Maria Andreea Lungu – trainer from Cluj-napoca

“Starting from tomorrow”, “maybe next week”, “okay, from the next month I will start going to the gym”, “this will be my New Years Eve resolution, so next year I will start, I swear”… I am pretty sure that everybody said one of these at least once in their lives. But how many of you really did try it out? It’s so good coming out of the gym and feeling like a whole new person and being proud of yourself, that today you did something for your health. It’s not always about getting six packs or building enormous muscles but sweating, moving, using your energy and refreshing yourself.

Why did you decide to become a trainer?

I’ve been interested in fitness and nutrition for a few years now, finding information and applying the training and principles on myself. There were times when I was trying to find balance in my nutrition, the amount of training, and even my perceptions of body image, so, as I gathered more information and confidence in what I knew in this area and found what works for me, I felt the need to share it with other people and help them find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I have a Masters in Clinical Psychology, and I find the personal development mindset acquired in university to be strongly connected to fitness- it’s about taking care of yourself, feeling and being a better version of yourself. Psychology is very helpful in motivating and helping clients stick to their training program. Also, I’m a dancer and dance teacher. Being used to an active lifestyle makes it impossible for me to think of a career that doesn’t involve movement. Everything kind of fits in. It’s passion turned into a career.

Do you have fitness goals for yourself? If so, what are they?

I focus mostly on functionality, meaning being able to do what I couldn’t do before, whether it’s cardio, lifting weights, flexibility, etc. It feels so good when a movement or a workout you couldn’t do before feels so easy after a while of training. There are times when I lose weight – and I don’t want to- after doing all the training with my clients at the gym, and I want to put on more muscle mass and focus on weight training. But for me, it’s less about looks and more about health and training my body in different ways. Right now I’m focusing on weight lifting progress and doing a lateral split.

Besides the aerobic training, you are a dancer too. Isn’t it hard to keep moving all day long?

Sometimes it is. There are days when I feel very tired. It’s hard, because during my classes at the gym I noticed that my clients are more motivated when I do the workout with them, so sometimes I end up doing a couple classes in a row, plus my personal workouts. But when it’s too much, I find the way to rest. I remind myself that it’s about their workout and not mine, and it’s the same with dancing too. If I train people, I focus on their progress, and I just give them tools and motivate them, so physically it’s not so tiring for me. Also paying attention to the food I eat is very important for recovery.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

From everywhere. I only have one rule: their values have to be the same as mine. Of course, I can get useful information from many sources (trainers, nutritionists), but it’s not just about the facts (from studies, etc). It’s their mindset and the way they apply those facts in their work. Books, videos, trainers’ websites, photos and short clips on Instagram help me a lot. My favorite book and the most useful I found so far, both on training and food  („You are your own gym” by Mark Lauren) is about learning how to train on your own using your bodyweight. Recently I found a doctor’s page on Instagram talking about diets as promoters of eating disorders and prioritizing healthy emotions in relation to food. It’s not just the overly promoted „clean eating” way only to a healthy lifestyle. I thought it’s very interesting as it incorporates emotions as well, which fitness programs don’t usually take into account.

What do you think about diets, vegan lifestyle, organic foods? Do you recommend any of these?

I recommend whatever works for the person. That’s why psychology is important and getting to know your client’s needs. Diets? No. They don’t work long term, promote unhealthy eating behaviors and emotions towards food, may leave you undernourished and more unhealthy than before. For me, a healthy diet incorporates all food groups, is varied, offers all the nutrients and can be kept long term. Vegan food, it depends. There are different reasons why people go vegan. If it’s a matter of ethics and you believe in that, sure. Go for it. If you feel good, don’t have any vitamin/mineral deficits, there should be no problem. I think that if you have information about where to get your protein and other vitamins found mostly in animal products or get supplements and you feel ok, it might even be a healthier version than an omnivore’s diet. I don’t think it’s the only way to eat healthily, as long as you are careful about where you get your meat/dairy from – sources are important. If the vegan diet is about eating healthy, you have to pay attention- you can eat processed vegan food, which is sometimes even more unhealthy than a normal diet but from natural sources. So yeah, organic foods are sometimes healthier, but sometimes it’s just a way for supermarkets to charge more on food. I think that many of us could start improving the diet by eating less processed foods like snacks, sweets, soda, frozen meals, fast food and then think about organic. But yeah, as natural as possible is always better. It would be perfect if you can control the source (eg. your grandparents’ garden).

What if the difference between fitness and aerobic? Which do you recommend for who?

Fitness is a more global term that refers to a person’s well being incorporating different ways of training. It includes cardio, weight training, functional training, machines, body weight, mobility training, you name it. Today aerobic classes are a general term, a lot of gyms use different types of training under this name. But if we talk about aerobics per se, which I understand as cardio combined with easy dance moves on high bpm music, I  see it as mostly steady state cardio. It can help you lose weight fast at first, but in the long term, focusing on building muscle and combining with cardio intervals is more efficient. In my aerobics classes, I combine functional training with cardio on music so it’s also entertaining for beginner clients. Generally, I recommend different types of training so you learn how to use your body in different ways. It’s important to work on heart strength (cardio) as well as muscle strength and power.

Is there a fashion, a trend on how to go to the gym?

Maybe what I’ve noticed lately is that people try to find different and new equipment to construct fancy workouts with, for trainers and gyms to attract customers, and for people training at home to get more motivated by the excitement of having new equipment to work with. In the latter case, it’s mostly planning, as in „I’ll start working out once I get that new fancy equipment or a new outfit to feel sporty in”. Most of the time it doesn’t work because what people don’t realize is that you can get a good workout only using your body and maybe half the space in your room. Yes, as I’ve said earlier, it’s good to work your body in different ways, and I find some of these pieces of equipment to be useful, but don’t use the fact that you don’t have them as an excuse not to work out.

Top 5 go to tips on how to get fit:
  1. Combine resistance training with cardio intervals.
  2. The consistency of training- it’s normal to have periods when maybe you don’t stick to your program as planned. But it’s important to get back on track.
  3. Focus on nutritious food, nourishing your body with natural products.
  4. Don’t completely give up on the less healthy foods you love. Just find a balance and learn to enjoy both the healthy and less healthy in moderation.
  5. Focus on long term goals and not fast weight loss. When focusing on the process, you stick with an active lifestyle, healthy eating and the results will come along.