Surrounded by pert breasts and peachy bottoms in itsy bitsy bikinis, Caroline Flack has hosted ITV2’s Love Island for seven weeks, with 2.43 million of us tuning in to watch her announce the winners on Monday evening. But for the past year and a half, the TV presenter has been gaining confidence tips from her strength and conditioning trainer Sarah Lindsay, who focuses on feeling strong rather than looking good.
Three-time Olympic speed skating athlete Sarah Lindsay co-founded London gym Roar Fitness in June 2016, and already is has become a hotspot for sportsmen and celebrities, including Pixie Lott, Melanie Sykes, Professor Green, Lauren Pope and Sheridan Smith.
‘Sarah understands how to train and shape a woman’s body to be lean and athletic without getting bulky’, says Caroline, 37. ‘Being physically strong and focusing on my health has given me a new found love for fitness. Strong body, strong mind’.
The British TV personality has opened up about her own body confidence battles before, and recently speaking with The Telegraph, agreed that Love Island portrays an unrealistic body image for young girls, amongst discussion that it also does not feature enough diversity among its contestants in everything from sexuality to race. She also experienced a cruel episode of online trolling during her time on The X Factor, despite being a healthy size 12. Reading abusive comments on social media left Caroline hurt, and she even considered liposuction until a plastic surgeon told her ‘you don’t need liposuction, you need exercise’, she told the Daily Mirror.
Caroline enlisted the help of Sarah Lindsay in 2016 to transform her body. Swapping sugar, gluten, dairy and alcohol for weight training and yoga saw Caroline drop to a size 8 in 12 weeks. But most of all, Caroline rose above the taunting and proved health is a thing of the mind. ‘The best thing about all of this is how I feel’, she told Women’s Health. ‘I didn’t realise how much it would change my mindset’.
Similarly, British pop singer Pixie Lott has a newfound confidence with the personal trainer, especially in the free-weights area. ‘I’ve learnt so much about health, food and fitness from Sarah, but most importantly how to properly weight train’, she says. ‘My strength continues to improve every session, and I love how lifting heavy makes me feel’.
The 26 year old has just wrapped up the filming of ITV’s The Voice Kids, in which she coached Jess Folley to win the show, as well as working on new music. But amongst the chaos, Pixie still finds time to train up to three times a week with PT Sarah. ‘I can absolutely trash her, train her super super hard, and you can’t wipe the smile off her face. She’s always happy’, reveals Sarah.
With almost 20,000 followers on Instagram (roarfitnessgirl – check out the amazing transformations) Sarah is spreading the message of inner confidence and most importantly, strength and power. Here she shares with Healthista her best weight training and body confidence tips during our Strong Women Fortnight.
Celebrity Trainer Secrets: Sarah Lindsay, Roar Fitness Girl
How do you train with Caroline Flack?
We originally did 12 weeks leading up to doing the cover of Women’s Health summer 2016 where she focused really hard. We have worked together ever since. We keep it fun to balance the hard work.
It’s not about being thin or losing weight but having a strong body to help a strong mind.
On day one she said that her arms were her least favourite part to have on display. I promised that I’d make them her favourite part to show off, and now she loves showing her arms. Now she believes in moderation and has made some healthy food swaps. She avoids sugar and weight trains three times a week for one hour to stay strong and focused. But she’s young and such a ball of fun so I’d never expect her to give up her social life in the name of fitness. It’s not about being thin or losing weight but having a strong body to help a strong mind. She says that I changed her life with regards to her approach to health, food and exercise.
How do you train Pixie Lott?
I train Pixie whenever she is available in London. We are local to her which is handy. She generally trains three times a week but she has just finished The Voice Kids and released her new song, so recently it’s been more sporadic. There is no real ‘plan’, it’s just been as and when we can grab sessions. But in general it’s three times a week for an hour.
What training do you do?
My gym is weight training based – we don’t have any cardio equipment here. I’m not anti-cardio, I do it myself. But I just don’t think you should pay a trainer to watch you run on a treadmill. We are here to coach strength and conditioning, so every rep and set you do is coached properly. I think your role as a personal trainer should be to make sure you’re progressing the programme properly over the right period of time. I believe that whatever your goals are, you can achieve the through weight training.
Pixie likes having some muscles and wants to be stronger
With Pixie we lift as heavy as we can. She wants to be strong, she’s not trying to get thin or anything. She likes having some muscles and wants to be stronger, so we work on that and I get her lifting as much as I can.
Even when her legs have completely gone, she’ll still be grinning which is nice
She’s a tough cookie actually. She is inexperienced at weight training, she had not done it before she met me. But with her dance background she moves very well and is body aware, so she is easy to coach. Even when her legs have completely gone, she’ll still be grinning which is nice. She’s a top girl, she always makes it fun and enjoys it.
How long are your sessions?
It’s always an hour. You warm up and mobilise and prepare yourself for the lifts you are going to do. Once you’ve mobilised the joints and taken them through the range of movement your require from them, then you do light sets of the exercise. For example, if you were doing deadlifts I would slowly build the weight up to the correct weight for any given rep range (8-10 reps for example). That sufficiently warms your body up for what you’re about to do.
If Pixie is in three times a week I split the sessions into different body parts. She’ll do a chest and back day, legs and shoulders day and arms and abs day. When you break it up you manage to get more volume into more muscle groups. When you’re doing circuits or lots of different exercises, the overload of an individual muscle isn’t there. We focus on giving more volume to the muscles so you’ve got more of a chance of making that muscle group stronger.
What are the essentials for training with weights?
I think people are quite nervous of it. The free weight environment can be quite intimidating, but everyone belongs there. It’s so hard to walk into a gym, pick up some weights and know what to do. You have to either do your research, and there are lots of videos and tutorials on how to lift, or get a trainer. If you are a member of a commercial gym, they should give you an induction, show you around and give you a programme. If that isn’t available, get a couple of sessions with a personal trainer to show you how to do it correctly with a programme that scientifically makes sense. I think it’s so valuable.
So many people come into the gym, use a bike for 20 minutes before scuttling out. It’s such a shame.
Knowing how to do something right is important not just for safety but to make sure you are recruiting the right muscles and getting the desired results. So many people come into the gym, use a bike for 20 minutes before scuttling out. It’s such a shame because weights are what’s going to change your body and make you strong. It’s a shame commercial gyms don’t have a better way to make people feel more comfortable when they come in. I think people need to be a bit more forceful and ask for the help because they are there for that reason.
What do people get wrong when they start doing weight training?
I think it’s important to not do too much. A lot of the time people start seeing improvements and get ‘the bug’. They are enthusiastic, which is obviously great. But they might start doing something every day and do cardio, too. But you just end up too tired to perform. When people come to me, even if they are used to lots of training, I get them to stop anything else for at least 2-3 weeks and just do the sessions we have booked. Because then they see how well they recover in between. If you turn up too tired to lift then you won’t get the most out of the session.
Remember everyone is there for the same reason and everyone has to start somewhere
No matter what your goal is, the idea behind weight training is that you should be aiming to get stronger. People stay in their comfort zone a lot of the time but every time you train you should be trying to lift more. If you are a year into your training and still picking up 5kg to do a bicep curl, you won’t make any progress. You have to really challenge yourself and not be scared to pick up the next weight to guarantee results. Especially when people are a bit nervous, they don’t want to make themselves look silly. Remember everyone is there for the same reason and everyone has to start somewhere. I think people are friendly in gyms and are happy to advise knowing they started somewhere too. Don’t ever feel like people are judging – just get in and get your own thing done.
Is there a safe way of knowing you should be lifting heavier?
It comes down to technique. As long as you can do it properly, the weight is appropriate. It should be slow and controlled. You’re not throwing weights around. You should be lifting as much as you can for the reps you are going to do. If your rep range is 10-12 for example, and after 12 you feel like you could go to 15, it’s not heavy enough. If you get to rep number eight and can’t go anymore, then it’s too heavy. It’s a very small window. Once you’ve done a set, then you know what you can lift. So work within a rep range to know – just make sure its heavy enough that those 12 reps are really hard and you can only just about reach it.
It should be a safe environment, and it’s not unpredictable. If you go running you could trip very easily but apart from dropping a dumbbell on your foot, it’s not a dangerous environment!
How is weight training good for female body?
Feeling strong and in control of your body is so important and people don’t realise it until they start to get stronger
You have to get strong to achieve any of your goals – whether you want to tone or to lose fat, the stronger you are the easier it is to train. People don’t necessarily put the two things together but the first thing I do with anyone is make them strong. Strength has a crossover into any area of fitness. For example if you did a boot camp, you would be able to lift a lot more for those higher rep exercises. If you run and incorporate strength training, your top speed will go up, and your cruising speed will become easier and then faster. People who ski once a year, and do a programme with us in-between, find that they go back and can’t believe how easy it. You can even notice it in day to day life as things require less effort.
In your opinion, does confidence come from feeling stronger or looking better?
Definitely both. Obviously if you look better you feel better. But actually feeling strong and in control of your body is so important and people don’t realise it until they start to get stronger. Of course people come in because they want to look better, they want to lose fat and feel healthy. But when they start to feel strong and feel like they are achieving something every session, that’s when they feel amazing.
The confidence crosses over hugely into the rest of your life. When you know you can achieve anything physically it changes how you hold yourself, make eye contact and talk to people. Seeing the confidence it gives women is the best thing about this job. I had a girl who finished with me recently and she’d not been on holiday for 10 years and had never worn a swimsuit. But she booked a holiday and packed a load of bikinis because she felt so incredible. It’s all about how you feel, ultimately. When you make a woman feel confident in herself and her body, that’s an amazing change to make in someone’s life.
What is your favourite strength exercise?
There are a few key ones. I think a deadlift is a huge favourite, as long as you don’t have a lower back problem. The movement crosses over into everyday life and incorporates all the muscle groups.
Do you ever recommend cardio?
You’ll be surprised at how your heart rate rises when you do weights properly
It depends. I like cardio and if you enjoy it you should do it. I use it as head space because it just gives you time to think. When people do a 12 week programme I use cardio a little later into it. For example if they are on a fat loss programme and they start to plateau, I will put some cardio in to make the progress easier. I don’t want to take away peoples’ food or make them hungry! Your cardiovascular fitness is important as well, but you’ll be surprised at how your heart rate rises when you do weights properly.
Does weight training use more energy?
It takes a lot longer to recover. If you do some damage to the muscle, which is the goal, that might take 2-3 days to recover from. Whereas if you ran for half an hour, as soon as you finish your heart rate will gradually return to normal, you can eat and feel fine. But weight training can take a little longer to recover from.
When people train with you, how do you keep their motivation up?
When you come to Roar Fitness you see a physio to do a movement screening to check stiffness, tightness, weakness and any potential for injury. Then you see a nutritionist, and then you work with the trainer on the gym floor. Like I had as an athlete, you have a team of people looking after you, so it’s a very positive environment here. You have everyone behind you for the results. When you have people behind you willing you on, and a trainer who will never give up on you, it’s a lot easier to be motivated. You’ve always got targets and you are accountable due to being measured and weighed.
Once you see and feel a positive change happening, you’ve got the bug. It’s nice to feel like you are achieving the goals you set out in the first place, especially when you can see something tangible happening. It’s difficult if you are trying and putting a lot of energy into something, but you may not be doing it right and nothing happens. That’s one of the reasons people don’t stick to what they set out to do, because its not very achievable.
Once you get a positive change, you’ve got the bug
What are the essentials for seeing proper changes?
Setting goals. You can’t just train for a period of weeks and expect to see the outcome you want at the end. You have to set small goals as you go along. Always progress the weights to make sure you are not doing the same thing every session – you have to be a bit brave with the heavier weight.
Exercise can become so negative because people are doing it because they don’t feel good.
I think sometimes getting someone else to write you a workout or nutrition plan. If I wanted to improve, I would get one of my team to write my plan for me because if I do it myself I’ll just change it if I am in a bad mood or want some chocolate! So someone else will keep you on track and watch out for you.
One of the most important things is to enjoy it. Exercise can become so negative because people are doing it because they don’t feel good. They train because they ate something they think they shouldn’t have yesterday and that becomes a negative association with exercise. It really should be a celebration of what your body is capable of achieving – I know it’s cheesy! You should test yourself and praise yourself for it.
What’s your advice for people stuck in a negative relationship with food and exercise?
There is no point in beating yourself up over it. If you ate something you think was off plan, you have to put that to bed and start afresh. I think exercising in the morning can be good for that because you do something healthy and positive to start the day so you will tend to make better choices throughout the day.
What diet do you typically follow?
I don’t restrict any foods other than dairy as I’ve been highly allergic to milk since birth, so I use almond and coconut milk instead. I am conscious of the quality of my food so I do make all my food myself from scratch which is five meals per day. This sounds like a lot of work but I’ve got my prep down do 30 minutes in the evening and that’s for both me and my partner. I eat a lot of protein and vegetables and sweet potato and oats.
Are there foods you try and limit?
I don’t eat any ‘junk’. I don’t add sugar to anything and have some amazing healthy treat recipes. For example I’d rather have an avocado/chocolate raw cheese cake or my flourless ginger cookies than a shop bought muffin that to me doesn’t even taste like real food and has poor nutritional content.
If you have an indulgent treat or cheat meal, what is it?
I eat what I want every day so never feel like I have to binge. I do eat out once a week so I guess if I indulge or treat myself then I order really expensive red wine. I figure as I only drink alcohol occasionally then it should be something special.
Is the celebrity body achievable?
I don’t think we should look at other women and try to achieve their body as that belongs to them
Everyone is so different. Nobody is perfect and everyone has their own insecurities or something they don’t like about themselves. I don’t think we should look at other women and try to achieve their body as that belongs to them. All that matters is how you feel so work hard to be the best version of yourself and decide to love that.
I think your body looks best when it is healthy. I encourage my clients to eat natural foods, get early nights, drink lots of water and lift heavy heavy heavy! #roargirls #strongnotskinny