You only have to go to the gym and see how much busier it is, to see the countdown to summer is well and truly on. So, we thought it was timely to catch-up with an expert in fitness and nutrition to inspire us to get out, get moving and get healthy.
Meet Swedish born, New Zealand based ex-figure skater, nutritional coach and hot in-demand personal trainer, Julia Kanzso.
What inspired you to get into personal training?
I spent many years in the corporate world, namely in the travel industry. I was either sitting long days at my desk or travelling. During my travels, I often found myself working late and living off the minibar or indulging in food and drinks at work functions. Exercise was falling short and even though I maintained a basic daily routine of an early morning run, I knew in the long-term this wouldn’t be enough to stay healthy and fit. I started going to the gym and really loved it. For the first time in many years I felt strong and fit again and not only that, but also a lot happier. In fact, it brought me right back to the days when I was a competitive figure skater representing Switzerland. Life back then was very different. Very disciplined, a lot of training, a lot of sacrifices but also the best time ever!
I had the crazy desire to suddenly transform my lifestyle by getting back into the industry to not only help myself but other people too. People who lead stressful, busy work and/or social lives (like I did), often neglect themselves despite the best intentions of being healthy, fit and happy. I can absolutely relate to that, and I know how difficult it is to juggle it all.
It seemed like a risky move to leave a successful career with a great employer and start my own business in the fitness industry, especially when you’re past a ‘certain age’, I guess. But it was definitely a calling for me and I can wholeheartedly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What is your personal training philosophy?
Training should make you feel good!!! Honestly, life is too short to spend time doing something you don’t enjoy. My philosophy is to make my clients’ sessions fun, interesting and enjoyable. II believe movement should be fun and make you happy. There are many ways of keeping active, moving your body and getting strong and healthy. The gym is only one way of doing it. If you choose the gym, my job as a trainer is to make it effective, safe and fun. Training in the gym is one of the most efficient ways of getting strong and healthy, if you follow proven training principles, focus on great form throughout and allow sufficient rest and recovery. Some people, like myself, enjoy the ‘pain’ of exercising, other people hate the ‘pain’ but enjoy the feeling they get afterwards. Either way, there should always be an element of fun and joy, and having a laugh. To me, training in the gym is like having a massive playground, I feel like a kid! I try to pass on that joy to my clients.
Julia's main goal with her clients is to put the fun back into fitness.
Do you currently have any personal fitness goals you’re working towards?
Building more muscle and increasing my overall fitness are two key goals. Especially as a woman over 40 I want to be a role model for others to prove maintaining and building a great body is possible at any age, there are no limitations!
I’m also working on specific skills, like handstand walking and improving my 1RMs ;)
You’re also qualified in nutrition – what is your ethos when it comes to healthy eating?
‘Healthy eating’ is not only about what we put in our mouth. Ultimately there is no point if we focus on healthy nutrition only, if we neglect other key points in our life that are equally important for our health and body goals: rest and recovery, stress management, fluid balance, a good support network and healthy environment, purpose in life, as well as sufficient and quality movement.
With my clients I address all the above areas as part of our ‘food talk’. The goal of my coaching is not to follow yet another diet or meal plan. I work towards educating my clients and helping them make better choices. We look at food as a continuum, there is no good or bad, there are only better choices. The more we focus on a wide variety of good quality whole foods, the less we eat processed foods, the better are our chances of developing a long lasting healthy relationship with food and reaching our body goals. I like to say food is our friend, not our enemy. The goal is to enjoy food and gain or maintain a healthy body at the same time.
What have been your biggest fitness/health/nutrition learnings over the years?
Maintenance and recovery are equally important as training. If you skip warm up, stretching, mobility work, sleep, breaks, rest days and ignore the basic principles of healthy nutrition, you won’t reach your goals. Even worse, this may lead to injury. Train smarter, not harder.
Human beings are highly complex. Trying to get your diet under control without addressing other aspects of your life can only ever be a short term fix. Sustainable results require a good look at the ‘whole picture’.
The fitness industry is a lot about looks. Unfortunately looks can be deceiving and having shiny abs doesn’t necessarily mean those people know what they’re doing. Luckily there are also a bunch of professionals standing in for quality training and health. For the customer it is not always easy however to figure out where to find quality advice.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Funny enough what makes me most proud are not big lifts my clients have achieved or the big weight losses on the scale. I am most proud of the little hints I get from clients showing their mind is shifting. It often is a slow process and those are not the classic gold medal moments, but to me this is the most powerful thing that can happen. Little beautiful comments here and there. A smile. A mum who tells me this is the first time in ten years she felt good about herself. Clients who start up in the gym avoiding mirrors and end up taking videos of themselves. Just simply clients who come in tired and a bit beaten up by life and after my session leave in high spirits and smiling, that’s actually the best thing and lifts me up every day again and again.
What are the main benefits of a personal trainer?
A good personal trainer should provide you with a highly tailored and effective training whilst keeping you safe. A good trainer will keep you accountable. A good trainer will push you and challenge you but will also be your cheerleader when you struggle. A good trainer will make you a pro in the gym. A good trainer will introduce and teach you a wide range of exercises and will check your form continuously. A good trainer will know the ideal intensity of your training but will also be able to adjust intensity on the day depending on your daily form. A good trainer will adapt the session on the spot if needed, taking into account your mood, your energy levels etc.
I am emphasising ‘good’ trainer, because I consider this job an art, and it takes a lot of experience to get to this stage.
For those considering a personal trainer, what qualities and/or experience do you think are important to look for in a prospective trainer?
This is a tough one. There is a wide range of criteria that makes somebody a ‘good’ trainer. When you are looking for a personal Trainer you shouldn’t just be looking for a good trainer but for the trainer that is right for you. And this can be quite different from person to person. It depends on your goals and your needs, and ultimately it also comes down to chemistry. There is no point having a great trainer if you don’t get on well with each other! It is not just about technical aspects but also you want to look out for somebody that is a role model to you. Somebody who inspires you. Somebody who can give you something on various levels.
I was once a client and I worked with a couple of trainers. Back then I found it hugely beneficial and inspiring. Well, to the point that I wanted to become a trainer myself. However looking back I realize those were not necessarily trainers I consider ideal in all aspects that I find important nowadays, now that I’m a trainer myself. But at the time they ticked enough boxes: I got inspired, I got pushed, I was held accountable, I kept going on my fitness journey, I loved it. I guess I have become very nit-picking these days striving to reach better and better all the time.
Time is one of the most common excuses when it comes to exercises - what do you recommend they do if they only have 30minutes a day to spare?
I love this question. Due to my tight schedule I find myself in this boat more often than I like, haha. I start with what I personally would do with only 30 minutes. I grab a bunch of decent weights (dumbbells and kettlebells) and set myself up a little full body circuit. There will be an element each of horizontal push and pull, and an element of vertical push and pull. An element of quadriceps and hamstring exercises. Possibly an element of core but it may already be covered with the other exercises. The weights will be according to a rep range of 10-12. I try to get in 4-5 rounds of this. So, for example: 1. Thrusters 2. Pull Ups 3. Bent over Rows 4. Push Ups 5. Kettlebell Swings 6. Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift. It will allow me to train proper weights by doing a conditioning style workout. My cardio will be pushed at the same time. That way I get the most out of 30 minutes.
So, this is me, in 30 minutes. This can look very different however depending on your goals and your current fitness level. It also depends if this is a daily recurrence, for example if you train 5-6 times weekly 30 minutes at a time, in that case it may make sense splitting up into upper and lower body days and focusing on a main lift and some accessories.
In any case, within this time frame I recommend focusing on resistance training. Generally speaking you will get the most bang for your buck.
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