We talked with Daniel Zagorski in February, 2020.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi! I’m Daniel Zagorski. I was born in Poland but I have been living in Ireland since 2006. I have a law degree and I’m currently working in an office-based legal admin role, alongside working in social media. I like to keep busy.
I had been going to the gym on and off for years but I never really took it seriously. Of course, I had goals. I wanted a ‘six pack’, wanted more muscles and I wanted to be fitter but in reality, I was not ready to put in the work that was required to reach those goals. I’d skip the gym at the slightest inconvenience. Last January, I was at my heaviest (72kg) and I decided that it was time to change it up so that’s really when I hit the gym at full speed.
I’ve always been fairly active. At school, I used to do sports and PE was my favorite subject. Due to some personal life difficulties and mental health issues, I didn’t get to engage in sports as much as I would have liked while I was in University.
It’s a lot harder to find time for these things with what is essentially two full time jobs but whenever possible, I do a bit of bouldering. Aside from that, I love it all – from soccer to surfing to hiking and snowboarding.
The thing that I love most about bodybuilding/fitness is how much confidence it can give you. My best friend has been on her own fitness journey since January 2019 and it has been great seeing how she’s responded to it.
I think it can be so empowering for people to get in the gym, stick their head down, do the work and then see the results a few weeks/months down the line. It just shows you that with dedication, patience and hard work – you can do it. You can reach your goals. You’ve just got to want it hard enough.
I currently have a wonderful personal trainer named Nason Neill. As I’m a relatively busy person, it’s great to have someone to do the ‘thinking’ work for me. If something’s not adding up on the scales or in the gym, he’s always got an answer. It’s very collaborative and it’s nice having someone to keep me accountable.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
At the moment, I’m cutting down. I’ve got a really big holiday coming up in April so I want to make sure I’m in the best shape possible for that.
I work out six times a week. Each of my gym sessions would last between an hour to an hour and a half. On top of that, I would do cardio before and after each gym session (a combination of HIIT and LISS).
With my program, I hit all of the muscle groups twice a week. The splits will generally look like this: chest/shoulders, back/arms, legs/abs. The caveat here is that I actually train abs everyday but on leg day, I give them that extra push.
I train with my trainer once a week and the rest of the week, I train at my Anytime Fitness gym. I love that particular chain because they’ve got gyms all over the world and with just one membership, I’m free to use all of them.
It just means that when I’m in Los Angeles, I get to just pop into one of the Anytime Fitness locations and I don’t have to worry about missing my workouts while I’m away. On top of that, the gyms have great equipment, super friendly staff and individual changing rooms with showers.
I’m generally always on the go. I tend to go to the gym right after I’m done with work. My office is around 5km away from my gym so the distance gives me a good opportunity to get some cardio in.
I don’t have a gym bag per se because the backpack I bring to work just doubles as a gym bag. You’ve got to make your life as easy as possible and having to carry a separate gym bag is just not convenient.
My favorite areas to work on are chest and abs. I spent years not really being able to work my chest out properly. My arms would kick in a lot of the time and I had a really difficult time finding that mind-muscle connection. Only in the past few months, I’ve actually been able to work on my chest and feel it. So don’t worry if you find yourself in the same position – it happens and it’s totally normal.
In terms of abs, I just really enjoy the sensation of working them out – I know, I’m crazy. I also, naturally, have quite unimpressive obliques and it is something I’ve been working on hardcore since the beginning of this year.
Having listed my favorites, I think it’s important to recognize the least favorite. For me, it’s legs. Unfortunately, generally, the thing you like to work out the least is the thing you should be focusing on. It’s difficult for a reason – it’s probably weak and needs work. Never skip leg day.
My cardio regimen is a combination of High Intensity Interval Training and Low Intensity Steady State. I used to abhor cardio. I didn’t want to do it. I thought SURELY, if I just work out in the gym hard enough, I don’t need cardio. That’s bull. You’ve just got to do it. And find the most convenient way to work it into your schedule.
For example, I’m a VERY impatient person. If I get to a bus stop and the bus is 8 minutes away, the last thing I want to do is stand there and WAIT. So I started running to the gym from work. And then running from the gym to my house. This means that not only do I not waste time waiting around for buses, I also don’t have to jump onto a boring treadmill and run on it for 20 minutes. It’s a win-win.
I don’t keep a training log but I do have a record of the weights that I do so I have an idea of how I’m progressing. Logs are not for everyone – just find what works for you.
Also, I always finish my workouts with a protein shake!
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
The biggest piece of advice that I can to you is simply ‘just do it’. Nike has had it right all along. I used to be one of those people that had ambitious fitness goals but withered at the slightest inconvenience. It’s raining? Well, I guess I can skip the gym. My friends want to hang out? The gym can wait. The excuses can go on and on.
I put an end to that last year. I said to myself that I will stop treating the gym like it was optional. Going to work in the morning isn’t optional. I can’t just call my boss and tell him I won’t be showing up because ‘it’s raining’ or ‘I don’t feel like it’. So it became a simple fact of life. I’d go to work and then I’d go to the gym and that was it. No ifs or buts about it. It just got done.
If you begin to think of the gym like that, it really helps because motivation no longer dictates whether you go or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re motivated or not – you’re going to show up for yourself and go regardless because it’s not optional.
I think the biggest obstacle is being really straight with yourself. Once you’re in the gym, it’s fine. You get your head down and do the work. It’s about setting up those good habits that keep you coming back to the gym. I have plenty of friends who always talk about their fitness goals but I know that they’re not their priority. And that’s fine.
But you have to be straight with yourself.
Is getting fit your priority? Do you really want to lose that weight? Or reveal/build the six pack of your dreams?
If the answer is yes, then treat it like a priority. I’ll hear people say that they don’t have time – but then they’ll spend hours scrolling Instagram or will go out to the clubs three times a week. Or they’ll tell me all about their fitness goals but then undo all their hard work by eating out four times that week.
Figure out where you’re at. If you’re serious about getting fit, treat it like a priority. And then push through. It’ll be worth it.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Training wise, as I’ve mentioned, I’m cutting at the moment. I’ve actually learned that I don’t handle bulking well. I’m not big on eating so when I increased my calories, I really struggled to get them in consistently so instead of a good bulking session, it ended up being a lesson learned. Once I’m through my holidays in April, I’ll be trying to tackle a bulk again but a little differently. More of a clean bulk with a smaller calorie surplus. You’ve got to learn what works for you because everyone’s different.
I want to continue working on my weak areas. I want to build up my chest and obliques and I want to get stronger. I’ve actually developed a real interest in calisthenics so I’m hoping to do more of that as well.
I’m also completing a personal training course. This allows me to build my knowledge about my own body but also help me advise other people who might have questions. It means a lot if I’m able to help even one person develop a good relationship with the gym and their body.
If I were to restart this journey, I would focus on my mindset a lot earlier because everything flows from that. If you’ve got the right mindset, you can do anything.
Aside from fitness, the future holds many exciting things. I’ll be finishing my personal training course, growing social media and expanding it into a full time job and spending a lot more time in Los Angeles (my favorite place!).
Set goals, brainstorm how you can make them a reality and work hard at it.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I haven’t had any major injuries from sports or the gym thankfully. I had some minor issues with my back – I think I was just overloading it. So I listened to my body and I eased up on it a bit.
Honestly, the most important thing is having the correct form for all the exercises that you do. All the time, I see people in the gym – guys especially – using these massive weights and performing the exercises incorrectly. They’re grab the 15kg dumbbells to do bicep curls only to be swinging them like crazy.
There’s nothing shameful about not knowing how to do an exercise. There’s tons of resources online – videos, guides etc. If you’re not sure or you can’t feel the muscle you’re meant to be working, look it up. Try again. It’s way more beneficial to do the exercise properly with a lower weight than use a much heavier weight and injure yourself.
In terms of sleep, I wouldn’t say I get more than most people. Daily, I’ll get anything from 6-7.5 hours of sleep. I might get a little more on the weekend depending on how busy I am. Sleep is definitely super important in terms of sustaining your energy levels and giving your body a chance to recover.
A big thing I’ve been focusing on lately is working more stretching into my routine. With working out six times a week, my muscles tend to get very tight. I’m not used to stretching – it’s not part of my routine so it’s just been a bit of a challenge making it into a habit. I highly recommend it.
Generally, my schedule tends to stay pretty consistent with the exception of travel. As I’ve already mentioned, my gym membership means I can work out in most of the places I travel to. Otherwise, I stay pretty active while away – hikes, walking places etc.
Though, in reality, if you need to just take a break and relax for a week, it’s not the end of the world. So long as that one week doesn’t turn into months of inactivity.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’ll be honest with you – my diet is very, very boring. I’ve been basically eating the same thing for over a year now. I understand that that’s some people’s nightmare. It works for me because I enjoy not having to worry about making a different meal every single day.
My breakfast is generally greek yoghurt with protein powder and some fruit on top. If I get bored of that, I have two whole eggs with four egg whites. Then I get a snack before lunch, which is either a can of tuna or 15 grams of mixed nuts with one square of black chocolate (75%+).
At lunch, I’ll have meat (generally 150 grams of chicken) and half an avocado. Then I get another snack and then it’s gym time. After gym time, I get a protein shake and then dinner is generally meat (again, generally 150 grams of chicken) with a portion of carbs and powdered greens. I get one ‘cheat day’ a week where I up my carb intake but that’s about as exciting as it gets.
I don’t count calories and I don’t track my macros simply because my diet doesn’t really change much from what I described and I know that diet allows me to hit all of those targets.
In terms of going out, I know that one meal won’t make a massive different (one meal every day of the week will but not one occasion in the week). Though if I can get as close to the same macro ratio, I’ll go for that option. Double chicken? Yes please.
For my cheat days, I get to have a bagel with breakfast, some rice with lunch and then dinner gets to be a meal of my choice. Generally, I’ll go for something like sushi, burritos or a Chinese.
In terms of supplements, I have a dissolvable Vitamin C tablet in the morning along with a Multivitamin and two Fish Oil tablets daily. Nothing too fancy but it gets me all I need.
I’m a serial coffee drinker but I drink black coffee so it’s not an issue for me. Though to cut down on my caffeine intake, I have challenged myself to drink a litre of water per cup of coffee I drink. I don’t drink alcohol often – it’s kind of like throwing all your hard work down the drain when you do.
In terms of cravings, I find that if you go off of sugar for a while they diminish significantly. Sugar is addictive so once you don’t have it for a few weeks, it doesn’t have as much of a hold anymore. The best thing I’ve ever done is stop taking sugar in my coffees and teas (I used to have three teaspoons per cup!). Also, sugar definitely distorts your taste.
Also, having a cheat day in the week helps with cravings. If I’m craving sushi on a Tuesday, I know that I can last till Friday and indulge then. Oftentimes, if you have a craving, if you just have the food you’re supposed to have, it’ll be countered. Because you’re not hungry anymore.
When I first starting taking diet seriously, I used MyFitnessPal to help me learn how many calories I was taking on and what the macros were. After a while, the app became a bit obsolete for me but it’s an amazing tool if you’re starting out.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I need to listen to upbeat music in the gym. I could never listen to podcasts or videos while I’m working out. I would not be able to concentrate. I just need something with good vibes and an upbeat rhythm in my ear and I’m good to go.
I made a specific playlist for this on Spotify – I even asked my Instagram followers to give me their suggestions. The result? A playlist that’s 13 hours long. I never run out of songs to listen and it’s hard to get bored with so much selection.
I think what’s important is surrounding yourself with positive people. Not the people who will convince you to skip the gym and go for a pint, but the friends who will understand how much reaching these goals means to you.
The friend that will say ‘sure, we’ll meet up an hour later’ and the friend that will notice when you’re smashing your goals. The attitude of those around can have a massive effort on how you keep going so make sure the influences in your life are positive.
Both me and my best friend properly started out fitness journeys together. We’ll often be in the gym at the same time and we eat similar meals (& we live together). Although our goals are different (hers is to lose weight, mine is to gain mass), we still have to do the same basic things. And we support each other.
In terms of influencers on Instagram, the one that I follow is Steve Cook. I think he’s a genuine lad and his physique is similar to mine so he’s a great role model to look up to.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
If you are new to this whole bodybuilding/fitness thing, be open. What I mean by that is that you should be open to learning and making mistakes.
Some people love research, some people don’t. If you love research, check out all of the online resources available to you (bodybuilding.com, T Nation etc). Learn and find something that you think will work for you and try it.
If you hate research, get a personal trainer or just find a plan online that you think will work. Then try it. Fitness is a lot of trial and error. And a lot of it is about consistency.
So regardless of whether you do hours of research or none, when it comes to the gym, BE CONSISTENT. And that doesn’t mean for three weeks. Try three months. That’s ¼ of a year – that’s doable. Just three months of putting in the work – and see where you end up.
The biggest mistake that I see people making in the gym is rushing through their sets and then taking long breaks. The other day I saw a guy on the lat pulldown machine and I was genuinely worried he would throw his back out. He had the machine set to a very heavy weight. He’d pull the bar down and would let the heavy weight jerk him back up. Slow down.
Focus on your reps – make sure you’re feeling it where you’re supposed to. And stop taking breaks on your phone. Unless you’re doing very heavy weights and low reps, you do not need to take a minute to rest. Count to ten and go again.
Also, for the love of God, this is for the guys. Do not skip leg day. I see so many guys walking around the gym with little stringy tank tops with their chest and arms bulging but they look like Stimpy because their legs are little sticks.
DO NOT SKIP LEG DAY.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I am. I love helping people get excited about the gym and reaching their goals.
I think a lot of people have mental blocks when it comes to fitness or they’re just stuck in a certain way of thinking. When you hire a personal trainer, that’s another person coming on board who is able to offer a different perspective. I think that 99.9% of the time people don’t reach their goals because of the mental aspect of fitness.
I’m not a fan of personal trainers who just get in to do the 30 minutes session with you, run through five exercises, get you to sweat a little and then that’s it.
That might be what some people are looking for but fitness is a lot more than that. And oftentimes, your goals will require a lot more than that. You have to have a personal trainer who is willing to treat you like a human who comes with their own fitness history (or lack thereof) and not just another client and another paycheck.
The question I get the most often is how I was able to achieve the dramatic results that I achieved in a relatively short span of time. Every time I get asked this, I feel like the answer people are looking for is some sort of a newfound miracle technique. It isn’t. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking. It’s hard work, discipline, a strict diet and consistency.
Not everyone is able to or willing to work out in the same way and eat in the same way. My results are achievable for a lot of people but they might take longer. It all depends on how much you’re willing to put in.
If you’d like to connect and work with me, let me know! At the moment, due to time constraints, I only take on clients over the internet. Please feel free to connect with me via Instagram or email ([email protected]).
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
The best place to connect with me is Instagram (@danielszagorski). I also have a blog where I have written some useful fitness posts if you’re interested in checking those out and lastly, I do also have a YouTube channel (Daniel Steven). If you drop by, say hello and let me know you came from this interview!