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Find out how PhD student + fitness instructor Laura Petch is finding balance between work, rest, and

We're back with our interview series, and first up is our legendary Laura Petch (One of our amazing Soul Strength instructors). We're talking all things science, thesis, powerlifting, motivation dips, home workouts and how she's finding balance with the current lockdown restrictions.

What does your day to day schedule look like at the moment?

At the moment, I’ve managed to maintain a lot of structure in my days. Working in a laboratory-based role meant I wasn’t able to bring my work home, so I’ve found myself with a lot of spare time. I still get up around 6.45am, get in a morning workout, write my PhD thesis from 9am – 5pm then do another workout in the PM!

How did you organise yourself to find so much structure in your day?

I’m a really organised person by nature, so I figured the best thing for me to do was structure my days in the same way as my average working day. At the beginning of each week I plan my training schedule and writing plan as I usually would. Day to day, I get up at a consistent time and go to bed at a consistent time too. I have my lunch and dinner at regular times and I’ve even planned my snack breaks.. it sounds silly, but having control over smaller things like this can make the bigger, scarier things seem much more manageable.

Do you find your motivation dips, and if so, what do you do to find the motivation again?

Of course, there’s been plenty of times when motivation dips! Firstly, I take a step back and question if I’m pushing myself too hard. A dip in motivation could come from feeling overwhelmed by the tasks you’ve set yourself, so it’s important to come back to the present and just focus on whatever you’re doing right now. If I’ve purely lost motivation in the task I’m working on, quite often I’ll physically take a break and do something else – shower, take a walk, grab a snack etc. Getting a smaller, less meaningful task done can help you approach the tricky one with a fresh mindset whenever you return to it!

Is it important for you to keep a routine at the moment or do you not mind if you just have moments of free flow?

For me, it’s been really important to maintain a routine, particularly on the weekdays because of wanting to complete my thesis, which need intense focus from me right now. At weekends I’m a little more relaxed – I don’t set an alarm and make a point of taking time out to chill and just breathe. I’m currently using the weekends to catch up on household chores and tie any loose ends of my work – but I flow through these tasks freely and put absolutely no time pressure on myself.

When it comes to your mental and physical health, are you doing any particular activities to keep these in check, or are you just focused on your thesis for now?

In terms of physical health, I train every day - most days doing a session in the morning and a session in the evening. I’m keeping my nutrition in check and putting a lot of focus on mobility and stretching – especially as I’m sat at a laptop all day! In terms of my mental health, I’m really focussing on staying positive by practicing gratitude. Each day I’ll name one thing I’m grateful for and try to carry that thought through my day. I go for a walk without my phone each evening, allowing me to completely switch off. I also aim to meditate for 10 minutes each day, and at the moment my meditations are focussed on patience. I think it’s really important to not only be patient with others during this time, but especially be patient with yourself.

Are you struggling with not power lifting at the moment, or are you finding enjoyment with adapting your exercise regime?

I really miss the gym, I really miss powerlifting, and I’m upset that the South East Classic Championships were cancelled because it was a really big milestone for me – my first powerlifting competition in a year, and a huge goal keeping me focussed outside of my thesis writing. Despite all of this, I’m LOVING my current training set up. I’ve been forced to adapt to home training with little equipment, and I can already feel myself getting stronger in areas that weren’t necessarily my focus before. I may well lose some of the strength I built in my powerlifting training, but I may also manage to maintain it - I’m really not worried. Any strength lost will soon return once I’m back in the gym. For now, it’s amazing to feel fitter, quicker, and more mobile than I was before.

What’s your current favourite style of workout to do at home?

I honestly don’t have a favourite right now, I love all of it! I’m switching it up between high volume resistance training planned out by my powerlifting Coach – which mostly includes bodyweight movements with resistance bands and dumbbells incorporated. I’m also doing plyometric training and slam ball sessions focussing on power, and Muay Thai training focussing on speed and conditioning. I’m also contrasting all of this with Actively Alive Yoga sessions – these are crucial to my training plan and I look forward to them every week!

Are there any top tips you’d share with anybody reading this at this moment in time?

In this time, I think it’s really important not to put yourself under unnecessary pressure or set your expectations too high. Most of us have never dealt with this sort of lockdown and have certainly never had a length of time off with no clear endpoint - and we probably won’t face it again in our lifetimes. Therefore I think it’s really really important to take each day as it comes and just focus on being kind to yourself. If you want to spend this time learning a new skill or building on a previous hobby, that’s amazing! But equally, just getting up and showered and finding some stillness in your day is amazing too. In terms of training, do whatever makes you feel good. It doesn’t matter if you manage 1 single burpee, 1 yoga session, or 3 HIIT sessions in the week – something is always better than nothing at all! Just remember to focus on YOU.

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Check out her other most recent blog posts here


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