The Real Girls' Guide to Getting Fit: Resistance training

Follow our Health Editor Sinead's fitness journey with personal trainer Coach Rhys.

Now To Love's Health Editor Sinead Corcoran is on a mission to get back in shape, and has enlisted the help of personal trainer Rhys Jolly.

He's known around town as Coach Rhys, and has trained everyone from top athletes, busy CEO's, new mums and Kiwi celebrities - and now he's stepped in to help Sinead find her motivation to enjoy exercising again, eat better and feel good about her body.


Meet Sinead

"I have always had one of those naturally curvy bodies. Up until I was 22, I had big boobs, a big butt and a flat stomach and I was happy with that. Then, two years ago, just after graduating from university and starting my first job, I lost my mother to cancer.

I spent the next year taking antidepressants, while working as a personal assistant in a demanding role that often left me feeling stressed. Sitting at a desk all day every day, combined with doing little to no exercise, meant that one year later, I had put on around 12kg.

I also realized I was no longer able to get away with partying most nights and eating takeaways for most meals, as I had done when I was a student.

My lifestyle has dramatically improved since then, and I’ve come off the medication, but I’m still not where I want to be. My eating habits seem mostly fine: For breakfast, I eat scrambled eggs and spinach, or oats with fruit, nuts and seeds; lunches are a rotation of salads, wraps and sushi; and I drink around four litres of water a day."

"One obvious downfall for me is dinnertime. I’ve never really learned to cook properly and this has resulted in a cycle where, unless I’m going out to dinner, I either don’t eat it or I buy takeaways. Weekends are usually a write-off too, as I don’t keep food in the house.

Everything I eat on the weekends I buy when I’m out and about – so you’re talking eggs Benedict brunches, a few boozy lunches here and there, and more often than not greasy Chinese dinners.

My exercise regime consists of one dance class a week, and while I absolutely love it, even I can tell that’s not enough to stay fit.

I’ve never wanted to be skinny – I love having a curvy shape, but I would love to get back to how I used to look when I felt comfortable wearing fun clothes and showing off my body. So what better time to start changing that than right now?"

Meet Coach Rhys

When it comes to dream jobs, personal trainer Rhys Jolly reckons he’s found it. Every day, he works with people from all walks of life, and guides them through the ways exercise can have a positive impact on everything from their energy levels to how well their clothes fit.

And if you think personal training involves being shouted at when your press-ups aren’t quite on point, Rhys wants to set the record straight.

“I don’t yell at people,” he laughs. “What you see from personal trainers on shows like The Biggest Loser is only there for TV ratings; we aren’t like that in real life!”

One of his oldest clients is a sprightly 84-year-old, and one of his favourite transformations was helping a man lose 80kg.

“On day one when he walked in to see me, he had his head down the whole time, like he was trying to hide away,” Rhys says. “Now, it’s like he’s a different person, his confidence has gone from 0 to 100 and it has helped him in so many areas of his life.”

The Auckland-based trainer, who met his wife at the gym, says exercise has had a huge effect on his own wellbeing.

“When I train I have more energy, I feel I can get more out of my day, and I can go home and spend time with my family rather than just falling asleep on the couch in the evenings. You just feel so much better, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”

Over the years, he’s seen people’s attitudes towards exercise start to shift.

Once it might have been all about losing weight or looking good in the mirror, and now people are looking for ways to increase their energy, boost their mood, and stay healthy throughout their lives. “People are becoming more familiar now with things we need to do to stay well as we age,” he says. “We’re focusing on things like how good exercise makes us feel, rather than just image.”

Sinead's Programme

Rhys says: “In the first 30 days, we’ll focus on establishing the habits that will carry Sinead through her health and fitness journey. Sinead’s body will adapt as it learns to respond to the new exercises, so to keep progress going, we’ll be setting new goals every four weeks."

Week 1-5, Movement: Establishing the correct movement patterns and muscle balances to cement the foundation for further growth."

Watch Sinead talk about her new eating plan

Sinead has been following a high protein meal plan of vegetables and lean meats such as chicken and fish. She has eliminated carbohydrates and sugar from her diet.
Before altering what you eat, it is important to ensure you are eating a nutritionally balanced diet with enough calories to sustain you, and consult a medical or nutritional expert if you have any questions or concerns. Sinead consulted with a qualified nutritionist before changing her diet, and it is tailored to her personal nutritional requirements.

Watch Sinead reveal how her first week of exercise has been

Rhys says regardless of whether you’re an exercise newbie, a gym regular, or someone who wants to get out of a fitness rut, there are some key pointers that can help anyone on their way to getting the most out of their workouts. He explains:

Find something fun
“Exercise isn’t just going to the gym and jumping on the treadmill – it’s about getting out and doing what you enjoy, because if you enjoy it, you’re going to commit to it. Find something active that fits well into your lifestyle and that you are interested in. It might be getting your mates together for a walk, going surfing or taking a yoga class.”

Think positively
“Try to focus on the positive effects of exercise. If you’re thinking ‘I’m going for a run and it will hurt’, then you won’t want to stick at it. But if you focus on how good you feel half an hour after a run, and you pay attention to the positives, then you’re less likely to go down that track of seeing exercise as a negative thing.”

Take a holistic view
“I encourage people to look at their whole lifestyle, rather than just one particular goal. Often if you’re not changing anything else except for what is going to get you to a particular goal, you’ll reach your target, slowly go backwards, then start yo-yoing. Look for things you can maintain long term, and that will keep you active and happy. Part of this is changing your mindset around exercise.”

Ignore the myths
“A common concern for women is ‘‘if I touch any weights I’ll bulk up’. But If you’re feeling bulkier, it probably means you’re having too many calories compared to the amount of exercise you’re doing. Weights won’t make you bulk up.

“Another thing I often hear is ‘cardio is the best way to get in shape’. If you’re only doing a lot of cardio, you’ll get to a point where your body is using muscle as energy, which isn’t good. Mixing it up with resistance training will help to keep your metabolism spiked for longer, making your training more effective.”

Mix it up
“The same workout you started with on day one isn’t going to be doing you as much good at day 90. The body will plateau within 4-6 weeks of any sort of training, so constantly changing up your routine is really important for making the workout effective. Try varying your exercises during a workout, so you’re doing some resistance work then running 1km on the treadmill, then more resistance – you’ll burn far more calories than you would if you stuck with just one or the other.”

Workout with Coach Rhys: Resistance training tutorial

Before embarking on any health or fitness regime, always consult a medical professional.