Category Archives: fitness

From couch potato to gym rat. My story.

How I got hooked on fitness…..


I have been asked many times over the years if there was a time in my life when I wasn’t into fitness.

I’d love to say no, and that I’ve always been super fit and healthy, but that would be a lie.

 The truth is that I used to be  a bit of a couch potato.

My diet was pretty bad. At the time I thought it was average but I didn’t know any better. I was never overweight, in fact I was what we in the fitness industry like to call “skinny fat.”

Skinny fat means being thin with a higher fat to muscle ratio, in other words, soft!

So how does one go from a skinny fat couch potato to a lean, mean fitness machine I hear you ask?

I’m going to tell you.

After my first child was born I struggled with a sleep routine for him. He was a happy, delightful baby, just wouldn’t sleep. I was a bit of a mess for a long time & my G.P. diagnosed post natal depression.

Eventually I got to breaking point and took him to a sleep clinic at 7 months old where the hard as nails nurses taught me to get tough on the little cherub.

Finally I had a dream baby who slept 12 hours at night.

Two months later I found out I was pregnant again. I was petrified and miserable. The birth and subsequent sleep tortured months were still too fresh in my mind and I wasn’t ready.

Besides, how could I love this baby when my heart was already bursting to overflowing with love for my baby boy?

During this period my father was fighting a losing battle with emphysema and my husband was working in a job with a lot of travelling and networking involved.

I couldn’t get excited about having another baby. I felt scared and alone in spite of having my fantastic sisters there to support me.

I was still depressed.

After a very quick and trouble free labor, I gave birth to my precious baby girl and fell in love immediately with her.

She was not an easy baby.

She cried almost constantly unless she was upright and in my arms. I had to try sleeping sitting up with her on my chest just so she would be quiet.

I also had a 17 month old to contend with and household duties.

I was in hell.

I got sick with an infection.

Then my son got sick with an infection. I was sick, with a sick toddler and the Anti-Christ projectile vomiting newborn, all while my husband was away on business interstate.

Off to the doctor we went but my G.P. ignored my snotty toddler and set off alarm bells over the color of my baby’s skin. She was yellow.

We were sent for tests. He rang that evening as soon as the results were back telling us we needed to head off to Monash hospital first thing to be admitted. My baby girl was very sick. I rang my husband who couldn’t come home till the following day.

We set off and got a flat tyre on the way just for good measure.

Me, feeling ill and frightened, my toddler, full of a chest infection, my newborn, bright yellow, and thankfully my oldest sister who was my rock and lifesaver!

We had test after test. They pinned my baby down and put needles in her tiny feet and hands. I just wanted to go home.

My son who had been the center of my universe up till now was ceremoniously dumped with my other lifesaving sister to become a part of her household for the following weeks while we waited even just for a diagnosis.

When we got the diagnosis it was shattering. I had been in denial thinking it would be something that would be fixed easily with antibiotics or some other fancy drug.

Not so.

She was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and we were told she had a 30% chance of living to age 2, a 30% chance of getting through childhood but needing a liver transplant and a 30% chance of making adulthood but with cirrhosis of the liver. The other 10% just die.

Those stats were hard to hear.

She needed an operation regardless and we were told she would spend her life in and out of hospital if she survived.

She got her operation and the time was very traumatic for all of us. My weight had dropped to around 45kgs from the stress.

We came home and had regular tests and doctors visits in between visits to my very ill father.

I wasn’t coping.

With my husband away a lot, a toddler, the constant worry over my baby and my father I fell into a worse depression.

At the time when my father passed away I couldn’t even cry for fear I wouldn’t be able to stop.

I spent months in a state of negativity and resentment and guilt.

Finally a friend of mine, in an attempt to get me to “snap out of it” bought me a 30 day gym membership.

I didn’t want to go but there was a creche at the gym and she more or less dragged me.

I didn’t love it at all but I decided to make a commitment of not only the thirty days but added another 2 months to the membership.

I promised myself that no matter what I was going to have that one hour to myself 3 mornings per week while the creche was open. If I still hated it then I would quit.

Soon it turned into 4 days and by the time the 3 months was up I was hooked.

I felt better, I looked better, I had something outside of my larger than life husband and 2 babies.

I felt like I had found my drug of choice.

Naturally I wanted to learn more about the amazing things I could do to change my body. I decided to do my Cert III. Not because I wanted to work in the industry but because I wanted knowledge and the confidence that comes with that knowledge.

Cert III led to Cert IV and within 12 months I’d completed my course and walked straight into a job.

I have never looked back and have spent the years since learning as much as I can about what our bodies are capable of, and challenging that in my capacity as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, and through my own training.

Only stopping to have my third child before getting straight back into training and learning.

Pushing myself physically has saved me mentally in the worst times of my life.

The gym has taken me from being a shy, timid mouse to a women with power beyond measure.

It has gotten me through my darkest days and has allowed me to shine.

I am proud to be giving my children, especially my beautiful daughter, the best role model they can have for living healthy, active lives.

The gym or playground is my happy place.

When I’m training, or teaching, I am me.

I am in control, I am confident, I am free.

I love sharing that with others and seeing them gain strength, confidence and self esteem through realizing their capabilities.

It’s not easy to force ourselves out of the sad comfort of our own rut, but it’s so worth it.

Not every before and after is about the outside.


5 possible reasons why you’re still carrying extra fat.  

Have you ever started a health and fitness regime with the goal of losing body fat, only to find little reward for your efforts?  It can make us feel hopeless and send us back to the sofa, wine and chocolate.

You’re putting in the effort and exercising most days. You have quit excess sugar and increased your vegetable consumption, but you’re still wobbling in places where you want to be firm. Nowhere near fitting into to your skinny jeans.
It’s a conundrum that lots of people face and can result in them giving up completely, writing themselves off as just having bad genes/slow metabolism/hormonal issues/big bones etc..
Before you decide that you are some anomaly who just can’t lose fat, ask yourself honestly if you are guilty of any of the following mistakes.


This is the most common reason why people don’t get results.

“I eat really healthily and only have one treat per week”

“Do you track what you’re eating?”


” Do you measure/weigh portions?”


” Do you include your alcohol/beverage consumption in your intake?”


Portion distortion and forgetting what we eat happens often with out tracking. We can still over over consume unprocessed, nutrient rich food. Know your numbers or you’re just guessing.
But it’s reasonably healthy right?


It’s not good for you physically or mentally to smash yourself at every session but if you want to expend more energy you need to put some effort in and feel a little discomfort instead of just going through the motions.
 Attending gym classes and Bootcamps are fun and motivating but if you want specific results, train specifically at the right intensity for your needs.
Situp/plank/squat 30 day challenge is totally going to get me shredded….NOT!  


“I’ve been training for 6 months and I’m STILL no different.”
“That’s because you went hard for a few weeks then had 2 weeks off, came back for a day or two then disappeared again. Went on holidays, slept in, had a busy period at work, sick kids and hurt your hand.”
Blah, blah, blah.
 “So in the 6 months you’ve been training you’ve had a total of 20 sessions…..that’s 20 out of a possible 182.5 days”

Sound familiar?

You can kid yourself for a while but the reality is evident. Keep a diary for a month. Include type of exercise, duration, perceived intensity. It will give a more accurate account to where you should be than basing it on the start of your spasmodic fitness kick.
Life happens to the best of us but results come consistency and getting back on track A.S.A.P.
That’s 3 weeks in a row that I’ve said I’ll be back.


An hour of training for the average person will not make up for being sedentary for most of your life.
Get up. Move regularly.
Even if your job is at a desk you can stand, shuffle and fidget for some of the time. Rarely do we see fat fidgets.
Make a habit of getting up every 40 minutes. You can be productive by using this time to make calls, etc. This will have the added benefit of increasing your focus by breaking your zombie state.


When we are stressed or sleep deprived our cognitive function and energy level declines. We crave high energy foods or look for stimulants. Our decision making and will power is compromised so we’re more inclined to indulge.
Have a power nap in the afternoon if possible or go for a brisk walk outside. It can be enough to restore your energy, clear your head and distract you from the chocolate that calls your name so sweetly!
Look out for my next piece on managing stress. 🙂

Habits and the rise of childhood obesity

I’m not an obesity expert and I’m FAR from being a parenting expert just to be clear.

I’m a mother of three and understand how trying it can be at times. So this is in no way a judgement on young parents, just my thoughts and observations.

No electronic devices needed here!
No electronic devices needed here!

I remember when my kids were small. It wasn’t always easy, even with well behaved children.
Sometimes I did what was easy for the sake of my sanity. My daughter was sick as a baby, and cried a lot unless she was being held. I also had a toddler who needed my attention and care. I remember putting my baby girl in a musical motorized swing for TWO hours just so I could get a shower and some housework done in peace. The recommended  time was 10 minutes…..I felt so guilty after but at the time I was desperate for a break from her.

In spite of my intentions of being the perfect mother, the TV became my babysitter at times. I still know all of The Wiggles songs word for word.  Still waiting for Jeff to wake up. 😪
My son knew his alphabet and could recognize letters at aged 2 thanks to Sesame Street and Shrek is probably still one of my favourite movies.


So I understand taking the easy route and I know as parents we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we currently have. But I think there in lies a problem.
The abundant tools we have.
Our parents didn’t have the resources we have and I’m not sure our kids are better off for it.

In the 70′ s and 80’s we had books, a few toys and TV. We only had kids shows on for small portions of the day. We didn’t have computers, DVDs or internet. Our parents did a weekly or fortnightly shop and when the luxury stuff ran out, we made do. The food had to last and had to be rationed to ensure it did last. We had 3 meals and a piece of fruit for morning tea. We only got fruit which was in season too.
After school was a bowl of cereal or some toast. Our mothers baked, but we didn’t have cake and biscuits every day. There were no packaged snacks as I remember, until they came out in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Even then only a few kids got them on the regular in their lunch boxes.

Most of us only did one sport, which was generally on a Saturday. So we weren’t out 4 or 5 nights of the week with activities. No quick meals reheated or eaten on the run. We ate dinner all together as a family.
So simple compared to life now for kids with so much time spent out and about with busy siblings and parents.

For example, I was at the doctors office recently.
My appointment was at 1pm. Not long after lunch time for most people.
There was a young mother in the waiting room with a toddler.
She had some toys and books in tow to amuse her daughter.
She also had an array of tupperware containers. Chopped apples. Crackers. Cheese and sultanas. Not a bad selection for a 2 year old.

Necessary only about an hour after lunch? Probably not.

The child was pretty happy. Babbling and climbing up and down from the chairs and rearranging the out dated magazines on the coffee table. Charming the other people in the waiting room with her innocence. The mother, obviously trying to stop her baby from, well….being a baby, kept trying to distract her from her exploration of the waiting room and the people waiting there by offering her food.

It’s now not an uncommon thing to see parents using food as entertainment or distraction for little ones. I see it all the time.

It seems that parents these days can’t leave the house for an hour in between meals without a meal to keep their little ones occupied.
Car trip….snack.
Gym creche at 9am….snack, because 1 hour is far too long to go without food at 9am.😣
Play group…snack.
Visiting friends….snack, just in case.
Shopping…..packed smorgasbord of snacks.

It has become the expectation and the norm for kids to have food on hand at all times. Regardless of when they last ate and how much.

I don’t remember a lot about being under school age, but I certainly don’t remember having food on tap all day. I don’t remember leaving the house with a six course meal either. Like a mini body builder. I think I’d remember that.

I do remember being so hungry at meal times that my mouth would water in anticipation. I do remember eating everything on my plate even if I didn’t love it. I don’t remember any of my 6 siblings being fussy eaters besides one who wouldn’t eat silver beet. Fair enough though. It tastes like dirt and from our garden sometimes the wild life stuck to the leaves even after washing and steaming. Mmm snails….

Fast forward a few decades and not only do this generation have snacks to get them through every day appointments or chores, but they have iPads or iPhones or gaming devices to keep them suitably disengaged from the world around them and their imagination. (I’m guilty of this too.)

Heaven forbid we teach our kids to suck it up and be patient when things are a little boring. Play I spy?
No. Much better to give them food and technology to relieve the boredom of every day life and real world interactions.

All of which teach our kids about delayed gratification,   communication and real life, which is not always entertaining. (Unless you’ve been allowed non screen time to develop an imagination of course. Then you can make any situation entertaining. )

We can justify constant feeding of our kids by suggesting we only offer healthy food, but like I say to my adult fat-loss clients, the numbers still need to add up for energy balance, deficit or surplus. We can still over consume healthy food and gain excess fat as a result. Infants are less likely to over eat, but when it’s constantly offered it becomes a learned habit.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in teens in the last 30 years.  This is a rapid and concerning growth. The chances of an obese child becoming an obese adult are higher than for a child of average weight. With obesity comes high risk of lifestyle diseases as well as the emotional difficulties some face with body image with an unhealthy body composition. So it’s not about fitting a social norm, but about health and well being.

As children get older there are temptations everywhere, and kids are masters at pester power and manipulation. The canteens at sports events selling “sports” drinks and sweets have become the parents bane. If it’s a once a week thing after a game to get a treat, I see no problem. Unfortunately when there are several children in a family all playing a couple of sports, it soon becomes an every day temptation that parents are giving into more and more to keep peace.

All the while justifying it with the thought that it’s been burned off with all the sport. Which may be the case for some, but for plenty, the  rest of their 23 hours are spent sitting in class or on a device and the one hour a couple times a week is the only time they’re truly active.

That’s just one place where kids are regularly over consuming though. Then there are trips to the supermarket and pocket money at the school canteen. Sleepovers and play dates where parents offer treats and fast food just because there are guests over.

Treats are no longer treats, but every day foods for a lot of kids.

My motto for my own children is to say yes when I can if there’s no harm in saying yes. However, I think all kids need to hear “No” sometimes to learn self control and real expectations in life. They can’t always get what they want, especially when it may not be good for them long term.  We also need to learn to say no to ourselves at times. 🙂

I know there are much worse things for children to be than fat, like unhappy or cruel and insensitive. We teach kids to be decent people with good morals, we give them the best education we can provide, we give them opportunities to shine in sport and activities they enjoy, we make sure hey brush their teeth and teach them about home and personal hygiene. All so they can grow into well functioning adults.

Teaching our kids to use food as boredom relief is not going to help them become well functioning adults. Habits start from childhood. Do we want our kids in the habit of over consuming from toddlerhood? Teaching them to rely on devices for entertainment and social connection instead of real world interactions and sensory experiences may be the norm, but is it optimal for their mental well being and social learning? No.

When we decide to have children we take on certain responsibilities. We strive to be the best we can for our kids and sometimes it’s difficult to be consistent and disciplined for their benefit. Even if we fall into the easy fix solutions in tough times, which we all do, letting kids know the discomfort of being hungry, bored and patient will help them learn to delay gratification and build their character.

10 things I’ve discovered as a born again cyclist.

I’ve recently taken up road cycling.

Yes, I can imagine the eye rolling from motorists who think they own the road, but seriously it’s great fun and good for you when you’re not being run over by crazy drivers.

As a cyclist I’ve learned a few things that I wouldn’t had I not fallen in love with my bike. Here are 10 of my discoveries so far.

1) OK, maybe I knew this one already…. There are some dead set idiots on the road. 
I know I’m not the worlds best driver according to the traffic camera office or my insurance company. However, I only ever hit stationary cars or trees. 
I never consciously try to frighten a defenseless cyclist by veering my lethal weapon toward them.Seriously guys, I know my butt is above average but if you want a closer look, driving into the bike lane is not the way to go about it! 
Not cool.

2) People like to toot or yell at cyclists as they drive past. 
Some are unreasonably angry. 
As if cyclists shouldn’t be on the road. 
Some think they’re being funny by terrorizing cyclist’s. 
Some just want to engage in sexual acts with strangers and think that by expressing their intentions out of a car window that they may be in with a chance. 
Dinner first guys, C’mon…;)

3) You can become a better driver by being a cyclist. 
I’ve felt the vulnerability of being on a bike in traffic. As a result I’ve become more cautious on the roads. I’m more patient with cyclists sharing the road. I’m also more aware of my surroundings on the lookout for cyclists (and their amazing legs.)

4) The cycling lane is the most dangerous place for a cyclist, at least it is where I live.
The bike lane is rough and patchy with pot holes everywhere. It’s where the sand accumulates when it blows off the beach. 
Its where the loose gravel ends up. 
It’s where the trees drop all of their debris and usually where the feral people smash their bottles on their way home from a night out.
I used to wonder why cyclists didn’t stay in the bike lane. 
Now I know it’s because they value their expensive bikes and their lives.

5) On a bike your senses come alive and work together. 
There are no technological distractions. 
No radio or iPod, no speedometer to keep under legal limits, no TV, no smart phones or computers.
Just you, the bike and your surroundings. 
You see things you don’t when you’re driving. 
You notice everything at once looking out for potential dangers, including the beauty of nature. 
You smell the sea, the flora and sometimes the dead fauna, which is not so pleasant. 
Sounds are magnified, traffic, dogs barking and children playing. 
You feel alive completely with the wind in your face.

6) Cycling can be a great meditative practice.
For years people have told me I should meditate or do yoga to calm myself and clear my mind.
I’ve found this on the bike. 
No distractions (besides cars or debris on the road trying to kill me of course.)
This is where my stress of the day is washed away.
It’s hard to have negative thought patterns when you’re feeling the freedom of going down hill at top speed. 
This in turn opens my mind to more creative and positive thought patterns. 
It’s where I have my greatest ideas and find solutions. Epiphanies abound.

7) Cycling can be a very socially enriching sport. 
If you can join or form a group you can make some great friends with people from all walks of life. Cyclists look out for each other and there is etiquette involved. 
It’s a nice culture. 
Some sports have excessive alcohol consumption as a part of their culture. 
Cyclists do coffee. 
Much more civilized!

8) The ugly outfits really are necessary. 🙁
Those awful pants that look like you may have incontinence help wick sweat away and give a little padding on the unforgiving seat. For long rides they are a must.
The garish jersey’s offer protection from the wind and higher visibility. 
The pockets are pretty handy too.

9) Cycling is expensive.
 I was always under the impression that cycling was free after the initial outlay of the bike. 
Shoes and helmet… A small fortune. 
Ugly outfits…. Large fortune.  
Winter/Wet weather gear…. Add to the mortgage. 
Gloves… Who knew? 
Servicing, spare parts, maintenance, performance gadgetry….wow.
Not to mention all the cafe stops. $$$$$

10) Lastly and most importantly I’ve learned that if there’s the slightest possibility you may have to stop ahead, un-clip your shoes NOW!

If you wait till the last minute Murphy’s Law will come into play and your shoe will get stuck in the pedal and you WILL fall.
It will be embarrassing and you may break your phone and your ego…..never mind body parts.

Get around this view from my bike…senses were certainly alive on this ride.

How to get your first pull up and beyond.

Go from zero to hero!

A progressive approach to pull-ups for beginners to intermediate.4


Being a badass doesn’t just happen.

You don’t just wake up and be great at something just because you have a gift.

When people see me smash out strict pull ups I get varying reactions.

Some think I’m a freak.

Others think it’s something that comes naturally to me because I have a certain body type.

There are a few who say things like “I could never do that.” Or “I can’t even do one.”

I’m sure there are those who think it takes some kind of genetic super power to do a pull up.
If that’s the case I’m here to share my super powers and take you from zero to hero….at least when it comes to pull up strength!

My first attempt at a pull up was a dismal failure.
I couldn’t even do one. It was a little embarrassing in a gym full of people I assumed were looking at me and laughing at my ridiculous attempts. My ego was shattered.

I had all of these muscles but they were useless to me. Just beach muscles.
Being a little dogmatic, and more than a little competitive I decided that just wouldn’t do.
So I practiced. A lot!

Don’t tell those science Nazi coaches, but I didn’t follow a very balanced program for a while. Every training day became pull up practice day. I never neglected the rest of my body. I just added whichever progression I was at, to build on my pull up strength.

To start with, I used a smith machine to do inverted rows.
Although working the back on a different angle inverted rows still build back strength by pulling body weight. I tried different angles and I believe this helped with my grip as well as mind to muscle awareness when it came to my mid and upper back.

I learned not to rely on just arm strength and to concentrate on what my shoulder blades and back muscles were doing.

From there I tried eccentric only and isometric holds.
With this method I’d get myself into the top phase of the pull up using a jump (cheating) or by climbing.
From the top of the lift I’d slowly lower myself (about 8 counts) down.

Sometimes I’d challenge myself by finding my “sticking” point (the point of failure on the up phase) and hold there in an isometric contraction or short ROM pulse up and down then slowly lower.

The options to progress from there are usually dependent on the tools available.

I had an assisted chin/dip machine at the gym I trained at, so that’s how I progressed to unassisted.

Assisted chin ups can be performed using a partner (your partner needs to be strong enough to help lift you). Another alternative is a power band or using an assisted chin/dip machine. You can also do self-assisted by keeping a foot or both on the ground or platform to take some of your weight.

This method works by not lifting your full body weight to get to the top of the lift but taking some of your weight through your legs.

Progressively you either use lighter bands or adjust the weight till eventually you’re lifting full body weight.

Another way to progress is with hand grip.

Starting out with a reverse/supine or a neutral grip is easier for most.
However, if you really want to target the big latissimus dorsi muscles, a wide overhand/prone grip is best.
These are usually much more difficult, especially for women do to our body composition.

I suggest when starting out with a prone grip to take the hands narrower. Progressively take them wider as you build the strength. Avoid bringing the shoulders forward (hunching) and keep your chest open. Imagine your shoulder blades coming down staying flat and meeting in the middle. Exaggerate pulling your chest to the bar.
Again work on the eccentric (down) phase being slower.

Eventually you should be able to perform strict prone wide grip pull-ups with regular practice.

To challenge yourself with body weight only, try altering the time under tension.
Think power in the lift phase and slow control in the lowering phase. Or do a slow lift all the way through.

You can use a rope or towel to increase the degree of difficulty and help with grip strength. This can be done as a wide or a close grip.
There are lots of ways to vary and create more of a challenge with body weight exercise without adding extra weight.

Once you can do 8-15 body weight pull ups relatively easily it’s time to add extra weight.

Remember to increase superhuman strength, lower reps are optimal.

You can use a weighted soft shell ball or sand bell between your knees.
Hold a dumb bell between your feet (this takes talent).
A kettle bell hooked on to your foot, a weight belt or vest is a great way to increase resistance if you have access to them.
Like anything you want to see improvement in, you need to put the time in and work up to it. 2-3 times consistently per week will see quicker results than a once a week focus.

Challenge yourself by progressively getting heavier as you would with any other lift.

Before you know it you will be so bad-ass at pull-ups that you will be mistaken for having some kind of freakish genetic superpowers too.


Follow this link for a video demonstration with a few of my favorite progressions: