Can this woman give you killer abs in just 30 days?

Can this woman give you killer abs in just 30 days?

Can this woman give you killer abs in just 30 days? She’s the trainer who gave Davina McCall her washboard tum — and her new at-home plan claims it can transform YOU by Christmas. Too good to be true? We gave it a go…

  • Sarah Gorman trained Davina McCall for two years before launching BlendFit
  • Mother-of-three, 45, has now created 30-day online programme The Core Plan
  • Includes working out six times per week and diet from nutritionist Elisa Barker
  • Rachael Woolston gives her verdict after following the plan for defined abs  

As my 50th birthday approaches, juggernaut-like, I’m conscious that my body shape has begun to change, in particular my stomach. It’s not bad — but it certainly doesn’t look like Davina McCall’s.

The 54-year-old television presenter has become ‘the figure I’ve got to have’ status symbol for many midlife women.

Remember when she turned 50? With supreme, take-that confidence, she posted the first of many subsequent pictures of herself in a bikini, showing the world a shape of quite magnificent tautness — from bottom to arms to thighs.

But it was the ridges of defined six-pack muscles that were particularly impressive for a woman of any age, let alone a busy mother of three entering her sixth decade. It wasn’t just Davina’s 1.4 million followers on Instagram —women nationwide applauded her abs and wanted them for themselves. It’s a shape that mothers 20 years ago never dreamed was possible aged 50.

Sarah Gorman, 45, (pictured) who trained Davina McCall for two years, has created a 30-day online programme to get abs like the British television presenter

But getting abs like Davina — or any of the other female celebrities her age, from J-Lo or Elle Macpherson to Halle Berry — takes time and effort. Lots of it. With my 50th in sight, and a big party planned, could I achieve Davina abs?

There’s no better person to ask to help me on my quest than Davina’s former fitness coach, the pocket-rocket force that is Sarah Gorman. The 45-year-old mother of three trained Davina for two years before launching her own fitness method, BlendFit (sarahgorman.fit). Now she has created a 30-day online programme, the Core Plan, to help you achieve abs like Davina.

‘In midlife, women see changes, and this is predominantly around the middle,’ says Sarah. ‘To get visible abs is very challenging and needs a lot of commitment. The abs are there. Everyone has them but you need to put yourself in a calorie deficit and sustain a focused fitness programme to really see them.’

Sarah’s regimen is not for the faint-hearted. It includes four different core 30-minute workouts (you do three of these per week), alongside an additional three sessions from her live or pre-recorded strength or cardio classes, so you’re working out six times per week with one rest day. An online programme means you can do it any time, anywhere, and aren’t tied to in-person sessions.

An accompanying diet from nutritionist Elisa Barker (elisa barkernutrition.co.uk) eliminates sugar, alcohol and quick-release carbohydrates such as bread, rice and pasta. If at this point you’re wavering on the abs ambition, I forgive you.

But Sarah offers some reassurance. ‘I wouldn’t expect anyone to do this level of exercise in normal, everyday life,’ she says. ‘This is a 30-day programme to kick-start things, to help you to see what you are capable of achieving.’

I’m not a complete novice. I run, cycle, do yoga and train regularly with kettlebells. But I still don’t have defined abs. The last time I did — back in my 20s — I was doing 100 sit-ups a day and basically existing on a diet of low-fat yoghurt, fruit, salad, white wine and stress.

Davina McCall (pictured) has become ‘the figure I’ve got to have’ status symbol for many midlife women


Rachael Woolston said she gained half a stone in the past year — mostly around my middle. Pictured left: Rachael before. Pictured right: Rachael after 

Nowadays, I’m healthier, although I have a cocktail habit that was fired up in lockdown and still remains. It’s also important to say that I haven’t had children. I don’t have stretch marks, my abdominals have never separated with pregnancy and my pelvic floor is strong.

At the same time, I can’t deny the gradual change of shape I’ve noticed from lean to having a softer marshmallow layer. I haven’t cared much hitherto — with ageing parents to look after and losing two friends to cancer way before their time in the past ten years, my attitude towards my body had changed from being overly worried about what I look like to my health.

Your week of workouts 

Sarah suggests following a plan like this — or you can substitute with your own workouts, as long as you are creating that same challenge and intensity.

Monday: 30-minute Core Plan workout

Tuesday: Walk

Wednesday: 30-minute Core Plan. BlendBreathe class — a 45-minute Pilates-style class.

Thursday: 30-minute Core plan workout.

Friday: BlendBox, a 45-minute boxing cardio class.

Saturday: BlendFit, a 45-minute barre and high cardio class.

Sunday: Rest day.

Of course, creating abs for a wow-factor 50th birthday pic isn’t just difficult in terms of motivation. It’s harder physiologically, too, owing to perimenopause and menopause.

‘As levels of oestrogen and testosterone drop off through midlife, women start to lose muscle mass,’ says Dr Ginny Ponsford, women’s hormone specialist (thewomenshormone clinic.co.uk). ‘This can slow down your metabolism and result in weight gain.’

I’ve put on half a stone in the past year — mostly around my middle. Other impacts of hormonal change, including the fact that your body becomes less able to manage stress or to process foods containing sugars such as alcohol, bread, pasta and cakes, could also be to blame.

Dr Ponsford adds: ‘When you’re under stress, your body creates the stress hormone cortisol, ready for fight or flight. This directly encourages fat storage around the middle.’ Stress? Tick. Sugars? Tick. I stick a picture of The Davina Abs on my fridge, put Sarah on speed dial, and get set.

The first core workout involves a series of exercises using a small Pilates ball. Sarah is not a size eight and doesn’t have her abs on show. But she is short, muscular and incredibly strong.

Within ten minutes, I have to pause the video because my stomach is on fire, while Sarah continues to demonstrate the exercises to music without a tremor in her voice. Boy, is it painful at first. There’s lots of variation though — each of the four core workouts is different, including a kettlebell workout and one that uses barre-style exercises to target the obliques — the large stomach muscles on the side of the body.

There’s also a bonus shorter workout using sliders (Core Sliders, £5.39, physioroom.com), which is where you place your feet on two discs that slide along the floor. Be warned — you look like you’re playing Twister, but it’s actually a killer. I love week one because it’s new and challenging — but you’re supposed to do three of the core workouts per week, so you do end up repeating them over the 30 days.

Rachael (pictured after) said she doesn’t yet have Davina’s abs, but she gained a starter set and a tauter tummy

Breakfast — a bowl of overnight oats with nuts, seeds, berries and full-fat yoghurt — feels hugely healthy. For lunch, I eat an omelette or salad, and for supper, something like salmon or bream with quinoa and more spicy Asian-inspired salads.

Out, obviously, go burgers (even plant-based ones), pizzas, crisps, chocolate and evening beers, which had crept in during lockdown and become commonplace.

The nutrition plan at a glance

Breakfast

Three-egg spinach omelette.

Snack

Raspberries or blueberries with 2 tbsps of full-fat yoghurt and 1 tbsp of oats (left) (if you have to snack, there are recommendations on what to snack on).

Lunch

Salmon with sweet potato and salad.

Snack

Green smoothie with coconut water, spinach and flax seed (right).

Supper

Salad with chicken breast.

There is also a ‘no snacking’ rule, which is the hardest. I can eat an entire packet of chocolate rice cakes by convincing myself that the rice element makes them good for me. Out they go.

Instead, I get used to whizzing up dips such as chickpeas with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, and not buying anything that will tempt me off track.

It helps that my partner, Tom, is happy to do it too.

As you challenge your muscles, it creates microscopic tears and the protein I’m eating helps my body to repair and build more lean muscle tissue. It also has a ‘higher satiety index’, so it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. By the start of week three, I definitely feel less hungry and less bloated.

And, actually, it’s not as hard as I had feared to stay with the pace, largely because Sarah’s live classes are only 30-45 minutes long. If I do them first thing in the morning, they are out of the way before life and work begins.

It helps that Sarah is a bundle of energy, with a clear, informed way of explaining technique. Still, by the end of week three, my motivation is waning.

‘I strongly believe you should look at the body as a whole, not just one area like the tummy,’ she says. ‘It all works together and having a goal to be strong for life rather than having a flat tummy is often more motivating.’

After 15 days, halfway through, I’m beginning to see a difference. But I think it’s mostly down to the diet changes.

Early on, with more focus on mindful eating, I realised I usually drifted to the kitchen at 11.30am for a snack. Cutting that out has definitely helped.

I carry on doggedly and, by day 30, am ready to fully assess my work. How do I rate on the Davina scale? Well, I’ve lost 1.8 kg (4 lb), although my body mass index and muscle mass remain the same (21.2 and 34.2 respectively and I’m 5 ft 7 in). What I can definitely see is a lessening of the marshmallow effect — a slight reduction of that softer middle layer. When I do the core exercises, I can feel my abs ‘switch on’ and engage more. By the end, I can get through all the core workouts without a rest.

So I don’t yet have The Davina Abs but I do have a starter set and a tauter tummy. I love the strength that exercising gives me, the knowledge that it allows me to move better and to be able to tackle harder challenges such as hiking up mountains and running long-distance.

I can see why the internet is awash with midlifers posting pictures of their muscles — building strength is empowering.

Middle-aged women don’t really want to squeeze into bandage dresses, but we do want to be strong. Looking after our ageing parents has taught us that we don’t want achy knees or to wake up one day and suddenly realise we can’t leap up the stairs.

So, yes, I’ll carry on eating more mindfully and continue working out six days a week — and when I do finally achieve Davina’s washboard stomach, I’ll let you all know with a pic. And yes, it will be in a bikini — if you work that hard you may as well show it off!

Your fast track to midlife abs by the woman who trained Davina 

1. Do six 30-45 minutes workouts a week — three online with Sarah and three from pre-recorded videos, including cardio, strength resistance and weights work.

2. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and try to lower your alcohol consumption. If you are going to drink, try to reduce the sugar content by having a spritzer (white wine and soda).

3. Eat your last meal of the day before 7pm and wait at least 12-14 hours before having another meal. You can still have a black coffee if you need a kick start.

Work it: Using sliders

4. Reduce white carbohydrate intake and increase your protein with food such as fish, chicken, lean meat and eggs.

5. Break down a barrier: try not to think about your tummy area as being the problem. Instead, try seeing your body as a whole. Everything works in conjunction with the next part.

Lifting weights is as important as doing a stomach crunch, which is as important as doing cardio.

6. Form a habit: practise your plank daily. Start with a realistic goal, even if that is 15 seconds, and build up.

Check your form and technique. Make sure you can feel it in the trunk of the body and not all in the shoulders.

7. Posture is important. Stand tall, which gives you a sense of confidence. Practise sitting and standing straight, and as you exhale gently draw the tummy muscles in towards the spine; five breaths per day to begin.

Hold a plank 

Rachael Woolston is founder of girlsruntheworld.co.uk. The Core Plan costs £39.99. Daily Mail readers can get £10 off with the code DailyCORE10 (sarahgorman.fit/daily-core/).

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