Meet the lucky first of my clients to be interviewed for an extended profile, Karen - one of the most dedicated and committed women I've ever met (and far too interesting to be summarised in a blog...I'll do my best!). An accomplished and talented athlete in everything from running to Olympic weightlifting - at the age of 62, Karen continues to challenge herself despite a busy work schedule, the challenge of arthritis in her knees, and the distraction of some extremely cute grandchildren!
Karen combines 1-2-1 personal training with online programming, constantly pushing her performance in all aspects of CrossFit and weightlifting. Having worked together for nearly two years, she challenges me to continually adapt my approach and progress her training, ensuring that we keep things interesting and never let training become too easy! The COVID-19 lockdown presented our biggest training challenge yet - adjusting her programme to entirely home based training, which required lots of creativity on my part and some extra motivation on Karen's! Despite this, she has adapted brilliantly and is still making heaps of progress (and has been working on creating her very own home training haven in her gorgeous garden!). She is a true joy to coach, her attention to detail and undying dedication nothing short of inspirational.
Read on to discover more about her rich background in fitness, how she narrowly missed qualification in the most recent CrossFit Games Open, and exactly how she stays so motivated!
I work for Dermalogica (a skin care company). I'm in sales, working with colleges throughout UK & Ireland. This job means normally I am travelling around the country and am quite sedentary. I have to either be sat at a desk, in a car or on some other sort of transport.
I love baking and cooking so I would say my favourite food is cakes...not good to have too much (but I always have some in the house!)...so chicken would be my main food!
Favourite song My favourite singer is David Bowie so I would say any of his early stuff, although I love to train to Linkin Park or Green Day.
What is your fitness and training background? You've achieved a lot - don't miss anything out!
I started training when I was about 20; I went to an aerobics class and nearly died! I decided I needed to join a gym and loved aerobics in the days of Jane Fonda, studied to be an aerobics instructor and taught all over Bristol, including step classes. I also attended a BAWLA leaders weight training course and then went on to do the instructors qualification as I found out I was good at weightlifting. I then started training with an olympic weightlifting club and started to compete. I eventually became British champion in the 67.5kg class in 1986, also competing in the first women's World's competition in Budapest coming in second. A few years later I started running with a neighbour, and then a friend asked me if I would run with her. I started running some races, completing many half marathons and 3 full marathons, 2 in my 50th year. My best time was 3hr 30mins in Florence. I had to eventually stop running as I had a problem with my knees - arthritis - but still continued with the gym work and decided to learn to swim properly so I could use as fitness training and now can swim front crawl well enough to do anywhere between 20-50 lengths.
"I started training when I was about 20; I went to an aerobics class and nearly died!...I found out I was good at weightlifting...started to compete, and eventually became British champion in the 67.5kg class in 1986"
What were your goals when we started working together?
For about 6 or 7 months I had been going to a CrossFit gym with my daughter once a week when staying with her, so when we moved to Warminster I decided to join CrossFit Civitas where I met Lucy on the first night. It was focused on weightlifting and I knew this was the gym for me. I asked Lucy if she would do some personal training with me to help with my technique for olympic weightlifting, as I was a bit rusty. So, initially, my goal was to improve my weightlifting techniques.
We've been working together for nearly two years, can you believe it? What's been your highlight achievement in that time?
Over the past couple of years I have had several different targets: initially to become better at weightlifting, then to get a bit stronger, and eventually to improve at CrossFit competition...
"One highlight was coming 201st in the CrossFit Games Open last year"
What are your goals going forward?
My goals currently are to become better at the gymnastics bits - pull ups, toes-to-bar, handstand push ups, and to keep getting stronger. I have been working on double-unders and can now string together 10-20 on a good day! I suppose my ultimate aim is to qualify for the age group qualifiers by getting into the top 200 in my category (not sure with COVID19 around how long this may take!).
What do you enjoy most about online fitness programming? Online training is very flexible - you can train to suit your work or family commitments. I get regular feedback on videos I send in, working on technique using two way feedback.
How did you find the adjustment to training at home during the 2020 lockdown? Lockdown was hard. Some days it was difficult to get motivated - I just kept going so that I was in a routine. We get up early to walk the dogs and I train straight after...no chance to talk myself out of it!
I know you can't wait to get back to 1-2-1 sessions - why do you invest in personal training?
I am a qualified PT and have worked in the fitness industry for many years, but I have always loved having someone to set me a target or shape my training. It makes training easier - that sounds silly, but it does! I really find the feedback and encouragement is what keeps me going. Lucy comes up with different ways to do things and is very experienced in CrossFit techniques, having competed many times and coming from a gymnastics background. She is great and I would recommend her to anyone!
How do you stay so motivated? I have always loved training - since I can remember - though there are always days when you don't feel like doing anything. I just think about how much better I will feel once I have finished, about how good I will feel having completed another session (and also remind myself about looking good and fitting into my clothes!). Plus, must remain healthy too!
"Lockdown was hard. Some days it was difficult to get motivated...there are always days when you don't feel like doing anything. I just think about how much better I will feel once I have finished"
Maintaining and building strength is a huge part of your training - why is this so important to you, and what would you say to encourage more women to include strength work in their regime? I believe it is important to stay strong, and I have always liked the look of muscles. I am 62 years old and have problems with my knees, however I strongly believe they are much better now I am doing CrossFit / strength training. I have better shoulder mobility now than I did a couple of years ago too. This doesn't happen by magic - it comes from careful programming and always stretching at the end. Including strength training in your programme will enhance your body shape and definition, it could also enable you to eat more (as long as mostly healthy) due to the fact that lean muscle tissue uses more calories than fat!
What advice would you give to other women when it comes to balancing the demands of your family, career, health and fitness? There is always time to fit in training. Work-life balance is crucial, so I believe you need to plan your week. I have a busy work schedule at times but always look for ways I can fit in my training. It's even easier these days as you can do so much online...
"Start with an achievable timetable and be realistic, as you get fitter you will be able to fit more into your life"
Interested in 1-2-1 personal training or online programming? Get in touch here to find out more.