Personal trainer and former ice skating champion Karla McAllister: Before the pandemic, I was guilty of chasing the rat race
Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Dunloy's Karla McAllister, former British ice skating champion and winner of the Best Personal Trainer award at the 2021 Northern Ireland B Fit Awards
Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?
My new morning routine started the week after the first lockdown in March 2020. As I couldn't open my gym, I started online classes to not only keep myself sane and healthy, but for my members' mental health and wellbeing. I gave the first seven weeks of membership free-of-charge as I wanted to offer some positivity and kindness during a really tough time. Almost two years later, I'm still doing online classes twice a day as part of my company, KPE (Karla's Physical Excellence). As soon as I leave my seven-year-old daughter, Macie Mae, to school, I jump online at 9.15am. Although restrictions have eased, I'm finding a lot of people are still too frightened to go to a gym, or maybe, since the pandemic, they can no longer afford gym membership, so my 83p per day (£25 per week) option is attractive and affordable.
What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?
I'm a trained nutritionist and offer a lean and clean eating plan to my KPE members, so I need to practise what I preach. For breakfast, I'll have overnight oats with vanilla extract, chocolate spread, chocolate chips and toffee yoghurt - it's absolutely divine.
I'm usually on the run at lunchtime, so I'll eat something quick and easy like a ham or chicken bagel with cream cheese, rocket and cherry tomatoes, or else I'll have a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup.
I'm loving a chicken stack at the minute, or steak and sweet potato fries, served with mushrooms and onions.
Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?
I've been able to give online classes from home and I adapted easily. The pandemic actually opened up a whole new business opportunity for me, so I have had the best of both worlds.
Best/easiest lockdown meal?
Anything in the slow cooker, either a casserole or chicken curry. They will last for a couple of days and are quick and easy to prepare, as well as tasting delicious and being healthy options.
I love going out for dinner, but I still choose healthy options. Away from food, my focus on a weekend treat centres around wellbeing and treating my body with kindness, so nothing beats a good facial.
How have you kept physically and mentally fit during the lockdowns?
Thankfully, I kept the same fitness level during the lockdowns. I think everyone was affected mentally with the pandemic, but I gained a lot from helping others who were suffering more, through a tailored nutrition and exercise plan.
What has been your daily outdoor exercise?
Walking the dog every day, whether in rain, hail or snow. When the weather is dry, Macie Mae and I love taking the dog to the beach.
How do you relax?
A nice long bath, having a facial or watching Netflix.
Teetotal or tipple?
A tipple, all the way - I love gin and Sprite Zero.
What book are you currently reading?
I'm fixated with reading medical and fitness magazines. I'm currently reading and studying a lot about the menopause, so I can tailor a nutrition and fitness plan for my members who are going through this stage of their life.
Emily in Paris. It was really easy to watch - Emily's outfits were certainly 'out there' but really quirky and Paris, well, that's definitely a city to visit on my bucket list.
Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?
How strong, resilient and adaptable I am in my personal and business life, even when the chips are down.
On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?
During the lockdowns, I was about a nine, as I don't like being stuck in the house and not having interaction with friends, family and work colleagues. I don't like being restricted. Now, though, I'm thoroughly enjoying and appreciating being out-and-about again, so I'm pretty low on the scale.
What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?
Meeting people face-to-face, going out to restaurants and enjoying a good coffee - my home coffee machine just doesn't match up to those available in coffee shops and I missed my coffee 'fixes'.
Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?
I'll go on holiday - I've promised Macie Mae that we'll go to Disneyland in Florida. That's another magical holiday destination on my bucket list.
People who are 'Negative Nellies'. I prefer 'Positive Pollies'.
Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?
Yes, definitely. Before the pandemic, I was guilty of chasing the rat race and I didn't take time to appreciate the little things in life, like eating dinner together and hugging friends and family.
Any new skills or hobbies?
The pandemic afforded me time to develop the nutritional element to my business and I've created new healthy meal plans and teamed up with Apperley's butchers to make and distribute my meals. I've also learned to cook loads of delicious dishes in the process.
What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?
I would like to see people appreciate their health a little bit more and live in the present, as you really don't know what tomorrow will bring.
Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?
Yes, it has certainly made me more careful and more grateful for the life I have.