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This summer the biggest sporting event on the planet, will be hosted in the land of the body beautiful – it’s enough to make you quiver in your control pants. I, for one, have made myself a promise that this year (just as soon as it warms up a teensy weensy bit) I’m going to peel off my bed socks, shuffle out there and finally get back in shape. Are you with me?! Oh, come on, we’ve got a good few months (to undo several years of neglect, at least in my case). And who better to ask for advice on how to stay motivated than a GB Olympian themselves?

Toby Garbett is an Olympian World Champion rower and triathlete (I mean, come on, credit where it’s due!). Oh and he’s also a trained pilates instructor and PT too (Jeez, where does he find the time?). So to try and combat my sofa slouch here are Toby’s insider tips for fitness and weight loss success in his own words:

Get your head straight


‘If you want to get fit or lose weight success starts in the head. I’ve come across so many great athletes, people I competed against in my teens, who just didn’t have the mental side of things sorted. Whether you’re an elite competitor trying to win medals or a normal person trying to get fit, you have to have a goal. My goal was the Olympics, four years away, and then I’d break up that time frame into manageable mini goals and go for it. But you have to make it achievable.

‘I once went out rowing with a client and he loved it, but at the end of the session he said, ‘This year I’m going to train and win the Henley Royal Regatta!’ Plainly that’s not going to happen, it would be like saying he was going to win the Tour de France on 6 months training! When you decide on your goal, write it down on the fridge door and get other people on board to help you towards that goal. A lot of time the people in your life can be very supportive but if they don’t know they can’t help.

Work on core stability


‘I know, I know, It’s not glamorous working on your core but if you’re starting to exercise after a few years out – maybe you’ve had kids or have been working too hard and not had the time – take it easy. Often ex-exercisers will have an image of how they used to look and the type and quantity of the exercise they used to do and so they start trying to do that straight away and get injured. So start off slowly, if you’ve been injured do your research on your injury, gain some strength and let your body get used to exercise again. Pilates is brilliant for this, it helps with core strength, awakens your association with your abdominal area, helps with balance, stability and your pelvic floor.

‘I’ve been injured so many times in my career – a prolapsed disk, shoulder injury, arthroscopy to the knee… you name it. I was told I had the back of a 50 year old when I was barely in my twenties, and that I wasn’t going to row again. That’s tough to hear, so I decided I needed to create another career for myself and became a qualified pilates instructor. But in doing so I improved my own strength and posture to such an extent that I stepped back into the boat and went on to two Olympic gold medals and became World Champion! So pilates works.

Don’t leave it til the weekend

‘It’s not always possible to exercise throughout the week but try to step away from being a weekend warrior who sits down all week and then goes out on a 2 hour run or 50k bikeride! In my experience it’s this set of people who always end up injured. If you can’t find time to exercise properly before the weekend, make small improvements – the other day I bought a travel card for London but it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk across Waterloo Bridge rather than sit on the tube. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk where possible, it all helps. And the sports you do take part in, make sure they’re ones that excite you. If your heart sinks every time you think about going to the gym, try something different – maybe with a group of people if you want extra motivation, but otherwise something that makes you want to get up and out.

Carbs or not?


‘When I first started off in rowing, Steve Redgrave said I’d be eating a seafood diet – well, see food and eat it. When money was tight I’d go and eat as much as I could as cheaply as I could, not thinking about energy levels or sugar spikes and dips or my vitamin levels – looking back I used to have colds all the time, I think my antioxidant levels were probably very low. Now what I do is look at my plate – not very scientific but it’s common sense. I try to fuel myself with wholewheat carbohydrates but they only make up a quarter of the plate. Half the plate is veg or salad, and then the final quarter is the protein. I try to keep it simple in my head, eating shouldn’t really have to be that complicated! So my advice is to try not to start an eating plan where you’re denying yourself food groups, or are having to weigh food or calorie count – it’s not a great long term strategy.

Find your confidence

‘If I could turn back time and do something different in the way I approached my fitness and goals it would be to have more confidence and back myself a bit more.There was always someone bigger, stronger, better, they had this piece of equipment, I didn’t have the right surroundings, etc etc. I was always putting myself down. Elite athletes always put themselves in the right environment to perform, and if you want to get fit or lose weight, you need to do the same. Surround yourself by people who support what you’re trying to achieve. Try to help yourself avoid temptation – nip to the water fountain when the sweets come out at work, be confident that what you’re doing is the right thing for your goal.

Don’t fixate on treats


‘Good nutrition (not ‘dieting’, it’s not a helpful word) and exercise go together. You’ll get the best results if you can combine the two. That’s just the way it is!’

So there you go – thanks Toby. Easy, peasy! I don’t think. Something tells me I might not have this guy’s determination (Please. Hide. The. Snickers.) But I am, at the very least, inspired enough to promise to try. So watch this space for all the most unique and interesting ways I can find to inspire us on our journey towards a Brazilian bod – or okay more realistically – wild bed-socks-abandonment!


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