This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Jayne Lo.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I’m a very passionate person and always put 100% into what I do and the things and people I believe in most. I am self-driven, diligent, and have an all-or-nothing quality that makes me a natural athlete and businessperson.
I have always been sporty growing up, with the majority of my teenage years spent competing regularly for top swimming and track club.
It was when I took up boxing and captained the women’s team at the university that I developed a profound interest in weight training to get stronger, which developed further when I trained alongside a novice powerlifter during my Masters degree. Having run countless successful bootcamps for my friends, they convinced me I should consider a coaching career in the fitness industry.
So as soon as I finished my Masters, I got my personal training certification and started working as a personal trainer at Gymbox in the City of London. I then decided to take up bodybuilding a few months later to gain exposure for my business.
Where does your motivation come from?
Alongside growing up in a very competitive private school environment where I felt the need to constantly prove myself to my teachers, peers and parents, the nature of competing in an individual sport has naturally provoked me to always push that extra mile to be the best that I could be. As a naturally inquisitive person, I also like to surround myself with people who inspire me, who I can learn from, and make me want to be better.
I truly believe your success is a reflection of the efforts you put in. I have always set high expectations for myself, and will not stop until I reach my goals. It is my constant desire to be the best version of myself that keeps me driven.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
Many ‘fresh grads’ from the Personal Training course would not dare to jump straight into a competitive commercial gym in central London, as it is risky. Gymbox is the first gym I worked at, which to this day 43 months later, I still remain. It is also my first ever job.
Starting up and building my client base was one of the toughest parts of my journey thus far. I felt like a small fish thrown into the deep sea, with no advice, no support, and no guidance as to how to operate as a PT let alone a business.
Within the first few weeks, I learnt quickly that most PTs kept to themselves, took ages to trust you, which developed a “survival of the fittest” environment. Other PTs even yelled me on a few occasions, when I mistakenly spoke to a few members who they already trained, which as a new trainer I obviously didn’t know about. Having the confidence to “walk the floor” to pick up clients by selling myself (which I hated doing) and getting confronted by existing trainers was definitely not a situation I enjoyed being in, but I did it for a couple of months, giving out free taster sessions, until I built up a client base to pay my gym and home rent.
Despite a rough and tough start, I am grateful because not only did I develop a client base, I also gained confidence, became less naïve, gained respect from others having to stand up for myself on many occasions, and also learnt to handle my emotions during vulnerable moments.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
I didn’t realise the importance of putting my own health and well being above building my business until I had experienced meltdowns during competition prep. I decided to compete in bodybuilding initially to help build my business by situating myself in the fitness industry and developing a following on social media.
After winning my debut show, I was hooked and decided to compete more in my second year for continuous exposure and more trophies. The preparation period involves 12 weeks (minimum) of meticulous food tracking, and on many occasions, training twice a day. By this time I was working 5 to 8 hours a day, and when you have to also dedicate 4 hours to train and eat every 3 to 4 hours, overtime your body (and mind) wears out.
Dieting has also arguably been said to affect your hormonal balance, which aggravates one’s emotions. I cried on many occasions at work; in front of clients and colleagues, at the end of very long days, whilst I was training, usually over nothing important but mainly because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was going on at once.
During my most 2016 competition prep, my increasing stress levels at work combined with my emotions and tiredness have triggered a few panic attacks. Unfortunately it was only when I drove my body to this extreme and put my health at risk that I took a step back and prioritised myself.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
There are so many misconceptions, but the most common one of all is that lifting heavy makes them “look like a man”. I can vouch for the fact that this is an uneducated misunderstanding. Heavy weighted work will improve women’s strength overtime, but that doesn’t mean they will develop a manly physique.
A lot of people don’t realise that women don’t produce nearly enough testosterone that men do, which is the main hormone for muscle growth. It is this misconception that causes a lot of girls to stick to high rep bodyweight or light weighted repetitive movements, and avoid big compound lifts, hence hindering their strength and muscle development.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behaviour.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
It is unfortunate that the growth of social media has made it so easy to access images of the “ideal body”, which I believe is key to creating unhealthy habits amongst young women. In particular, the starve-binge eating cycle is one that most have experienced, whereby one goes to extreme measures of dangerous starvation diets and over-exercising to look like their idols, only to then binge eat afterwards due to depriving themselves.
The lack of proper education on healthy nutrition habits at school and incorrect information published in the media are largely to blame. Aside from merely educating the public on nutrition and healthy methods of dieting, what needs to be emphasised is the long-term benefits and damages to one’s body as a result of the various nutrition habits.
However, this has probably been difficult to achieve thus far, because there are so many streams of thought when it comes to healthy nutrition. What instead needs to be done is educating the public so they are fully aware of the different options of healthy eating, and thus have the choice to choose what they deem most appropriate and safest for themselves, rather than pure guesswork and copying what their idols do.
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
Having spent three years competing and watching athletes go to extreme measures to look a certain way, reach a certain body fat percentage, or hit a certain max weight in their lifts, I have realised that majority of fitness models and many top level athletes I once aspired to be, are just as unhealthy as someone who is overweight, eats badly, and doesn’t exercise.
Those who compete all year round, in particular, no matter whatever sport, are constantly putting their bodies under intense stress through long periods of overtraining, over dieting, and (in some cases) performance enhancements drugs and supplements. It really goes to show that no matter how fit and healthy one may look on the outside, what they are doing to their bodies that you may not see is causing detrimental harm to their long-term health.
That said, and by no means am I promoting this lifestyle, I do feel sometimes it is necessary to do whatever it takes if you have a goal. However, I would always find the most sustainable and safest method, and would always be aware of the detrimental effects it may have on my body, and know when to stop when it becomes harmful to my health.
Another unexpected lesson I’ve learnt is that because I now compete in an aesthetic based sport where the sole focus of my training is around how I look, I have been neglecting my overall fitness levels. As I needed to focus my strength and energy on weight training and ensure I retain muscle mass whilst dieting, there have been months over the years where I stopped training for cardiovascular fitness altogether.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
As my workload increased over the years, I’ve learnt that it is almost impossible to have the time and energy to socialise, especially during competition prep seasons. I only work two weekday evenings and only one day on the weekend so I can spend some of my free time to myself, with my partner, and with my friends.
One of my 2016 goals was to travel more. I have definitely achieved that throughout the year, and I enjoy having a holiday booked every few months to have something to work towards and look forward to. Being out of town also forces me to put work aside and focus on resting and recuperating.
How do you stay productive?
I have learned that as a freelancer, time is your biggest enemy. I try to be efficient with the free time that I do have and plan my days wisely. I tend to condense my PT sessions into half a day rather than spread out sporadically so I can then spend the second half of the day on emails, studying, meetings, and my own training. One of the things I have turned into a habit of doing is prewriting Instagram posts during my tube journeys, and responding to emails and messages.
During comp-prep, I am even more productive with my time. I opt to do LISS over HIIT so I can spend the hour on my business such as writing programmes, listening to educational podcasts, responding to emails and posting on social media.
I slowly realised that as I got busier and had less time, I became more efficient with my time and found new ways to make time. It is one of the many skills I have picked up since running my own business.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
I have always followed a flexible dieting, “if it fits your macros”* approach, both in and off-season. I’m currently in my off-season but am still tracking what I’m eating despite being at a surplus of calories rather than at a calorie deficit. It is equally as important to track your calorie intake when you are trying to put on size because;
A) You want to ensure the weight gained is gradual (if it is too fast it is likely to be body fat rather than muscle mass)
B) You need to know how much you’re consuming before you can set deficit calories (people who don’t do that tend to start their diet at too-low calories, so they end up having to be on starvation calories or doing excessive cardio towards the end of their comp prep)
I prefer flexible dieting rather than following meal plans because it allows for more freedom to pick what I want to eat, reducing the chances of cravings, which tend to lead to binges. It is also more sustainable in the long-term, as you can still eat meals out so you don’t associate “dieting” with “restriction” which most people do.
My current training regime is a combination of strength work and hypertrophy, with a focus on growing my glutes and hamstrings, as they are my weaknesses. As I am in my off season, I don’t have to commit to a strict cardio regime, but have chose to do a mixture of cardio training to ensure I keep my fitness up for my health. Competing in an aesthetic based sport, it is so easy to forget the importance of staying cardio-fit, mobile, and agile too, rather than merely looking beach ready all the time.
I don’t take any supplementation aside from Creatine and vitamin D3. I am a strong advocate of eating a balanced diet to ensure I consume all the necessary minerals and vitamins needed for cell recovery and repair. I would only take other supplements if I feel like my diet is lacking certain micronutrients or if I am under the weather and need the extra boost.
*Tracking food intake by weighing it whenever possible, and eating to fit the macronutrients set for me according to my goals.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
Take more risks. I definitely grew up playing it too safe. Who knows where I would be now if I stepped outside of my comfort zone a little more or not always make the obvious choices?
What are your biggest goals for 2017?
I want to challenge myself by getting out of my comfort zone, setting new goals that I have never achieved before.
I have set goals in three categories: fitness, business, and self-improvement.
My fitness goals for 2017 include learning new gym-based skills, and then making these skills a part of my regular training regime, in particular handstands and kipping pull-ups. I have recently learnt proper techniques for rowing and the air dyne, so I plan to incorporate this into my competition prep this year. As much as I believe in sticking to what you know, I also feel it is important to expand and explore other domains to become better informed.
On the business front, I plan on establishing a better online presence as I have always taken a back seat on my website and blog.
Always wanting to improve as a trainer, I have applied and have been accepted into the ISSN sports nutrition course. My goal is to complete my qualification end of this year.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!