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Everything you’ve ever wanted to ask a personal trainer
PLUS how Neil du Plessis got the CapeTownMagazine.com team in shape
Can I lose weight in 10 days? Or just on my stomach? What’s spot training and what do I do if I want to gain muscle? Personal trainer and fitness coach Neil du Plessis answers all these questions and more on exercise and meal plans. Plus the CapeTownMag team share why they are losing weight, gaining muscle, getting fitter and eating better because of Neil.
Neil has all-round experience in fitness, from yoga to olympic weightlifting
CAN YOU LOSE WEIGHT FAST?
“There is no quick fix”, says Neil, who has a diploma in exercise science and over a decade of experience in training others. That doesn’t mean that results can’t happen quickly. You need to work out consistently and couple that with the correct eating plan.
CapeTownMag experience: In three months of training with Neil, creative director Yolandie Breytenbach (who’d never worked out before) lost 6kg.
What she wanted: “Stress reduction is what I’m striving for and exercise has done wonders for my mood. I feel a lot happier,'' says Yolandie, who moved from 2 to 3 days of training with Neil.
Pleasant surprise: Losing weight was never her main goal, but being able to close the top button of her favourite jeans again in such a short space of time was a treat.
I DO SO MUCH YOGA, WHY AM I NOT LOSING WEIGHT?
Yoga is amazing for strengthening and lengthening and has many other benefits. “But it is not the best type of exercise for weight loss,” says Neil, who was a yoga trainer for nine years. “To maximise weight loss, there needs to be a heart-rate increase and you need to do resistance training to ensure that you are in the anaerobic zone (best for building lean muscle).”
CapeTownMag experience: “I’ve been doing yoga for over 10 years,'' says editor-in-chief Joonji Mdyogolo, “but only since I started training with Neil (every Friday morning) did the boep that had been bothering go down.”
What she wanted: To get to know her body better to optimise her energy and mood.
Pleasant surprise: “Because of my personalised eating plan I learned that I also have a boep because milk gets me bloated,” says Joonji.
Neil, a yoga trainer for 9 years, doing a cobra pose which helps to strengthen the lower back and upper body
CAN I LOSE WEIGHT ON JUST ONE PART OF MY BODY?
“What do I do if I only want to lose my tummy, not the rest of my body,” asked reader Shaheeda Cooper on Instagram. A lot of people believe they can reduce their stomach by doing lots of ab exercises.
This is called spot training. It doesn’t work. “Sorry if I’m bursting people’s bubbles,” says Neil, “but the body is not vindictive. It doesn’t only want to burn and take weight from one specific area just because that area is working.”
Neil (right) with Vuyani, a crossfit coach at the time and Blake at a fitness photoshoot
“EAT TO EXERCISE, DON’T EXERCISE TO EAT” MEAN?
It’s an old saying that means you should eat correctly in order to fuel your body. Otherwise your body doesn’t function well. Eating correctly gives your body the right tools it needs to achieve your health and fitness goals.
CapeTownMag experience: “When I’m moving and exercising I feel lighter and full of energy instead of sluggish because of a carb overload,” says operations manager Sue Ramgathi, who today can do 40 sit ups and 30 push ups (she started at 18 each); 31 squats (up from 23).
What she wanted: Lose weight, get fitter and more active.
Pleasant surprise: “Neil’s patience and compassion when I’m not 100%. His pleasantness even after I have missed a workout he set out for me on the app,” whose been training with Neil via the Trainerize fitness app, with weekly check-in sessions.
Neil doing team training, in preparation for Fittest in Cape Town, at a local school
WHAT DOES HEALTHY EATING LOOK LIKE?
Neil curates a personalised eating plan based on your goals. He’ll help incorporate low- and high carb days into your diet, which is called carb-cycling. Alternating your daily carb intake can help with weight loss or gain, increase energy levels, and even regulate certain health conditions, like diabetes. The 3 golden rules are eating within 30 minutes of waking up, eating every 4 to 5 hours, and drinking at least 4 litres of water a day.
CapeTownMag experience: “I used to think bloating was just a normal part of eating, but within 3 weeks of the eating plan it stopped,” says content producer, Lisa Frew.
What she wanted: To be able to run 5km, and feel less stressed and comfortable in her own skin.
Pleasant surprise: Neil helped me figure out which types of food are better for my body.
Neil after hiking Signal Hill. Neil ditched the gym in 2019. He trains his clients from anywhere, at home, in parks, even on stairs in the city
ARE RICE AND CORN CAKES HEALTHY?
Be suspicious of foods that are promoted for weight loss, says Neil. Rice or corn cakes, for example, are processed and popped, resulting in high glycemic carbohydrates, which means that it absorbs very quickly into your body, and can lead to a blood sugar and insulin spike.
“It is actually quite close to the same release value as sugar,” says Neil. Rather eat brown rice or wholewheat pasta, he says. To reduce sugar cravings, cut it out for as long as possible. It takes about two weeks to get out of your system. When you have a sugar craving, have your favourite fruit instead because carbohydrates (blueberries, grapes, naartjies) and fats (nuts) help satisfy these cravings.
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Neil doing upper-body exercises on Clifton beach with training ropes
YOU CAN’T BUILD MUSCLE WITHOUT LOTS OF PROTEIN, RIGHT?
Wrong, says Neil, who competed in Olympic weightlifting and crossfit competitions as a vegan. “I performed well, showed high athletic ability and my recovery time was really good.” If your goal is to gain weight your eating plan will include more high-carb days, which means eating more proteins, veggies, and loads of carbs.
CapeTownMag experience: Digital marketing analyst, Mark Schultz, gained 4kg in three months thanks to his personalised exercise and meal plan.
What he wanted: “I’ve struggled with weight gain my entire life and have never weighed above 63 kg,” says Mark.
Pleasant surprise: Mark’s done it all, weight training, calisthenics and crossfit over the course of 8 years, but feels more knowledgeable now about what works for his body and his goals. “Neil doesn’t just tell us what to do, he also tells us why we need to do it.”
Neil doing a barbell deadlift at a crossfit competition, Last Man Standing, one of the biggest crossfit competitions in South Africa
WHY DO I NEED A PERSONAL TRAINER?
“Using workouts from Google or what your friend does will waste your time,” says Neil, “and can even cause injuries such as body muscular imbalance,” which is when one half of your body, left vs right; back vs front, builds differently from the other half.
Importantly, Neil tailors your workout plan to align with your fitness goals after a consultation and fitness test. For example, you might be running to lose weight, but actually need to be doing squatting and deadlift movements. He also tracks your progress and adjusts workout plans to make sure you are continuously working to improve your personal bests.
CapeTownMag experience: “Neil understands where I am in my fitness journey and doesn’t ask for more than my body can handle,” says Yolandie, who had never trained before working with Neil. Her latest fitness test stats show she can do 40 squats/minute (was 24), 48 push ups/minute (up from 33) and 62 sit ups/minute (from 32).
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Neil using stairs in the city to do a HIIT exercise, making Cape Town his gym
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
You can train with Neil in-person (one-on-one or in groups) or online via his app, Trainerize, or combining the two methods. Both times you will start with a consultation and fitness test, and get progress reports every 3 months. Neil also offers an employee benefits programme (training for corporate teams), where he checks in weekly.
“Your personalised workouts are adjusted and uploaded weekly, and you can leave comments and get feedback from Neil after each workout,” says Sue.
Trainerize is perfect for businesses wanting to boost team health and morale. Teams can train on their own terms, times, and schedules, but under the guidance of a personal trainer. “You have your own guide on your phone, and receive personalised information and feedback in relation to your goals,” says Neil.
Trainerize also keeps track of your performance, progress photos and personal bests. For in-person training: R450 per session. For online training via Trainerize, from R2000 per month.
Neil doing a single leg squat, an effective way to tone the legs and glutes, strengthen the core and increase flexibility
Email: email@example.com. Find him on Facebook and Instagram, where he gives regular tips on exercise and eating.
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