Know your body

Samantha Clayton talks about fitness, ageing & more

Fitness expert Samantha Clayton

As a former Olympic athlete and now, a personal trainer and track coach, who mentors young athletes and provides them with a solid fitness foundation, keeping fit and inspiring others to do the same is Samantha Clayton’s lifelong purpose and passion. “We only have one body and it has to last for the rest of our life,” says the Herbalife director of Worldwide Fitness Education.

Samantha’s biggest motivation, she says, are her children Royce (14 years old), Niya, Imani and Elijah (12-years-old triplets). “My goal is to be healthy, fit and strong so that I can be the best mom to them. It’s important to get fit from an early age to ensure that later in life it is not a struggle to adapt to a healthy lifestyle,” she avers.

Edited excerpts from an interaction with the fitness expert:

Do fitness goals have to change with age?

Ageing is a fact of life, but there is no need to sit around and watch your body deteriorate, by way of loss of muscle tone and bone density, increase in fat stores, premature skin ageing, and poor posture. It’s never too late to start exercising, and it doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life. Just be sure to start out slowly. Staying active will allow your joints to stay mobile and if you include resistance exercises as part of your plan, you can retain muscular control and stability as you age.

Flexibility or strength — what’s more important?

I like to think of them as partners; both are equally important. Flexibility ensures that you maintain good posture. It can help relieve common pains associated with sitting for prolonged periods. Also, having good flexibility and joint range of motion as you age is important to help perform day-to-day activities. Strength training, on the other hand, can make your muscles strong and resilient, helping you to stay balanced when in motion. The more stable you are, the safer you will be while performing your daily activities or playing sports. Besides, strength training increases the body’s metabolic rate, causing it to burn more calories throughout the day. Finally, the stronger your muscles, the easier it is to get groceries out of the car, pick up your children, or get a package off of the top cabinet shelf!

How can women prioritise their fitness?

Start by setting a personal goal. Do you want to be physically stronger, or perhaps improve your energy levels? Once you set a goal, think of a way to monitor your progress. Investing in a pedometer or heart rate monitor can help to keep you motivated. Why not participate in a 5k run or enrol in a dance class with a friend? For those who don’t have time, I recommend mini fitness breaks: five-minute workouts that can help relieve stress and get you fit. Don’t underestimate the power of stretching, breathing and meditation.

What makes you a yoga enthusiast?

I fell in love with yoga after giving birth to my triplets in 2005. I had lost my core strength and my muscles were weak and stiff from being on bed rest for 20 weeks. My doctor suggested gentle Hatha yoga exercises. Slowly, I advanced to practising vinyasa thrice a week. Now, I teach yoga as part of training. It teaches you to have patience, respect for the body, to connect movement with breath and the mind. Mind-body connection, along with the spiritual aspect, is powerful.

What are the most common fitness mistakes?

Exercise progression, especially in volume and intensity, is one of the biggest traps to fall into. More is not always the best. Push yourself during your workout, but listen to your body and know when to slow down. Try to maintain a set intensity level for a few weeks. When it becomes comfortable, it’s time to progress to the next level. Doing too much too soon will make you develop bad form.

Is it better to exercise in a group?

Having a training partner or partners can help you to stay focused on your goals and encourage you to push yourself to increase your overall intensity level. But the best part is that you have a fun social activity to look forward to! When you embark on an active lifestyle journey, being able to have a social life that involves a fun, healthy activity is important. It helps you to move away from activities that may be stopping you from being at your best.

What’s your biggest fitness lesson?

Knowledge of self is the greatest gift. Understanding what your body needs and how your body needs to move in order to achieve specific goals, is something that comes with time, experience and dedication. Take the time to listen to your body and learn what it is telling you. Years of experience has taught me that my role is not to train others, it is to teach others to train themselves.

How vital is nutrition?

The food we put into our body is our fuel. We need it for energy and for our body’s repair and regeneration. The right foods in the right portion can have a positive effect on health. Avoid unhealthy foods and overeating; consume optimal amounts of protein each day, especially post-exercise. Also, drink water throughout the day.

What’s your fitness routine?

I practise a balanced routine, by mixing up running, functional strength training with body weight exercises, training in the gym and yoga practice, five days a week. That apart, I enjoy walking my dog, taking hikes in the mountains, and in the summer, I like to paddle board in the ocean. Even when I travel, I always make time to get in some activity.


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