So How Did Liz Costigan Become One Of Dublin’s Favourite Fitness Trainers?
Tell us your journey into fitness?
Well, I started Irish dancing at the age of three and then in my late teens I lived in Australia and fell in love with fitness and the healthy lifestyle. During my 20s though I did what most of us do – lots of late nights out and takeaways – but always plodded along at the gym three to four times a week. It was something I loved – I was spin crazy – but never really considered fitness as a career until 2008. I had a good job, working 9-5pm, doing the corporate thing, but I was fairly miserable. It just didn’t excite me and I knew something had to change. So I decided to study to become a Fitness Trainer part-time. I loved it. I took a year out to travel with my now husband Sebastien, and when we came back we started Positive Fitness.
How fit do you think Irish people are?
I would say there’s a huge part of the population who are fit and look after their well-being; you just have to go to the Phoenix Park on a Saturday morning to see the sheer number of runners, cyclists and bootcampers out exercising. But there are still a lot people who are very unfit and unhealthy. Alcohol plays a huge role in Irish culture and this has a massive impact on people’s health and fitness on so many levels. People don’t commit to things because of nights out; they can’t give their best too with groggy heads and eating clean food doesn’t appeal to the hungover stomach. I would say that this is one of the main reasons for being unfit and overweight in Ireland.
What’s your favourite type of workout for your body and mind?
For my body, I love to run! I just love the freedom it gives and I feel like it cleanses me from the inside out. It’s a great one for getting the endorphins going too! I run with a great bunch of girls which adds to the enjoyment – we natter a lot on runs.
For my mind, it’s all yoga, yoga, yoga. I have been practising on and off for over 10 years, but very sporadically. In 2013 I discovered Samadhi Yoga Studio in Cow’s Lane and have been attending classes there regularly since. I can safely and proudly say I’m an addict – in a good way! I recently started my Classical Yoga Teacher Training in October last year and will be a qualified Yogi in July. I cannot wait! Yoga is such a beautiful practice which is less focused on body image and more on the breath and mind which are the essentials in life.
How do you link your ‘positivity’ theme to your work?
On my own personal journey, I found that most fitness classes and approaches to be very aggressive and body-focused. While we can’t deny that there is an element of vanity to keeping fit, there is also a lot more to it. People don’t work out just to look good. My aim is to make working out and being fit a fun and positive experience rather than another stick to beat ourselves with. Women are so hard on themselves, it’s incredible. Exercise can be something to ease stress, make you feel stronger and more energetic, time for yourself, time with others – it can be what you want it to be. My approach is very much about doing your very best, whatever that is, on that particular day. We need to use exercise and our physical achievements as tools to empower and strengthen ourselves inside and out. You can only do your very best right here right now.
Do you strive to include positivity into daily life?
Yes I do, I need a quadruple dose on Mondays mind you! I actively try to take something positive from most experiences. This might sound very Little House on the Prairie, but it honestly helps and while some days are harder than others, it can become a habit. When good things happen, and this might be something as simple as the traffic lights going green when you are in a hurry, I will do my best to acknowledge that I’m grateful for it and that it could’ve gone a different way. This is what I try to do daily, but sometimes I fail miserably; I’m human and sometimes love a good wallow! The key is I try constantly; being grateful and positive is second-nature now.
How easy do you think that is when you’re busy/stressed?
It’s funny because I think the more positive, calm and mindful you are, the less stress gets to you. I am always busy, like everyone around me there just isn’t enough hours in the day, but it rarely gets me down. I’m quite proactive when it comes to this. If I am down because of something I’ll either accept it and say to myself ?this too shall pass? – my Monday mantra – or I’ll do something to change or improve it. I know this isn’t always an option, but I do think everyone has the power to choose and even if it’s a small change to make a situation better, this helps.
How do you recommend busy women can fit in exercise?
Everyone is different and I don’t like to generalise. It’s important to schedule time for working out, just as you would schedule a meeting. Why is your time good enough for work colleagues, but not good enough for your personal self-care? Fit fitness into your day, squeeze it in if you have to. Find a class or a trainer you like or exercise with friends and schedule regular meets. That way you’re less likely to cancel, you’re accountable to someone else, and you’ll have fun in the process.
What should people really strive to achieve?
The word ‘should? puts so much pressure on us, doesn’t it? Everyone is different, with very different lives and goals. You ‘should? do what feels right for you, what works for you and your life. Feeling healthy and happy is the aim.
We think there can be quite a gap between ‘attainable’ and the inspirational pics/quotes we see on Instagram. How do you encourage people to have realistic goals?
There’s a massive gap, I absolutely agree, and this is a major pet hate for me. Social media can be a great way to inspire, encourage and empower women. All too often though, the message is more about perfection than well-being. I really believe in balance and, for me, it’s the only way I can be happy in my skin. I struggled for a very long time with this. Perfection is unattainable, it does not exist. If this is your goal, like it was for me and so many woman, you are going to fail, feel frustrated and ultimately give up. What is the point in that?
What we must do is get clear in our minds about what we want from our bodies, from fitness. If six-pack abs and rock-solid biceps are your goal, great! It requires a lot of sacrifice, hard work and dedication to commit to clean eating and training. But if your plan is to get fitter, but not necessarily follow a strict diet, then you need to unfollow some of those extreme accounts; they’re making you feel bad about yourself and we all know what happens then. I guess what I mean is you must look at your life, your commitments, what you’re willing to give and then plan from there. Otherwise you’ll come home after a great session in the gym feeling energised and amazing only to see someone else’s abs and super-clean dinner on Instagram and you’ll crumble into a ball of self-berating.
You want to have fun with this; it’s not supposed to kill you!
What’s been your favourite moment in the Positive Fitness journey so far?
Oh, that’s a hard one. It’s changing all the time and I love it! Some weeks it’s the excitement of a photoshoot with IMAGE, others is seeing a group of beginners running their first 5k. I was really overwhelmed by the response to my website positivefitnessproject.com when it launched in January 2015 and I’m getting great feedback about the blog which is super. There’s so much happening and a very exciting year ahead, so right now there’s a lot of favourite moments.
What motivates you?
Feeling energised, strong and healthy. I love the feeling a good workout gives, whether it’s a weights session or a yoga class – I love it. I guess the more you do this, the more you love the feeling, and when you don’t have it, you crave it.
People who are passionate and driven to make the most of their bodies and minds inspire me to make the best of mine. They give me the motivation to help people learn more about fitness and health, so that they can take it to whatever level they wish.
Equally I love converting people, haha! When I see someone reluctant or with very little self-belief, I make them my project! Some people say exercise isn’t for everyone, but I truly believe it is. We’re supposed to move our bodies because they need activity, they thrive on it. I agree that extreme, intense exercise isn’t for everyone, same as yoga isn’t for everyone, but there is something for everyone. I want to help people find what works for them.
Other women in business motivate me. I love to see other businesses thrive and they keep me on my toes, showing me that every day we must keep striving to achieve and work hard on our passion, doing our best, whatever that is.
Where do you want to take it?
Wow, how long have you got?! I have so many dreams for PFP and everyone involved in it. I want to make fitness something that people love rather than loath. I want to help encourage women to feel good about themselves and their fabulous bodies and to make the most of them. We need more positive body love! Why are we forced to feel that we should look a certain way? Beauty is so much more than body fat! I would like to make the wonderful world of yoga and mindfulness more accessible to women, and show them the enormous benefits and life-changing experiences they can have with it. At the same time, I’m so happy seeing it all unfold in front of me and so excited about the progression.
*Watch this space for details of our new city centre running club with Liz*