Having spent a decade writing the beauty, health and fitness pages on women’s online and print magazines as well as running her own digital consultancy, Yanar Alkayat recently joined Women’s Health and Runner’s World as commercial digital editor managing all branded health and fitness content.
When she’s not busy creating digital content for fitness, nutrition and wellness brands the 39-year-old is usually training for a marathon or two and lifting heavy weights at her local CrossFit gym in London. Here, she explains how she juggles it.
Health and fitness has always been my thing. I remember making a beeline for the latest diet and exercise books at my local library every week, aged 11, and running my first cross country race around then too. Then I discovered beauty products and decided I wanted to be a beauty editor, so followed that dream. But fitness never went away.
Before fitness became a ‘thing’, every week I’d be on the running track doing killer speed sessions with Serpentine running club, hills in Greenwich or Hampstead Heath and long runs for marathon training. With some spin classes thrown in too. This was my training life for many years.
Then I discovered CrossFit. I’d never lifted weights and was a typical no-upper-body-strength runner, and at times a very skinny weakling! Getting into CrossFit – a combination of three disciplines: functional training, Olympic lifts, and gymnastic skills – has taught me new ways to move my body, opened up the world of barbell and Olympic lifting and has empowered me mentally and physically.
Four years on, I can now deadlift 95kg, squat clean my body weight and I’ve built a stronger body to power my running. It’s amazing to look back and see how far you’ve come – moves that were one time beyond my imagination, like handstand push-ups, are now a normal thing I do in workouts. Being surrounded by the right coaches and inspiring people has helped make this happen.
I strongly believe progression and having a focus to work on makes you stick at something. I’d encourage anyone to get on a journey from skinny to strong. It transforms the mind, not just the body and I’m now training to compete in a few CrossFit competitions.
The day job
I’m lucky I now get to craft health and fitness content for clients ranging from New Balance to Deep Freeze and everything in between. We usually work on campaigns featuring a mix of everything from interviews with experts, video content with ambassadors and editors, to social media GIFs and animations for Instagram and Facebook.
I’ve just finished a six-month campaign with Simplyhealth where we produced three videos with Runner’s World, Women’s Health and Men’s Health editors and a series of animated social videos as well as running-focussed articles.
We have a creative team of editors, digital designers, art and creative directors and project, account and sales managers. Everyone works collaboratively to make it all happen. It’s an intense day job but I’m so fortunate my job involves my personal passions.
5:30am alarm bells, morning sweat and refuel
If I don’t work out in the morning I feel groggy and tired. After a 5:30 alarm I’m at Royal Docks CrossFit gym by 6:15 for a 6:30am class. The adrenaline and endorphins wake me up. The workout and skill session is different every day so we never get bored.
Food is a big part of my life. I’ve eaten a vegan diet for the last 12 years, and vegetarian nearly all my life, so getting the right nutrients and energy to fuel my sports is crucial. Breakfast is a mix of chia seeds, protein powder, nuts and nut butter all soaked overnight (in water/non-dairy milk). I have this every day.
Lunch is usually a salad of tofu, avocado, vegetables and vegan cheese which I throw together the night before at home. I love making high-fat dressings too such as tahini or peanut butter with chilli, sesame oil, tamari and rice vinegar. I’ll snack on nuts and dark chocolate every day. Dinner is light; usually pan fried veg and tofu.
Goals are what get me out of bed…
It’s important to know what motivates and makes you tick. I know I’m a very goal-oriented person so setting sights on fitness, career and life goals keeps me focussed and excited. And I love a challenge!
After five road and trail marathons I decided I wanted to tackle a mountain event so I did Snowdon marathon in July this year, which I absolutely loved. After six months of focussed training with my run coach Luke Tyburski (who is an excellent mindset and endurance coach), I ended up finishing in the top third for females (which is great for me as I’m usually trailing at the back), so maybe mountains are my thing!
I’ve parked running marathons for the next 12 months while I focus on CrossFit and Olympic lifting skill, which I’m working on with a coach who is an ex-British Olympic lifting champion.
With so much high intensity in sport and work, I need the polar opposite to relax. One night a week I reserve for restorative yoga. I’ve been going to Satyananda Yoga Centre in Balham for over ten years and it’s the only thing that keeps me grounded and sane. The simple, gentle practices work wonders to reset and restore the body and mind.
I’m currently on a teacher training course for classical yoga and will qualify next July. The aim is to work with the charity, Tools for Inner Peace, which offers yoga classes to refugees and those affected by PTSD and war trauma.
Every night I also do breathwork which helps to settle my nervous system, before I do it all again the next day.
You can follow Yanar via her social media channels: www.instagram.com/yanarbeauty and www.twitter.com/yanarbeauty. To read Yanar’s blog visit www.brightershadeofgreen.co.uk and visit her website, www.yanaralkayat.com to find out more.