32-year-old actress Gemma Atkinson is among this year’s bumper crop of Strictly Come Dancing stars.
Ahead of taking part in this autumn’s contest, she made sure her body was hot to foxtrot and fighting fit to take on the competition by undertaking a 12-week programme with Ultimate Performance (UP) Fitness.
As she reveals she was close to tears training for the show, we found out her fitness secrets.
The rigorous workouts
“The training we’ve been doing is four days a week between 45 minutes and an hour, then an hour’s cardio on the bike once a week,” she explains.
“It’s the kind of training where, on paper, you think ‘that’s not very hard. I can do that’.
“Sometimes there might only be four or five exercises in the session, but it’s because of the repetition, the overload and the increase in the weights when it comes towards the end, that’s what makes it difficult.”
To make matters more complicated, her personal trainers, Mark Bohannon and Steve Chambers, would push Gemma harder each time, whether this was through adding an extra rep, an extra set or a bit more weight.
Most of her workouts were weight-based, consisting of plenty of squats and push/pull centric exercises.
In order to get the changes in her body that she wanted, Gemma made a few changes to her diet, but all without feeling deprived.
“I used to snack on dark chocolate and nuts, which is fine. But I used to have two or three of those snacks a day. Thinking ‘it’s dark chocolate. It’s good for you’. I didn’t realise how many calories were in stuff. I used to eat a lot of bread and I took that out of my diet and replaced it with oats and sweet potato,” Gemma says.
“I actually ate a lot of food. But just a lot of good food. I didn’t deprive myself really. After about two or three weeks I stopped craving rubbish foods.
“It just shows, ‘you are what you eat’ and if you fuel your body with good nutrition, then your body is going to thank you for it.”
A typical breakfast for Gemma during her programme would be three eggs cooked in coconut oil, flax seeds, chia seeds and half an avocado, all washed down with a coffee with a splash of almond milk.
How her body changed
Gemma says her body responded to the new regime swiftly, within the first two weeks.
“Mentally I felt great after a week. But the physical changes came after about two weeks,” she said.
“When you see the results physically, you start to feel a little bit cocky like ‘yeah! It’s changing!’
“Everything is getting a little bit tighter, your jeans are getting a bit looser. I’m quite straight, naturally, up and down – like Spongebob Squarepants – but I started getting a bit of a waist, an hourglass figure.
“My bum got bigger… Those kind of changes make you feel good and your hard work has paid off. My strength has gone up incredibly, which makes you feel great. You can do stuff on your own. You don’t need anyone’s help. It’s a great, great feeling.”
It’s not just her body that’s different though. Her skin has improved, as has her sleep pattern, and most importantly, her outlook on life.
“I’ve realised I’m tougher than what I thought, mentally. The little things used to stress me… I don’t take as much crap from people now,” she says.