Hey everyone! I am so excited to bring you this month’s edition of “Finding Fitness”! Today I’m introducing you to Jo from Fallen Angel Fitness. If you follow me over on Instagram, you know that I’ve been getting pretty into weightlifting the past few months. So my interview with Jo was even more exciting for me with her passion for lifting!
Whether you are just getting started on your fitness journey or have been at it for years, I think she has a lot of insight to share, so I will let her get to it. Enjoy!
Background: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Jo, I’m 37 years old, from England, and I live with my husband Alan, my cat Charlie and my terrier-cross Cookie.
I’m really new to the world of blogging. I have a few social media pages and also upload videos to a Youtube channel each week, but decided to start my blog in December 2016 because I wanted a place where I could merge my love of fitness with my passion for writing.
Aside from my interests in fitness, I’m a trainee psychologist in my final two years of training. I believe that psychology has a huge role to play in fitness and I try and bring aspects of this into my blog posts where possible. I’m also a qualified counsellor and I enjoy being able to make connections with people and help them explore their stories at a deeper level.
How did your fitness journey start? What motivated the change? Along with that, what has kept you interested?
I haven’t always been interested in fitness. Far from it! In my mid-20s I didn’t take great care of my body at all. I smoked, drank a lot of alcohol and didn’t eat particularly well. In around 2005, me and a few friends decided to start training for a 5k to raise money for a breast cancer charity as we all felt we could do with getting fitter. I’d never done any running before and started off with only being able to run 30 seconds at a time. A few months later I was able to run 5k non-stop. It was a huge achievement and I felt such freedom from being able to just put on some running shoes and get out there.
What has been your biggest challenge in your fitness journey and how have you dealt with it?
Body image has been an issue for me since my 20s, and although it’s not so much of a problem nowadays it can still play on my mind from time to time. As part of my powerlifting training I am currently ‘bulking’, or eating in a calorie surplus, in order to help build strength. This means that I am not as lean as I would perhaps like. There are some days where I can feel a bit self-conscious about it, and I think that’s mainly because we’re surrounded by so many messages about how we ‘should’ look. But, when I see how much stronger I’m getting in each training session and I keep hitting PRs (personal records) in my lifts this helps to reinforce that bulking is helping me right now, and that it won’t be forever.
Have you had any setbacks since starting your fitness journey? If so, how did you deal with them?
A few years ago I strained my IT Band whilst training for a marathon. Despite taking a few months off to allow it to heal, it was never really the same and so I had to find other ways to keep fit. I got into doing fitness DVDs and in mid-2015 I came across a DVD which focused on weight training. I loved the feeling of getting stronger and that’s what spurred me onto continuing with lifting weights.
What achievement are you the most proud of?
I am a much different person to who I was about 10 years ago. I’ve been through personal difficulties and done a lot of work on myself to be where I am today. I have a lot more faith in myself and my abilities, and I actually like myself now! It’s been hard work but it has been worth it to come through the other side and start enjoying life and doing the things I love. I should say, that despite the difficult experiences I’ve had I wouldn’t be where I am without them and so I am grateful for having been through them.
Outside of the physical, what have been some significant changes brought on by your fitness journey?
The biggest change outside of the physical has been my increase in confidence. Getting physically stronger has been a huge boost to the way I feel about myself and how I look. Weight training has helped me to become more disciplined in other areas of my life. I used to put off doing things I was worried about, but now I am more likely to tackle them head-on rather than avoiding them. I’m not the most patient person in the world and lifting weights has also helped me to become much more patient because my strength is going to take time to build and so the work that I put in now is going to pay dividends when it comes to me competing.
What are you working towards now? What are your goals and dreams, fitness-wise?
I’m currently training for my first powerlifting meet in May 2017. I’m loathe to call myself a powerlifter until I have done my first meet! I have no doubt that I will enjoy the experience so I’d like to compete in further meets afterwards. Perhaps I’m dreaming too big at this stage (is there such a thing?!) but I would eventually like to move from a novice category of lifting to a more ‘professional’ category. Of course that means getting stronger, which I fully intend on becoming!
What does a typical training week look like?
I train five days a week and have the weekends as my rest days. On Mondays I do front squats and deadlifts, Tuesdays is decline bench press, Wednesdays is an active recovery day which consists of light weights to keep working the muscles but not fatigue them. Thursdays are back squats and Fridays is flat bench press. I have an online coach and he sends me the weights and reps that he wants me to do for each exercise. The weights and reps vary each week as sometimes he’ll want me to do heavier weights and lower reps, and other days I’ll lift lighter weights with higher reps. He will adjust as we go along, depending on how I get on with the different weights. It certainly seems to be working as I’m gradually increasing what I can lift!
I also try to do one 15-20 minute HIIT session each week for heart health. Because I’m training for strength my coach wants me to keep cardio to a minimum, which is fine, but I do like the feeling I get from doing HIIT and feel my heart racing!
What does an average day of eating look like for you?
In each of my meals I try to get a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I tend to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch but vary things for dinner. I’m a creature of habit and routine just feels easier for me! I rarely get bored with the same foods.
For breakfast I have oats which are cooked in water with egg whites. I then mix in chocolate protein powder and peanut butter. It probably sounds horrible but it’s actually very nice, honest!
Lunch doesn’t tend to be a big meal as I save most of my calories for later in the day. I normally have some rice cakes with tuna or chicken and also some boiled eggs as protein helps me to feel fuller for longer.
For dinner it’s usually chicken or fish with mixed vegetables and rice, but I vary the sauces so that it doesn’t get boring. I also have a meal a few hours before going to bed which is usually another (smaller) portion of oats with protein powder and peanut butter.
I do have a few squares of dark chocolates most days, and whilst it’s nice to be able to do that I try to stick to nutrient-dense foods as much as possible.
Do you take any supplements? If so, could you tell us a little about what ones and why? If not, why not?
I use protein powder with my oats at breakfast time, just because there are only so many egg whites and chicken breast I can eat in a day! The protein powder makes it easier for me to hit my protein requirements, but I aim to get the majority of my protein from whole foods.
I also take Creatine Monohydrate. Creatine is a natural substance found in our own bodies, mostly in the muscles, and is said to be one of the best supplements when it comes to building strength and/or muscle. Creatine helps me get a better ‘pump’ when lifting weights and also enables me to push that bit harder when the weights get tough.
I also take an Omega 3 capsule each day for heart and joint health. I do try and get a decent amount of oliy fish but it can be expensive so the capsules help with that. Also, I take a multivitamin in case I’m not getting all the micronutrients I need from my food, and a specific joint health supplement as I want to help preserve my joints and be able to lift for as long as possible.
What is your favorite exercise? Your least favorite?
My favorite lift is the deadlift. There is something very empowering about being able to lift a dead weight off of the floor! My least favorite is wide-stance squats. They help to build the hips, but they are just so awkward and I’m glad to get them done!
What do you do if you find your motivation lacking?
I’ve so far not found my motivation to lift to be a problem. However, there are often times when my motivation to get out of bed (in order to lift) can be low! I don’t have a magic formula in these instances, I just tell myself to get out of bed and get ready. To be honest, once I am out of bed and changed then I am ready to go, but leaving a cosy bed can sometimes be hard especially in the cold dark winter months!
How do you balance fitness with work/life/social/etc? How do you “find the time” to workout?
I get up at 5am on my training days. I have to train in the morning because I know that when I get home from work all I want to do is sit on the sofa and relax! Finding the time for fitness isn’t so much an issue, but there can be times where blogging and updating my social media can take a lot of time. Whilst I enjoy it, I want to make sure I have a balance between that and spending time with my family. On Sundays my husband and I tend to go on a long walk with Cookie, out in the countryside. This gives us some down-time from everything and the space to just be out in nature and enjoy what’s around us.
What are your top 3 tips for someone just starting their fitness journey?
1. Do your research – Whatever area of fitness you want to get into, look on Google for websites which may prove useful. I did this and found lots of great information about things such as the equipment I needed to buy and the sort of lifting programs which would be best suited to me.
2. Find other people who are interested in the same thing – I joined some forums and got chatting to other people. This really helped to motivate me to pursue what I wanted to do, and the other forum members were also able to give me great advice based on their experiences.
3. Don’t worry about what other people may think – I’ve had some unkind comments from so-called friends about me choosing to lift weights and it’s sad when people don’t appear to support your efforts to do something positive. There will always be people who don’t necessarily agree with, or support, your fitness journey. Don’t let those people deter you from what you are passionate about – surround yourself with like-minded people and go for it!
Anything else you want to share?
I’m a huge believer that women shouldn’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. There are so many myths out there, for example, that women will get bulky if they lift heavy. That’s just not true as we’re not physiologically able to get bulky due to our low levels of testosterone. Lifting weights can have many physical benefits, such as increasing bone density and minimizing the risks of osteoporosis later in life, and it’s certainly increased my self-confidence. Even if women don’t want to lift as their main source of fitness, I believe that incorporating some lifting into their fitness routine will bring them huge benefits.
Sara here again: Jo, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your insights!
Guys, you should definitely go check out Jo and all that she does. She inspires me all the time and I’m sure she will do the same for you!