Introducing the super-talented and inspirational fitness sensation, Hayley Irwin.
A transformed athlete, debuting fitness competitor and successful online coach. I had an exclusive chat with Hayley about her rise, motivations and future plans.
Find out all about Hayley’s fitness story..
Height: 5’3″ – 161cm
Weight: 108lbs – 49kg
What got you into fitness?
Okay, I’m a cliché.
I came out of a relationship, was fed up with feeling self-conscious the entire time and decided the only reason things weren’t going my way was because I was out of shape *eye roll*.
So, I went home after the first year of university and decided to spend my summer making myself look bomb.com… kinda for myself, kinda for a ‘revenge bod’.
Who, or where, do you get your inspiration from?
In all honesty, I don’t really look to others for inspiration.
I’m very self-motivated and so I’ve never experienced the whole ‘scrolling through social media girl crushing all day’ vibe. I think that’s also because I stay in my lane; I don’t spend my time comparing myself to other people and therefore I don’t feel the need to look at others to inspire me.
I’m comfortable with who I am and what I stand for, and how other people behave doesn’t impact my thoughts on myself.
Instead of looking at people and feeling inspired, I look at people and appreciate them; for example, my coach, Abby Carpenter, is a total girl boss. She has taken time to build not only an insane physique but a business, friendships and relationships. Abby is one of the most genuine people I know, and I really appreciate that and thus enjoy learning from her.
My ‘soul-sista’ Soph who I have so much respect for after watching her grow in every sense of the word through her eating disorder recovery. There’s Emily who I admire for her strength (and subsequently her aesthetics are insane) – she trains HARD, and she is one super strong human I’m tellin’ ya. And then there are people like Dr Emilia Thompson whom I admire for her knowledge, approach to coaching and her honesty. I’m fortunate to only follow people on social media who I feel this way about – I think it’s important to look at the type of content you consume on social media and assess whether it is conducive or detrimental to your mental sanity and success.
But I am also so fortunate to be surrounded by loving family who are so hardworking; my mum has taught me everything I know (literally). She’s an amazing friend, mentally strong and always endeavours to understand you. My Dad works every hour under the sun to provide for his family, and yet still manages to do crazy cycling training and events to raise money for a charity that saved his life. And then there’s my big bro! He really is the epitome of ‘you get out of something what you put in’ – he’s evolved from having to pay to go to work (his train fare was more expensive than his wage!) to being a manager in a firm and buying his own house on the outskirts of London in his early 20’s.
If you were coaching somebody starting out and had to give them just one piece of advice, what would it be?
TRUST THE PROCESS.
It’s not going to be easy, quick or simple, but don’t overthink it. The beauty of a coach is that you place your trust in them and you don’t have to waste your energy constantly second-guessing whether you’re training hard enough, eating the right food or getting enough rest. So? Use that energy for something positive. Take that extra time to do things that make you feel good, to set you up for success and allow you flourish: Read a book, take yourself on a coffee date or sit down and plan out your goals. Use the extra time wisely and you’ll reap both the mental and physical rewards.
What’s a weeks’ worth of training look like for you?
Well, currently I’m unable to train legs due to a knee injury. Fortunately, I’ve only been out for two weeks, and I should be back in the gym in the next week (fingers crossed!).
But typically, my current split is:
Day 1: Strength Legs
Day 2: Back and Tris
Day 3: Cardio
Day 4: Volume Legs
Day 5: Delts and Bis
Day 6: Rest.
So It’s a 6-day split that I then repeat.
I know most people would look at that and think ‘NOT BACK AND BI’S?’, but hear me out… When I competed in November 2017, my upper body was a noticeable weakness in comparison to my lower half. So, this ‘off-season’ I’m focusing on driving as much volume as I can in order to make my physique competitive. Typically ‘back’ exercises recruit your biceps, and many shoulder exercises employ your triceps. Therefore focusing on your triceps on ‘back day’ means that I’m able to increase the volume to that muscle group over the week.
What’s your approach to your diet and nutrition?
I’m a flexible macro-tracker. I use ‘MyFitnessPal’ to ensure that day to day I hit the required amount of carbs, fats and protein. But, that doesn’t mean I spend my time assessing how many pop-tarts and tubs of ice cream I can get away with eating.I genuinely ENJOY micronutrient dense food. Avocado is my one true love, and oats just give me new levels of happiness. So, I eat similar foods each day, but not identical.
In terms of a ‘cheat’ or ‘treat’ meal, I don’t have one. There will be weeks that go by where I stick to my macros, and then they’ll be a week where I have three meals out. I don’t plan a specific day to just stuff my face, I just go by how I feel.
I went through a stage of seriously restricting what I was eating, and I didn’t have a ‘cheat’ for about 3 months as surely that was the only way to be ‘dedicated’?!
Then during my eating disorder recovery, I was forcing myself to have a ‘treat’ every week because that made me ‘normal’, right? But actually, it doesn’t. Being ‘normal’ is living your life and going with the flow.
What are your favourite 3 exercises to do in the gym?
Front Squats: I love the depth you can get with these in comparison to back squats. It also really forces me to think about engaging my core and driving through my heels.
Lat Raises: Delt pumps are life, right?
But it’s also such a satisfying one for me. My first EVER training session, I couldn’t do 8-reps with 2kg, now I can lift 5x more so it’s a constant reminder of how far I’ve come.
Barbell Reverse Lunge: I have no idea..
It’s a love-hate “am I doing weights or am I doing cardio” kinda vibe. But, they’re just fab. PLUS, unilateral exercises are so important for recognising your weaknesses.
And your three least favourite?
Cable Bicep Curl: IT BURNS.
No, for real, I just find it a little repetitive. I think also think it’s really hard to progress with the weight you use in upper body movements – in comparison to lower body – and so it can be frustrating.
Conventional Deadlift: Give me sumo anyway.
Rack Pulls: You have to spend about 10 minutes getting the right aerobic step, the correct setting on the squat rack etc. But, they’re a dream for increasing volume to your ‘back day’.
What is the one food you can’t live without, and equally, how do you handle any food cravings?
I think it’s got to be pizza.
You can have top ‘diet friendly’ alternatives to things like ice cream (Halo Top, I’m looking at you pal), but you can never recreate a pizza in the same way. Believe me, I’ve tried. There is nothing pizza-esque about a cauliflower base.
I rarely get cravings in all honesty – I think the only time I did was during ‘peak week’ before my show last year. But the beauty about tracking macros is that you’re able to incorporate chocolate etc. every day, so I genuinely never feel restricted. But, if I’m craving a pizza and cookies, I’ll have a pizza and cookies, not every week. Not necessarily every other week. But if I’m not in a ‘prep’
I’ve learned there’s more to life than hitting your macros.
How do you spend your time when you’re not in the gym?
I warned you early on, I’m a cliché.
Brunch dates, good coffee, insightful books and long walks. I’m easily pleased, and constantly ‘go go go’, so my time away from the gym (where I’m a personal trainer and then training myself) is spent working hard on my online coaching business and getting some much needed R&R.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird).
One of the things I love about my fitness journey is the way it’s changed my mentality – I’M A NICER PERSON!
I don’t judge, get jealous or threatened by others and their success. I now look at the way someone behaves and attempt to comprehend WHY they’re doing that, figuring out what’s going on inside. It’s true, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, so if you take one thing away from this article: always try to open the door that’s locked, because 9 times out of 10, that’s the one that needs your attention most.
Finally, from a personal point of view, where do you see yourself this time next year?
I’m moving ‘home home’ after 4 years in Leeds. I’m a family orientated person, and I miss them. A lot. So, that’s going to be a big change.
In terms of business, that’s where my focus is – I want to grow my online coaching and have the biggest impact I can. I want to feature on podcasts, talk at events and share my journey with the intention of helping others along the way. I’m not numbers driven, so my focus isn’t monetary, I just want to be able to help as many people as I can to recognise and achieve their potential.
In terms of competing, who knows? I’m toying with the idea of a show in September, but I haven’t made any decisions as of yet. I’m just going to see how it goes – I need to assess whether or not I’ve made the physical improvements required to be competitive, but also whether I’m ready to make the sacrifices associated with prepping for a bikini show.
Right now? I’m living life and loving it. I’m enjoying the flexibility of my diet and training and I haven’t decided yet whether I’m ready to give that up. And then there’s the energy thing – if I feel that prep is going to adversely impact my ability to grow my business than I’m not doing it. This year is about growth, and I’m not going to let anything hinder that.
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Hayley is a successful online coach, endorsed and recommended by Bodybulk for helping her clients achieve the best results and driving them to achieve their potential. To discuss a personalised plan or to arrange a consultation, email Hayley @ email@example.com