If fitness trainer Samantha Clayton looks familiar, you may have seen her in BeFit in 90
, a popular online workout series.
From the track to triplets
Samantha’s fitness journey started when a track coach saw her run at her school sports event and invited her to an open track meet. As a sprinter, she went on to represent England in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
From being a trainer and Olympian, nothing could prepare her for having triplets just a year after her first child! She was on bed rest for 20 weeks and gained over 30 kilograms.
A fit and busy life
It wasn’t easy but Samantha managed to get back into great shape. She lives in Malibu, California with her husband, professional baseball player Royce Clayton, and their children. Aside from BeFit in 90, Samantha was Pepperdine University’s women’s sprint coach and currently serves as Director of Fitness at Herbalife.
I had the opportunity to talk to this fit mom of four about working out, losing weight, the secret to a flat tummy and finding that healthy work-life balance…
Losing the post-pregnancy weight
Q: Many women struggle with post-baby weight and compare themselves to slim celeb moms. How did you get back into shape after giving birth to triplets, just a year after your first baby?
I think there is such a push for celebrity mums to get back into shape quickly. And because they have a new movie or project coming up, they’ll do extreme diets and workouts. What’s sad is that they don’t know what it’s doing to their bodies in the long run.
If you think about it, it takes your body nine months to morph itself to carry your baby as it grows. To expect that you’ll lose all the baby weight just weeks after a birth is not realistic! Quick fixes don’t work – quick results, in anything, don’t last long. You have to think about the long-term. I’m all about taking small steps that turn into healthy habits.
My stress eating cookie cycle
I found it hard to get back into shape after carrying triplets and being on 20 weeks of bed rest – it changes your body.
“I started in my kitchen with 10 pound (4,5 kilogram) weights. Whenever I felt stressed out, instead of reaching for a cookie, I would grab my weights and do what 10 reps of five exercises.”
As a young mum with three newborns and a toddler, it was around the clock work. Like many new mums, I was living on coffee and cookies – I call it my cookie cycle. And I’m being real honest here because, as a personal trainer, there I was telling people, “I don’t know why I haven’t lost the weight yet” when I was actually sneaking into the pantry to eat cookies. I was looking for that bit of energy and stress eating.
My breakthrough happened when my husband sent me to a spa as a Mother’s Day gift. There I was, sitting in the steam room, when one of the staff members just about dragged me out. She said, “You can’t be sitting in here too long, it’s not good for you!” I didn’t understand. And then she said, “It’s not good for your baby!” I wasn’t pregnant. That was my wake-up moment!
Quick kitchen workouts
So I started getting back into shape by doing what I had being telling my clients to do for years – working out in little bits and pieces. I started in my kitchen with 10 pound (4,5 kilogram) weights. Whenever I felt stressed out, instead of reaching for a cookie, I would grab my weights and do what 10 reps of five exercises. If I still felt like I wanted a cookie after that, I would have it, but most of the time my little workout was enough. It just helped me cope with the stress – especially when my triplets were teething. Sometimes I would even laugh because there I was, exercising in my kitchen, while my children were crying. It must have looked crazy but it helped me deal with stress.
Eventually I started doing my exercises first thing in the morning and called it my 10:10 workout, in which I did 10 sets of 10 exercises. I would do the workout again in the evenings, just to help me let go of stress and relax before bed.
Q: The motivation for many to workout is weight loss. How important is diet?
Diet is important. After having kids, I was getting back into shape but only when I discovered good nutrition did I drop that last 10 pounds (4,5 kilograms).
What many people don’t understand is that not all calories are created equal. You can eat a 200 calorie-doughnut or eat 200 calories of a healthy muesli bar and the way your body will process it will be totally different!
“…You can’t work off a bad diet”
It’s a bit of numbers game for people. They want to look at the treadmill and see how many calories they’ve burnt. But, when you compare that to calories in food, it doesn’t seem like much. Some people might think, ‘I’ve been to the gym today, I can have that piece of cake’ but they don’t think about how long they’d have to run on the treadmill to burn it off. That’s why I say you can’t work off a bad diet!
Stick to the 80/20 rule
Ideally you should stick to the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent is about fuelling your body with good, nutrient dense food and 20 percent is about exercising. If you don’t refuel your body properly, you’re doing to have problems. For example, if I do a weight workout and I don’t eat enough protein afterwards – my muscles can’t repair themselves. That’s why I say that results are made in the kitchen.
How much exercise do we need?
Q: Studies show that many people aren’t doing enough exercise. How much exercise do women actually need?
I tell new moms to start with just 10 minutes a day. Before you know it, 10 minutes become 15 minutes and then 30 minutes.
Ideally, you should aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. But, if you only have 10 minutes to workout, 10 minutes is better than no minutes!
“Ideally, you should aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. But, if you only have 10 minutes to workout, 10 minutes is better than no minutes!”
The type of exercise you do is important. You should do both cardio and resistance/weight training. Cardio gives your heart needs a workout and lifting weights, or using your own body as resistance, helps you maintain muscle and bone mass.
As we get older, our bodies change and after about 35, we start losing muscle mass which, in turn slows down the metabolism. So if you eat and exercise the same way, year after year, you’re going to start gaining weight. You have to adapt and work a little harder as you get older. After all, we can’t stop ageing but we can choose to age beautifully.
New fitness regime mistakes
Q: What are the biggest mistakes women make when embarking on a new fitness regime?
The first mistake is walking into a gym and feeling intimidated to try something new. Instead of plodding along with what you know – watching TV while on the treadmill or reading a book while on a stationary bike – take a class, try new machines and challenge yourself. I say if you’re going take the time to go to gym, make it focused time and make it fun.
“So many people are attracted to these extreme fitness programmes but, what they don’t see in the infomercials are the people getting hurt.”
Too much too soon
The next big mistake is doing too much too soon. So many people are attracted to these extreme fitness programmes but, what they don’t see in the infomercials are the people getting hurt. You don’t get into a car and go straight to the fifth gear – you’re going to burn the engine out – so why do we try to do that with our bodies?!
Rather start with small steps. It might seem boring, in comparison with these extreme workouts, but sometimes what’s good for your isn’t all that exciting to start with. Sometimes it’s just creating one healthy habit and sticking to it. They say it takes four weeks to create a habit so take those four weeks and that healthy habit will soon become a healthy lifestyle.
Top three exercises for women
Q: If you could recommend just three exercises to help women tone up, what would they be and why?
This exercise that tones your booty (glutes) and works your largest muscles groups. When you’re short on time, aim to work the largest muscle groups because it gets your heart rate up fast and uses more energy.
A push-up works your entire body. It’s what we call a total body move. You work your arms, back, core, butt and legs. Try slowing down and you’ll spend a little longer in that plank position, which engages your transverse abdominals, the muscles behind your six-pack. These are the muscles that ‘pull’ your tummy back. So, if you want a flat stomach, you want to work these muscles!
Doing step-ups helps get the heart rate up and works those largest muscle groups in the lower body. It helps tone calve muscles, hamstrings (back of the legs) and booty. Also, studies have found that impact exercise boosts bone health so the impact of stepping up and down is a great way to help prevent osteoporosis.
A week in workouts
Q. What does your typical workout routine look like?
Daily morning workout
When I’m at home, I start bright and early with my 10:10 programme – which hasn’t changed much over the years. I do 10 reps of 10 exercises and I do three sets. Sometimes I mix it up by timing myself, instead of counting reps, so that I do as many reps as I can in the time.
I also like interval training so sometimes, instead of my 10:10 workout, I’ll go for run and alternate between running, walking and sprinting.
I try to lift weights two to three times a week. When I’m travelling (and I travel at least 12 days in a month) I’ll use my own body weight or a resistance band that I pack in my bag.
Weekly yoga class
On a Friday morning, my husband and I do yoga. For me, it feels like a reward for my body – I get to stretch and focus on my breathing. It’s still an excellent workout, and it helps build your core, but it’s also a mental stress release for me.
Time-saving fitness tips
Q: What are your top time-saving fitness tips for busy women?
When you don’t have much time to exercise, do a high intensity workout.
If I’m short on time, and only have 20 minutes, I’ll do a high intensity workout. If I have more time the next day, I’ll do low intensity workout – like walking or cycling – for about 60 minutes. It’s a great way to mix up, keep your body guessing and reduce the risk of injury.
Finding a healthy work-life balance
Q: You’re wife, mom, a fitness instructor, model and spokesperson – how do you maintain a balance and the energy to do it all?
Stick to a schedule
I’m a big planner. I have a visual planner and plan my schedule at least two weeks in advance. I also believe it’s important to schedule down-time and family time. We’re an active family so we tend to spend our down-time together going for bike rides, hikes and walks.
Start the day out right
To maintain my energy, I start my day with a Herbalife Formula One shake, which has the right balance of 21 vitamin and minerals, and pack my bag with healthy snacks.
Do some prep work
Preparation is the key for success and when it comes to maintaining energy, it’s so easy to throw some healthy snacks in your purse – like a few almonds, protein bars and a fruit. If you have your healthy snacks, you don’t have a reason to buy that chocolate bar! I also pack in healthy snacks for my kids and when I’m travelling, I always have healthy snacks with me!
Have a cheat day
On a Friday, we got out for dinner as a family and I eat whatever I want. That’s my cheat day. There’s nothing wrong with having a cheat day, as long as it doesn’t turn into a cheat week and then a cheat month…
Write down your goals
I still write down my goals and put them somewhere where I can see them. It’s an athlete mentality that still works for me. I encourage my kids to do it too. They write their goals on Post-its and stick them on the fridge. When they achieve a goal, they pull the Post-it down.
Achieving your health goals is 100 percent mind-set. If you think being healthy is hard, it will be. But, if you plan and prepare, it will become a habit and, over time, those healthy habits become a fabulous lifestyle!
Feel inspired? You can follow Samantha!
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