We talked with Vanya Sakazova in December, 2019.
👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi there! My name is Vanya Sakazova. I am 25 years old, I was born and grew up in Bulgaria. I moved to Finland when I was 19 where I completed a Bachelor degree in Sports. Currently, I live in Edinburgh, UK and I work full time as a personal trainer.
I was very unfit when I was younger. I was slow, weak and would easily get out of breath. I really wanted to get stronger, faster, better. I started exercising and quickly fell in love with it. I was interested in how our bodies work, recover and get stronger. I wanted to learn more and share my knowledge with others.
After moving to Finland, I focused more on training in order to get past the physical tests of the entrance exams in university. There were only 20 available study places and people could apply from all or the world so I expected super big competition.
I couldn’t afford a gym membership at that time and all I had was one 10kg dumbbell at home. So I did what I could with what I had.
After eight to nine months, I was much stronger, faster and flexible and so proud of myself. And I got admission. I proved to myself that I can do it.
Three years later, I graduated and came to the UK where I help so many other people get fitter and lead healthier lives.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
I have “easy” and “hard” mode in training depending on the season. During the winter when I am busy at work I train lighter – two to three times full body training per week with lighter weights and every 4th week I don’t train at all. My job as a personal trainer is quite physical so I try to get enough rest. Nobody likes tired PT.
In the summer months when I am not that busy at work, I step up a bit and do more strength training and muscle building. Then I follow a four-week training plan:
- Week 1: Training for muscle building. I train 4 days that week – twice upper body and twice lower body
- Week 2: Training for strength. This is my hardest week in training I do 4 sessions in that week, 1 day for each of the big lifts – Deadlift, Bench press, Squat, Overhead press
- Week 3: Training for endurance. I do shorter and easier 2 full body circuit sessions during that week plus couple of 30 minutes rope skipping sessions
- Week 4: Rest
I keep my sessions no longer than an hour in any case. I start my training with warmup, which includes movements which I am about to do in my session. It’s worth mentioning that my favorite exercise to do and teach is the deadlift followed by cable crunch.
After training I absolutely love stretching. I spend 10-15 minutes for a full body stretch listening to my favorite music. Then I go home, shower and have a meal. And (hopefully) rest.
When I train, I always do it alone. I take it as this is the time for myself and want to completely zone out. I don’t like distractions. I take training very seriously, I push hard and I try to always get proper rest after gym day.
I can’t emphasize enough how important sleep is for recovery. Especially for personal trainers who spend most of their day on foot. I try to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep and eat enough protein.
Speaking of which, protein powder is the only supplement I have used for training besides vitamins and minerals. I like the Double-Rich Chocolate by Optimum Nutrition.
I have never been a fan of pre or post-workout drinks. I would just eat a banana or some other fruit before training.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
I guess part of it is my job. I have to be fit, nobody wants unfit personal trainer. The other part is, I just like training. It has become such a big part of my life that whenever I stop (for whatever reason) after couple of weeks I just feel sad and tired.
However, there are days that it just seems impossible to get up and enter the gym. I have iron deficiency anemia, which sometimes make me feel extremely tired but I try to remind myself that I need to be stronger than it is.
I would play some music that motivates me in the gym and I would say to myself: “Don’t think about it. Just go and do it.”
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now, I am doing just fine. For the last six years, I have constantly been out of my comfort zone and now I try to just enjoy my life, my work and free time.
I try to stay educated and am always reading the latest studies and publications regarding fitness and health. I haven’t decided yet in which direction I would want to take in future, although I have many options.
For now, all I want to do is practice my craft and get better at it. I like the path that I am on. If I were to start from the beginning I wouldn’t change a thing.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I would do whatever I can to prevent any injuries. I am very cautious with my clients as well. I always do couple of warmup sets with light weights for every exercise I do and avoid doing “stupid things” in the gym.
However, it has happened a few times that I get an injury. The most common that I have had is bicep tendinitis (from overtraining my shoulders) or a muscle strain.
My key is to give the affected muscle or joint proper rest and never train with pain (besides muscle soreness). For me applying a heating pad to the area speeds up the recovery.
I try to avoid painkillers because I might make it worse if I don’t feel the pain in the affected area with movement.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I can say my diet is quite healthy. I try to eat balanced amounts of everything from meat and dairy to beans and vegetables. However, I avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol. I don’t smoke as well.
I have used whey protein powder for long time but I stopped about an year ago and now I only supplement regularly with B vitamins and occasionally with probiotics.
I have cheat days every now and then. Normally on every other weekend. I like nachos so that’s what I would go for. I also like Portuguese custard tarts. A lot.
But otherwise my diet is quite healthy. I don’t really do bulking and cutting, I try to stay lean all year round.
I honestly swear by MyFitnessPal for tracking my nutrition. I use it every single day. Some people say it takes too much time and is hard to plan, but I have used it for so long that it just takes me less than five minutes to plan my food for the whole day.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
I have always been an ambitious and hard working person. I have been like this in school, in university, in my work and personal life. I am constantly setting small goals and trying to improve myself.
There was a time, however, few years back when I was scared to get out of my comfort zone and I was just complaining that life is unfair and difficult.
I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere if I continued that way so I started to push myself out of it until I stopped being scared of new things. What truly inspired me was visualizing in every detail my future the way I wanted it to be.
I get inspired by good books as well so whenever I feel like I’m slowing down I would search for something motivational to read. Some of my favorite books have been:
- “Ignite the Fire” – Jonathan Goodman (It was a very helpful reading when I was starting my own personal training business.)
- “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” – Dan Millman (Taught me to stay in the present moment and appreciate the little things.)
- “Physiology of Sport and Exercise” – Willmore and Costill (Not really inspirational but it was one of the first books I read, which taught me how to train properly, which in turn inspired me to do it.)
I occasionally listen to Joe Rogan’s or Mark Coles’ podcast, as well as Alan Watts and Jordan Peterson while doing some home chores.
In the gym I like listening to music. I like different styles so I can listen to everything from Fall Out Boy to Jennifer Lopez to Red Hot Chilly Peppers.
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Do what you do for you. Strive to be YOUR best version.</l
- Stay away from quick fixes and extreme dieting. </l
- Start easy and listen to your body. One of the first thing you have to learn is which kind of pain means you have to push harder and which kind of pain means you need to rest.
If you are new to gym, I would recommend seeking help from a professional in order to learn safe technique of the exercises and avoid injury.
I see people performing with very incorrect form every day. This is serious component of training which should not be overlooked.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I am quite busy at the moment. I do have a few available slots but in general am quite busy. Most of my clients I meet in the gym for 1 to 1 sessions but I also have online clients. I believe nothing can substitute real life training and connection.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
More about me can be found on my website: vanyafitness.com