I first met Hennie about 10 years ago when I started doing kickboxing at The Mission Personal Training Studio in London. Hennie’s husband Andy is the Head Trainer and Hennie the Manager and Nutritionist. When I embarked on my toughest fitness challenge to date, running the London Marathon I was particularly out of shape (genius that I am) and to cut a long story short, Hennie and Andy got behind me 110%. They supported and inspired me massively, Hennie overhauled my diet and Andy kicked my ass in the gym! In only a few short months they had transformed me beyond what I could believe was possible and I will be forever grateful! Hennie now lives in Spain and runs their amazing retreats out there and Andy commutes back and forth running their Personal Training studio in Chelsea.
Where/when did your personal wellness journey begin?
I loved all sports and outdoor activities when I was younger, especially cross-country running, but I became lazy at university. When I first moved to London I didn’t enjoy going to commercial gyms so I used to escape to Cornwall each weekend to surf. Then I met my husband Andy in London and he introduced me to a different kind of workout which combined learning something I enjoyed (ie kickboxing) with functional fitness. This was what I had been looking for in London and what The Mission Fitness is all about. Now I spend my days running The Mission Retreat in Spain and chasing after our toddler!
How long have you been working in nutrition and fitness?
For over 10 years. I left my job in the city with the idea to set up a surf school in Cornwall and reignite my passion for sports & healthy living. But then I met my husband Andy who had already established The Mission Personal Training so I decided to stay in London and combine forces! We have seen so many positive developments in nutrition and fitness over the past decade, as people place more importance on their health – it is a very exciting time.
What top nutritional tips you would give someone that works out regularly?
Make sure you eat plenty of healthy fats as well as good quality protein. Fat is essential for vitamin absorption and to replenish energy after exercise.
Nuts contain both protein & healthy fat – eat a variety to get the maximum range of vitamins & minerals.
Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides, which your body processes more rapidly than long-chain triglycerides. This means you burn them for fuel during exercise in much the same way as carbohydrates, making them a good choice for pre-workout energy. Add 1-2 tablespoons to a smoothie or bowl of porridge.
Flax seed oil is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation including muscular aches from exercise. Another benefit is that it supports bone density, which can help you maintain and enhance bone strength through exercise, and prevent osteoporosis.
Finally, keep well hydrated not just after training, but throughout the whole day.
Are there any main nutritional mistakes/myths you see regularly?
Yes lots! But the main one at the moment is to do with fat. We grew up believing that eating fat makes you fat. But we now know that the opposite is true, if you eat the right kind of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, organic eggs, butter from grass fed cows…
What is the ethos behind The Mission Retreat in Spain?
We wanted to provide a residential retreat for our London clients; somewhere they could make some serious changes to their health & fitness in a short space of time, whilst also taking some time out from the city to get some perspective, de-stress and absorb some Vitamin D! We want to show them what their bodies are capable of in a sporting environment – cycling, surfing, climbing – as opposed to just a gym environment. For us, fitness and wellbeing is about the enjoyment of natural movement, keeping fit & alert – mentally, emotionally and physically.
What would a typical day at the retreat look like?
As we only cater for very small groups, we are able to tailor-make the retreat specifically for them so it changes all the time. But as an example, the day starts around 8am with an hour of Stretch & Flexibility, followed by a nutritious & filling breakfast. Then Andy will train the clients for 2 hours – a mixture of strength & cardio training incorporating Kickboxing, Kettlebells, TRX, Functional Training and AquaVee Pilates – which is an amazing piece of resistance kit for the swimming pool.
The afternoons are spent doing sporting activities such as mountain biking, climbing, paddle boarding, horse riding, kite surfing – you name it!
In the evenings, massages are provided to ease aching muscles and clients usually head to bed early for 9-10 hours of restorative, quality sleep…
When you have people working out so hard at the retreat how do you find the balance with the nutrition to make sure they are well fuelled but healthy?
We are lucky in Spain to have access to wonderful organic fruits and vegetables which provide the basis of the retreat’s meals & smoothies. We use Organic Burst Maca & Baobab powders in the smoothies for extra energy & nutrients. And we also make sure clients eat good quality protein (fish, organic chicken, eggs, lentils, beans), energy-fuelling carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, wild & brown rice, oats, quinoa) and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil etc). They never feel hungry!
What is your favourite workout?
Definitely Kickboxing. But I also love hiking, trail running & surfing.
What’s your perfect breakfast?
Scrambled eggs with chilli, black pepper & Himalayan salt. Smoked salmon. Plus a whole avocado (I eat one most days). To drink, a large mug of Earl Grey tea.
Do you have a favourite Pre or Post workout food/snack?
Pre workout – a bowl of gluten-free porridge oats with coconut oil, cinnamon, nuts & seeds, if I have enough time to digest it. Otherwise just a banana & black coffee gives me the energy to get through a workout without making me feel heavy.
Post workout – a huge green smoothie with variety of fruit & vegetables with some full fat Greek yoghurt for protein.
Who is your health/fitness/nutrition muse?
For fitness & sheer inspiration, Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack aged 13 and was back in the water 3 weeks later. She is now pregnant and still surfing beautifully. On the nutrition side, I would say Patrick Holford or David Wolfe.
Who has had a big influence on your life and what have they taught you?
I would say my husband Andy – he inspired me to follow my passion for health & nutrition and signed me up for my first nutrition course. He also believes that anyone can achieve their goal if you put your mind to it. He doesn’t believe in saying “I can’t do it”!
How do you manage your life/fitness/health balance? What advice would you give someone that struggles with this?
It is quite difficult at the moment with a toddler running around and working from home. It is all about prioritising. I make lots of lists! And if I fail to do everything on the list, I don’t beat myself up – I just start afresh the next day. Eating well and sleeping well helps boost energy levels, as does exercise, which also clears the mind.
Where is your favourite London wellness spot (fitness/wellbeing/nutrition)
There are so many fantastic new healthy spots for eating in London – I love Wholefoods for groceries,Tanya’s Cafe in Chelsea for beautifully made raw food treats & super-food cocktails, Nama in Notting Hill for delicious breakfasts and Ottolenghi for foodie inspiration.
For pampering, I love the Thai Yoga Massages at Sabai Leela on Old Brompton Road and facials at The Chelsea Day Spa.
If you had to recommend one inspirational book?
“Eat. Nourish. Glow.” By the wonderful nutritional therapist Amelia Freer.
When you have an off (unhealthy) day (or more) how do you motivate yourself to get back on track?
I never feel guilty if I have an unhealthy day because I know I can balance it out the next day. If you follow the 80/20 rule, you are allowed a few off days!
Do you have a motto or mantra that keeps you focused?
“Clear your mind of can’t.” Samuel Johnson
What’s your ideal way to de-stress?
Surfing, massages or a day playing on the beach with my husband, son and 2 dogs.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Organic red wine from our local vineyard in Spain
One bit of advice you would give to HLL readers?
When it comes to exercise, the key is to find something you enjoy learning such as martial arts or dance and then it becomes interesting and inspiring, rather than a chore and something you dread.
With regards to nutrition, I always encourage clients to think about all the wonderful foods that they CAN eat, rather than feeling restricted by what they can’t. It is pretty hard to overeat when you are consuming only truly healthy foods
Find out more: www.themissionltd.com
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