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Personal Training & Nutrition

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By Sarah O'Neill, Apr 12 2019 01:05PM

I’ve been working as a Personal Trainer for 10 years and loved every minute of it. Getting diet and exercise on track is a life changer for people – and it’s such an honour to be part of that journey. So many clients report back that they didn’t have the knowledge or confidence about the best ways to get in shape, and by working with me and my team they’ve gained such valuable skills and feel incredible as a result! This is so exciting for me and I’m determined to help as many people as possible find the healthiest version of themselves.

With that in mind I recently decided to launch a series of online programmes so that I can help people across the country, and beyond. I decided to focus on the bridal market, and so am in the final throws of launching ‘My Wedding PT’ ( which offers 12 week programmes to get brides into the best shape of their lives for their big days

All my programmes contain bespoke fitness plans, tailored to individual needs, schedules and goals, that can be performed in the gym, home or outdoors. As a Nutritionist my programmes also include tailored nutrition to optimally support the training element, but whilst hitting weight loss goals (where relevant). These plans are simple, healthy and easy to follow and will teach skills for life, so that clients can combat their food demons once and for all! All my clients receive 24/7 access to me, every step of the way, as I guide them through their programmes, plus weekly accountability telephone calls. There’s also the Facebook page ( which links out to a closed group where brides can journey alongside each other, motivating and celebrating each other every step of the way. Plus the ever important mindset pieces, including relaxation and meditation guides – because so often the mind is the site of many of our battles!

However having decided to focus on brides I suddenly received an influx of enquiries from mums-to-be and new mums, and so based on my studies in ante and post natal training I will am also offering 12 week plans for this audience. This is really exciting for me as I am constantly seeing women fearful of exercising at this life stage due to an awareness that adaptations need to be made, but a lack of clarity of information regarding what exactly IS safe, unsafe or beneficial to perform. This groups of women can really benefit from the 1-2-1 support my programmes offer, and the ability to check-in with me whenever they need.

In reality, my programmes can support women from all walks of life, at all stages in their journeys. I have years of experience in weight loss, dietary control, marathon training, long and short distance training, as well as the niches I spoke about above. If you’ve been trying the same thing for a long time without any success, feel stuck in a rut and unsure how to progress your training and become the healthiest version of you, then please get in touch!

By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 17 2019 02:57PM

Thousands of people in the UK sign up for new gym memberships every January, and by a few weeks in (around about now...) are already failing to attend. Vitality Magazine asked me to come up with some ideas for workouts for those who hate cardio. Read on if that's you! My team of Personal Trainers WILL NOT FORCE YOU TO RUN IF YOU HATE RUNNING! Exercise shouold be a pleasure and there are many, many ways to get fit without forcing youself to do something you find unbearable.

Article published on:

Does slogging it out in a spin class fill you with fear? Or maybe you just don’t feel like getting sweaty today? Personal trainer Sarah O’Neill shares the best workouts for the cardio-averse.

For everyone aged from 19 to 64, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic (think cycling or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic (running or playing sport) activity, plus two sessions of strength exercises every week. This means it’s important to get your heart pumping and your muscles moving as often as you can, however it needn’t mean spending hours on the treadmill if you don’t want to.

If running/cycling/rowing (insert cardio nemesis of your choice) isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to challenge your body; you just need to find out what works for you, on any given day. Personal trainer Sarah O’Neill shares her ideas for working out if an intense cardio session isn’t for you…

1. If you don’t like running…

Power walk! Brisk walking may burn fewer calories than running but a recent study showed that it can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol to a similar extent. If weight loss is your goal, then add hills. Hiking and hill walking increase calorie burn while remaining low-impact, saving those joints from pavement-pounding. Focus on pumping your arms to get more from the workout.

2. If you want to get stronger (not sweaty)…

Resistance training still burns plenty of calories per session and it also has a greater ‘after-burn’, which means your metabolism stays higher for longer. And this isn’t exclusive to lifting weights. Most gyms offer PT-led TRX suspension-training classes, which involve toning up using TRX straps and your body weight. Alternatively, you could invest in your own straps and take them to your local park. Or for something different, try Virgin Active’s UGI class, which involves using a weighted ball for resistance training and stretching.

3. If you don’t have time to shower…

Barre conditioning is on the rise and doesn’t necessarily mean getting hot and sweaty. This ballet-inspired class has an emphasis on sculpting and toning using a barre (a horizontal bar as support for specific exercises). Mat Pilates is also a low-sweat but highly effective workout, using your body weight to focus on your core strength. They’re both ideal if you want something you can squeeze into a lunch break.

4. If you want a workout that also makes you feel relaxed…

Why not try yoga, tai chi or qigong? If you’re overwhelmed by the number of yoga classes on offer, look to hatha yoga for the ultimate unwind. The Universities of British Columbia and Toronto also recommend martial art-inspired workouts such as tai chi or qigong for older patients or those with disabling conditions. The gentle flowing movements are impact-free and thought to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and mobility.

5. If you just want to target your abs…

Ideally, you should be working your abs at least three times a week to keep your core strong. Make sure you hit them from all angles by including my top 10 moves or Vitality’s quick core workout. Slacklining (a low tight rope) is the newest celebrity craze – the immense effort to balance is killer for the core. But if you want to tone at home, grab yourself a hula-hoop. The repetitive thrusting action to keep the hoop aloft is great for cinching the waistline.

6. If you have an injury…

Hit the pool. With 12 times the resistance of air, a water workout doesn’t need to be easy, but the buoyancy and support of the water means you can work at your own level. Swimming with hand paddles can help refine your stroke and assist rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. Or try FloatFit – a great new trend that involves a 30-minute HIIT workout on your own floating mat on the pool. It’s incredible for the core and the effort of concentration to stay on your mat will make those minutes fly.

By Sarah O'Neill, Feb 26 2018 11:38AM

Women's Health Magazine asked me to come up with 5 research-based life hacks to help readers quit sugar - a really common struggle for so many of us. Here are my top tips (and an unhelpfully delicious looking platter of cupcakes....):


The old adage about eating little and often definitely applies if you want to quit sugar. Leaving large gaps between meals or snacks can cause blood sugar levels to dip, meaning you’re more likely to reach for a pick-me-up. Don’t leave more than 3-4 hours between meals/snacks and try to include protein which is more filling.

Life hack – COME PREPARED. Our circadian rhythms mean we have an energy slump around 430pm – prime vending machine time. Come prepared with a snack box to work (or one for am one for pm) so you have planned for this dip with a healthy offering such as hummus and crudités or a hard-boiled egg with some spinach and tomatoes – protein rich and healthy to boot.


A 2013 study looking at snack choices and timings amongst teenagers, found that sweet snacks were mostly likely to be consumed whilst watching TV. After a busy day this can be ‘treat’ time, so if you’re an evening grazer bring a bowl of healthy snacks such as crudités to chomp on during your favourite shows.

Better still, try to combat your grazing. A 2016 study by the government’s Behavioural Insights Team showed that people consume on average 50% more calories than they realise every day, the majority of which, they concluded, comes from snacking. Cleaning your teeth once dinner is over is an easy way to signal the end of eating, or find something else to do with your hands whilst watching TV… like knitting! 😊


If sugar addiction is a psychological disorder, then mental health strategies can be employed to combat it. A 2017 meta-analysis found that moderate exercise can combat physiological imbalances created by such disorders. Exercise endorphins can replace the need for sugar to hit those ‘reward’ centres.’


We often think having a DC is a healthy choice, but in fact your diet drink consumption could be exacerbating your sugar cravings. A 2010 meta analysis ‘Gain weight by ‘going diet’’ showed that various research has confirmed that diet drinks may in fact increase your cravings for sugar, by not satisfying the ‘reward centres’ in the way a sugary drink might, meaning you reach for additional sugar; plus the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners encourages sugar craving and dependence.

Lifehack: A fizzy drink can feel like a ‘treat’ – try a glass of San Pellegrino with fresh mint or lime in a wine glass so you feel like you’re having a ‘grown up drink’.


The reason diets don’t work is that we feel resentful and that we are ‘missing out’. Sugar is seen as a reward, and so avoiding it is a punishment. Shift that internal dialogue from ‘I wish I could eat that [cake/biscuit/sweets] but I want to lose weight’…to ‘I care about my body and I am proud that I’m loving myself by not putting junk in it. I have the strength and foresight to know that this isn’t the optimal way to fuel myself’. Changing the way you THINK about sugar is 90% of the battle.


Grenard et al. (2013) Sweetened drink and snacking cues in adolescents: a study using ecological momentary assessment.

Michael Hallsoworth (2016) Counting Calories: A new report from BIT on the problems with official statistics on calorie intake, and how they can be solved

Codella et al (2017) Sugars, exercise and health

Qing Yang (2010) Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings Neuroscience2010


By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 7 2018 02:42PM

This time 5 years ago I had just run 12 marathons in 12 days, rounding off a yearlong fundraiser of trail runs, triathlons, marathons, ultras and international bike rides. Since then I have had 2 babies and fitness-wise I am in a very different place. As I puffed through a 5k interval set on the treadmill yesterday I thought to myself how much has changed…There is no way in the world I could complete a marathon now, let alone 12. Does that matter? Well, sort of, to me. But perhaps life is about seasons…and accepting where you are at as opposed to bemoaning where you’re not.

Of course we can be motivated by goal-setting, but it’s important that these goals empower us and make us feel good, as opposed to placing an additional burden on us by being unrealistic. Much as I would love to be back in the pacing team for the London Marathon this year, I couldn’t possibly commit the time, or bodily effort that would be required. However I can set some other, more manageable goals, such as: exercising 3 times a week, mixing up running either outside or on our treadmill, alongside HIIT and weight sets, which can be performed with a toddler hanging off one limb! These workouts may only be half an hour long, but that still counts. They will help me lose weight, get fitter and give me a boost of endorphins. These workouts will also need to be tailored to my energy levels and ability at the moment, so I have to reset myself for gentler workouts.

With the dawning of a New Year so many of us will be setting stretch goals, hoping to transform our fitness, change our body shape or compete in a race or challenge. I encourage you to do this, and piggyback on the motivation that January brings. But I also encourage you to be realistic about these goals. Over-reaching can just cause you to feel despondent and like you’ve failed, whereas you may simply have picked a goal that’s not really appropriate for the season of life you’re in right now.

You may also have set a goal that just isn’t realistic from a fitness or nutritional standpoint. For example, weight loss goals should be no more than 0.5 to 2 pounds a week, achievable by hitting a calorie deficit of 250 to 1000kcals a day – a greater deficit would be unfeasible, unsustainable and unsafe. It’s also unwise to increase running mileage by more than 10% per week (applicable to other sports too) so setting a goal that requires you to up your training volume too drastically is also going to end in failure and/or injury.

By all means jump in on the January health kick. But remember where you’re starting from. Celebrate your successes along the way, and forget the bad days. You may have broken half those health resolutions already but that doesn’t matter! Plug yourself back in. Celebrate your season and find whatever fitness means for you this year.

By Sarah O'Neill, Jul 6 2017 02:07PM

Article published in Vitality Magazine:

Personal trainer and nutritionist Sarah O’Neill tells you everything you need to know about eating for recovery post-workout

Eating the right foods after your workout can help you refuel, rehydrate and recover. The best post-workout foods will also help to repair your muscles and enable you to fully reap the benefits of your session – and get you ready for the next one.

Personal trainer and nutritionist Sarah O’Neill tells us which food and drink can help you look after your body post-exercise – and gives suggestions for how best to refuel.

When should I eat after my workout?

I recommend eating a meal two hours after your workout. If you’ve trained hard, it’s a good idea to eat something small like a piece of fruit within 30 minutes, followed by a meal within a couple of hours. This is because our glycogen (the carbohydrate we store in our muscles for energy) supplies are depleted during exercise. Replenishing your levels of glycogen means you will recover more quickly and perform better in your next workout.

You also break down muscle fibres when you exercise, and leaving it too long before taking on protein means you keep on breaking down fibres rather than building and strengthening. Our metabolism is highest post-exercise, and remains high for 24 to 48 hours (sometimes called the ‘afterburn’), but leaving long periods between eating slows the metabolic rate back down. This is why it’s always best to eat something post-workout, otherwise you’re actually negating a lot of your hard work, in terms of strength, weight loss and future training ability.

Which are the best post-workout foods?

Carbohydrates should form the basis of your post-workout meal, whether you’ve been running or you’ve been in the weights room. The ideal meal should contain 20 to 40g protein with 60 to 120g carbohydrate (approximately 1:3/4 ratio).

Does eating high or low GI foods matter?

A study by Loughborough University looked at the benefits of low GI foods after exercise. The glycaemic index (GI) shows how quickly certain foods affect your blood sugar levels. Low or medium GI foods are broken down more slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar (or glucose) levels – they include vegetables, pulses and wholegrain foods, such as porridge oats. High GI foods are carbohydrate foods that are quickly broken down by the body and cause a spike in blood sugar levels – they include sugary foods, white bread, white rice and potatoes.

The study found that a recovery meal with low GI foods helped to increase exercise endurance the following day, with participants also burning more fat for fuel – ideal for most exercisers, as this helps with performance and weight loss goals. However, if you’re training twice a day, high GI foods can help to replenish glycogen more rapidly, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

What should I eat after a morning workout?

To avoid the mid-morning munchies, refuel with foods not drinks, which are more satiating. Porridge with milk provides low-GI carbs in the oats and protein from the milk, and you can add berries that contain antioxidants to protect muscle fibres from injury after intense exercise. Eggs are an excellent protein source – try them on wholegrain toast with smashed avocado for your carb and healthy fats fix.

You could also whizz up a frittata in advance and take it to work in handy portions. Load it up with peppers to deliver immune-boosting vitamin C, plus sliced new potatoes for low GI carbs, and grated cheese for protein and calcium.

What do I eat after a lunchtime workout?

Sweet potatoes are lower GI than white spuds, so try a jacket sweet potato topped with protein-rich tuna, baked beans or cottage cheese and add a side-salad for veggies.

A wholemeal pitta filled with roast vegetables and houmous, sushi with brown rice, or a chicken pasta salad all make a great balance of carbs and proteins.

What should I eat after an evening workout?

An easy chicken or tofu and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice is ideal – grated ginger has anti-inflammatory properties to help relieve sore muscles. Salmon plus quinoa and green veggies such as asparagus, broccoli or kale will give you a boost of phytochemicals, which have antioxidant properties and can even help to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Steak or venison is the perfect reward for a tough workout to boost your iron levels, which are depleted with vigorous exercise. Eat with roasted squash and a watercress salad, containing vitamin K for bone health.

What should I drink after I workout?

After exercise, it’s vital to replace fluids and minerals that you may have lost through sweating to prevent dehydration.

Drink plenty of water – if you want to mix it up, you could also try coconut water, containing electrolytes, which help to balance hydration levels in the body and help with muscle function. Cherry juice is another good option as it has been shown to help reduce muscle soreness post-exercise. It’s important to check the sugar levels in both cases.

Protein shakes can be a good way for heavy lifters to ensure they’re packing in enough protein, and fast. However, if you’re more of a runner or cardio lover, you’ll easily be able to consume enough protein through your chosen meals, and protein shakes can be calorific.

A study by the School of Psychology and Sports Sciences at Northumbria University showed chocolate milk can be significantly more effective than regular sports drinks as a recovery aid. It’s a great option if you’re on the go and contains much-needed calcium, but it’s only beneficial if your workout has warranted the calories!

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