Copyright © 2017 Alex Liska. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Q&A with Gemma-Leigh: Personal Fitness Trainer and Proud Mom

Full Name: Gemma Leigh

Birthday: May 21 1966

Body stats: 5'6' 127lb

Gym: Urban Active Fitness, my living room, the park, my back porch....wherever I happen to be!

How did you initially get into fitness and what inspired you to pursue this lifestyle?
When I was very young - from age 8 until 14- I was totally into gymnastics. I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast! I would practice for hours each day. But then when puberty hit, I became more interested in boys than cartwheels, haha. However throughout my 20's I would occasionally do some aerobics classes and I took Dance class in college as an elective. I had always enjoyed how being strong and active made me feel both physically and mentally.

It wasnt until after I had my son that I really started to look at exercise and diet as a lifestyle and not a quick fix or temporary measure to look better.

When did you start training with weights and how long did it take for you to start seeing the results that motivated you to continue along this path?
I began to really include weights in my training program in January 2008. Now at first I had the common belief that most women do about weight training ; and thinking it would make me 'big and bulky' and what I wanted was feminine, curvy and strong. But then I would see the fitness models in the magazines swear that they lifted heavy... and they had a similar look to what I wanted, so I went for it. And after about three months of being consistent I started to see a lot of changes that cardio only wasnt giving me. Believe it or not, i used to have a back view that was full of cellulite and sagginess...and the midsection I used to have was nowhere near flat. When I saw that weight training, proper nutrition and the cardio was fixing this, it finally made everything click. I knew that you had to incorporate all 3 to be lean, tight and curvy.

Your before and after pictures speak for themselves! You have come a long way and inspired many people to pursue a healthier lifestyle! What advice would you have for women out there who have just had a baby and are looking to shed the post-pregnancy weight?
I would have to say that getting into shape after having a baby is probably one of the most challenging things you will ever attempt. And also know that with patience and consistency you will succeed. The stars in Hollywood make it seem like its normal to just pop out a baby and then be a size 2 a month later. I say that motherhood is stressful enough and your journey to being a fit mommy should be a happy one, not a burden. You dont have to always workout in a gym. I used to put my baby boy in a stroller and walk around the high school track. I also started to bring along a resistance tube with handles and stop every so often to do upper body work - bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, overhead press, rows for the back by wrapping the tube around the railing of the bleachers. If it's cold outside, you can walk in malls early in the mornings before it gets crowded. You just have to be creative with workouts when you are a new mom. I used to hold my son close to my chest when he was small and do squats! And of course you have to watch your nutrition. Dont starve...just eat clean foods.

What did you find was the hardest part about this all?
The hardest part was being physically tired while trying to get in shape. The first few months are the hardest because the baby is going to wake you up every few hours. If you are a breastfeeding mom as I was then YOU have to be the one to get up because Dad sure cannot take care of feedings! And then lets not forget those postpartum hormones that make you cry for no reason...or laugh for no reason! Getting into a schedule was the hard part. I would suggest new moms make plans for fitness before the baby ever arrives. Find someone to help you watch the baby when you need 45-60 minutes to yourself to workout. And surround yourself with supportive people.

Did you ever hit any plateaus or major hurdles along the way that made you almost feel like “giving up” and how did you overcome this?
Oh yes it happened a lot. Many times I would feel so tired I would wonder if it was even worth it. And as we all know, life isnt always smooth sailing - problems and conflicts arise daily. So what kept me going? The belief that I was worth it..that I deserved to be healthy and feel good about myself. I would remind myself 'how do you feel when you dont workout and pig out on pizza'? And I would ask...'is this how you want to feel?' The answer was always NO. I wanted to feel healthy and energetic; and eating crap and not exercising was not the way to get there. Always keeping my goal in mind helped a lot. Posting pics of my idol Jennifer Nicole Lee (famous fitness mommy) on my fridge helped too!

On a scale of 1-10, how important would you say following a sound Nutrition program is, when trying to shed post-pregnancy weight or trying to reduce excess body-fat overall?
In the beginning I would say you need to be 90% on track as far as sticking to a healthy nutrition plan. This is so that you can break any sugar/carb addictions you have. I used to have Coke(not diet either) and reese cups every day before I started to watch my nutrition better. So I had to just stay away from any of that until my craving for it went away. Later, after proper nutrition is a habit, its okay to have a cheat meal every now and then. But I still try to stick with healthy foods at least 80% of the time. So I rate nutrition as an 8-9 on a scale of 10. Without it, you wont see results.

Do you find sometimes, that the company you keep may get in the way of your training and dieting routine? And if this is not the case for you, can you see how being around people that don’t care about their Health and Fitness levels may affect someone that is trying to shape-up and live a healthier life?
Oh yeah! The people you are around - friends, family and co-workers - they definitely try to influence you. I can't tell you how many times co-workers used to try to get me to go out to lunch for Mexican food instead of to the on site company gym. You just have to learn how to stand up for yourself and what you want. It never bothered me to say no; but then again I do my own thing and always have, so the peer pressure didnt bother me. Some people feel pressured to conform to make others happy. You have to do what makes YOU happy and stop feeling guilty about it. I have had family say that I exercise too much, and that I must be addicted...I always reply back with 'how many hours of television do you watch each night?" most times they watch 2-3 hours. Well my time in the gym is 1.5 hours max...usually this proves my point. ..just because I choose a different activity for my free time doesnt make it 'wrong' or an 'addiction'. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You make the choice how to spend those hours - on the couch or in the gym.

Have you thought of competing in any fitness, figure, bikini, or bodybuilding shows? I mean, I can think of thousands of women that, if they had your physique would jump up at the opportunity to show-case it onstage and perhaps even get into fitness modeling.
I would love to do NPC bikini. It is just that where I live, there arent many local competitions around here. Also, it can get expensive to compete!

How old is your son now and do you plan on introducing him to weight-training and sound nutrition when he gets older?
My baby is now 7 years old:) He is a very active child and loves to be outdoors running, bicycling , playing basketball etc. He does not need any encouragement to be active. He flexes his 'muscles' for me! He sees his mom emulate their parents. As far as sound nutrition, last year in February 09, we had a big scare. I took him to the pediatrician because he was thirsty nonstop and not feeling well - looking dazed all the time. Turns out he has type 1 diabetes. They admitted him immediately to the childrens hospital due to his sugar count was over 600mg - at that level you risk organ failure and diabetic coma. His disease is genetic. It happened practically overnight - that gene flips 'ON' and within days you are full blown diabetic needing insulin injections. SO, that being said, he has to follow sound nutrition or else it is dangerous to his health. He understands this and wont touch a cookie!

Is nutrition something that you think is important for kids to learn about at a young age or do you believe in the “let kids be kids, let them eat all the junk they want, they won’t be able to do it when they’re older…” mentality?
I think children in modern society definitely need to learn from a young age what is healthy to eat and what is not. A bunch of daily foods from boxes, plastic pouches, and drive thru windows are not going to be healthy. Children will grow up being accustomed to what they are fed from a young age. If they are given convenience foods, then this is what they develop a taste for and they will continue these choices into adulthood. Bad nutrition over a lifetime will wreck havoc on the body and result in high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, weight problems and heart disease. If they are given healthy home cooked meals made with fresh ingredients, then this is what they will grow to love and choose for themselves. Parents need to not let commercialism and marketing take over their childs diet. This is why so many kids are obese now.

Describe a typical day in the life of Gemma-Leigh; what is your schedule like and where does training fit in?
Typical day for me...I usually wake up pretty early and have my coffee asap. In ten minutes I feel human again lol. A few times a week, right after my coffee I take my jump rope outside and get a quick 20 minute cardio session in. The sun is just coming up, its peaceful outside, and the brief exercise puts me in a good mood. I then wake up my son for school and take him. Then its off to the gym to train clients. Or I also train private clients in their home. Some have gyms and for others I take some of my equipment to them. I usually never train at the exact same time each day. I fit it in when I have time. I also participate a lot when training others! At night is homework, reading books to my son, laundry, preparing food for the next day...typical mommy things. And I try to sleep at least 8 hours a night.

Would you mind sharing a sample meal plan with us? What would you eat on a normal weekday?
Breakfast is either oatmeal and a few egg whites...or an omelette with two whites and 1 whole egg, spinach and mushrooms. Sometimes I have Ezekiel sprouted grain toast and natural PB. Next meal is something like greek yogurt with blackberries, or low fat string cheese and small apple. I usually keep hard boiled eggs around and eat the whites if Im hungry between meals.I like cottage cheese as a snack too. Lunch and dinner are usually lean protein and veggies. I have been making this salad lately of baby spinach, low fat feta cheese, yellow bell pepper, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, a few kalamata olives, fresh basil and then balsamic vinagrette dressing. I just love it! Lots of times I add some grilled chicken strips to the salad.

Do you have any cheat days and if so how often? What is your favorite cheat food?
My cheat foods are dark chocolate, peanut butter wine! Not saying I overdo any of these. But I have them a few times a week in moderation. I usually get those small single glass size bottles of red wine so that Im not opening a full bottle that will just sit there and go bad.

What do you enjoy doing most when you are not training clients or working out?
After a long day of work and training, I love nothing more than spending time with the two loves of my life - my son and my boyfriend. I also like to read and watch movies, shopping on ebay(shhh) or hang out with friends.

Lastly, what words of advice do you have to our readers when they are feeling like all odds are against them, “everything they are doing is just NOT working” and they are about to give up on working out and eating healthy?
Consult with others who have been in your place before. Or even just read online about others who have won the weight loss battle...theres tons of inspiring stories out there. Or find an inspirational person that you admire and find out how they transformed. For me, Alex is one of my 'idols'!! She is one of my daily doesnt have an ending point and we all need constant motivation to keep improving. Discipline can be learned. Support from others is just the best thing!
And realize the odds are not against you...its your way of thinking that is against you. We all have it within ourselves to be our best. Don't feel selfish about wanting to invest time into yourself. If you are happy with yourself, then you can spread that happiness to others. If you have setbacks...realize that it happens to everyone and its normal. Get back on track right away and do not dwell on the past mistakes. No matter what your starting point, a healthy body and positive outlook can be yours!! Go for it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, I am sure they will inspire MANY people out there!!!
And I am honored to be interviewed by you. I think you are an amazing person, a positive influence, and a gift to all who know you.

Checkout Gemma Leigh's Bodyspace Profile and Stay Tuned to her Progress:


  1. where can i read about this weight fittness? i just dont know where and how to start and "how far" can i go with these weights to not to get bigger. or do you do meal plans and fittness plans in e-mail? how much it costs? thanks for your help!!!


  2. well,
    i have to say i have been doubting myself and my own commitment to a healthy lifestyle,
    it is really difficult when your used to eating junk foods at least once a week, and sitting on your ass playing video games sometimes 10 hours a day.

    im sure if i kept proper records i would realise that i have made a difference, but the idea that maybe its just not gonna happen is like hard programming in your head.

    i have been really sick lately so thats my excuse for being lazy, but i think Gemma's story has given me the inspiration to get back into it :)

    like she said, i'll have to look for more male inspiration out there, not that a female cant get me off my ass, it would just help knowing the issues other guys go through with it, to get my head on track

    thanks as always


  3. Gemma is an AMAZING, ASTOUNDING woman! The Interview says it all!! Glad to have you as a dear friend!

  4. Very inspirational. Unless you live this lifestyle it's very hard to understand Bravo Gemma & Alex.

  5. Gemma if you could read this please be in touch