Zanna van Dijk’s Instagram account is a rabbit hole of healthy lunchboxes, clean recipes, fit clips and gym selfies, which all serve to inspire her 64K followers. She makes the gym look fun, proves lifting doesn’t mean bulking up, and has us adding gym gear to our wish list.
Have you always been into fitness?
In a word: no. I studied speech therapy at university and I was one of those typical students who didn’t eat very well. I didn’t know how to cook so I’d make the most convenient food ever. I was eating pretty poorly and wasn’t doing any exercise. By my third year, I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling and looking; my skin was poor, so I was looking beyond skincare and into nutrition. Once you start getting into nutrition, fitness is just the next step and it becomes a whole lifestyle. You just fall in love with it.
So, talk us through your regular workout routine.
I have a strength coach and he makes me do 5 lifting sessions a week. Though I’m a personal trainer myself, most PTs have their own trainer because they help push and motivate you further. I do a little bit of cardio too, only once or twice a week. I run around the park near me in Chelsea – not far at all, it’s more for pleasure than anything else, and full-body health.
Are you into the likes of yoga and pilates too?
No, not really. I’m the most un-yoga person you’ll ever meet!
And when it comes to ladies lifting, a lot of people think they’ll get bulky. Is this true?
It really doesn’t happen. Everyone thinks that but we just don’t work that way. I’ve been lifting for about two years now and sometimes, I’ll look in the mirror and think you can’t even tell. I still have very slender arms. It’s such a fantastic way to sculpt your whole body. It makes you feel strong – you feel like a badass! – and you can really sculpt the body the way you want to sculpt it. People need to realise you’re not going to transform into a big man.
What are your tips for getting into lifting?
When starting out, I would always encourage getting a personal training session and asking them to show you the ropes (come and see me at Lomax in Chelsea!) Try one upper body and one lower body workout and then take it from there. Look for new moves online and in magazines, and check out YouTube videos too. Never be afraid to ask for help with an exercise at the gym as everyone is there to make progress and support each other. Mix up your weights routine every few weeks by changing the exercises and adding more weights, to ensure steady progress. And rope your friends in to try them with you so you don't feel silly all by yourself.
What should we eat before we workout?
Something with carbs in it. I usually have oats, sometimes with protein powder mixed in. It’s a great source of energy. Ultimately you need to have a meal that just makes you feel energised, and that particular meal can differ for everyone.
And then after a workout?
The most important thing is to get in some protein and carbohydrates, and there are so many ways to do that. Something like chicken, vegetables and rice, is great. Or after a morning session, a smoothie with oats, protein powder and almond milk. The food around your workout is some of the most important food you’ll eat all day – it’s what will fuel you and what will make you recover.
What do you listen to when you’re lifting?
It’s always one of two things. It’s either rap, like Drake, Eminem or Lil’ Wayne. Or, if I’m feeling quite dancey I get the house music on: David Guetta or Calvin Harris. Music is a huge motivator, it can really get you going. If I’m not feeling like the gym (it happens!), I put on some music and get pumped.
What’s your advice for staying motivated to get up and go to the gym when it’s dark and raining out?
I’d say plan a workout with a friend so neither of you can bail, because you can't let each other down! Also plan a workout you’re going to enjoy. Book into a fun class. If you’ve booked something like GrooveCycle where you dance on bikes, you’re less likely to back out than a gym session on your own. Social media is also hugely motivating. If you follow a lot of fitness people on social media, a quick scroll through your feed will get you in the mood.
You obviously eat very well, but are you partial to the odd treat too? (Please say yes!)
Yes, definitely. I have a very flexible approach to nutrition and I think it’s important to eat the things that you enjoy, because if you tell yourself you can’t have it, that’s all you’re going to think about. If you love chocolate, don’t have a whole slab of Galaxy everyday, have a piece or two everyday like I do.
Words: Alice Tate