If you’re not yet familiar with Claire Finlay – get acquainted. Creator of Transition Zone in Parsons Green where her mantra TRAIN EAT RECOVER REPEAT is put into practise – this week, Claire filled us in on her fitness philosophy, foodie favourites and a whole lot more. Read on and get motivated to move…

Following a successful career in advertising, what inspired you to take a leap of faith and start a career in the fitness industry?

Fitness has always been in my blood. As a teenager I was a cross country competitor at county level, so turning it into a career was a completely natural progression. Having previously worked for over a decade as a Client Services Director in the advertising industry – making calls at 2am to coincide with differing time zones – I was totally ready to move on to something more fulfilling.

In a nutshell, what is your fitness philosophy?

TRAIN EAT RECOVER REPEAT – it’s the mantra I live by and one I drill into my clients at every available opportunity! I am not about fads or trends in fitness, health and fitness for me is a complete lifestyle.

What is your favourite way to work out?

For me it’s all about fusion fitness; mixing up disciplines to encourage your body to dig deep and to find new strength and stamina reserves. If you do the same thing day in day out you plateau and stop seeing results. I was a big fan of high intensity training long before it hit the headlines. My approach mixes HIT principles with strength training, knitting it all together with a strong sense of flow, which stems from my yoga teaching.

What is your top tip for staying motivated to stick to a fitness regimen? What is your main source of motivation?

Diarise. Simple as that. Treat your fitness schedule as you would your professional or social life. Look at classes as appointments, plan ahead and get them booked in at the beginning of the week. That way you can’t talk yourself out of them or get to the end of the week and discover you don’t have time. Also remember that a session doesn’t have to take up masses of time. A regular 20 minute slot – where you really go for it – can be hugely beneficial.

In terms of motivation, I’m lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see it!) to be incredibly driven. I’ve never been one to sit around when I could be doing something more proactive. It drives my husband mad, but I love the mental and physical benefits that a killer workout gives me.

With summer in full swing, what would you suggest is the most efficient workout for seeing fast results?

First off, I should say that I am a staunch supporter of the strong-not-skinny school of fitness. Drop into Transition Zone and you’ll see clients of all ages, all shapes, all sizes and all fitness levels. Age is by no means a barrier to fitness – I’m 46 myself – and I’m seeing more and more women understand the benefit of feeling strong and happy in their own skin. Having said that, we all want to look our best and the thought of revealing all poolside can be daunting. Short HIT drills mixed with strength and weight training deliver quick results. Eating clean plays a big role too.

How did Transition Zone come to be? Tell us a bit about the space…

I actually started off teaching clients in my spare room at home. My way of training seemed to really hit the mark, word spread and to cope with demand I had to find a bigger space. I started with a 6-month pop-up and then in May 2014 took the plunge and opened Transition Zone in Parsons Green. It’s a brilliant space: 3,000 square feet of open plan, urban edginess with a Recovery Cafe that offers freshly prepared organic smoothies, juices and nutrient packed power snacks. The studio is big enough that we’ve been able to host supper clubs and community events. I’m really keen to educate people on all things related to health and fitness so we’ve organised workshops, fairs and exhibitions and have lots more in the pipeline. As ambassador for Sweaty Betty I’ve also been lucky enough to work alongside some big noises in the industry.

The name, Transition Zone, comes from my triathlon days and relates to fitness training’s phenomenal transformative powers. All our classes are deliberately kept very small (a maximum of 8) so that clients receive a truly personalised service but remain part of a group environment. I wanted to create a buzz where you can see other classes going on at the same time as yours and feel motivated and inspired about what you might potentially do next. We only offer tried and tested disciplines, ones that truly bring about change. Like our general approach and attitude to health and fitness you won’t find anything faddy or trend driven on our timetable.

Aside from teaching classes at your studio Transition Zone – what other healthy activities (foodie or fitness) do you enjoy?

Aside from teaching…are you kidding me?! I’m here 7 days a week doing early morning sessions right through to evenings. On my rare days off I have a 1-to-1 swimming lesson to perfect my technique and support an ongoing back niggle. As any industry start-up knows, getting a business off the ground is all-consuming, so these days I’m finding that my work life and free time are pretty much one. It’s just as well I love what I do! I’m constantly trialling new, scientifically proven methods of training which, as I see it, are the future of fitness. Recently I was at Harvey Nichols giving the new High Octane Ride (HIT bike) a run for its money. It’s based on the Wingate theory that just nine minutes of exercise – as long as that involves 2 x 20 second bursts of pushing to the max – can make a marked difference to fitness levels. Technology plays a major part in the industry now which is why we are really excited to be launching our new metabolic conditioning zone this summer.

Tell us about Train.Eat.Recover.Repeat. What is the fundamental goal of this approach to training?

Eating and recovering properly – whether that’s through massage, meditation or mindfulness – allows you safely to continue the training process. We all know a one-off session doesn’t deliver results. To make changes, you need to keep up the effort. Put simply, if one of the TRAIN EAT RECOVER elements breaks down, you can’t REPEAT. At Transition Zone we foster all four of the parts of the cycle.

In the busy, fast paced city that is London, what is your advice for individuals short on time to factor in a workout?

Thankfully the days of long slogs in the gym are a thing of the past. I believe in keeping workouts short but keeping your effort high. Buy a TRX strap, hook it over a tree or a door and use it as a portable gym. Look for studios close to where you work or ones that have a crèche if you are a parent, to make fitness fit as seamlessly into your life as possible. Train with friends to keep motivation up. Run with your dog. Get your family and kids involved. No excuses!

Describe your typical day on a plate…

I start every day with hot water and the juice of half a lemon. It naturally hydrates, oxygenates and leaves me feeling refreshed and revitalised. It’s also incredibly alkalising and makes me feel less bad about the coffee that I drink mid-morning! Breakfast is usually chia with almond milk which I pimp up with fresh berries, nuts, seeds and CoYo. If I’m flagging later on, I’ll get one of my nutritionists to whizz up a green smoothie and then for lunch I have an amazing Pollen & Grace salad delivered. For dinner it depends when I leave the studio. If I get home in time I’ll have an omelette with salad or veg but if it’s late I’ll just pack heaps of goodness into the Vitamix (avocado, spirulina, kale) and eat my greens that way.

We love that Transition Zone includes a Recovery area with a healthy cafe – what are your must-try pre and post workout snacks that the cafe offers?

Pre-workout I’ll often down a beetroot and lemon shot for stamina and have one of our very popular no grain Protein Chunks (made from pumpkin butter, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, hemp and coconut flour). Protein-wise, it’s the equivalent of a chicken breast but is made from completely plant based ingredients.

After that I would opt for one of our Protein Smoothies which packs in chia seeds, banana, hemp, cacao, almond milk and almond butter. Smoothie combos don’t get much better: it’s high in fibre, calcium, protein, fills you up for hours and is perfect for post exercise recovery. That’s a lot of boxes ticked from one 250ml bottle! I’m addicted to the wonderfully creamy, chocolatey flavour.

We love the look of the Reformer Pilates Chair classes at Transition Zone – fill us in on the benefits we can expect from using a Reformer Pilates Chair – does it strengthen certain areas more than others or does it enable a full body workout?

The Reformer Chair is a relatively small piece of equipment (it’s a third of the size of a Pilates reformer bed) but packs a serious punch. It’s a powerhouse for the core but, as with everything we do in the studio, we ramp it up a notch by integrating light weights, Power Plate, HIT drills and cardio to ensure a kick-ass session that sculpts, lifts, tightens and strengthens. We’re immensely proud to be the only place in the UK that offers it as a class. It’s also Michelle Obama’s favourite workout. Have you seen her guns? Enough said.

Find out more about Transition Zone here. 

By Zsa Zsa Vella