Finding your Fit with Amy Hopkinson

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Women's Health's digital editor Amy Hopkinson is the perfect person to ask for tips for starting 2018 with a healthy, happy and balanced mind and body. Here she shares what she's learned from her wellness journey, from working out what 'fit' means to you, to always wearing the right trainers for your workout...

'I used to work for a women’s lifestyle site and while I was there Nike asked me to live tweet a cycle from London to Brighton. To get fit enough in three weeks I trained with one of their trainers, Sonia Moses. I’d done running before but I'd never worked with a Personal Trainer. I got a real buzz from it, did the cycle and went back to work. I wasn’t that happy in my job and my outlet was going out drinking which meant I always felt tired and hungover. I started adding in more exercise until I was training five times a week.

The job came up at Women’s Health and it felt like a bit of a calling in life. My nan’s a yoga teacher – at 76 she still teaches 12 classes a week! My mum's also a yoga teacher and she teaches 20 classes and does summer retreats in Ibiza so it’s always been in the family. So that’s where I am today – three years in at Women’s Health, it’s been a journey but a great one.

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I would be lying if I said it wasn’t aesthetics that originally motivated me to get into exercise. We live in a world where people talk about what they do and then you see the visuals on social media and want to look like them. But I quickly realised that if you spend your life trying to look like someone else, you miss your life.

I took aesthetic goals out of my training and used it more as a way to connect with myself and achieve things. I started training for challenges, like trying to do 10 pull ups or deadlift 90 kilos. I found that when I had a focus like that, your body naturally changes along the way anyway, but you just enjoy it a lot more.

As digital editor at Women's Health I edit the website, the social, the newsletter and I help out with events. I run a weekly Women’s Health run club that's not just about running, it’s about getting out and moving your body. It’s very social, we do lots of partner HIIT stops, we have women from 20 to 60 that come, all different abilities, it’s the highlight of my week. We’re also just about to launch an app so I’ve been editing that.

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I love my job at Women’ Health but it doesn’t define me – it is a passion project but there is more to my life than my job so starting my own Instagram account allowed me to have my own voice, my own platform and to speak to people about the topics which I felt really passionate about. I get about 20 messages a day from women, asking advice or saying that they really like the workout that I’ve put up and I love that. That aspect of having a two way conversation is really important to my wellness journey.

Social media can be a positive place, but at the moment there isn’t a lot of accountability, especially in the health sphere. I often talk about how in fashion blogging, if you give somebody the wrong style advice they just wear the wrong clothes, but in health, especially to do with food and fitness, that could end up in an injury or with them removing a food from their diet that they don’t necessarily need to.

I’m always really careful with my posts to talk about myself and if I don’t have that expertise in my field, I don’t give advice about it. I’m a PT, not a nutritionist. As consumers we need to be aware of what we’re consuming – you have to be responsible for your own views, rather than just taking advice and not questioning it.

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Three simple changes

  • Walking is technically ‘low intensity steady state cardio’! You can do it anywhere, walking round the shops on a Saturday. It’s changing the thought process that you only burn calories in gym kit because you don’t, you burn them wherever. Everyone could benefit from walking and getting outdoors more.
  • Turn your phone off at 9pm – it’s a massive cliché but I tried it and it really changed my sleep.
  • Don't feel bad about not always being available. We start so many emails and text messages apologising that you can’t do something, whereas actually the more you say yes to things, the less time you have for yourself. You shouldn’t feel guilty about saying ‘no’ and have to say sorry for that.

I try not to be ‘on the wagon’ so I can’t fall off it! I will go for months without counting anything in my diet, but if I know that I want to get things a bit more in balance I will count my macros for a week just to get more information about what I’m eating. A lot of the time you can make yourself eggs, avocado and smoked salmon and you’ll skip the toast, but what you won’t realise is that you’ve eaten your daily fat allowance in that breakfast. I will get more awareness of what I’m putting in my body and then make changes.

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At the moment we’re going through this shift where a lot of girls aren’t drinking, and that’s great, but we need social experiences and that’s where fitness can become a really positive activity in people’s lives. It’s important that fitness is social and inclusive, not exclusive. It should be for everybody and there’s so many different things that you can do. We should welcome everyone in and people shouldn’t have to feel 'fit enough' to go to a class.

I did a triathlon two years ago and it wasn’t the fact that it was a triathlon, but that I learned to swim to for it. I had a drowning experience as a child and it really put me off so getting over that fear was a major milestone. This year I’m running the marathon for a group called Finish Liners. It’s not about the time that you get, it’s just about getting over the finish line. It’s about ignoring the rest of the competition because you’re only in competition with yourself. So at the moment I’m training for that.

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Amy's essential kit:

  • A decent pair of leggings: they don’t have to be the most expensive leggings, but they do have to be a pair that you put on and you don’t feel self conscious in because they are so tight that it's basically like standing there naked anyway, they show everything. You want a pair that you feel good in and that you can bend in and not show your bum!
  • Trainers: again, you don’t have to buy the most expensive ones but they need to be right for your workout. If you’re doing strength training or body weight workouts where you’re moving from left to right and in different directions you need a shoe that’s built for that. Don’t wear your running trainers in the gym, they’re built for moving forwards and backwards, not left and right!

I truly believe that you shouldn’t waste 95% of your life to weigh 5% less. That’s what we’ve become obsessed with and you can miss out on so much. ‘Fit’ to one person is definitely different to ‘fit’ to someone else. Find what’s important to you – what makes you feel fit could be waking up in the morning and having ten minutes to yourself, not thinking about things, doing a walk and eating healthily that day. Fit to me could be doing a strength training programme. It’s just about finding your fit.

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You can always find balance in your life, you just need to understand how to swing the scales. For me that’s being mindful of the actions that you make. I really believe that you need a strong frame to move well, so move well before moving more.

Eating well doesn’t mean adhering to an 80/20 rule – it means eating well for you. I’ll cook my boyfriend dinner and he’ll have it with a side portion of chicken nuggets because for him that works! My eating well is making healthy decisions so when I go out for dinner I just order whatever I want off the menu and there’s no guilt associated with anything.

It’s also having a healthy mind – when I stopped obsessing about what everyone else was up to and comparing myself and putting pressure on myself to be this perfect ‘modern woman’, doing it all, was when I actually really started to enjoy life. We are all enough and we are doing a good job. So I think it’s taking a step back, taking the pressure off and appreciating yourself.'

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