Power into summer: Laura Scanlon's 20 tips for summer fitness
Your body can perform as a powerful and price-effective gym, Dubliner Laura Scanlon tells us, and, from her sunny home in Cape Town, she's keen to coach us in how to use it
Editor - Sarah Caden - Sunday Independent LIFE Magazine
May 8 2017 2:30 AM
Laura Scanlon is home in Dublin on holiday. Which is not to say that she's resting. I suspect that Laura doesn't do resting, unless it's the conscious give-your-muscles-a-boost variety that she recommends in her fitness tips on the following pages.
Visits home from her base in South Africa are for seeing family and friends, Laura says, but she's a woman on a mission, all the same. Model and personal trainer Laura likes a plan, and her plan seems to be to get her father off the potatoes.
"My dad's in his early 60s," Laura says, "and he runs about three times a week, so he's fit, but he's a spud addict. When I'm home and we have, say, bolognese for dinner, I have quinoa with mine and my mum and dad have pasta, but he has to have a side of mash. So the running and the potatoes, they're balancing each other out. But I'd rather he didn't eat so many."
Telling of her fitness focus, is how Laura qualifies her father's fitness: "nothing too long; just five or 10k". That's not too long if you're Laura Scanlon, who regards our bodies as the ultimate mobile gym and has decided that, basically, she could invent an app for that.
Tall and graceful, with striking, almond-shaped eyes, you'd easily identify Laura as a model, and that's what she has been for most of her young-adult life. There's something in the way she moves, though, panther-like, that speaks of an athlete. Then, after you've spoken to her about her life's passion - fitness - you understand that certain poise, and you imagine that Laura's the kind of girl who has her core engaged constantly.
South African sun
Eighteen months ago, Knocklyon-born Laura moved to South Africa, with her boyfriend Dave Murphy. They met in Dublin six years ago - he had already lived and worked in Cape Town, and, as a couple, they began going back and forth there on holidays before committing to a full relocation.
That is has been a very happy move is very clear, and it's about more than just good weather. There's something about this new country that has inspired Laura the model to focus on her career as a better-body guru.
The fact that the good weather means you're often in your swimwear and summer clothes played a part in the refocus, Laura admits. South Africa is very body-conscious, from a diet, beauty and fitness point of view. "It's a pressure, but it's a good pressure," she says.
"When I moved there, I was working as a model, but I also started getting into the gyms and doing personal training," Laura says. "I developed my own website living in Cape Town, where I offer programmes where you use your own body as a gym. Because you're using your body, and no other equipment, you can do it anywhere, any time.
"Your body is a very powerful tool, we just need to realise it and harness it. Like, we are all exercising all the time without knowing it. We squat, like, 30 times a day; getting up off a chair, using the bathroom. But even when you're using your body for your workout, you have to do it correctly, and you'd be floored after doing one of my routines. But it's just a case of push back the furniture or get out into your garden - the list of where you can do it is endless."
Laura reckons that something like her website, bodyzone.ie, is a timely fitness idea in a world where people are not only more interested in fitness, but they are also cost-conscious. "When the recession hit," she says, "and people couldn't afford gyms any more, they got more inventive. Running became this huge thing, because once you have your runners, it's pretty much free.
"I also have my Instagram, where I offer programmes and inspiration," Laura says, "and pretty much the only other Instagrams I follow are fitness ones, where there's not much negativity. You know stuff that focuses on Fitness Friday and 'never miss a Monday workout', stuff that just gives me a kick and makes me get up and do it."
Laura's keen to turn Bodyzone into a big brand, and feels that South Africa is the place to do it. She works in several gyms in Cape Town, while Dave works in technology and property, she says, and he swims daily in the "cold as Ireland" Atlantic Ocean opposite their apartment in chic Bantry Bay.
Laura skips the swims but she loves the walks, the wine country and the lifestyle in South Africa. "Everyone asks if it's safe, but it's like anywhere," she says, "you just have to avoid certain areas that you know are dangerous."
They won't be coming home to Dublin any time soon, so, though Laura comes back several times a year and enjoys the time at home with her family.
"When I first went to South Africa, I was just modelling," Laura says. "But I had all my personal training qualifications done, so when I decided to do that too, it was an easy transition. But modelling is good out there. From May to September there are all the big names there and then there's German catalogues, and I just got a huge sportswear job that I had really wanted.
So there's plenty of work there. You know, I'm not saying I'm anywhere near the end of my modelling career, but I just turned 29 and I'm being cast as, like, 33-plus because I'm sort of now a transitional age. And that's fine, that doesn't bother me, but it's important to have something else in your life."
Exercise has always been in Laura's life. Her father, obviously, was always a fit and active person and that was inspiring; but she was a naturally athletic child, too. "Irish dancing and athletics," Laura says. "I was non-stop on those growing up."
The biscuit tin
"And I wasn't bad," she adds with a laugh. "I was All-Ireland champion at 14; schools national relay champion; but it's all or nothing in athletics, and when you hit college and the fact that it's such an individual sport, it's just so easy to drift away from it. Still, it was an obvious move for me to study sports and fitness, and then, when I moved to Cape Town and I discovered the World Cup stadium, which has this amazing athletics track, I just got back into it. Now I have a coach and a team and I train there a few times a week."
She's a hard taskmaster, not just in her work, not just with her dad; but with herself, too.
"I believe that to get full results from your fitness; it has to be 100pc food and 100pc exercise. You have to give your all to both. You can't do a really intense workout and then go home and eat a pizza and think your hard work will pay off," Laura says.
"But when I'm home," she laughs. "It's hard not to have the biscuits with the tea. They're just there, in the press. That's why I don't have cakes and biscuits in the house in Cape Town."
"I've fallen off the bandwagon a bit back in Ireland," says Laura, looking forward to her return to Cape Town soon after we meet. "But that's OK. It's OK to fall off the wagon every now and then, but you need to know in your own mind that it's temporary. When I'm eating well and exercising, everything feels better. I sleep better, feel better, I'm in a better mood. It's a lifestyle choice worth making."
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