For many of us 2020 was the year that wasn’t. Lockdowns and restrictions meant best laid plans went out the window, goals stalled and dreams were put on hold. The same can’t be said for personal trainer Caroline Girvan though who, thanks to her online workouts, now has more than half a million followers and was even named the world’s second fastest growing channel on YouTube.
The mum of two originally began recording the fitness videos to try and keep her clients active during lockdown but her genuine enthusiasm and natural way struck a chord with many and soon thousands of people from around the world were joining in with the free workouts – catapulting Caroline’s career in a whole new direction in the process.
The 36 year old from Co. Antrim spoke to The Style Edit about her unintentional journey to becoming an online fitness sensation, learning to go with the flow and being kind to yourself.
2020 was an amazing year for you work wise, how did it all come about?
To be honest it was completely unintended. I never particularly wanted to be on YouTube or put myself out there like that. It was the first lockdown and as I couldn’t train my clients face to face I had recorded a workout video on my phone and sent it to my friends, family and clients. That was all fine and then someone suggested I upload them to YouTUbe so they could watch it on the TV. I had an old log-in from years ago so used that and the next thing I knew other people were watching it and the audience was growing and growing. The rate of growth was crazy – I couldn’t believe it.
Were you nervous doing it?
No because at the start I thought it was only people I knew watching so I was quite comfortable doing it. I did then get a bit self-conscious when I realised other people were joining in but I’ve gained a lot more confidence as time has gone on.
It must be quite surreal now having a massive client base?
It’s totally bizarre! I’ve been a PT for six years and I’ve always worked for myself and had the same group of clients. I call them clients but they’re more like friends. I’ve always tried to keep my number of clients small so I can really focus on them and go to events with them – whether that’s a running event, triathlon, etc. I’ve always been very dedicated to whoever trains with me so normally only have a maximum of 12 at a time. Obviously all our lives are very different at the minute because of Covid and the online workouts mean I can now help a far bigger range of people. The reason I’m still doing it is because of the people who join me, the community from across the globe. It’s just amazing. A lot of people have told me they see the workouts as a lifeline and something to help them mentally as well as physically.
“I think because it was never my intention to have an online audience. I wasn’t into social media at all and didn’t even know how to use Instagram – I’m still learning!”
There are so many online workouts and fitness influencers, what is it about yours that you think resonates with people?
I think because it was never my intention to have an online audience. I wasn’t into social media at all and didn’t even know how to use Instagram – I’m still learning! So from the start it’s just been me in my living room, keeping it real and struggling through a workout and I think people can relate to that. From day one I’ve tried to respond to people as much as I can and spend 2-3 hours a day trying to reply to people who have messaged or reached out to me.
What’s your own fitness story?
I’ve always been into fitness but since being a mother I’ve really felt the benefits mentally – it’s my own time to me. Being a mother is a 24 hour job so getting an hour or even just 30 minutes to myself is bliss.
You’ve two young daughters, what do they make of it all?
They’re 7 and 11 and love it. They really help me out and a lot of their friends’ mothers are doing the workouts too which is lovely.
Have you a favourite type of exercise?
I love body weight exercises. The strength you can build from just body weight alone is incredible. I love a mixture of everything though, I want to show that women can be strong but feminine.
“The reason I’m still doing it is because of the people who join me, the community from across the globe. It’s just amazing.”
How do you stay motivated?
Basically for the feeling that comes after a workout. Sometimes there are days I’m not feeling it and could easily not make time for it but I tell myself to do at least ten minutes and afterwards I always feel better and normally end up doing more. There are occasions though when I’ll only do ten minutes but at least that’s something and I can actually get a lot done in that time. Anything is better than nothing.
Are you strict with your diet?
I believe in everything in moderation. I have a takeaway every week and a protein chocolate bar every night. Other than that my diet is pretty clean and I don’t eat a lot of sugar but if I want to have a cupcake I’ll have a cupcake. It’s all about that balance. That was the turning point that got me into being a personal trainer – I was hearing mums who were in the same position as me, having just had children and not sure what to do. They were on a diet during the week then falling off it at the weekend and just on this up and down cycle and constantly feeling guilty about eating something that they felt they shouldn’t. People can be very hard on themselves and social media is an added pressure. I think t’s about finding a balance and a sustainable way to live in terms of still enjoying the foods you love but also finding an exercise pattern you enjoy.
Have you any tips for anyone lacking motivation or struggling to get started?
Routine is great so pick a time of day to train and stick to it. Then even on a day that you’re not training try to go for a walk. Being active even if you don’t think you’re training as such really helps your mood and mentality. There’s nothing like getting out and getting fresh air for an hour. Just get your body moving and you will feel the benefits both mentally and physically.
What are your plans for 2021?
I’ve got the second part of my Epic programme starting this month and other than that my goal is really just to try to help those who want to start exercising but haven’t yet. The people who do the workouts are the reason I’m doing this – they’re amazing.