her early morning workout while the boys are still in bed, she is committed to her training and getting it done. At times, she can’t get to a gym so is happy to exercise at home instead.

Gillian's kids at kickboxing

“I think you have to want it enough, otherwise you find excuses. Most moms probably get an hour in the day where they watch the soaps or go on social media. I use that hour to workout. If I can’t get to the gym because of [the kids’] schedule I will exercise at home. Bodyweight stuff. The trick for me is to put in on your schedule like you would for a dental appointment. You wouldn’t miss that!”

Another of Jennifer’s fitness tips is to try not to make excuses for missing a gym session.

“When you have a tough day, it’s easy to talk to yourself out of it. You have to fight through and do it. You will feel a lot better afterwards. The hardest thing is to get there. Once you’re there and you have completed your training session, you will feel great about yourself and have a sense of accomplishment.”

6- You are never too old

Gillian took up running at age 45 and competed in various distance races – 5km, 10km and half marathons, as well as a season of track racing. Her biggest achievement in running was an “All Ireland” medal for a team relay race. Sadly, she ruptured her calf muscle in 2015 that meant she went from running up to 30 miles a week to sitting on the sofa.

After a few weeks doing nothing, she hobbled into the gym nearest her home on crutches and asked the owner what she could do for her upper body. They then worked together. He helped her rehabilitate and gave her lots of fitness tips, and as a result she was able to go back running.

“I carried on personal training to build strength for my running, but found myself looking forward to my weight sessions more than my runs.”

I was curious to find out how Gillian got involved in bodybuilding, since her path seemed to be running in the early stages. It all started in in March 2017, when her son entered a fitness model competition in Belfast and Gillian went along to watch a support him. He did very well, winning in the category under 16 Mr Physique and Mr Athletic NIFMA Ireland (Northern Ireland Fitness Model Association).

Gillian on stage with son


“I loved the experience and got speaking to one of the judges who encouraged me to think about competing. I spoke to my trainer who also encouraged me to go for it. I was so wracked with self-doubt that I didn’t register for the completion until two days before I was due to compete. I trained from March to October, six days a week. I competed in NIFMA Europe in June 2017. I won first place in Miss Yummy Mummy, second in Miss Toned Over 40 and third in Miss Bikini Over 40. I went on to compete in IBFA in October 2017 and I won second in physique category and third in bikini category. I juggle training into a very busy schedule. I hit the gym six times a week – two sessions of PT and four sessions using a programme written by my trainer.”

According to Jennifer, anyone can factor in a quick workout each day, no matter what:

“Anyone at any age can look after their health and be more active. There is always 30 minutes in the day that you can fit in for a training session. It doesn’t have to be 60 minutes or more. There are lots of choices of exercises which are 20 to 30 mins long.”

If you still think you are too old or too busy to look after yourself, please check out this video of Ernestine Sheperd, an 80-year-old bodybuilder who started working out when she was 56.

If you are a complete beginner and not a gym lover, check out this blog with more fitness tips and  some easy and simple exercises any mother can do.


Sarah Smith won the silver medal at The National Kettlebell Championships last Sunday

Meet the international pro athlete in Kettlebell Sara Smith who has been competing for 6 years and went through all the level lef from 8kg to professional level at 24 kg. She holds an IUKL (International Union of Kettlebell Lifting) judges qualification. Sarah sat on the AIKLF ( All Ireland Kettlebell Lifting Federation Irish Team) official committee as Connaught representative  for 3 years and helped organise the world championships in Dublin  in 2015.

She came second last week end at the National Championship last week end. It was a brilliant performance of hers.

Sarah Smith national championship 20.08.17

She has competed for the AIKLF All Ireland Kettlebell Lifting Federation Irish Team and  placed internationally in Russia, Latvia, Poland, UK at European and World Championships. Her skills extend to the coaching, since she coached other athletes on the Irish team who have competed at World and European championships. She has had the privilege to be coached by the president of AIKLF, Mick Kelly the past 6 years.
“I’m passionate about the sport because it helps me to stay strong in body and mind.
It tests mental and physical stamina and can be both exhilarating and exhausting.It builds confidence and helps me to distress. I love to see male and female, youths and veterans compete,it’s a great community.”
“I came about competing at the sport when I met my coach at a StrongMan competition in Limerick 7 years ago. I was exhibiting selling fitness courses and he was promoting Kettlebells. He invited me to the first ever competition held in Ireland. I saw a female snatching a 20kg and I was mesmerized.
At that moment I decided I wanted to pursue it so I got coaching from Mick and stuck with it ever since.”
Here are 2 videos of her performances during competitions:
Advice from Sarah:
– Be patient if considering taking up the sport as it requires conditioning and a lot of technique work along with mental strength and a longer term goal.
– Start with getting technique right and do a beginners 5 minutes competition first.
– Competing versus training can be very different experiences.
– Be prepared to be judge, competitor and spectator.
– Get your food and rest so you have the energy to train.
Rules of the sport:
It is a timed sport with athletes competing in different disciplines, body weight categories and kettlebell weight over 10 mins. They are judged with a rep counter and timer.
Amateur females lift 8kg-16kg and professionals lift 24kg. There aer male and female lifters in either junior,Youth,adult or veterans.
Disciplines are Snatch, Long Cycle or Jerk.
Men lift two bells (except in Snatch) and women lift one.
Athletes may only switch hands once in the 10 mins.
If you want to follow Sarah, here are some of her Facebook pages.

She has set up The Boss Lady Club and Galway kettlebell Club so that she can help more women offline and online

Boss lady


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How to live a healthy lifestyle and lose weight in 10 tips.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight, keep it off, and achieve a body transformation knows how difficult a feat it truly is. Even more so if you are a working professional, where time doesn’t seem to be in sufficient supply for preparing and cooking healthy meals, and let’s not mention finding the time to do some exercise. For moms, this is even more challenging because you put your kids first.

It is so easy to be tempted by “magic” pills that promise to burn extra fat, reduce your appetite, and boost your metabolism. Fad diets are another thing to be aware of; these diets are usually so hard to stick to and may not be healthy (especially in the long-term). A lack of time management, no motivation, and unrealistic expectations further impedes your ability to see your goal of losing weight through.

I would like to share my 3-year weight loss journey with you, together with 10 tips for losing weight, and keeping it off in the long-term.

The picture on the left was taken during my trip to France with my ex boyfriend in February 2014. I went to visit family and we had a big family reunion. My family was chocked by how big I wad and how much I was eating. My excuse was that I needed to gain strength to compete in powerlifing. This was my second year competing and had already won a world champion title. But my family was concerned about my health and gave me couple of warnings during my stay I was not willing to listen to them. I felt upset and frustrated, I thought they didn't acknowledge the hard work I was putting in the gym but just focus on my physical appearance. I was convinced that I was healthy although I was overweight I couldn't accept the truth. I am grateful that they warned me and told me the truth, I am much happier right now. We decided with my ex to do a stop at the Eiffel Tower before heading back to Dublin. I hadn't seen it in nearly 30 years. Although I was in one of the most beautiful city in the world, you can see the pain on my face. I had checked my weight secretly before heading to the airport. I found out that I was up to 114 kg / 250 lbs/ 18 stones. I knew I had to so something but didn't have the motivation at the time to do it. The right picture is the new me during a photo shoot done 2 weeks ago with my talented friend @chachougrensonphotography

The picture on the left was taken during my trip to France with my ex boyfriend in February 2014. I went to visit family and we had a big family reunion. My family was chocked by how big I wad and how much I was eating. My excuse was that I needed to gain strength to compete in powerlifing. This was my second year competing and had already won a world champion title. But my family was concerned about my health and gave me couple of warnings during my stay I was not willing to listen to them. I felt upset and frustrated, I thought they didn’t acknowledge the hard work I was putting in the gym but just focus on my physical appearance. I was convinced that I was healthy although I was overweight I couldn’t accept the truth. I am grateful that they warned me and told me the truth, I am much happier right now. We decided with my ex to do a stop at the Eiffel Tower before heading back to Dublin. I hadn’t seen it in nearly 30 years. Although I was in one of the most beautiful city in the world, you can see the pain on my face. I had checked my weight secretly before heading to the airport. I found out that I was up to 114 kg / 250 lbs/ 18 stones. I knew I had to so something but didn’t have the motivation at the time to do it. The right picture is the new me during a photo shoot done 2 weeks ago with my talented friend @chachougrensonphotography

1. Importance of Social Media
In this day and age, social media is a powerful tool that can be utilized in positive ways to aid you in your weight loss journey. Social media has provided me with a community of people who not only supports me, but also holds me for my results. They have followed my weight loss journey from the start, has seen my progress, and given me compliments as well as encouragement to keep on going.

At times, it was frustrating when it seemed that there were no results, no matter how healthy I was eating or how hard I was training. It didn’t help that the scale didn’t seem to be on my side either. I realized with the help of my social media friends that sometimes you need to take a step back and appreciate how far you have come. Even something small as not binge-eating or being able to exercise an extra 15 minutes without feeling as if you are not going to make it is something to be proud of. Since I built up a loyal and supportive online community, I am confident that I am able to help others achieve their dreams and change their lifestyle for the better. (Follow me on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.)

My first social media success. I received so many good comments and feedback from friends and people I had never met before. I got over 500 likes across my social media accounts. This is when my followers started to pay attention and take me a bit more seriously. I realised how getting support through social media and creating a new community during my journey was important. I don't have the opportunity to see my family very often so I feel like I have created a new family and friends through social media. I has had such a positive impact in the all process.

My first social media success. I received so many good comments and feedback from friends and people I had never met before. I got over 500 likes across my social media accounts. This is when my followers started to pay attention and take me a bit more seriously. I realised how getting support through social media and creating a new community during my journey was important. I don’t have the opportunity to see my family very often so I feel like I have created a new family and friends through social media. I have had such a positive impact in the all process.

  1. Baby Steps


When people ask me to give them advice on losing weight, I first try to understand where they are coming from and what triggers them to eat food that isn’t good for them. The reason for this is because I first needed to understand my relationship with food before I was able to change my eating habits. What goes on in your mind is key, and everything starts with how we feel about ourselves.

A main problem is that people eat too little during the day and then eat bigger portions at dinner. Most often, dinner is made up of food that is high in sugar and/or is processed. This leads to more cravings for unhealthy foods (a vicious circle that is continues and continues).


My advice is to eat at least 2 healthy, balanced meals during working hours and plan for 1 to 2 snacks to avoid being super hungry at dinnertime. This should ideally be done in a step-by-step basis; eating habits cannot be changed immediately.

  1. Planning and Preparing Meals

If you know that you are going to be busy during the week and don’t have time to cook your meals, planning and preparing your food for the week will help you out so much.

For the first two years of my journey, I used to train about 4 to 5 times a week. This year, I have been exercising twice a day, 6 days a week. You can see that I don’t have the time in the week to prepare and cook meals, so I take Sundays to do this. Having my meals planned and prepared before I start my week is a weight off my shoulders.

  1. Cook Meals Yourself  

A lot of people struggle to cook their own meals for lunch and/or dinner, so they end up buying meals and/or snacks from a deli or whatever place is most convenient that day. I used to be like that. I would buy my meals every day from the canteen. I have been in the workforce for 21 years, and until 2014, I was too lazy to prepare and bring my own lunch to work. I did, however, admire others who had the discipline to do so.

In September 2014, I started to cook my own lunch every day. I didn’t have a choice, as I was a fulltime student; my tiny budget didn’t allow me to buy food every day. This was the best thing that ever happened to me as I realized that planning meals and making it yourself is a big (much-needed) step to becoming healthy.


One of my favourite dish back in 2014 that I learned from my instructor :home made mince meat pizza. the base is made of mince meat and topped with aubergine cheese onions and tomatoes. It would be so filling that it would last me up to 3 days.

One of my favourite dish back in 2014 that I learned from my instructor :home made mince meat pizza. the base is made of mince meat and topped with aubergine cheese onions and tomatoes. It would be so filling that it would last me up to 3 days.

It won’t be smooth sailing at first, and going forward, you learn what food works best for you. Remember that natural ingredients are always best: veggies, fruit, lean and fresh meat, fish, nuts and whole grains. Try to always substitute unhealthy food with healthier versions. That way it doesn’t look like you are trying to restrict yourself too much and you can enjoy the changes you are making in your life. . I would recommend this article on the top 10 health benefits of cooking home.

  1. The 80/20% Rule

For this rule, you need to eat as healthy as you can during the week, and then you can have a cheat meal or two (no more!) on the weekend. For the first two years of my weight loss journey, I would stick as closely as I could to “eating clean” from Monday to Friday and then have treats on the weekend. This way, it isn’t a diet that you follow, but rather a lifestyle and it is a lot easier to maintain.

cheat meals allowed

There were times that I overindulged on the weekends especially when I was training for marathons, thinking that the exercise would burn it off anyways. I learned the hard way that you can’t work out on a bad diet; you still need to keep some control over your cheat meals.

home made protein healthy muffins made with 2 bananas, protein powder, oats, grated coconut and almonds, dark chocolate, peanut butter, walnuts and eggs

home made protein healthy muffins used to be for my week ends. Although all the ingredients fit into my program I would have them in the week end so that i had something nice to look forward. made with 2 bananas, protein powder, oats, grated coconut and almonds, dark chocolate, peanut butter, walnuts and eggs

  1. Work with a Coach/Nutritionist

There is no harm in reaching out for help and working with a professional who will design a personal plan that is adapted to your needs. There isn’t a perfect, one-size-fits-all “diet” or lifestyle out there for everyone. We all have different body types, lifestyles, jobs, etc.

Even though I am a certified personal trainer, I have always worked with a professional for guidance and motivation. Additionally, a coach further makes me accountable, checks on my progress and gives me useful tips when I need them.

with my coaches I have worked with the past 10 years

with my coaches I have worked with the past 10 years

  1. Find a Friend

If it is hard to find the motivation to pick up a sport and stick to it by yourself, doing it with someone else will motivate you. There are a million reasons to cancel a training session, but if there is someone else that does the activity with you, then it is a bit more difficult to cancel, as you would let that other person down, too. This is why I love competing, because it gives me a goal to work towards and keeps me further motivated to train every day of the week. There are some days that even I don’t feel like training and knowing that there is some competition coming makes that feeling go away.


  1. Be Grateful

Be grateful for what you have and where you are at in your life. It helps to remain positive and it starts you off well for the day. It also makes you appreciate what you have already achieved to date. I am a big believer in the laws of attraction; the more positive thoughts we have, the more positive things will happen in your life.

If we are honest, it is impossible to be positive 365 days of the year; we all have our off days. Remember that it is OK to not always be OK; we aren’t and don’t have to be perfect.


  1. Love Yourself at Any Shape 

As women, we are over critical of how we look. I was a size 6-8 in my 20s and thought that I was too fat. I could never be happy because I was constantly chasing smaller numbers on the scale. Now, when I look back at pictures of myself then, I think that I looked gorgeous. I should have appreciated myself. I learned from my mistakes and decided to first love how I look before I considered changing my habits and adopting a new healthier lifestyle.


A sustainable weight loss and body transformation journey takes time; ideally up to a year depending on your starting point and how much weight you have to lose. Don’t wait until you have reached your final goal to start appreciating and loving who you are. You are more likely to succeed if you have a healthy and loving relationship with yourself from the beginning.

  1. Be Patient

Unfortunately, losing weight is a long process and trying to do it quickly won’t do you any favours. Quick fixes and fad diets are temporary solutions. We have all probably tried a quick fix at least once. I have done many of them, failed, and put all the weight (and some extra) back on again. So, I know from personal experience that it is not the best approach.

Give yourself plenty of time to be consistent. A successful entrepreneur once said, “Simple things done consistently and over time leads to amazing results.” To me, this is the BEST approach, always. You will appreciate it more and feel good during the whole process.


I thought that I could eat peanut butter and bread while training for a marathon; overindulging (even though I was training hard at the time) leads to putting weight back on. It is good to be mindful that it is a long journey and its ups and downs. I have made mistakes, so will you. It is important that you learn from them.

As stated before, working to lose weight and going on a healthy lifestyle journey is a long process Keeping these 10 tips in mind and learning from my mistakes will help you in the long run.

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Get Inspired! Meet two amazing powerlifting ladies who are breaking gender barriers and records!

For the past few years, an increasing number of women have been practising weight training and powerlifting in Ireland. Only three years ago, the IDFPA ( Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Association) had approximately 20 female athletes, but as of 2016 that number has soared to 200, with women making up nearly 50% of all members. As a professional powerlifter, I’m always interested in seeking out other inspiring women who are making a namesake for themselves in this competitive and male-dominated arena. So today, I’m going to share with you the story of two inspiring women who initially hail from different parts of Asia and have achieved some impressive successes for Ireland in this sport.




But first, for those who are not familiar with the sport let me explain what powerlifting is all about. The sport of powerlifting comprises three lifts:

Back Squat






The competitions may be comprised of one, two or all three of the lifting disciplines. Athletes are categorized by sex, age and bodyweight. Each competitor is allowed three attempts at each lift with the best lift in each discipline being added to their total. The lifter with the highest total is the winner. In cases where two or more lifters achieve the same total, the person with the lightest bodyweight wins.

The women I want to introduce to you today are both world champions in powerlifting and are both mothers of two lovely kids. Originally from Malaysia and Korea, Hazel and Linh have been competing for Ireland at both the national and international level for three years. Today, they’re sharing with us their passion for weightlifting and their outlook on life.


I first met them when I started competing within IDFPA (Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Association) in August 2013. After researching who were the top ten athletes in the federation I came across Linh’s profile and knew I had to meet her. I was impressed by her numbers, and I thought she could lift an incredibly heavy weight for her size and body weight (55.5kg). I met Linh in the Abs gym in Glasnevin to get some insight and tips about the sport because I was determined to get the best start in powerlifting possible. That was back in July 2013. One of the most memorable things Linh said to me was that, “training makes us strong mentally and physically. Life can get in the way, but the training helps us to face challenges and problems we must deal with in daily life.”

For a bit of background on Linh Duy Nguyen, she is 33 and a mother of two. She works as a part-time personal trainer in Abs Gym in Glasnevin, and she came to Ireland 15 years ago to study English and business.Her hobbies outside of powerlifting include hill walking, going to the movies, bowling, karting, and dining with her children and friends.


Believe or not, but this powerhouse lady had no sport background before coming to powerlifting. Linh reflects that, “I was chubby when I was a kid and didn’t get any exposure to sport at all. We only got two hours per week at school and it was basic exercise. I wasn’t brought up in a culture of sport. In Vietnam, girls wouldn’t be encouraged to participate in sport anyway. Girls would be more encouraged to do the girlie sports like ballet, while guys are encouraged to be involved in team sports or play on the field.’’ Unfortunately, discouraging women to be active and participate in sports seems to be a global issue and affects many women all over the world.


Linh reckons that things have changed the past few years with more young girls and women starting to realize that being strong is ‘cool’.  New slogans that we see a lot in social media like, ‘strong is sexy’ and ‘strong is the new skinny’ has had a huge impact on girls and changed the perception of weight training amongst women.

Linh is sharing her story with us on how she got involved in powerlifting and her passion for this sport.


Q: Why did you go into powerlifting?

A: Well to be honest, I never thought I would become a powerlifter. The journey started three years ago. I was overweight, and feeling depressed and sorry for myself after splitting from my husband. I got a wakeup call after I heard one nasty comment from someone. I needed to pick myself up and I decided to invest in some personal training. At the beginning, I was exercising with the sole purpose of losing weight. But the more I got into exercise, the better I felt about myself. One thing lead to another, and I decided to go back to school to become a qualified gym instructor. While I was attending college, one of my good friends told me to try on something as he thinks I am very strong. I then went and watched the single lift event back in January 2013 in Cork and things started from there.

Linh’s Personal Stats

Her personal best per lift at a 60-kg body weight are:

Back Squat 132.5kg

Bench 70kg

Deadlift 140kg

Q: What is your best moment in competition?

A: My best moment in competition has got to be being almost out of the competition because I failed the first two bench attempts, but I managed to get the third and secured the world record!

Q: What is your worst moment in competition?

A: I am not as confident with my deadlift. I need to work harder to get a better number.

Q: What would be your best advice for a beginner?

A: Technique! Whoever first starts out should get their technique right before increasing the load. Technique is your foundation, and a strong foundation is key! Also, find a good coach and learn proper technique from them and go from there.
Q: What is your biggest achievement to date?

A: Well, my biggest achievement to date is claiming the World Squat Record. I squatted 115.5 kg at 55 kg bodyweight at the World Championship in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2013 I became number one in female rankings in Ireland.



Q: How do you combine being a mother with working, and training for powerlifting?

A: It is a huge challenge. I do not have a lot of time to do loads of things that I would like to do with the kids. Everything must be planned. Many times I’ve had to bring the kids into training with me. I suppose it’s down to how much you want it! If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to get it. I did put a lot of hard work, effort and dedication into training. I was never a competitive person, but I guess training and competing in powerlifting brought out the competitiveness in me. I feel good about myself when I see my hard work paying off. I also see it as a great way to be a role model for my children. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it! Also I have to say I am very lucky to have such good friends that support me and stand by me with my ups and downs,  and for my coach who guides me, helps me, and mentally supports me to get me to where I am today.

Q: What advice would you give women who would like to take up any kind of sport even if they have never been in a gym?

A: I suppose women often feel guilty about taking up any type of hobby or sport because they won’t spend that time with kids or family, but don’t feel guilty! Figure out what you are interested in and do it! Do it for yourself! You deserve it!

After meeting Linh, I met Hazel in 2014 at the National Single Lift, which was her very first competition. Originally from Malaysia, Hazeline Hu is a 32 year old mother of two and business owner of Paleo Man Foods with her partner. She’s lived in Ireland since she was 17 years old and originally came with her brother and mother.  For Hazel, Ireland was a culture shock at first, especially the food. She remembers thinking how processed the food was here, and there being very little choice in the supermarkets, which was in stark contrast to Malaysia where the food is lot healthier. She was used to eating natural fresh food, seafood, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and raw fish.


Hazel has always been involved in sports. And when Hazel wasn’t competing in track and field events at school, she would sneak off when her parents weren’t around to go swimming. Because girls are not encouraged to participate in sports in Malaysia, Hazel was forced to hide her passion for athletics. In Ireland we face a similar issue in terms of girls participation in sports. In fact, the sport dropout rate is six times higher for girls than it is for boys, and only ¼ of senior year girls engage in regular exercise compared to ½ of boys.

Before Hazel went into powerlifting she was practising krav maga in Ashbourne. She has a background in martial arts, and she had always incorporated strength and conditioning in her exercise routine to keep her body strong.  Hazel would do a lot of skipping, sparring, footwork, body weight training and kettlebell training. But during her pregnancy and for the following two years, she was forced to stop doing any type of sport due to back pain. Her doctor recommended she stop being involved in sport, which was a depressing time for her.


But after the 2 years, Hazel was able to make a successful return to exercise with pilates and yoga, until she eventually transitioned to climbing and martial arts. I was curious to find out what had brought Hazel to compete in powerlifting considering it hadn’t been a very popular sport for women to compete in.

Q: Why did you decide to participate in powerlifting?

A: I sent a video of me training to Emer, a friend of mine, who showed that video to her coach, Jay Farrant. That was 2 weeks before the National Single Lift in February 2014. My current coach, Jay, gave me a training program for 2 weeks. I considered that competition as a trial.

Although Hazel’s body weight is 50kg, she managed to lift an overall total of 232.5kg at her first competition. She squatted 80kg, benched 45kg and deadlifted 107.5kg!

Hazel’s Personal Stats

Her Personal best per lift at a 51.2 kg body weight are:

Back Squat 125kg

Bench 70kg

Deadlift 152.5kg

Those numbers are impressive since my numbers are very close at 110 kg body weight when I was competing.


Q: What’s the competition you liked the most and why?

A: To be honest, I haven’t had a favourite yet as I’ve had many special moments with each competition. I guess if I must choose it would be the most recent IPF World Classics in Texas because it has been more than ten years since a team from Ireland has competed at the Worlds, and to be part of it was quite a cool experience. Plus, I got to meet the superstars in the powerlifting world!




Q: Which competition did you hate the most and why?

A: None. Each competition taught me more about what I needed to do and what I should be paying more attention to.

Q: What has been your funniest moment during competition?

A: My first competition back in February 2014! I had literally two weeks of practicing how to squat and bench with a barbell, and I did not have a single clue as to what I was doing. I even specifically positioned my butt off the bench and got a beautiful failed lift from the referees (as I was thinking the more arch the better, never mind having to have contact with the bench).

Q: What do you like and hate about training?

A: I absolutely have a love and hate relationship with training. But most importantly it teaches me to be patient. I learn to commit and put faith and belief in my own capabilities and responsibilities to whatever goals I want to achieve. I don’t necessarily hate it, but there are days where I don’t enjoy the intensity or the volume, especially during the building phase of the program because it requires the body to break down so that you can rebuild it to get stronger. I genuinely love training as I am in a like-minded community where we all have an understanding and passion of what we do in this sport. And most importantly, I like the fact that I can eat very, very happily without worrying if it will affect my body image.

As you can see, both Linh and Hazel are two amazing women who are breaking gender barriers in the powerlifting world, while inspiring other women to join this once male-dominated sport! Both of these women’s long term goals are to compete in the Olympics in 2024. The powerlifting federation they represent, IPF, is in the process of getting powerlifting recognized as an Olympic sport.  I’m looking forward to seeing them compete in 2024!


Finally, if you are a mother who wants to start powerlifting, consider Abs Gym in Glasnevin. Abs Gym is kid-friendly, which has made Hazel’s and Linh’s lives easier because they can bring their children along whenever they need without worry. Their kids are exposed to weight training and they even do some of the classes. Studies have shown that children’s risk of injury from strength training is no greater than that from other types of exercise or sports, and the potential benefits of such training, such as increased bone density and decreased body fat, generally outweigh any risks. More information on that subject can be found here.






What makes Hell & Back as a group so magical

Up until I completed my second Hell & back race with a group, I hadn’t realised how powerful team building was. Crossing that finish line with my co-workers whom I consider as my friends at this stage, was magical. It took the whole Hell & Back experience to another level. We get along really well and we are close at the office but this event brought us even closer. During the toughest challenges and obstacles, we all stuck together as a team. We helped each other, waited for one another even when it was getting cold especially after we all got soaking wet☺ .It really brought us together and showed us what we were truly made of.

Although my first Race was very special to me since I had never done such a tough obstacles race before, the second one will always have a special place in my heart. The Hell & Back Titan is shorter in distance -7km, compared to the Apollo which was 12 km. Both races are difficult regardless of the distance. The organisers introduced new obstacles this time and made sure we were well entertained the whole way through ☺


One of the new obstacles was the sack race which brought us way back to the time we were kids. We all had a grin on our faces when we were hopping and laughing in our sacks. It’s only a short distance but it can be quite intense. I was out of breath afterwards. Thank God I wasn’t the only one. After seeing the child’s game we weren’t expecting it to be so difficult. Everyone was taken by surprise and felt how tough it actually was. ☺


One of our favourite moments is when Xav ended up stuck in the mud for about 10 minutes, to be fair at that stage we were all exhausted. It took 4 strong men to help him out of the swamp☺ When asking him if he was fine, as we started getting worried, he replied with his famous Xav quote ’’Well guys, I am stuck’’. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures to illustrate this memorable moment however the thought of it will always be stuck in my mind. That is definitely one of the funniest memories and the best mental picture I will keep forever.


Aliénor de Bernard, from Team Accenture shares her experience of the Hell & Back Titan:

 The Hell &Back was an amazing experience altogether. I had certainly foreseen the physical exertion and knew we were going to have fun (yes, we are big kids rolling in the mud). Still, I had underestimated the team spirit that bound us for four hours. Sure, we had said we would help each other, but we really stuck together as one through hell, which is why we all made it back with huge banana smiles across our faces. It was all about pushing, waiting, helping, pulling, dragging and motivating. And all these “little” things only made the whole experience even better for me, tripling the amount of fun I had as I didn’t miss a single slip/fall/splash of my teammates. I’ll definitely do it again, once my body is not so painful anymore!”

Alienor really summed up the feelings we all had during the event and after crossing the finish line. She also pointed out a very important feature:  “the team building ‘’ spirit.


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

The term “team building” has become a buzzword in recent years, and has many meanings. In terms of corporate development, team-building exercises are important not only for the immediate experience of the activities performed by the team, but also for the group, communication and bonding skills that result. Team-building programmes provide realistic experiences that empower individuals to contribute to common goals. The success of most organisations depends on individuals’ ability to build effective teams.

The main goals of team-building are to improve productivity and motivation. Taking employees out of the office helps groups break down political and personal barriers, eliminate distractions, and have fun. The benefits of team-building programmes are so significant that many corporations have incorporated teambuilding strategies into their standard training curriculum.


I have always been an advocate of teamwork and have established my career among international companies which all had great teams.  I have always felt stronger being part of a team rather than working on my own although I could handle doing most of my job on my own.

Katerina McKINNON, is a lovely and beautiful person who used to be an Accenture employee in the past. Although she has left the company a couple of months ago, she also came with her beloved fiancé Julien to be a part of the Team Accenture. They both really enjoyed the whole experience.

’Hell & Back was the toughest thing I had ever done. I had to face some of my worst fears and I am happy to say I have succeeded in doing so! I don’t regret this one bit, & am very grateful to Arlette for convincing me to do it. Plus, my team was the best, everyone helped each other out and we had such a great laugh altogether. I am very proud of myself and more importantly proud of everyone in my team! ‘’


The sense of pride crossing the finish line can’t be over said or even described. We all wore our really cool Hell & Back tee shirts after the event. Every time you wear it you get that feeling you are like a superhero. I wish I could be the photographer who has the privilege to capture the expression on each participant’s face at the finish line. Each individual overcame the courage to put themselves through hell and challenged themselves beyond what they thought could be possible.



That reminds me of that unique quote from the Bad Boys movie ‘’We ride together, We die together, Bad Boys for life’’


Another thing I really love about Hell & Back is the high quality pictures posted on their Facebook page. I always look forward to seeing these show up on their feed. Hats off to the organisers who provide us with kick ass pictures which are also free of charge. That adds an extra something to the overall experience. I am used to being charged extra for professional pictures after completing a race.

There is something special about Hell & back which makes me want to sign up straight after for the next one. I have become an action junkie! The adrenaline rush gets me so excited that I forget the bruises, the muscle pains and the mud. This is exactly why I have signed up for the next Hell & Back @ night on 22nd October. I am delighted that my two friends Donovan and Daniele will be joining me. It’s part of my plan to do something scary every month. Doing the Hell & Back again yes, but this time in the dark, with all those crazy obstacles getting in my way. What could be scarier than that?


I want to say a huge thank you to all my friends and colleagues who came along. You guys made that event so extra special. Thank you once more to the organisers from Hell & Back who are always so supportive, answering all my questions.


Your job can make you healthy

Hi Everyone,

Living a healthy lifestyle is one of my favourite topics, although it’s difficult to do a good job covering this subject because it’s so broad, and filled with so many details and nuances. But real life stories can be one of the best ways to demonstrate the transformative power of a healthy lifestyle. For example, take the story of my amazing co-worker Tegan Parkes. Tegan has been on an incredible journey to a healthy lifestyle since she landed her first permanent position at Accenture.

Below left: Tegan taking part in a St Patrick’s Day parade in March for the local Supermarket. Below right: Tegan today.

before and after Tegan-resized

This is the picture that made me realise I needed to make a change for my health. I was doing a favour for my old boss by taking part in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade in my old uniform here. It’s not that I thought I was too big, as there are people that are this size naturally who are perfectly healthy and happy. I just realised that my unhealthy habits were beginning to manifest as weight gain, and fast. It gave me the shock I needed. ”

But before I share her story with you, I would like to talk about obesity in Europe, specifically in Ireland.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) experts, Ireland is on a course to become the most obese country in Europe. As stated by the Irish Times, by 2030, Europe will face an obesity crisis of “enormous proportions”. In fact, estimates show that for Irish women, obesity and overweight rates will soar to 85 percent. And the percentage of obese and overweight Irish men is expected to increase to 89 percent.

Although these statistics can sound alarming, they are by no means a guarantee that you’re destined to become overweight or obese. The good news is that anyone has the ability and can find the resources to lead a healthier lifestyle. Of course, this is easier said than done, but since this is my favourite topic, I’ve spent hours reading inspirational stories about people who have overcome obesity, poor eating habits, and an unhealthy lifestyle.

In particular, I was so impressed by Tegan’s journey since she started working with my team that I had to interview her. I am convinced her story can inspire more young women and men out there who are struggling to find the motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle. Since Tegan is fresh from college, I needed to understand what her life was like as a student, and how it had impacted her health.

Tegan as a student

Below is my interview with Tegan where she elaborates on the obstacles she faced, how she overcame them to achieve a healthier lifestyle, and what her daily routine looks like now.

Q: As a student, what challenges did you face to stay healthy?

A: ‘’ Time and money were huge obstacles. During exam season and when I was loaded down with assignments, I didn’t always have the time to prep lunches, especially because I was working weekends and some evenings. If I did prepare lunches, it was usually something basic and stodgy like pasta and pesto, but it was limited because we didn’t have access to a microwave. I didn’t have the money to buy goodquality lunches, and I lived on the usual college fare of €2.99 chicken fillet rolls, pre-packed sandwiches, and coffee. In fairness, I did have a lot of things in my favour like the college’s gym and my student card for the odd €5 burrito bowl or hot dinner in the Buttery (Trinity College’s restaurant)! There are also a lot of sports clubs available to students.’’

I can relate to Tegan’s struggles, since I experienced similar issues as a student back in the 90’s. Having a limited budget and limited time to prepare home cooked meals can be a major contributor to obesity and disease.  Struggling to find affordable accommodation, juggling assignments, attending multiple lectures, and having a part-time job can be extremely stressful, and often there isn’t a lot of money left over for nutritious meals. In fact, according to The Institute of Public Health in Ireland, food poverty, which is the inability to afford nutritious food, often results in a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables, and higher in saturated fat, salt, and processed food. Food poverty is one of the leading causes of Ireland’s increasing rise in obesity.

Unless obesity and food poverty rates are reduced, it is predicted that there will be a significant impact on quality of life, life expectancy, and healthcare costs in Ireland. We must take baby steps to begin to rectify this easily preventable problem. For starters, I was wondering how the college can help students look after their mental and physical health?

Q: What actions or initiatives could be implemented by the college’smanagement to help students stay healthy and active?

A: ”It really depends on the college and what they spend their budget on, i.e. gym equipment, supplementing food costs and sports clubs. Some colleges have more funds than others from donations for these things. I think it’s bigger than that though. The government keeps raising student fees, and rent in Dublin is sky high. A lot of students are forced to work as many hours as possible to get by. This affects their health in a lot of ways. They are sleep deprived and they can’t afford good quality, fresh food, especially if they’re living away from home. It’s such a deep rooted issue with many different contributing financial and cultural causes. 

I think colleges themselves could make some little changes though. For example,making sure people have access to microwaves and fridges for their meals would be great. And I would have appreciated a seating area to eat home cooked meals too. I feel that urging college shops to sell more than just apples and bananas as a healthy option is very important. Seasonal fruit and vegetables, rice cakes, granola, porridge, hummus, nuts, seeds and natural yoghurts, among many others, are just as cheap and just as easy to stock as chocolate, crisps, and fizzy drinks. ”

What Tegan has told us so far has clearly shown how difficult it can be to adopt a healthier lifestyle, especially when finances are tight and one is surrounded by a plethora of cheap junk food. But even though Tegan struggled to adopt healthy lifestyle habits as a college student, all of that changed as soon she met the perfect guy, aka. The Body Coach.

Tegan with the body coach

Meet Joe Wicks, also known as The BodyCoach. Wicks is a bonafide online fitness guru. His social media posts have earned him legions of fans who eagerly await his daily recipe and workout posts on Instagram (728k followers), Facebook (631k), Twitter (115k) and YouTube (65k subscribers). Wicks started out as a personal trainer, but in just two years, he’s built up a staff of 50, who help him manage the thousands of clients doing his online fitness programme.

After meeting Wicks, Tegan started a 90 day lifestyle program that had her transforming in front of my eyes. Obviously, I was curious to find out more about this revolutionary program, and what had initially motivated Tegan to sign up.

Q: Why did you decide to follow The Body Coach program?

A: ”When I started my new office job, it was a complete lifestyle switch. I was a student who was used to walking for half of my commute to college, walking from class to class, and then on the weekends being on my feet all day as a barista. I could eat whatever I liked and it wouldn’t really have an affect on my weight. When I moved to an office environment, my day went like this: I got up, sat in my car all the way to work, sat at my desk all day, then sat in my car all the way home, then sat on my couch until bedtime. It was a huge change for my body. I also took full advantage of the snack cart. My brain was still in college mode, and the student in me went nuts at the thought of free food. I was going through all the free chocolate, crisps, cake, cheese, crackers, fizzy drinks, sugary cereal, and cappuccinos I could get my hands on. I was eating out of boredom. I had all this pent-up energy from not moving around, and I was just eating to stimulate myself. Before I knew it, I had gained a stone. I was depressed and became withdrawn because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin anymore. Something needed to change. 

I started meal prepping and exercising at the gym when I had the time, getting ideas from Instagram and various blogs. But I didn’t have a clue about fitness or nutrition, and I was just fumbling around in the dark. I lost 5 pounds, but when I reached a plateau for a few weeks, I started to lose motivation. I needed some structure. 

Joe’s 90 day SSS programme jumped out at me. He has such a relatable and sustainable way of living a healthy lifestyle. The meals he makes are so tasty and filling. He doesn’t cut out treats or alcohol, and he doesn’t punish himself for having a bar of chocolate or scoop of ice cream. As long as you get your exercise in that day, you can have your treats in moderation. I think when we go on a diet, the thing that makes us fail is the fear of denying ourselves nice things. Joe’s plan is different because you never have to deny yourself anything. You just have to work for it!

Meal preparation for 10 days:

2 weeks meal prep

Meal preparation for a week:

Meal prep 1 week

I’ve lost a lot of fat, but I’ve gained a lot of muscle too, so I don’t look at the scales much anymore. I measure my success in the way my clothes feel, the extra few pounds I can squat, the extra few push ups I can do, the definition of my muscles, and the smile on my face when I look in the mirror and actually like what I see.”

Before after Tegan Parkes for social media

Q: What is the most difficult part about changing eating and lifestyle habits?

A: ‘Starting. Once you start, it becomes second nature. I just took the first step and the rest was history! I’ve had a few times where I fell off the wagon and I’ve had a binge day or a week with very little exercise. But you just have to allow yourself the grace of being human. Once I stopped beating myself up about it, it was so much easier to continue on. Also, meal prep! It wasn’t difficult, but it was a new organisational skill that I needed to learn to adapt to my own lifestyle. Once I got the rhythm of cooking enough food for an army in one day, it became easier. And the peace of mind of knowing I didn‘t have to stress about cooking or shopping for a week or two was amazing!”

Post workout protein pancakes made with banana, oats, protein powder, cinnamon and Greek yogurt on top.

Post workout protein pancks-oast-protein pwdr banana

High fat and protein meal on rest days: Spinach with meat balls and feta cheese

High fat protein-feta cheese vegs-meatballs

And since a lot of people from the workforce use being too busy as an excuse to avoid looking after their health or practicing a sport,  I thought Tegan should share how she successfully found a balance between work and adopting an active and healthful lifestyle.

Q: How did you adjust to working your new fulltime job while adopting healthy lifestyle?

A: ”I usually work out in the morning before work, or in the evening at home. HIIT, especially bodyweight training, is great because you only need to work out for 25 minutes to get the full effect. It works by creating an oxygen deficit in your cells which creates an afterburn effect. Your body works for up to 18 hours after your session to recover, so I can type away at my desk and still be burning fat. 

I bought a barbell, a kettlebell, some dumbbells, a yoga mat, a foam roller, and a sit up press that I use for various exercises. I built up my little mini gym overtime so it feels like I didn’t spend much money on it at all. I prefer working out at home because I get very self-conscious when I work out. I feel like I can’t push myself as far as I can go if others are around. If I’m on my own, I don’t have that issue and I can work harder. Others tell me they couldn’t do that because they wouldn’t have the motivation to workout at home, so I guess it’s just down to personal choice. 

Gym equipment

Nutritionwise, I try to shop and cook my meals for the week on a Sunday so I’m sorted for the week. Sometimes I cook a batch twice a week for a few days, and sometimes I go crazy and make meals for two weeks. I never really stick to a solid routine but I always try and make sure that there’s a meal ready in the freezer for me so I’m not stuck. 

Smoothies and shakes are also a lifesaver! They’re so quick and they’re a great way of getting your daily greens and vitamins in. There’s been many a time where I’ve run out of prepared meals, or woken up late needing a quick breakfast. My favourite is oats, frozen spinach, a frozen banana, orange juice, water and vanilla whey. It tastes exactly like a super split ice cream! ”

Q: What advice would you give to young women and men who want to improve their health and be more active?


  • ‘’HIIT! It’s amazing. You can go at your own pace, as long as you’re getting your heart rate up, and then resting. I like to use a 20:20 work/rest interval but you can use whatever you’re comfortable with. You can do 20 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest if you need that much of a break. You can even do 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest to make it really intense. You can do it at home, in the gym, on a run, or on your bike. You can integrate weights if you want to build muscle tone. It’s so versatile and fun and it’s such a great feeling watching yourself gradually getting fitter.

HIIT with the body coach 

What Tegan’s story tells us is that even if you’re facing a number of barriers like a hectic work schedule, tight budget, and limited time, you can still adopt healthy lifestyle habits to get healthy and fit. Tegan is the perfect example of what a bit of determination and dedication can do for one’s health, no matter what the obstacles!

Note: HIIT stands for High-intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time.

And if you think you’re too old to begin adopting a healthier lifestyle, just watch this motivational video of my hero, Ernestine Shepherd. At 77, she’s the world’s oldest female bodybuilder. She started doing weight training at the age of 56.


World Class athletes have office jobs

Meet the amazing 30 year old Lithuanian World Champion in Kyokushin Karate, Aneta Meskauskiene, mother of two and wife with a full time job at Accenture.

”At present, I am 30 years old, a mother of 2 amazing boys, a full time employee with Accenture (which are also actively sponsoring me) – working on Google projects, a wife, and a student. Keeping up with my busy lifestyle is not easy…but it is very rewarding! I set clear priorities and there is simply no time for feeling blue or for indeed for any wistful sense of nostalgia.”

I had the privilege of doing a training session with Aneta to get an insight into her sport and see the champion herself in action. I was so impressed with her skills, her focus and determination. She definitely has the traits of a champion.

She has been involved in Kyokushin Karate for several years now and has represented Ireland in many international competitions. Her best results to date are: 2nd place in the World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria and 3rd place in the recent World Championship in Khabarovsk, Russia.

She started Kyokushin Karate in 1993 when she was only 7 years old. With an historical background Aneta discovered karate after her parents moved from Russia to Lithuania which at the time had only gained its independence from Russia. It was a tough time and the country was offering very few opportunities. Her parents decided to enroll her in the local karate club to boost her self-confidence, and also to help her learn Lithuanian. They thought it would be a great way to make new friends.

Soon after, she started to compete in Lithuanian national competitions. Her former coach Gintaras Cemnalianskis told her she had rare potential and a promising future.

When turning 14-15 there were issues in her personal life to deal with including arguments with parents and coaches. She then took the decision to walk away from her beloved sport.

“During adolescence…lots of things (including my sport) had to go by the wayside. Numerous arguments and heated debates later (with my parents, my coach, and indeed myself!) I finally decided that the sport was no longer a priority for me…so I stopped.”

She made the best of those 10 years away from Karate and didn’t waste anytime.

“I finished school, started college, moved to Ireland, met my future husband, finished my Bachelor Degree in Law, started my Masters in Financial Markets, and had 2 wonderful children. Yet, despite all my achievements I still felt deep down that something was missing throughout all that time. So straight after giving birth to my second child while being on maternity leave, I decided that I needed to get back into shape, karate being the obvious choice. I couldn’t actually imagine getting involved in any other sport other than karate. So I set out to find another local club in my husband’s hometown of Anyksciai (as I spent my maternity leave in Lithuania) and here my story resumed.”


As you can you can imagine it was tough both mentally and physically to get back in the game. I personally suffer after 2 weeks break from weight training so I can only relate to what Aneta has gone through.

When she tried to reach out to her former sport buddies she found out that they had either become coaches, teachers or had stopped practicing years ago like herself. Thanks to the support from her new coach Eugenijus Silaika and by literally taking one step at a time she managed to achieve her brown belt and to strive for a higher rank black belt.

She even took part in her full contact knockdown tournament which took place in Holland that year. Although she lost the fight she felt accomplished and proud of herself. Coming after a 10 year break, competing in her first year back was an achievement in itself.

Ireland was back on the map! When her maternity leave came to an end she had to resume her full time job (Harvey Norman at the time). She was determined to keep practicing and competing. Finding the perfect Kyokushin club in Dublin and great coaches Shihan Kevin Callan (Head of Kyokushin Ireland) and Shane Mulhall (National Knockdown Squad coach) ultimately contributed to her sports career here in Ireland.

Aneta speaks highly of her coaches and mentor.

“They saw my strengths and my potential while at the same time highlighting areas which I needed to improve on. Most importantly they believed in me and gave me confidence.”

Here are some of her achievements:
02/02/2013 – Scottish Open – Glasgow 1st place
04/04/2013 – 4th IFK World Tournament 2013 , 5th- 8th place
29/06/2013 – BKK Regional, Dunmow, Essex, England 1st place
04/10/2013 – KWU World Championships – Sofia, Bulgaria, 2nd place
23/11/2013 – BKK Open, 6th Incorporating Cup of Europe, Crawley, England 3rd place
29/11/2014 IFK European Open Sofia, Bulgaria, 2nd place
09/05/2015 BKK English Open, London, England, 2nd place
03/ 10/ 2015 KWU World Championships – Khabarovsk, Russia, 3rd place
17/10/2015 – 39th British Open and 7th Incorporating Cup of Europe, Crawley, England – 1st place
11/06/2016 KWU European Tournament – Belgrade, Serbia – 3rd Place

She is currently 17th in the Kyokushin World Rankings table 2015 (23rd in 2014) and is holder of a 2nd Dan Black belt.

Can you believe that she has only been actively training again for 5 years now. Her training regime is insane, just to give you an insight into what she does to grab all those titles:
her training sessions varies from 3 times per week up to 11 times per week depending on upcoming competitions and essentially her goals.

“In the mornings I would train with Dave Hedges of the Wild Geese Martial Arts Centre. He helps me to improve my strength, power and endurance. One day per week I would have a sparring session in the Kokoro MMA Club with lads who are practicing various styles of Martial Arts such as MMA, Muay Thai, and Kickboxing etc. While there, I can try out different techniques and combinations I earned with my coaches during the evening sessions. So when people say that Karate is not just a sport, it is a way of life – I believe they are right. They know what they are talking about.”

Aneta believes that Kyokushin Karate has several benefits which would include: discipline, respect, art, fitness, empathy, and motivation.

She also feels that it’s beneficial for both men and women.

“Especially for all women out there, as it gives you confidence, raises fitness levels, and strengthens your physical and mental health without taking away your femininity, and in particular for children – not only because the sport improves fitness levels, full body strength and flexibility (thus setting them on a path to a brighter future without crippling injuries or ailments), but it also prepares children for life – making them more confident, resilient, respectful, and disciplined individuals and members of society. This, I believe, can contribute greatly in confronting and dealing effectively with bullying or being bullied highlighting yet another positive side of the sport.”

Aneta’s big dream is to take part in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as it would give karate a huge boost in popularity and the global recognition it deserves.

Here is a definition of Kyokushin Karate:

Sparring, also called kumite, is used to train the application of the various techniques within a fighting situation. Sparring is usually an important part of training in most Kyokushin organizations, especially at the upper levels with experienced students.

In most Kyokushin organizations, hand and elbow strikes to the head or neck are prohibited. However, kicks to the head, knee strikes, punches to the upper body, and kicks to the inner and outer leg are permitted. In some Kyokushin organizations, especially outside of a tournament environment, gloves and shin protectors are worn. Children often wear headgear to lessen the impact of any kicks to the head. Speed and control are instrumental in sparring and in a training environment it is not the intention of either practitioner to injure his opponent as much as it is to successfully execute the proper strike. Tournament fighting under knockdown karate rules is significantly different as the objective is to down an opponent. Full-contact sparring in Kyokushin is considered the ultimate test of strength, endurance, techniques and spirit.

Weightloss journey of an African French lady holding a World champion in powerlifting living in Ireland

  • What was my motivation? What inspired me?

What a shock it was when I realized I was up to 112 kg on March 2015. That could explain why I was out of breath after walking more than 20 mins or taking up stairs. Despite being overweight, I had been doing weight training for 10 years and have been competing in powerlifting on high level since August 2013 for Ireland. I am currently holding 2 World champion title and 3 European champion title. My body weight has never been an issue to compete in sports contrary to what people who don’t know thought. I was lying to myself that I was okay and thought that one day I will start losing weight. After failing for 7 years to get down to a healthy weight, I had given up. March 2015 was a turning point for me and the first thing I decided to do was:

-to stop fooling myself

-no more excuses.

  • How did I change your eating habits? What did I stop or start eating?

I stopped eating the following: take away, pastries, white pasta, white bread and white rice

I went to the gym I first joined when I moved to Ireland back in 2007. My trainer gave me nutrition plan which was high in protein & Fats. It worked beautifully for me, my body reacts really well to healthy fats and protein. The meals were simple to prepare & nutritious.

-Breakfast : egg yolk, 1/2 avocado and a tea spoon of peanut butter


-Lunch : 2 full avocados with lemon and herbs and 100g of salmon


– Diner : Duck confit and 50g cream cheese


-Post and pre workout supplements : Protein powder with coconut water, peanut butter and spirulina juice.

I had lost 10kg – 22lbs effortlessly on that nutrition plan I did it for 6 months and it never felt difficult. The best is that I always felt full the healthy fats and protein have the benefits of making you full quick.

By August I was finally down to 99kg (217.8 LBS)  and under 100kg ( 220lbs). I was very happy with that.

I went back doing my powerlifting training in July/August with my other coach.

My primary goal was to break the 90kg ( 198 LBS)  barrier by Christmas 2015, that was very ambitious but it kept me focus during the holiday season and new year’s eve celebration. Although I had fun and ate good food, I was reasonable.

My ultimate goal was to compete under 90kg for the National Powerlifting championship single lifts end of January 2016. After months of hard work, I finally made my dreams come true. Not only I weighed in at 89.4 kg (196.68 LBS)  and I won in my age & weight category in the Bench press event. I lifted 65 & 67.5kg. During the European Championship in Italy in September 2015 I lifted the same number with a 100kg ( 220 lbs) body weight. That was the result of my determination hard work and off course support from my trainers, family & friends. I make sure to surround myself of positive loving people.

Gold medal presentationBench 67.5kg

After completing a 12 weeks body transformation program named Amazing 12from end of January to mid April I managed to get myself down to a size 14. The Program was really tough I would do sprint and jogging 5 mornings a week, weight training 5 evening a week from 60 to 90 mins Monday to Friday. I had to keep a food diary which will be checked by my coach every 2 weeks. The hard work really paid off my work colleagues, family and friends saw my body transforming in front of their eyes.

Here are an example of weekly meal preparation I make :

I haven’t finished my weight loss journey I intend to get down to a size 8/10 by March 2017 and compete in body building in bikini category.

Here are the before and after shot of the Amazing 12 Program:

before and after A12

  • What did my workout routines look like?

I do 60 mins weight training sessions 4 to 5 times a week in the evenings after work and 30 to 60 mins cardio session 2 to 3 times a week. It could be running, walking and recently roller skating. I also do very long walks up to 4 hours, 2 week-ends a month. I live along the beach and love to walk from the beach to the city centre.

  • What was my starting weight? What is my current weight?

Starting weight : 242 lbs ( 110kg) , current weight 190.96 LBS ( 86.8 kg)

Before after apr2015-2016 front-2Before after apr2015-2016 side

  • How long did my transformation take?

    14 months

  • What advice do I have for others who want to lose weight?

Advice 1: baby steps

A lot of my colleagues and friends ask me advice about weight loss. I always tell them to start getting rid of at least one food which they know is bad for them and stick to it for at least 3 to 4 weeks and keep going. After 4 weeks they can ride of 2 or one more food which is bad for them. Until they manage gradually to get rid of the foods which make them gain weight on the first place.

Advice 2 : 80% 20 % rule

I eat as clean Monday to Friday and then have treats in the week ends. So that it’s no longer a diet it’s a lifestyle for me and feels so easy now. 80% of the time I eat clean food and 20 % treats

Advice 3 : Meal plan

I cook my foods for the week on Sundays and plan for the all week what I will eat. It avoids me eating out and makes my life easy since I train 4 to 5 times a week. I don’t have time to be cooking every evenings. Attached a picture of a week plan food.

  • Here are my other Social media accounts


Weight loss journey- part 1

It’s my first week on the Amazing 12 and so far so good. I am aiming to continue my weight loss journey which started in March 2015. After seeing a picture of myself during the Jason Dublin Film festival, I realized it was time to do something. In my head I thought everything was okay and I could afford to be slightly overweight. The day after I saw my picture, I checked my weight on the scale.

What a shock it was when I realized I was up to 112 kg. That could explain why I was out of breath after walking more than 20 mins or taking up stairs. Despite being overweight, I had been doing weight training for years and have been competing in power lifting on high level since August 2013. I was lying to myself that I was okay and thought that one day I will start losing weight. After failing for 7 years to get down to a healthy weight, I had given up. March 2015 was a turning point for me and the first thing I decided to do was:

  1. to stop fooling myself
  2. no more excuses.

Fil Fastival March 2015

Here is my selfie in May 2015

Selfie-May 2015-frontSelfie-May 2015-side

I went back training with the Educogym in Eccles street for couple of months.

My first day in the gym 🙂

Before front april 2015


The team gave me  nutrition plan which was high in protein & Fats. It worked beautifully for me, my body reacts really well to healthy fats and protein. The meals were simple to prepare & nutritious.

Breakfast : egg yolk, 1/2 avocado and a tea spoon of peanut butter


Lunch : 2 full avocados with lemon and herbs and 100g of salmon


Diner : Duck confit and 50g cream cheese


Post and pre work out supplements :

POst and pre workout

I had lost 10kg effortlessly on that nutrition plan I did it for 6 months and it never felt difficult. The best is that I always felt full the healthy fats and protein have the benefits of making you full quick.

By August I was finally down to 99kg and under 100kg. I was very happy with that.

I went back doing my power lifting training in July/August with jay in Impact Strength and Performance.

Here is what I look like the first week in the gym :

Selfie-Impact Strentgh-August15-week1-frontSelfie-Impact Strentgh-August15-week1-side

My primary goal was to break the 90kg barrier by  Christmas 🙂 that was very ambitious but it kept me focus during the holiday season and new year’s eve celebration. Although I had fun and ate good food, I was reasonable.

My ultimate goal was to compete under 90kg for the National Powerlifting championship single lifts end of January. After months of hard work I finally made my dreams come true. Not only I weighed in at 89.4 kg and I won in my age & weight category in the Bench press event. I lifted 65 & 67.5kg. During the European Championship in Italy in September  2015 I lifted the same number with a 100kg body weight. That was the result of my determination hard work and off course support from my trainers, family & friends. I make sure to surround myself of positive loving people.

Gold medal presentationGold medal With Samantha

For the first time in 7 years I am feeling truly happy. When I look at myself in the mirror I see beauty inside out. I learn to love myself again and enjoy life. I was pretending to be happy before deep down I was in denial and was holding back a lot.

Today is a big day for me I completed my first week on the Body transformation program named Amazing 12. I can’t wait to see what my body will look like after 12 weeks. Stay tuned 🙂







What do men think of women into weight training?

Can  a man date a woman who is physically stronger than him?

I asked my 2 class mates about this controversial subject. They were very honest about it.

The aim is interview 8 different guys from different background and age and find out what men really think about women into weight training and are really strong physically.