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7 fitness tips to find your inner Olympian


Toby Garbett is an Olympian and two-time World Champion rower (I mean, come on, credit where it’s due!), having competed in 5 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games.  He later swapped rowing for triathlon becoming National AG Champion in 2012 & 2013, and recently came 6th in the World Triathlon Championships in Hyde Park. A trained pilates instructor and PT too, he’s holding three weeks of pilates and fitness classes in The Almshill Roomo of The Quince Tree, Stonor, over the next three weeks if you want a bit of the magic to rub off on you!

For those of you who can’t make it, here are Toby’s insider tips for fitness and weight loss success. Sounds easy enough….

Get your head straight

If you want to get fit or lose weight success starts in the head. I’ve come across so many great athletes, people I competed against in my teens, who just didn’t have the mental side of things sorted. Whether you’re an elite competitor trying to win medals or a normal person trying to get fit, you have to have a goal. My goal was the Olympics, four years away, and then I’d break up that time frame into manageable mini goals and go for it. But you have to make it achievable.

I went out rowing with a client the other day for the first time and he loved it, but at the end of the session he said, ‘This year I’m going to train and win the Henley Royal Regatta!’. Plainly that’s not going to happen, it would be like saying he was going to win the Tour de France on 6 months training! When you decide on your goal, write it down on the fridge door and get other people on board to help you towards that goal. A lot of time the people in your life can be very supportive but if they don’t know they can’t help.


Work on core stability


I know, I know, It’s not glamorous working on your core but if you’re starting to exercise after a few years out – maybe you’ve had kids or have been working too hard and not had the time – take it easy. Often ex-exercisers will have an image of how they used to look and the type and quantity of the exercise they used to do and so they start trying to do that straight away and get injured. So start off slowly, do your research on your injury, gain some strength and let your body get used to exercise again. Pilates is brilliant for this, it helps with core strength, awakening your association with your abdominal area, helps with balance, stability, your pelvic floor.

I’ve been injured so many times in my career – a prolapsed disk, shoulder injury, arthroscopy to the knee… you name it. I was told I had the back of a 50 year old when I barely in my twenties, and that I wasn’t going to row again. That’s tough to hear, so I decided I needed to create another career for myself and became a qualified pilates instructor. But in doing so I improved my own strength and posture to such a extent that I stepped back into the boat and went on to two Olympic gold medals and became World Champion! So pilates works. That’s why I’m holding some entry level pilates courses at The Quince Tree Stonor over the next few weeks starting today (Thurs 29 Jan) – to help ease people back into being active.


Don’t leave it til the weekend

It’s not always possible to exercise throughout the week but try to step away from being a weekend warrior who sits down all week and then goes out on a 2 hour run or 50k bikeride! In my experience it’s this set of people who always end up injured. If you can’t find time to exercise properly before the weekend, make small improvements – the other day I bought a travel card for London but it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk across Waterloo Bridge rather than sit on the tube. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk where possible, it all helps. And the sports you do take part in, make sure they’re ones that excite you. If your heart sinks every time you think about going to the gym, try something different – maybe with a group of people if you want extra motivation, but otherwise something that makes you want to get up and out.


Carbs or not?
When I first started off in rowing, Steve Redgrave said I’d be eating a seafood diet – well, see food and eat it. When money was tight I’d go and eat as much as I could as cheaply as I could, not thinking about energy levels or sugar spikes and dips or my vitamin levels – looking back I used to have colds all the time, I think my antioxidant levels were probably very low. Now what I do is look at my plate – not very scientific but it’s common sense. I try to fuel myself with wholewheat carbohydrates but they only make up a quarter of the plate. Half the plate is veg or salad, and then the final quarter is the protein. I try to keep it simple in my head, eating shouldn’t really have to be that complicated! So my advice is to try not to start an eating plan where you’re denying yourself food groups, or are having to weigh food or calorie count – it’s not a great long term strategy.


Find your confidence

If I could turn back time and do something different in the way I approached my fitness and goals it would be to have more confidence and back myself a bit more.There was always someone bigger, stronger, better, they had this piece of equipment, I didn’t have the right surroundings, etc etc. I was always putting myself down. Elite athletes always put themselves in the right environment to perform, and if you want to get fit or lose weight, you need to do the same.

Surround yourself by people who support what you’re trying to achieve. Try to help yourself avoid temptation – nip to the water fountain when the sweets come out at work, be confident that what you’re doing is the right thing for your goal.


Don’t fixate on treats

You don’t have to deny yourself completely but when I have a treat I’ll always do it as a reward – I’m like Pavlov’s dog! You have to be careful not to treat all the time – a treat every day just conditions your body to crave it more and more. Often I’ll take healthy snacks with me – last week I drove 25 hours so it’s very easy to get starving and swing into the petrol station to pick up some rubbish! Planning ahead can stop the urge for sweet treats, but it requires exactly that – planning.


Two methods are better than one

Good nutrition (not ‘dieting’, it’s not a helpful word) and exercise go together. You’ll get the best results if you can combine the two. That’s just the way it is!

Toby is taking Thursday morning pilates classes at The Quince Tree today (29 Jan), 5 Feb and 12 Feb and Monday morning interval circuits classes, on 2, 9 and 16 Feb. Sessions include ‘booster’ juice shot, 45 min session and superfood brunch at 11am. £25, or 3 for £60.Call 01491 639 039 or email



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