Name: Jen de Mel
Location: London, UK
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
Being a Girl Gone Strong means feeling powerful instead of small. It means having confidence and being proud of what my body can do, and feeling good in my own skin.
When I think of GGS, I think about smart training and about having more meaningful training goals based on performance.
Being a GGS means influencing other women to accept and be proud of their bodies and not wanting to be a different body type that the one they have been blessed with.
How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I’ve been strength training since 2010, when I lost interest in doing things that made my body feel bad, such as partying too often and became more interested in doing things that made me feel good, such as training and being kind to myself.
What does your typical workout look like?
Full-body workouts mainly strength with a cardio intervals finisher. For example…
Warm-up and mobility for the first 15 minutes:
- Thoracic mobility, such as open book
- Hip mobility, such as fire hydrants
- Glute activation such as clamshells, hip bridge, x-band walks
- Core activation such as bird dog, moving planks, dead bugs
Training session, 30 to 45 minutes. I prefer supersets because they feel more metabolic:
A1. Chin-Up 3xAMRAP
A2. BB Split Squat 3×10
B1. Push-Up 3×10
B2. Romanian Deadlift 3×10
Finisher :30/:30 work/rest ratio
C1. Moving Plank
C2. Kettlebell Swing
C3. Ski Erg
By the way, the above is not an example of a typical pregnancy workout! Those are my typical go-to exercises if I’m not following a specific program. Pregnancy workouts have been shorter.
- A hip opener such as 90/90 split squat, pigeon stretch, and fire hydrant
- Glute and core activation
Training session, 3-4 sets of 10 reps each:
A1. Seated Row
A2. Goblet Squat or Romanian Deadlift
A3. Alternating Leg Lowering or Band-Resisted Bird Dog
A4. Hip Bridge variations
Finish with Intervals, 8-10 sets of :20/:40 work/rest ratio (usually ski erg and kettlebell swings), or with 30 minutes of steady-state cardio depending on time available.
Romanian Deadlift. What’s not to love? It’s a full-body, compound movement and teaches you a great movement pattern of the hip hinge while building great strength in the hamstrings, glutes, core, and lats.
Most memorable PR:
In the gym: six weighted chin-ups with 10 kilos. Outside of the gym (water skiing): 5.5 bouys at 34 miles per hour on the slalom course.
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
- Crave You – Flight Facilities
- Sweet Disposition – Temper Trap
- Livin’ on the Edge — Aerosmith
- Perfect Form – Cyril Hahn
- Up and Down – Kattison
Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
Headphones, phone, and water.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Both. I like training alone, but I get more motivated when I train with others. I enjoy mixing up my usual routine.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
Almost falling off the treadmill because the endorphins and song I was listening to got me feeling so high that I closed my eyes momentarily and lost my balance.
Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
Someone called me “superwoman” because I’m six months pregnant and still super active and hosting a large family gathering at the last minute while making it look easy (It wasn’t. My feet were throbbing and most of the dishes were overcooked!)
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
“You’re the best!” to my dog Tyson. That doesn’t count? OK, I told my sister that she is brilliant in times of crisis, and she has held our family together during a traumatic event.
Fish (like seabass) and greens. Boring, I know, but I eat it every day and don’t get bored. I was gutted when I had such a strong aversion to it during my first trimester of pregnancy.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Pregnancy massages are my favorite way to relax these days.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
What inspires and motivates you?
People who are challenged physically and achieve more than most, such as Bethany Hamilton (a champion surfer who lost her arm to a shark and became a world champion surfer anyway). Overcoming that kind of adversity rather than letting fate deal you a cruel card is ridiculously inspiring and always makes get it together if I start to feel sorry for myself.
What do you do?
I am a pre- and postnatal fitness coach, and a corporate ethics consultant. And
What else do you do?
I am crazy about slalom water skiing. It’s the feeling of being on the water, the sunshine, spending the day hanging out at the lake with friends, the exhilaration, and adrenaline of the sport, competing against myself, trying to control the inner monkey who keeps trying to sabotage my best passes by telling me not to mess it up. Plus, I just think it’s the coolest sport in the world, and because it’s not that big or popular you can actually get quite close to the champions who inspire you!
Describe a typical day:
I wake up at 6:30 and go to the gym. Then I take Tyson (our mini schnauzer) for a walk in the communal garden, where he plays with all the other dogs. Just watching him being so playful makes me feel happy, so it’s such a great way to start the day.
I pick up some coffee for Priyan (my husband) and me from Coffee Plant (best coffee on the famous Portobello Road in Notting Hill!) and go home to make us breakfast at around 9 a.m., before I wash and settle down for work and household chores, etc.
The rest of the day seems to slip by until it’s time for dinner at around 7 p.m. after Priyan has taken Tyson out for his second walk. Then we relax and watch some TV. Usually, Priyan is watching football, and I’ll be looking at social media our reading unless there’s a new season of House of Cards or Game of Thrones to watch!
Your next training goal:
Being six months pregnant, my current training goal is learning and practicing body positivity — regardless of how many kilos I am gaining — and training for function rather than performance. But I’m dying to get super fit again next year and prepare for “Women’s Week” in Orlando, in September 2018 with the female world champion water-skier, Whitney McClintock. I want to smash my personal best on the slalom course and start shortening rope lengths.
For what are you most grateful?
Good health for me, family, and friends.
Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
There was a time in my life when I was down in the dumps after suddenly losing my dad to cancer, and I was low on self-esteem, drinking too much, and not being good to myself. I decided I needed to get out of the rut and in the space of a few months turned my whole outlook on life around through exercise, holistic therapies, and nutrition. It helped me become happy, confident, and relaxed.
Which three words best describe you?
My best friend and husband are hanging out next to me while I’m answering this, so I asked them to answer for me. They said “fun, loyal, and adventurous.”
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
Having the courage to walk away from a well-compensated legal career at a company where I worked for 10 years to pursue my dreams of being a strength and conditioning coach.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
Lifting weights has helped me make the shift from training solely for aesthetics and burning calories to training for function and performance, which is a far more consistent, satisfying, and empowering goal for me.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
Feeling fearless and bad-ass!
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
There’s absolutely nothing to lose by asking one of the trainers in the gym to show you how to perform a lift with proper form. If they’re not busy training clients, they will gladly help you out, that’s our job! It could transform the way you train. If you’ve never tried it before, you’ll love how much you will improve and get stronger and see your body (and your mind) transform quite quickly! Proper form is key, and there are always ways to improve. It’s 100 percent worth asking a trainer or investing in a few training sessions to learn the ropes.