Want to know how to get fit like Ellie Goulding? Her personal trainer Faisal Abdalla reveals his secrets
When it comes to fitness, personal trainer Faisal Abdalla is pretty big time. The fitness guru is stirring up a storm, garnering the support of a massive 61k followers on his Instagram. Faisal is a master trainer with London’s military-inspired fitness group Barry’s Bootcamp and Nike sportswear, an ambassador for Protein World and Men’s Health BUT he’s best known for being PT to some of Britain’s favourite female singers (we’re looking at you, Ellie Goulding).
Famously big on boxing, the Love Me Like You Do singer is a huge fan of working out and loves to splash pics of her various workout sessions on social media. We caught up with Faisal to find out the get-fit secrets that keep Goulding looking so great.
Q. How long have you been doing what you do?
It feels like a lifetime but I’ve actually only been training as a full-time job for just over five years. I have pretty much lived in the gym since I was 16 though. I went to the gym once and that was it, I felt like I had come home.
Q. What celebs have you trained?
I’ve trained with Ellie Goulding for some time now. I am currently training Ella Eyre and Jorja Smith among a few others. Female singers with kickass attitudes to life are always the best fun to work with.
Q. What is your most reliable go-to type of exercise?
For all-around fitness, high-intensity interval training is the best you can get. It’s quick, it’s effective and it gets the job done. Plus it is perfect when combined with a killer playlist (and music is everything when you’re working up a sweat).
ONLY THE DEDICATED | This badass @ellaeyre has been smashing out @barryslondon for a while now but over the past few weeks I’ve been training her one on one, so I guess it’s time she got a big up for her dedication! There’s something about driven people who have the right attitude to whatever it is they are applying themselves to that makes me 😁 #HappyFaisal #EllaEyre #NikeWomen #NikeTraining #PT #Training #StrongWomen #BarrysBootcamp #PMAMethod #PMA #PMAFitness 👊🏽
Q. What is your favourite fat- busting exercise and why?
The dreaded burpee! Almost everybody hates them so that’s reason enough to love them because we always hate what is good for us. If something is hard, do more of it, not less, that’s absolutely key.
Q. What ratio of cardio-weights do you advise?
It totally depends on what your training goals are but I like to combine weighted strength training with the cardio aspects of high-intensity interval training. They work in perfect harmony if you want to burn fat and build lean muscle. My book The PMA Method, which is out this May, is all about using weights alongside HIIT if you want fast results.
Q. What is your philosophy when it comes to keeping fit?
Enjoy it. If you aren’t enjoying it, you’re not going to stick with it. If you’re not looking forward to it, you haven’t found the right fitness routine for you, so keep searching. I love to show the people who come to my events and classes how much fun you can have and I always get people smiling and buzzing with energy – between the groans and the sweats!
Q. What would be the one tip you use to keep clients, or yourself, motivated to continue a workout?
PMA, PMA, PMA! [this stands for Faisal’s mantra, ‘positive mental attitude’] Find your PMA and you will be able to motivate yourself through anything. I cannot express how life-changing it is to approach life with a positive mental attitude. I also always ask clients, ‘What is your why?’. Not ‘what is your goal?’, that’s just what you want. The important thing to ask is, WHY do you want it? It forces you to dig deep and be honest with yourself. The answer often makes you a bit uncomfortable, but if you remember that ‘why’ when you’re training, drown out the negative voices and totally focus on why you want it, I can guarantee you will find something extra in the tank.
Q. Do you have a nutrition plan for clients? If so, what are the main principles?
I personally don’t believe in counting calories or macros, life is too short. I haven’t got time for that or anything that means I have to cut out whole food groups. I would rather focus on the good an ingredient can do for my body.
My only other real rule is based on when I eat, rather than what I eat. Really simply, if I’m eating post-workout then I will pimp up my dish by adding my carb fix and if I’m eating any other time of the day, I keep it low carb. That’s as complicated as it gets for me.
Q. What diet do you typically follow?
The ‘all diets are a load of rubbish’ diet! I absolutely hate the word diet, it sounds so restrictive and they’re usually short-term and totally unsustainable. Just use your common sense, eat well consistently while training hard and time your carbs around your training. Why overcomplicate something as enjoyable as food?
Q. What is your best nutrition tip?
Relax. If you slip up, don’t worry about it because there is no point stressing over something you can’t undo. Just get back on it and move on. I have a cheat day once a week for this reason. It keeps me on track and stops me craving naughty stuff during the week because I know I can have it on a Sunday. Deprivation is the worst thing, it’s what will drive you mad and see you constantly crumbling and reaching for the biscuit tin. A cheat day can be just what you need to stay focused.
Q. Are there any foods you limit or eat more of?
I make a conscious effort to avoid refined and added sugars in the week, Monday to Saturday. They do absolutely nothing for you, and when I eat food, I like to ask what can this do for my body and what goodness will it provide before I shove it in my gob. For me, that is more important than how many calories does this nut contain? Having said that, I’m human so I’m complicated and I also have a very sweet tooth, so I still eat my chocolate on a Sunday, regardless of how bad it is for me.
Q. So now we know you love chocolate, do you have another cheat meal of choice?
My go-to cheat meal on my Cheat Day is a Five Guys. I’m a sucker for a burger and chips. I’ve also got a serious weakness for peanut M&M’s as anyone who follows me on Instagram will know.
Q. What do most of us get wrong when we aren’t seeing results?
People can plateau for a number of reasons – they’re eating the wrong things, they’re overtraining, they’re not sleeping enough, they’re not training honestly or their mindset is holding them back. One of the biggest mistakes is right there in that question – you can’t always see results. Results aren’t just physical. They aren’t just numbers on the scales and inches around the waist. If you feel stronger, happier or more confident, if you’re lifting heavier, running faster and eating healthier, then these are all results too. Often if you look at how far you’ve come instead of how far you’ve got to go, you will realise you’re actually seeing result after result and success after success, even when you can’t physically see them.
Q. What food is ALWAYS in your kitchen cupboard?
Eggs! How boring is that? They are a complete protein and packed with goodness. I reckon you can rustle up more healthy meals with a pack of eggs as your base than any other ingredient. This has a kitchen challenge written all over it!
Q. Is there a supplement you couldn’t live without?
Protein World Superman Pump is a great pre-workout if I’ve got a massive training session ahead and I’m flagging, although I’m like Tigger without caffeine so don’t often need it. It contains BCAA as well, which is great for muscle recovery if you’re training regularly. I also love their ZMA capsules which I take every day. They contain Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6, which are all sweet little numbers when it comes to protein synthesis, boosting the immune system and keeping the metabolism ticking along nicely.
Faisal Abdulla is a celebrity personal trainer, Barry’s Bootcamp and Nike master trainer as well as being a trainer for Protein World and Elite. He’s an ambassador for men’s health and his first book The PMA Method: Stronger, Leaner, Fitter in 14 days is coming out this Spring.