Interview: Alice Liveing

by Ceylan Kumbarji

Alice Liveing is probably a name you’ve heard before, and for good reason too. A health and fitness guru, personal trainer and Women’s Aid ambassador, Alice has been one to watch for a while. But, contrary to what people may think, Alice doesn’t spend her life in the gym – she is realistic and maintains balance.

“Yes, I like to go to the gym and yes, I like to exercise. I like to eat nourishing food but I also had a terrible hangover on Sunday and got absolutely wasted on Saturday night,” she admits to us. “That is as healthy as working out every day – it shows that you’re able to have fun and have a normal life, whatever normal is, rather than live in this unrealistic ideal of constantly being perfect with your diet and perfect with exercise. That just doesn’t exist.”

We sat down with Alice at Ralph’s Bar in Mayfair and chatted all things mind and body, a number of her best career highlights so far (at only age 24!) and why you really shouldn’t be intimidated about going to the gym.

“It’s just as healthy for me to have a chocolate bar as it would be to go to the gym. Allowing yourself the freedom to make decisions regardless of whether it’s good or bad is really freeing. To me, that is the ultimate balance.” – Alice Liveing

Taylor Magazine: To start with, tell us about what you do and how you got into fitness?

Alice Liveing: I’m a personal trainer by trade and I qualified four years ago. Before that, I was a professional dancer but during that time I really suffered in terms of self confidence and feeling as though I wasn’t good enough. I decided that I wanted to start doing something outside of college that was going to benefit my training, so I started going to a gym and weight training. I just really enjoyed it so I left college, went on tour for a year with Annie The Musical and when I was coming to the end of that, my blog had become really successful.

I knew that I wanted to spend some time working on that, because I felt that it could be something really exciting. I made the decision to take some time out from the show and wrote my first book, and at the same time qualified as a personal trainer. To make some money I started personal training, but I just thought it would be a little side thing. I started working at a gym in Chelsea and just completely fell in love with it. I really enjoyed the job – helping people and the nature of the work. At the same time, everything else was taking off with my book and all of the other stuff I was doing – it was a really exciting time. Fast forward to now… I’ve published three best-selling books and done lots of other things alongside it, but my personal training has always remained constant. I’ve always trained people, and always will. So yeah, that’s me!

Taylor Magazine: When you first started blogging and writing, was it something you always wanted to do, or did it happen naturally?

Alice Liveing: To be honest, when I started blogging and started using Instagram more specifically, I was doing it for myself. Initially, it was also about losing weight because I saw that as the pinnacle of me being happy which obviously, I know now wasn’t the case. I tried to use it as a private page, but then the more I used it, the more I realised that I enjoyed conversing with other people who were doing the same things. So, I made my page public and from there it just grew and grew.

“It was about documenting my own personal journey through finding confidence.” – Alice Liveing

Taylor Magazine: Everyone is talking about wellness at the moment. What is it for you personally that has made you want to carry on in that realm? Is it something that makes you feel good, or is it so other people can take something from it?

Alice Liveing: I think it’s twofold… I’ve been on such a journey with it. Initially because I was so focused on weight loss, I saw that as the one thing I needed to do. My page grew as a result of me transforming my physique, but then I very quickly realised that it wasn’t this magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and actually, there were lots of other things I needed to deal with. Perhaps I went too far in terms of getting really into exercise and wanting to do it all the time, and eating really, really well all the time.

I would say that my motivation for what I do now is, first and foremost, to educate. I believe that I have a really strong background of knowledge within the health and fitness world, in particular with my personal training and helping people improve their physique. It’s very much a performance and functional motivation, rather than an aesthetic one. It’s really important to try and help people to dissect fact from fiction, and have a balance when it comes to exercise and what they do.

“Beyond the educational side, it’s more that I’m a voice of normality in a space of a lot extremes.” – Alice Liveing

Taylor Magazine: For you, what does it look like now to have balance? To have a balance between working out, eating healthy, but also not berating yourself if that doesn’t happen every day?

Alice Liveing: The analogy that I use is that it’s just as healthy for me to have a chocolate bar as it would be to go to the gym. Allowing yourself the freedom to make decisions regardless of whether its good or bad is really freeing. To me, that is the ultimate balance. Yes, I like to go to the gym and yes, I like to exercise. I like to eat nourishing food but I also had a terrible hangover on Sunday and got absolutely wasted on Saturday night. That is as healthy as working out every day – it shows that you’re able to have fun and have a normal life, whatever normal is, rather than live in this unrealistic ideal of constantly being perfect with your diet and perfect with exercise. That just doesn’t exist.

In the last two years, I realised how much I enjoy living a life outside of the gym and being the Alice that I was before. I really wanted to maximise that and it’s really helped me find my own personal balance. Balance is different for everyone, what balance is for me is going to be different for the next person. But, I think there are some things that are really important, and one of them is not allowing yourself to live your life through rules. I think it’s quite damaging to how you operate – if I said to you, ‘You can’t have that, sugar is bad, coffee is bad’, you start to live in this very regimented way of life. It will make you feel very restricted and then there’s guilt is attached.

It’s a really unsexy answer, but to be honest, everything is good for us in moderation (I know it’s such a cliche phrase!) With many of my clients, they come to me and want a magic thing. I have to say to them that I don’t have any magical answers, any secrets. Everything that I do is just being very normal and having things in moderation.

Taylor Magazine: Sometimes, people can feel like they don’t really know what they’re doing in the gym. How important do you think it is for people who want to transform their bodies to have a personal trainer?

Alice Liveing: It depends on the person. If you’re someone that’s highly motivated and also has a good foundation in general exercise and movement, you probably wouldn’t need a personal trainer. However, if you’re someone who has very little experience or doesn’t really have much confidence or awareness of how to move around a gym, then get a personal trainer. It’s that little boost of, ‘I’m doing things right and I’m not going to injure myself’.

The first session you’re usually screened and analysed, and we take you through movement screenings so we’re able to see how well you move and if there’s anything that we should be worried about. The second session you start to implement the movements and the third session you hone that down. By then you kind of have a bit of a routine and you’re feeling more confident. Three sessions is probably all you need to feel like you know what you’re doing.

Taylor Magazine: For people who have no exercise experience and want to get in to fitness, what advice would you give them?

Alice Liveing: Sometimes it’s about just starting. Often it’s difficult for people – the apprehension of just starting, whether that be signing up to a class or whatever. Classes can be really good for beginners, because they’re in an environment where everyone is in the same boat. You can hang in the back for a bit and get to grips with how things work. As a one to one, partnering up with a friend who knows what they’re doing a bit more than you do is always a good one. It might feel like everyone is staring at you when you walk into a gym, but genuinely, nobody cares. Everyone is so interested in what they’re doing. Just go in, do your thing, and if you don’t know ask the personal trainers. They are there for a reason, and any good personal trainer would love to help you nail something if you ask them. If I’m standing on the gym floor and I’m not doing anything, I’m happy for someone to come up to me and say, ‘Can you just help me with this? or, ‘I need help with that.’ I’d much rather that someone ask than suffer in silence.

Taylor Magazine: What would you say has been your biggest career highlight so far?

Alice Liveing: Being on the cover of Women’s Health was really special. All my friends were messaging me so that was definitely up there! I’m also so proud of my books and how well they’ve been received. Primark was amazing too so there’s been a few career highlights.

Taylor Magazine: What’s been challenging, or something you’ve had to adjust to?

Alice Liveing: The mental health side of social media – it has a massive impact on your life and you are constantly at the hands of other people. Whether you’re liked or disliked, you might post something that other people don’t like. The general world of social media can be very suffocating and I found myself getting in too deep early on. I felt very depressed and disillusioned with the world. Since I’ve been with my boyfriend and since we’ve moved in together, I’m on my phone less and it makes a massive difference to how I feel generally. I used to live on my own and I’d come home and spend the entire evening on my phone, whereas now we live together, I come home, we have dinner and I converse with someone. The dark side of social media is unfortunately there, and that was probably the toughest thing for me to adjust to.

Taylor Magazine: How do you manage that?

Alice Liveing: Regardless of what you do, there will always be critics. I was such a people pleaser growing up and I wanted to be liked by everyone. I wanted to be friends with everyone and it’s such an unrealistic way to go through life. Sometimes you just don’t get on with people or people just don’t agree with what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you’re bad or wrong. It just means you’re different.

That is so freeing to me, because social media sucks you into this world of constantly wanting to be liked and told you’re amazing. When I post something for example, it’s instant gratification. Lots of people will compliment me and it’s really easy to let that get to your head. Something that really helps me is that I’ve never got beyond my station because I’ve continued to work and not let myself get carried away with it all. I think that’s really important.

It’s just like my Mum always said: ‘Alice, you’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You’re never going to appeal to everyone. The more you try, the more disappointed you’re going to be, because it’ll never happen. So, stick to your guns, have your core ethos that you believe in and be true to that.’

Taylor Magazine: What do you do to switch off?

Alice Liveing: I love to read and call people – I love talking to people! Of course, exercise is a big one for me.

Taylor Magazine: How often do you train?

Alice Liveing: Four to five times a week usually. I take two rest days a week, so around that I’ll do a lot of strength training and some yoga.

Taylor Magazine: What does a typical day look like for you?

Alice Liveing: Today is probably a typical day for me! I got up at around 5am to get to the gym and had clients first thing – 6:30am and then 8:00am. I had my breakfast in between those clients and then I trained myself. I went from there to a meeting and then I went back to the gym and had some lunch. I did a podcast at 2:30pm and I’ve got another meeting at 4:00pm. Then, I’m doing some recipe developments this evening. At the moment I’m creating a couple of different products that I’m trying to develop, so I’m just spending my evenings cooking which is really good for me.

Taylor Magazine: Do you ever feel burnt out, and do you have enough time for self-care?

Alice Liveing: Well, funny you say that. Last week I was burning the candle at both ends… I was getting up early with my clients and then I was out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I was getting up at 5:00am every day and I got to Friday last week and felt completely done. I actually had to take the day off work, which is so bad and so unlike me.

Taylor Magazine: We saw that you’re working with Women’s Aid, which is so exciting. How did that come around, and what does it mean to you?

Alice Liveing: I reached out to them! I was in a very abusive relationship when I was 15. The police got involved and everything was really traumatic. I hadn’t dealt with that for a long time and got on with life, burying my head in the sand. Then I started going to therapy because I kept getting flashbacks. It was so bizarre because when I was just getting together with my boyfriend, I remembered things that I’d totally blanked from my mind. I knew that was my brain’s way of telling me that I had to deal with this, so I went to therapy. Talking about it is so cathartic, just to let it all out. Because of that, I wanted to do something where I could reach out and help other people who have been in a similar position to me. They asked me to be an ambassador and I’ve been working with them for over a year now. It’s amazing and they do such incredible things. It means so much for me to be involved with what they do in a small way – they’re so inspiring.

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t practice self-care often?

Alice Liveing: I would say book things in that you know will make you feel better. I’ll book in a massage or have a bath. Self-care looks different for everyone and what works for me won’t work for the next person. It’s not about doing what other people do, it’s about what helps you relax. Anything from going out for a walk or reading a book. It’s important and if you set a precedent of not doing it and not making time for yourself, it’s way more difficult to implement.

Taylor Magazine: Exercise and mental health go hand-in-hand, so what advice do you have to keep your body and mind in sync?

Alice Liveing: Yeah, there’s lots of research now to support that too. For example, there’s research to show that exercise improves mental health. Not only is it a treatment for mental health, but it’s also preventative. The research is exciting and it really supports lots of ways in which exercise might be beneficial, so I think it’s only going to get stronger in terms of the correlation between the two.

“Don’t see exercise as the holy cure to mental health, but use it as something within your toolbox that you’re able to implement if you’re mindset is in a bad place.” – Alice Liveing

Taylor Magazine: What’s the best thing about exercise to you?

Alice Liveing: Exercise can be so many things, but first and foremost, it’s empowering for me. You leave and have a hit of endorphins and you feel way better. The quicker you can make the transition between it being a chore or something you do to burn calories, to something you do for your mind, it’s far more enjoyable.

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Alice Liveing: I desperately tried as a kid to be friends with everyone but I’ve realised that I would rather value the friends that I have, rather than spread my net really wide and not cultivate true friendships with people. Not everyone has to like you – just do your thing.

Interview with Alice Liveing
Photo Credit | Alice Liveing Primark Collection

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