In conversation with Shona Vertue

The London-based personal trainer and yoga teacher with a whole new and wonderful approach to wellness.

Image Credit @ Greg Williams

Shona Vertue has a refreshing attitude towards health and fitness. She wants us all to feel good, exercise for fun and never make a choice out of something other than love. This week we talk to her about her classes underneath the Detox Kitchen, quoting Helen Keller, and the biggest benefits of meditating.

Q&A with Shona Vertue

Your Monday morning email last week really struck me. I just loved the Helen Keller quote you referenced in relation to exercise. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart.” Could you begin this interview by explaining a little bit more about that?

I’m so glad it struck you – it struck me too and I realized how relevant it was to the fitness industry. Looking good (whatever that actually means) is not the prerequisite for long lasting fitness motivation. Self worth, self love and self-respect is – none of those things are based on anything that can be seen or touched, but actually only what and how you feel about yourself. If you can really start to place value on feeling good in your body, you’ll naturally start to take the steps required to get you feeling even better.

If your answer to Q1 didn’t cover it – could you tell us about why you think it’s dangerous to base an exercise regime purely on aesthetics?

It’s just asking for a constant wavering of motivation and drive. A lean body doesn’t equal happiness, nor does it necessarily equal health and when your sole purpose for training is based on a very transient and superficial thing, you will never feel secure or happy. Insecurities can often lead to binge eating (in an effort to feel pleasure), or under eating (in an effort to compensate for shame and guilt) – neither of which will help you look or feel better.

Train towards a skill, like a push up or a chin up and you’ll feel better every time you train because you feel closer and closer to that goal AND the bonus to being able to do chins ups and push ups are those toned arms you’ve also been wanting.

What is the Vertue method?

The Vertue Method is a fusion class of Glute activation (using bands), Full body Circuit training (using Kettle Bells), Vinyasa Yoga and Meditation. It covers all the aspects that I believe a healthy body and mind should be, strong, calm and flexible. Basically it’s a 55-minute sweat session designed to uplift your soul and your butt!

Shona’s instagram @shona_vertue is full of wonderful quotes and inspiring images. Great to lift you up on a day when you’re feeling blue…

How did your background as a gymnast and a dancer shape your attitude to fitness?

For a very long time I never really thought about ‘fitness’. I didn’t have to. Dance and Gymnastics were intense, but I didn’t do it for the fitness, I did it because I enjoyed the art of movement and the joy of strength. However, I lost touch of this when I started as a personal trainer and became very focused on the aesthetics only. I would encourage my clients, as many personal trainers still do, to ‘earn’ their food, or repent their ‘food sins’ in the gym because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t look good, and if they didn’t look good, they wouldn’t feel good. But after some deep reflection and a little stint with my own bout of orthorexia I realised that feeling good had to come first. I realised that what made me feel good was actually feeling strong and capable in the same way that I did when I was dancing and doing gymnastics.

On your website you talk briefly about being a body builder, can you tell us more about that?

Cringe! … Well, it wasn’t body building as such. It was fitness modelling, but you enter the same competitions under a slightly ‘smaller’ category. If I’m honest it was kind of a way for me to assert myself within the industry, coming from a yoga background and being a woman in a very male dominated industry (well at least at the time) I felt very insecure in a gym environment. Starting fresh in a gym with lots of other PT’s is often like starting at a new high school – everyone’s hormones are out of whack and we’re all trying to prove our worthiness.

Fitness Modelling was the category under Figure (which is more like Body Building). I still had to put on more muscle, while also dieting and doing ridiculously unhealthy things on the day like ‘dehydrating’ myself so that I had better definition on stage. It was a great learning experience and I learned a lot about Muscle Building, Nutrition and my body, so I have absolutely no regrets. I just know that it’s not healthy and not something I would ever do again.

You incorporate meditation into every class, what do you believe to be the biggest benefits of meditating?

I really think the benefits differ from person to person, however it’s usually based around creating space. We hear so much about Positive Thinking and there is almost a pressure to be positive all the time (because it’s a bit trendy too) but some times it’s just impossible to go from feeling super low, to super-happy-fun-time in a second. We can’t have pure positive focus all the time and so meditation provides us with the tools create space from the intensity of rumination. From a fitness perspective, I believe that it’s one of the best ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode), to increase the bodies capability to recover from rigorous exercise and reduce it’s stress.

“If your exercise regime is based purely on aesthetics, you are in for an absolute self-esteem roller coaster and your motivation to train will often be at the mercy of your confidence and dignity. If you’re searching for self-worth in the mirror I can tell you right now, you won’t find it there and if you try it will be this tiring battle that will also get you on yo-yo dieting and skinny teas and colonics …”

For more Shona-isms visit her website

How would you describe your approach to food?

Intuitive, pleasurable and nourishing are the first words that come to mind.

With regards to intuition, I really believe that we hold the key to understanding what our bodies really need and while I am the first to support all the incredible scientific research we have out there, we are all different so it’s really important that we learn to listen to our own bodies while also making scientifically educated choices.

Pleasurable and Nourishing are just two words that when combined spell Health. If you can find a way to nourish your body while also pleasuring your taste buds and soul, you have found the key to being healthy for the rest of your life. After all we are creatures of pleasure.

Could you share your top five grocery items? (I.e. Wendy’s are avocado, smoked salmon, eggs, lemons, rocket)

Broccoli, Eggs, Rice, Coconut Oil, Coconut Milk – what can I say, I’m in Islander …

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Make sure that every change you set out to make for your body and life comes from a place of love. For example; instead of saying ‘Ugh, I better go for a run because my body is looking really awful right now…” you actually say “I’m going to sprint my butt off tonight because I want to see just how bad-ass my body is at being a wildly capable beast!” – or something like that … you don’t have to use my dramatic language if you don’t want to 😉

What is your guilty pleasure?

First of all, I never feel guilty about pleasure … 😉 But I guess some would classify my love for the Chocolate & Salted Caramel chocolate tart at Pizza East to be bordering on obsession…

What is your personal mantra?

Grateful for what is and eager for what is coming. I love you, let’s have fun.

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