Get fit this year with Gemma Atkinson

Gemma Atkinson joins our #HeatFit1000 campaign and tells us how lifting weights can give you all the feels - and the abs!

Gemma Atkinson fitness

by Louise Bennett |
Updated on

If you've been following our #HeatFit1000 challenge, racking up 1000 minutes of fitness this month, then you'll already be feeling all kinds of awesome. If you haven't, there is still time to get involved and we've enlisted our celeb mate Gemma Atkinson to give you a bit of added motivation. We're a bit obsessed with Gem's Instagram where she shares her training tips (and loved up pics with her super hot Strictly boyfriend Gorka Marquez. They are literally couples goals).

Gemma transformed her body using weights workouts during the summer of 2017 thanks to a programme at Ultimate Performance gym and her trainer who she affectionately refers to as Evil Steve. Now she says she feels at her most confident ever and has written a book so that you can follow the programme too. We can't guarantee you'll grab yourself a Gorka (soz!) but we can show you how using weights can give you abs and a feel-good glow you can't get from even the most expensive beauty cream. Plus it's a great way to work up a 30 minute sweat that will have you well on your way to smashing your #HeatFit1000 goals.

You’re honest about your own body journey in the book. How have you finally found body confidence?

I think it comes with growing up and acceptance that we’re more than just appearance. We put so much pressure on ourselves because we can’t get into a size 8 jean or we don’t hit a number on the scale. I wanted to highlight that in the past I’ve not felt great. I feel great now, but it wasn’t always this way.

How hard was your transformation process?

It was bloody hard work. I think if it was easy then everyone would do it. That’s why it's so rewarding when you do complete it because you realise what your body is capable of. I've trained my whole life but its only when I was being pushed and being strict with myself and having a routine that I thought, 'Wow I can actually do more'.

What did you tell yourself when you were struggling?

Steve always told me to use the three Ps – you’ve got to be patient, persistent and you’ve got to try and be positive. There will be days where you want to give up but you don’t sacrifice what you want most for what you want now. You’ve got to look at the bigger picture. 12 weeks out of your life is nothing. I've done it twice now.

So you do keep coming back to the plan?

Oh yeah! I always come back to it. After I did Strictly, I put on about a stone because even though we were dancing it was nothing compared to the training I had been doing..I wasn’t really getting out of breath or sweating and both me and Aliaz (Scorianez, her Stricly partner) really relaxed our diet as we were training above the Cadburys outlet store so we were screwed basically! On Saturday at Strictly they have about 50 pizzas delivered backstage. But after the show finished I did the plan again and my body responded a lot quicker this time around.

Gemma Atkinson fitness heat
©Marco Vittur

Have you always been sporty?

I’ve done Thai boxing and I used to run for Manchester athletics. Thai boxing got me fit but it didn’t sculpt my body in the way weight trainng does. I felt lean, fit, sculpted, healthy all in one just from weight training. It’s the little things you notice like if I hit a PB you can carry all your shopping in one go without having to back to your boot. It’s a nice feeling.

How are you feeling about your body now?

I feel the most confident I’ve ever felt – more so than in my twenties. But I think that’s come with a lifestyle change too. I’ve had a drink maybe about five times this year whereas in my twenties it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday then McDonalds or Chinese takeaway on a Sunday. Now, I love to have brunch on Sunday and I like feeling fresh. I have an appreciation for my body and not just the way it looks.

Has Gorka helped you feel good about your body?

Gorks really appreciates my training,he understands that if we’re planning something I’ll want to do my training first or if we’re going on holiday we’ll look for a hotel with a gym. On our first holiday I put my sarong around me because I had a bit of cellulite and he was like ‘What are you doing that for? You’re a woman, of course you’ll have cellulite.” He used to being around women at work and guys are getting to the stage where they’re not expecting women to have these perfect bodies. If you’re in a relationship all those little imperfections you’ll see as a negative and they’ll see them as reasons why they love you and want to be with you.

Gemma Atkinson

What bad body confidence habits have you ditched?

I just stopped comparing myself to other people because unless you’re an identical twin you ain't going to look like anyone else. Now I just focus on myself and not what is going on around me and if we could all do that then it would be a lot easier to feel good about yourself.

How do you fit exercise into your busy schedule?

I weight train three times a week and I do two cardio days, which is either walking the dogs or I go on my Stairmaster at home. Everyone has twelve hours in the day and its about prioritizing. I know some people have kids which take up a lot of time, but just do a ten mins HIIT session. When you’re feeling good it vibrates out of you so the more time invested in yourself in the long run will benefit everyone else. And we all deserve at least 15 minutes a day.

Gemma Atkinson fitness heat
©Marco Vittur

How important is exercise for your mental health?

Even if it's just 20 minutes on the Stairmaster or half an hour weight training, tyou cant help feeling good because of the endorphins. It helps me sleep better, my skin is better I just feel all around better. My alarm can go off and I get straight out of bed whereas I used to press snooze on repeat. Its all down to feeling good about myself.

How careful are you about what you eat?

I try to eat as much fresh food as possible and if there’s a label with loads of names I can’t pronounce do I really want to be putting it in my body? I also believe in moderation. f you want to have a glass of wine and a pizza on Sunday night then have it – don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure its just that meal and not that whole day or that weekend.Its all about calories in vs calories out, so as long as you’re in a calorie defecit you should be able to see results.

How do you harness that January motivation to make it a change for life?

Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Its got to be for yourself and not for anyone else. Do it because you want to change your lifestyle. I think you get to a stage where you think enough is enough and you don’t want a quick fix, you don’t want to drink detox teas or kill yourself for a few weeks and then put it back on.

How would you suggest people squeeze in some activity every day to hit their HeatFit1000 target?

On my radio show at 7.30 every morning we go straight to adverts and play two songs in a row so there's a six minute gap. Me and my producer Sophie do glute bridges. It's simple things like taking the stairs instead of the lift, I have two dogs as well so I take them out and I also got myself a skipping rope which is great for when I’m travelling. A minute on, a minute off for ten minutes in your hotel room is perfect.

Gemma's weights workout

Dumbells are a great way to start trying out a weights workout at home. Pick the weight that feels right for you - it shouldn't be too hard to lift but you should be pushing yourself to complete the final set.

Gemma Atkinson
©Marco Vittur

DB Side Lunge

  1. Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a set of dumbells by your sides, palms facing each other. Keep your shoulders back and chest up with a slight bend in the knees.
  1. Take a big step out to your side turning your foot out just a little; making sure you stay facing forwards and as upright as possible. Bend the front foot, lowering yourself into a squat while keeping your trailing leg straight.
  1. Push back up to the starting position with the bent leg and repeat on the other side.

10-15 reps per leg

3 rounds.

Gemma Atkinson
©Marco Vittur

DB Shoulder Press

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbells up at shoulder height with arms at a 45 degree angle.
  1. Drive the dumbbells up to the ceiling, maintaining form by only using your arms, not legs, to drive the weights up (and don't lean back).
  1. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

15 reps

3 rounds

Gemma Atkinson
©Marco Vittur

DB Bent over row

  1. Standing and holding a set of dumbbells by your sides, bend your knees slightly and lean forwards, lowering your torso towards the ground by bending at the waist. Make sure you keep your back straight and stop when you're pretty much facing the floor. The weights will hang directly in front of you as your arms hang from your shoulder joints.
  1. Keeping the head up and torso fixed, lift the elbows up towards the ceiling squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
  1. Hold for a second, then slowly lower to the starting position before repeating.

15 reps

3 rounds

Gemma Atkinson
©Marco Vittur

DB alt reverse lunges

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with your arms by your sides holding a set of dumbbells.
  1. Step backwards with one leg, flexing the knee to drop the hips towards the ground. Keep going until your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Keep the spine tall and the weight in your front foot towards the heel.
  1. Drive your weight back up through the heel of the front foot and raise yourself back to the starting position to repeat on the other leg.

15 reps

3 rounds

The Ultimate Body Plan by Gemma Atkinson is available now (Harper Thorson, £16.99)

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