The only fitness plan every midlife woman needs

The female body hasn’t always been Sabri’s stock in trade. After training as an NHS physiotherapist, Sabri worked with young, elite footballers at Watford and Chelsea FC.

She enjoyed her time with an “elite team of professionals”, but the part of the job that appealed most was seeing the impact her work could have on people’s lives as she got them back on their feet.

She always believed she’d end up working in sport. Sabri grew up in Hertfordshire, the youngest of three children, to an Irish mother and Cypriot father. As a tall “gangly teen” she was a natural athlete, swimming at a national level and playing tennis tournaments. There was dancing too, “that’s my Irish side”; her mother and aunt are both world champions in Irish dance. “I was dancing as soon as I could walk, Irish music was always in the house and at weddings.” 

She thought of becoming a professional athlete, until her mother, a nurse, suggested she try physiotherapy. It was work experience aged 15, both in NHS hospitals and a local hospice, that sealed the deal. “People might think ‘Oh that’s depressing’ and it was challenging, but I loved helping people, like my mum did.”

It’s this that keeps her focused now, when she doesn’t feel like exercising. “I’m filming and working out for my community, there are 4.5 million people tuning in every day for my workouts and that’s amazing. My goal with every workout I teach online is for whoever’s doing it to feel better than when they started, to feel more energised, to feel calmer and to get more confidence.”

She is obviously a natural teacher, radiating positivity, but like the rest of us she sometimes struggles. “There are still days when I’m not feeling great and when I don’t feel as good about myself and I have less energy, but now I’m more honest and I’ll say: ‘I’m on my period and I’m not feeling it.’

“But I’m proud of myself for showing up, and exercise gives me endorphins. I say this to my students, not every single workout needs to be 100 per cent. Maybe you can only give me 40 per cent if that’s what you have in the tank that day, and that’s OK.”

Sabri’s “Lean Method” uses “a rule of thirds”, so one third is Pilates, one third is cardio and one third is strength. “That special trio has incredible results because they all complement each other,” she explains. HIIT burns through calories (and body fat), while Pilates improves posture and balance; strength training maintains muscle and can turn your body into a fat-burning furnace for up to 24 hours after your workout. “With weight training your body is burning fat at its ultimate.”

But how quickly can we see results? That depends on where you currently are – and what you’re hoping to achieve. For anyone looking to lose weight, she recommends a nutrition programme that will put them into a calorie deficit (though never below 1,600 daily calories). Her app works out a calories-intake figure based on your weight.

In terms of exercise, “you just need to get your body moving, in any way that works for you,” says Sabri. “Short-term goals are a great way to get started on your fitness journey, but also, it’s important to visualise how you want to move your body in later life; do you want to be able to move around, pain-free, pick-up grandchildren and go on adventures? Getting your body strong now is going to help with all that.”

Exercises to try now

1. The fat burner for a leaner body

HIIT can be anything that gets you moving, says Sabri, and a simple combination of burpees, press-ups and reverse lunges will do. For burpees, place your hands on the floor in front of the feet, then jump back into push-up position; return to squat position, then jump into the air while extending arms up. For less intensity, swap jumping for stepping the feet out.

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