Known for her bubbly personality and dazzling smile, Liezel van der Westhuizen started her media career with a part-time stint as a Makro voice artist. Since then, her career-making gigs have come in fast and fabulous, including presenting on Idols, SABC 3’s show Expresso and KFM.
And that’s not all. She’s also won two Breede River Summer Canoe Series races, completed two Midmar Miles, two Dusi Canoe Marathons, two Two Oceans Half Marathons and an Iron Man Marathon! “I love tackling big challenges and seeing that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” she says. “I still want to compete in the Absa Cape Epic and the Comrades Marathon!” Follow her lead and you too can love exercising!
Do your prep
Everything from your shoes to your food affects your workout. “It’s vital to warm up before you exercise and to stretch after training,” says Liezel. “And make sure you drink lots of water. Eat a nutrient-rich meal or healthy snack before, sticking to half the kilojoules you expect to burn during your workout. I prepare my workout snack the night before, and it’s either fruit and yoghurt, hummus and raw veggies, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese and fruit or trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. And buy the right gear: a proper sports bra (the investment is worth it!) and the correct shoes for the activity you’re doing (no hiking shoes on the treadmill and vice versa).”
“I train a minimum of five days a week,” says Liezel. “But it’s smart training, not over training. I listen to my body: I rest if I’m tired or sore and I don’t exercise for hours on end. My workouts are half an hour to an hour long and I don’t push myself to train harder than necessary. Eight to 12 weeks before a big event, I let go of all other commitments and focus on training. But you don’t have to be that extreme – 30 minutes of any kind of daily exercise is great. Just started? Aim for 10-15 minutes of exercise a day and build up from there.”
Take time out
“Taking a break has been one of my downfalls – I’ve had to consciously prioritise rest since it’s easy to forget your body needs it,” explains Liezel. “When you’re training hard, have a day’s break between workouts and relieve aches by soaking in a bath with mustard salt. A good night’s sleep improves performance and lets your body heal.“Don’t skip meals before a workout, even if you’re trying to lose weight. My mom’s tip I live by is to ‘strive for five’ – include at least five grams of fibre and five grams of protein in every breakfast. Add protein to your breakfast with low-fat dairy products, egg whites or soy milk.”
Find your groove
“Between big sporting events, I alternate between swimming, running and cycling,” says Liezel. “I also do alternative training like Bodytec and Kranking. And work with a coach if you aren’t motivated. Erica Green from Daisyway Coaching Systems helps me with my cycling strength, and Greg van Heerden from Milnerton Canoe Club coaches me on canoeing. Train alone? Make a playlist of your top tunes; working out will be more fun.”
“Be realistic about how often you can get to the gym, so you don’t over-commit and then beat yourself up for missing a session,” advises Liezel. “A training buddy also helps, spurring you on and ensuring you don’t miss sessions. Another idea: write your goals in a diary, even if it’s just to make it through 20 minutes of cardio without collapsing, and track your achievements. Seeing your progress in writing helps you appreciate how far you’ve come.”
Change it up
Liezel may be a naturally gifted athlete, but she also loves to challenge herself. From hiking to surfing, she mixes things up, and she’s recently taken up stand-up paddle boarding: “It’s unbelievable. You need so much balance, it’s crazy!” So if you’re bored of that old routine, try a new activity. “Long-term goals also help: enter an event that requires training,” Liezel suggests.
Next up for Ms van der Westhuizen? “Doing the 2014 Two Oceans Marathon and a major cycling challenge in April 2014 – the biggest thing I’ve ever done!” she says.
Words: Megan Ross; Images courtesy of Ice Genetics