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SARAH O'NEILL

Personal Training & Nutrition

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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, Oct 21 2016 12:21PM

9 ways to make your hen do healthier


Published on 4th Oct 2016


On a pre-wedding fitness kick? Stay on track during your hen with these simple points from personal trainer, Sarah O'Neill


Sticking to a wedding fitness regime takes time, energy and sheer willpower: it’s the one element of wedding planning where you can’t cut corners. During this quest for glowing skin and wedding day body confidence, no personal trainer in their right mind would recommend a weekend of late nights, junk food and excessive drinking.


How then, should the health conscious bride navigate the rowdy rituals of the hen do? Personal trainer Sarah O’Neill, has helped many brides achieve their perfect bridal body through her bride training programmes. We asked for her survival tips and tactics for a hen do that won’t wreck your fitness regime.


1. Be alcohol-savvy


First, face the facts about alcohol which will be the prime diet saboteur on your hen do. It is hugely calorific, containing 7 kcals/g, almost double the amount found in proteins and carbohydrates. Adding to this, alcohol actively encourages fat storage around the mid-section, because as a toxin it is oxidised first and becomes your body’s prime source of energy, causing all other foods to be stored as fat. In other words the cake, chocolate and chunky fries are going straight on your waist.


Get smart by switching from wine, beer and cocktails to white spirits and low calorie mixers, such as vodka with soda and fresh lime, or gin and Slimline Tonic. A shot of either spirit comes in at 50 kcals and the mixers can be calorie free, so by switching you’ll be consuming around 1/3 of the calories found in wine (170 kcals), or 1/5 of that within a pint of lager (approx. 250 kcals) or a cocktail (upwards of 250 kcals).


If you’re drinking wine or fizz avoid giant glass sizes - serving your drinks in smaller glasses should mean you're less likely to overindulge.


2. Pimp your drinks


We all know that we should be alternating alcoholic drinks with water, but few of us actually manage it. Make your soft drinks into more of a feature by filling large jugs with sparkling water, ice and some squeezed lime or fresh mint.


Another idea is to add a selection of fresh fruit – raspberries, strawberries and orange wedges – to water to create a refreshing pick-me-up. Serve in wine glasses so it feels more like a ‘treat drink’ rather than a sensible one.


3. Ditch the drinking games


Drinking games will not only give you a terrible hangover, but as with any binge drinking can have lasting consequences for your health. The good news is there are plenty of brilliant and hilarious hen party games; the old favourite Mr & Mrs never fails to disappoint. If you’re having your hen do away, download party apps, such as the ‘cards against humanity’ inspired Evil Apple or Heads Up, which is a digital version of the dinner party game ‘Who am I’.


Having these games to hand will reduce the chances of the onslaught of a major drinking session during travel waiting time, but still break the ice between hens.


4. Off-set alcohol before bed


After an evening of drinking, it's better to rehydrate before bed, so encourage all the hens to drink at least one pint of water each, as well as taking a glass to your bedside. To soak up a little of the alcohol, prepare a light snack for hens of some oat cakes topped with mashed avocado or light cream cheese and chives...and avoid the chippy at all costs!


5. Replenish nutrients in the morning


Alcohol inhibits the body from properly absorbing, digesting and utilising a range of nutrients, meaning your body may be depleted in several vitamins and minerals, namely all the B vitamins, folic acid, vitamins C and K, zinc, potassium and magnesium.


Boosting your intake of vitamins and minerals the next day is the kindest thing you can do for your body, so avoid shoving more junk in and opt instead make a Super Smoothie by blending together one orange, one banana, 150ml milk (whole milk/almond/soy according to preference), 150g natural yoghurt, 25g walnuts and 3 tsp honey.


Magnesium is found in the walnuts in this smoothie, as well as in the dairy. The orange and banana will also give you a welcome boost of vitamin C. Magnesium and vitamin C support the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme that helps to break down the alcohol and eliminate it from the body. Magnesium also helps relax muscles, which will ease that hangover headache.


Breakfast of champions: Sourdough toast with poached eggs and mashed avocado is not only delicious, but the avocado will give you a huge hit of both magnesium and potassium (double win). Plus the eggs contain cysteine to breakdown the acetaldehyde, a key culprit of a hangover. Top it all off with a mug of fresh ginger tea - the anti-emetic (nausea reducing) properties of the ginger will soothe any tummy discomfort.


It’s best to go drug-free and nourish naturally, but if the hangover is raging and you're hitting the medicine cabinet, avoid aspirin or ibuprofen which could irritate the stomach further, opt instead for paracetamol.


6. Dining dos and don’ts


Do go self-catered for a healthier hen do. Studies suggest we consume around 200 more calories when we choose to eat out instead of cooking in. Extra butter, creamy sauces and the little extras you can avoid when preparing at home are the culprits.


Why not whip up a yummy brunch of Swiss bircher muesli, fruit platters, yoghurt, homemade smoothies and eggs. A delicious dinner idea would be something like baked fish or a salmon parcel, served with steamed veggies and jasmine rice.


Don’t worry if you don’t feel like cooking. Hire a personal chef to cater at home, you’ll be able to explain your dietary requirements and request a healthy meal option.


If you do prefer to eat out, many restaurants now cater for health-conscious customers with transparent menus, sometimes including calorie counts or lighter choices. Do call ahead and ask the restaurant to prepare a leaner set menu or a 'lighter' version of your favourite meal. Sushi is also a great choice, whilst Italian, Indian, Chinese and 'picky' meals like tapas, will have a higher fat and calorie content.


7. Get creative with snacks


Avoid massive bags of crisps, nuts or chocolate, and opt for some yummy snacks that will also add a touch of class to the hen do. Try smoked salmon blinis, but instead of using the traditional blini base make these even healthier by serving a twist of smoked salmon on a slice of cucumber with a dollop of crème fraiche and a pinch of dill.


Fill up on colourful crudités, such as red and yellow pepper slices, carrots, cucumber, celery and baby tomatoes. If you lay them out in rows on trays they will also look more attractive than a bowl of crisps. Make your own healthy dips such as homemade guacamole and tzatziki.


8. Get active!


Hen party activities have moved on from the days of laser quest and pole dancing. Hen companies, such as Maximise hen weekends, offer everything from hip hop dancing to wet and wild weekends spent rafting or canyoning. To burn calories and have a good giggle at the same time, go for something wacky like the Mega Mix Triple Combo, where you will have a hilarious time trying the madcap activities of Disco Dodgeball, Bubble Football and various nostalgic old school sports day games.


Checking into a spa for the day is another healthy option that will leave you and the girls feeling gorgeous inside and out. Cowshed have developed the wonderful Pretty Parties – a day of pampering massages, nail and foot treatments, at their luxuriously rustic spas across London. Dinner is included and healthy requests catered for.


If craft or culture is more your thing, why not embark on a creative workshop or tick off a city on your travel bucket list. Anytime spent engrossed in sightseeing or an activity is better for you (and more memorable) than sitting in a bar drinking.


9. Blitz fit


If the energetic hen activities are not going to work for your group, avoid letting your fitness slip on the weekend with a couple of short video workouts. With just 10 minutes of exercise you can burn a ton of calories, boost the metabolism, lift your mood and start the day with a bang!


Find out more about Sarah O'Neill and her personal training services here.


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