Amanda Bisk's Instagram page pretty much says it all. 'Former Australian Pole Vaulter. Exercise Physiologist. Elite Athletics Coach. Qualified Yoga Teacher.' A quick scroll through her feed reveals why she has 664k followers and counting: the former champion pole vaulter can bend and contort her bronze, yoga-honed limbs into shapes most yogis could only manifest in their dreams (no, not jealous at all). Yet despite the enviable stream of yoga selfies by the beach, this Perth girl hasn't been without hardship. On track to compete at the 2012 Olympics, in 2011 Amanda was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, which effectively dashed her hopes of competing in London.
Yeong Sassall was eager to get to know the woman behind those incredible Instas, so she sat down with the G Active ambassador to talk all things, health, diet and motivation.
What does your weekly exercise routine look like?
It changes all the time. I am such a huge believer in variety and really mixing up the type of exercise you do throughout the week...I get bored easily so doing different things really motivates me.
In general my exercise routine usually follows the schedule that is in my training guide 'Fresh Body Fit Mind' - I try to be active twice a day (morning and evening) from Monday to Thursday but these session are really short (20-30min) and usually involve HIIT bodyweight circuits, walking or sprinting. Friday I do a challenging workout that might take 30min-1hr, Saturdays I always try and do something fun and not so 'structured' like tennis, gymnastics, walking with my friend, or bike riding with my boyfriend, and Sundays are rest day where I just do simple yoga or stretching for recovery.
The main thing I am always aware of is that it is important to be 'active' everyday and not necessarily flog yourself or do a killer workout every single session. It is also so, so important to include recovery sessions like yoga and stretching. I stretch every night before bed (it helps me sleep and also is a key factor in preventing sickness and injury) and when I feel I need to, I will add an extra rest day (usually Wednesday) to let my body and mind recharge.
What's an average day on a plate for you?
On wake up: A glass of water and a small freshly squeezed carrot and ginger juice (about 200mL)...It's some extra vitamins for my skin because I am very prone to dry skin and eczema.
Breakfast: 2 poached eggs on 2 slices of wholegrain toast with avocado and a long black coffee with a dash of soy milk
Lunch: a bowl of toasted granola with Greek yoghurt (the unsweetened variety) and usually a couple of pieces of fruit (like peach, grapes, mango or watermelon)
Dinner: Vegetable stir-fry with lots of vegetables, egg noodles, egg, and I add butter beans for extra protein.
Dessert: I love dark chocolate! So will have a couple pieces with a tea and maybe some fruit if I still feel like something
I am not a huge snack person but if I feel hungry throughout the day I always have a healthy snack handy...something like a nut or muesli bar or peanut butter on a slice of toast, or some carrot and celery sticks dipped in hummus.
Your Instagram, particularly your yoga poses, are so inspiring! How hard is it to get the perfect shot?
I guess it really depends. My partner Adam and I work together to create content for Instagram (he's the guy behind all the photos!). Sometimes it might take a little while because we want to try and do a few poses or try different backgrounds or angles but sometimes it can be as simple as a quick click and we have the shot!
How long have you been practising yoga for?
I started yoga in 2012 as a part or my recovery from chronic fatigue. It's been 5 years now and yoga is an essential part of my daily life and general wellness. In 2014 I wanted to be able to share all the positive benefits of yoga so I completed my teacher training and have been a qualified yoga teacher here at home in Australia and also at fitness retreats and events around the world. It has literally changed my life for the better and I am thankful every day.
Do you have any health or fitness hacks you can share?
1. It's super important to be organised. While it sounds boring, when you take the time to be a little bit organised you remove all the excuses to miss your workouts! I usually sit down on a Sunday night and write in my training diary ahead of time, like what workout I am going to do, when I am going to do it and where. It doesn't have to be set in stone, but simply making the time available for your fitness during the week makes such a big difference to your consistency, and in the end, your results.
2. Be present during your workout. Make sure you are in the zone, motivated and ready to give it your all. Doing a focused 20-minute workout with all of your attention is so much more effective than going through the motions for an hour.
3. Variety is key. Your body and mind love variety! Try to mix up your training routine during the week, whether that be doing different exercises each time you are in the gym, or doing a different style of training each day. Variety keeps your body guessing, which means it needs to work that little bit harder to keep up with the changing stimulus. Walk, yoga, gym, bike ride, surf, box, play tennis...and aim to try something completely new every once in a while to give a little extra spark towards exercise again!
4. Nutrition is 50% of everything you want to achieve in fitness and health. My top tip is to just try and eat real, whole foods. Try to include as many fruits and vegetables as you can (whether you are cooking or choosing meals when eating out...vegetarian options at restaurants are usually a good healthier alternative). Hydration is a commonly missed part in our fitness and health. Make sure you are drinking regularly throughout the day (dehydration can stimulate the hunger response even when your body is not hungry, make you feel sluggish and unmotivated, and inhibit proper body functions like temperature control, muscle contraction, and mental focus).
If you are looking to maintain good hydration during workouts (when your body needs it most) an electrolyte drink like G Active is great - it will give you all the essential minerals to maximise your workout, keep your energy up, and help with your recovery so you can come back again tomorrow and do it again!
You were a champion pole vaulter - do you still do it for fun?
I don't pole vault anymore but I do try to stay involved in athletics as much as I can. I go to the grass running track a lot (about 3 times a week) and I do exercises that I did when I was a pole vaulter like sprinting, plyometrics, long jump and hurdles. I love it and I think athletics and pole vault will always be in my life.
How hard was it to transition from an elite athlete training for the Olympics back to everyday life? Was there anything that helped with the transition?
I won't lie, it was TOUGH. Probably one of the hardest periods in my life. I went from having a schedule written for me for every single day of the year, when I trained, when I studied, when I worked, when I ate, when I had recovery, team meetings, trips, competitions and pretty much all of my goals and dreams... then that disappeared and I had nothing.
It was a huge change and adjustment and I almost felt that I had to start my life again. The most important thing was finding new goals and new dreams (which isn't always easy!) but I found something each day to motivate me...even if it was just something as simple as trying yoga for the first time or learning more about nutrition and food, finding a passion and achieving little things was what kept me going.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to transform their body or improve their lifestyle?
Don't feel like you have to achieve everything all at once. It's great to want to overhaul your fitness and health but the main thing is to make it attainable and something you enjoy doing. Small steps are always key, aim for doing one or two small things each day and build on that. You might start by telling yourself that you will do a 15minute walk everyday and then slowly turn that into a 30 minute walk each day and one exercise class a week, then two exercise classes a week, two runs, and a games of tennis etc etc. The same goes for your food, start with adding vegetables to at least one of your meals each day, then you might come up with some healthy snacks, or learning a few healthy lunches that you can take to work etc. Mix it up, try new things that motivate you, and don't get discouraged because you have had a bad day (we all have them!) It only takes one positive effort to get back on track.
Amanda Bisk will be teaching a yoga class at G Active HydroGym, a pop-up gym on water, on Sydney Harbour on April 28-29. To register for a class, visit gactive.com.au